It’s rare that a sophomore album has the power to truly surprise listeners, but such is the case with Andrew Ripp’s She Remains The Same, which, contrary to its name, does more to propel his career forward sonically than any album I’ve heard from an indie artist in years. By embracing the blues sound he only hinted at on his debut 50 Miles From Chicago, and through the deft production touches employed by Dave Barnes, Ripp has crafted a sound that is invigoratingly original.
Even more impressive is the way Ripp has managed to address his burgeoning sense of spirituality in a context which does not at any point become preachy. This is the kind of contemporary Christian music most CCR artists only dream of being able to craft. The album oozes crossover appeal, and the quality of the songs is exceptional. This may well be the most crossover-ready Christian-themed record since Jars of Clay’s self-titled debut in 1995.
The album’s potential “Flood” is single-ready third-track, “Star.” It builds from a breezy country-rock opening to a full-throated hook of a chorus that has the ability to reverberate in a way bands like Coldplay and the Fray used frequently to dominate pop radio.
But the album is chock full of potential singles, so the debate may rage among fans long into the album’s promotional cycle. Should “Savior,” the album’s strongest “rock” effort get the push, with its exceptional distillation of the Christian message that God truly is everywhere, if we’re only open enough with our spirituality to sense Him? Or perhaps he should focus on “Peace Like A River,” which has the hook to draw in country fans with its down-home Memphis sense of personal spiritual reflection.
Even the album’s opener is single-ready, the kind of fun, catchy pop exercise that Christian acts have been building into top 40 hits for years, with an infectious chorus that’s sure to inspire many a sing-along.
What really stands out, though, about She Remains The Same is that it holds up well as an album because of the way Ripp explores his spiritual feelings without it sounding like he’s talking down to us as listeners. He’s going through what we’ve all gone through, and we’re hearing the journey in his music, rather than him telling us he’s reached a destination, that he’s got it all figured out. Clearly he doesn’t have it all figured out, or there’d be no point to putting the words to paper.
That he manages to walk that line, merging the spiritual and pop world to create something meaningful on both planes is the truly impressive thing about this album. Ripp isn’t looking for fame, he’s said. He’s looking to express his thoughts on real life experiences in a way which might resonate with his listeners and draw them into thoughtful discussion. Somehow on his journey he’s stumbled onto the recipe for the perfect album to do exactly what he’s set out to do — and it may bring him the fame he wasn’t even looking for.
From start to finish, She Remains The Same is a pop-rock gem, one worthy of finding a rapt audience. More importantly, by not talking down to his fans, Ripp may actually be able to reach them, which makes the album a contemporary Christian masterpiece. One can only hope this is something other artists will want to emulate.