Thursday, June 14, 2018
Todd Wilson Agnew was born on March 15, 1971 in Dallas, Texas. His mother was Native American and he was adopted at birth by a white couple. In the Fall of 1999 he helped run a Bible study for college students and singles called Metro Bible Study at Germantown Baptist Church. He was also involved in forming Highpoint Church in Memphis. In 2003 Agnew put out his debut album, GRACE LIKE RAIN, the title track of which, was very popular. 2005's REFLECTION OF SOMETHING birthed 'Unchanging One'. Fast forward to 2007 and he released his fourth studio album entitled BETTER QUESTIONS (Ardent/INO). In the liner notes, he writes: "Thanks...to our Great God, the divine mystery. He who beckons us with questions beyond our understanding into an intimate relationship with One beyond our comprehension". The album was produced by Todd and John Hampton.
1. Starting things off is a short piano based 'Prelude'. Here are the words from it that set the tone for the album: "I've got better questions than I have answers/Better dreams than I have plans/I've got better thoughts than I have actions/So I built my house on what I thought was solid ground/But I know it could be sand".
2. 'Still Has A Hold' is one of several tracks penned solely by Agnew. It's a great country/rock song complete with lap steel and fiddle. Agnew reflects on his spiritual life: "Sometimes I'm on the mountain holding on to Your hand/Sometimes I'm in the middle holding the best I can/Sometimes I'm in the valley and I let go long ago/When my hand is weak and tired/Your hand still has a hold".
3. Steve Selvidge plays guitar on 'Least of These', a meaty hard rocker directed at Christians: "I'm a druggie, I'm a pusher, I'm a one-night stand whore/Accuser, an abuser with nothing to live for/A devil, a deceiver and probably much more/But why does it have to define me?/Why do you always remind me?/Why can't I be free from who I've been?/Why can't you see me as one of the least of these?"
4. 'If You Wanted Me' is a ballad of reflection: "If You wanted me to walk on water/Why'd You make the solid ground seem so right?.../If You wanted me to love You only/Why'd You make the moonlight sparkle in her eyes?.../If You wanted me to die to myself/Why'd You make me fall so deeply in love with life?"
5. Fernando Ortega and Mac Powell wrote 'Our Great God'. Here, this modern praise and worship song, is a lovely duet between Todd and Rebecca St. James. There is a guitar solo by Jason Rooney. Strings are arranged by Jonathan Kirkscey and a choir is used. Here are some of the awesome words: "Let every creature in the sea and every flying bird/Let every mountain, every field and valley of the earth/Let all the moons and all the stars in all the universe/Sing praises to the living God who rules them by His Word/Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!"
6. Rick Steff plays the Wurlitzer and Joy Whitlock sings backing vocals on 'Lovers in our Heads', a nice ballad that encourages us not to spend our time judging others: "Are we more concerned with the fruit of another/Never noticing our own barren branches?/Are we more consumed with casting stones at each other/While ignoring the lovers in our beds, our own beds in our heads?"
7. 'Peace on Earth' is a pop song that reminds us our compassion must extend to everyone: "As long as we say prayers for our children that we do not pray for others/There won't be/And as long as we take offerings for those in need/To appease our guilt over our greed/There won't be/There won't be peace on earth (3X)/There won't be, there won't be/Won't be peace". The song includes a short rap break by Benton A. James of the Urban Sophisticates.
8. 'Funny' is a creative pop/rock song that draws from some Old Testament stories: "It's funny how a fish can obey You/How a plant can obey You/How the sun can obey You/And how a donkey can obey You/It seems like everything can obey You, but I can't".
9. 'Don't Say a Word' is a catchy pop/rock song with a message for us all to heed: "My mama told me when I was a child/Son, you've gotta keep a hold of your tongue/And if you don't have anything nice to say, my child/Well, don't say anything at all/'Cause every single thing that comes out of your mouth/Someone's listening/Taking as the truth every word that comes out/So don't, don't, don't/Don't say a word".
10. 'War Inside' is one heck of a rock song, drawing from the apostle Paul's words: "I do what I don't want to do/And don't do what I mean/I end up chasing all my nightmares/Abandoning my dreams/'Cause there's a war inside of me/Between who I want to be and who I am".
11. Todd co-wrote 'Martyr's Song' with author Ted Dekker. This beautiful inspirational anthem runs over six minutes long and makes use of a children's choir and an adult choir (which includes Clay Cross). Strings are performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Here are some of the words told from God's perspective: "I've been waiting to watch you realize/What all your longing was for/And I've been waiting to show you the thread of grace/That ran through all your pain/And I've been waiting to let you drink the water of which your greatest joy on earth was just a taste/I've been waiting for the day when at last I get to say/'My child you are finally home!'".
12. 'On a Corner in Memphis' is a great bluesy story song: "It's 11:15 on Sunday morning/And I wish I was/On a corner in Memphis listening to the old man/Singing out his sorrows and laying down his pride/He's telling me his story or at least his side/With no need to pretend and nowhere to hide/Cause we are all broken here/And we are all ashamed/I couldn't fool you if I wanted to/Our stories are too much the same".
13. Rick Steff plays B-3 on 'Family', a groovy and smoking song with a great message: "Who's my neighbor?/Who's my loved one?/Who's my friend/We are all family (2X)/If we're all under one Father, that makes us all brothers/We are all family/You don't have to look like me for us to be brotherly/You don't have to be like me for us to be family/You don't have to think like me for us to speak intimately/You don't have to agree with me/For us to be family".
14. 'Preachers and Thieves' includes this thought-provoking chorus: "As I'm standing here on this stage/Hanging from a cross that I have made/What you see is probably deceit/Only God knows the difference/The difference between preachers and thieves".
15. Rich Mullins and Justin Peters wrote 'Can I Be With You' which appeared as 'Be With You' on Mullins' 1987 release PICTURES IN THE SKY. The song here is presented as a great rock ballad with background vocals by Joy Whitlock, as well as group vocals. Here are some of the words: "And when my body lies in the ruins of the lies that nearly ruined me/Will You pick up the pieces that were pure and true/And breathe life into them and set them free?/And when You start this world over again from scratch/Will You make me anew out of the stuff that lasts?/Stuff that's purer than gold is and clearer than glass could ever be/Can I be with You? (2X)".
16. Last up on the standard edition of the CD is an unlisted okay cover of the praise and worship song 'Glorious Day'. It exalts Christ: "Suffering anguish, despised and rejected/Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He!/And one day the grave could conceal Him no longer/One day the stone rolled away from the door/Then He arose; over death He had conquered/Now He's ascended, my Lord forevermore!"
BETTER QUESTIONS is essentially a great rock music album, but you will also find five other musical styles on it, including adult contemporary, praise and worship, and blues. Todd's voice is raw and gritty and equally suited to the fast and slower song presented here. A main theme on the album is loving our neighbours. Our neighbour is defined as anyone alive really, regardless of economic status, race, location, religion, etc. We are to love 'the least of these' like Jesus did. We are not to judge others but focus on our own spiritual state. Todd makes it clear that it is not easy to obey God when it comes to many things, but it should still be our goal. God is praised for His greatness and worshiped for dying for our sins and rising three days later. We have the hope of heaven and we will be given new 'bodies'. Fans of Seventh Day Slumber and Kutless should pick up this Christian rock album which I'm rating 95%. For more info visit: www.toddagnew.com or connect with him on Facebook.