A Challenging Hope: A Review of Anchor Hymns
In many ways, we’re in the Golden Age of worship music. Great congregational music is released every week, it seems. But it’s a rare project that engages the listener with spiritual depth, passion, and musical excellence. Anchor Hymns’ new project Sing, Sing, Sing pulls it off, all while covering difficult subjects like doubt, lament, and suffering.
Sing, Sing, Sing also accomplishes what few worship albums manage to do. These songs are completely appropriate for a congregational setting as well as being intimate and personal. The album allows the guest vocalists to shine and show their personality while never sacrificing the communal “singability” of the songs.
Thematically, this entire EP centers around the idea that the good and right response to trials and difficulty is not to suffer in silence, but to sing. These songs bestow on the listener permission to bring their pain and lament to the feet of the Lord. This idea is summed up in the title track, “Sing, Sing, Sing.” The opening organ and vocal run immediately take you to church, and then the first verse hits hard, “Grandma taught me life gets hard / but one little melody has brought me this far / when you feel lost babe, just look up to God / and let this be your song/ sing, sing, sing / something happens when we sing.” The rest of the song, powered by the vocals of Sarah Kroger and Jasmine Mullen, along with lines from “Blessed Assurance,” reminds us that this phenomenon isn’t new. This idea that singing to God about our troubles is as old as stories themselves, but it can be our story now.
“By the Savior’s Power” opens the album with a potent reflection on the idea that, while our sin drags us beneath crashing waves, Jesus’ power and grace are able to lift us out and drag us to shore. The theme of the song is the power of Jesus to overcome the darkness, and Dee Wilson and Ricky Vazquez’s vocals are the perfect way to illustrate that. The lead vocals here are stunning, and just when you think you’ve heard the best part, the final verse hits you like a freight train. ‘Oh, the mighty Great I Am, rules with victory in his hands/ he will crush the gates of Hell and bring us with him to dwell.”
“Those Who Have Not Seen” is led by the trio of Matt Maher, Taylor Leonhardt, and Paul Baloche, and this meditation is like a soothing balm to those of us who struggle with seasons of doubt. Punctuated with sections of “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross,” this slow-driving hymn reminds us of Jesus’ words of comfort at the end of the book of John, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It’s an incredible moment of comfort when the trio sings, “I have my doubts but you have my heart.”
On “It’s Alright,” Dee Wilson and Jasmine Mullen reinforce the overall theme of the record with lyrics like “If I’m buried in suffering, don’t worry about me, it’s alright/ cause the tomb of my Savior stands empty.” And if you didn’t believe that it was going to be alright before, you absolutely will after you listen to this, because this is not a song about platitudes, it’s about the holiness of Jesus and that he is the source of our assurance. Maybe the best moment of the entire album comes on the bridge of this song, a rising affirmation of the foundation of our life and strength.
“When We Walk Together,” sung by Travis Ryan and Andrew Osenga, is a simple yet anthemic pronouncement of the fact that, whatever we do, we are better when we do it together. Be it walking, mourning, or dealing with times of weariness, the family of God feels those things alongside you, and you aren’t alone. “When we walk together, no one walks alone / and we bear each other’s burdens so the road doesn’t feel so long.” This is a song to come back to when you’re at your lowest.
It’s tough to call Anchor Hymns a “bright spot” in the worship music landscape, simply because these songs are so full of struggle and doubt. But Sing, Sing, Sing exhorts the listener to take these difficult subjects and do just what the title says—to sing. Powered by passionate guest vocalists and masterful instrumentalists, Sing, Sing, Sing is a challenging and hopeful record that encourages the listener toward Christ as the source of our strength. This collection of songs has personality, and it’s filled with artists at the tops of their game—nothing here feels empty or vacuous. Anchor Hymns is creating worship anthems that are worthy of your time and attention.