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June 23, 2009

A sparkling 12-song achievement
Review: Jeremy & Rebecca - What We Leave Behind
Dan MacIntosh

Jeremy & Rebecca's What We Leave Behind hearkens back to the genesis of contemporary Christian music. Those with long memories may recall popular recordings by the likes of Michael & Stormie Omartian and Debbie Boone, where big, full-bodied pop arrangements were applied to overwhelmingly positive lyrics. These twelve songs do more than just offer a reminder of that era, however. They also put spiritual songs into a lively, winning format, for today's listeners - not merely for nostalgia's sake.

Gospel music -- the traditional African-American variety -- however, is timeless, and Jeremy & Rebecca show themselves to be up to the task of that genre with this disc's title track. The song's lyric makes a good point too, when it asks: "What story will be told of our lives?" After all has been said and done, in other words, will we leave a good or bad impression on the world? This soulful, philosophical workout is also given a gospel-blues-rock musical exclamation point, with the equivalent of a gospel choir on the vocal outro, as well as a tasty blues guitar/Hammond B-3 instrumental exchange at track's end.

While this CD kicks off with two slightly funky numbers, in Fool and Flyer, the duo throws down a little country flair with Straight and Narrow, which is linked to the title song because you cannot leave the world a better place, if you don't also lead a dedicatedly moral life. Wanda Vick's Fiddle, banjo, Dobro, and mandolin certainly help give this track its authentic Nashville feel.

Oftentimes, songs directed at God can also be sung to a romantic partner. After all, if love comes from on high, so to speak, it's certainly meant to be spread around among humankind, as well. When Rebecca Hendrickson sings, "It feels like the heavens/Since you came into my life," this is obviously a heavenly love song directed at her man. Then with Made To Love You, on which Jeremy and Rebecca duet, lines like "I was made to hold you" can only be understood in the context of a male/female relationship. (I've never seen anyone successfully put his or her arms around The Almighty).

Although Jeremy & Rebecca sing a whole lot about love, whether that's the secular or spiritual kind, they also include songs that help put everyday life into a more Biblically-informed context. Why Strive is a handy example of this particular lyrical approach. Its lyric asks why men and women try so hard to do everything on their own, when they can just put their dreams in God's hands. More to the point, its words poke a hole in the whole pride balloon. "Have you ever seen a haughty cloud proud of its position in the sky?" the song asks at one point, then ponders, "Does Saturn wear her rings to flaunt her wealth around the universe?" The answer to these questions is a firm, rhetorical ‘No!' Yet humans, by their very natures, are apt to show off their bling, even against their better judgment. Nature, however, knows better and does better.

Even so, Jeremy & Rebecca shouldn't be shy about promoting What We Leave Behind. Instead, they should be proud as peacocks of this sparkling 12-song achievement. Even if this recording were the only legacy they left behind, they would have still done extremely well.