Christian artist Brandon Heath challenged me recently when I got the opportunity to spend some time with him during his appearance at Walt Disney World’s Night of Joy.
Having just listened to Heath’s own boldness in the tracks of his latest album, Blue Mountain, I was open to advice from a man who was telling me: Don’t do what I say, don’t even do what I do, do what God has told us to do.
Heath established a solid reputation and following by penning a slew of popular contemporary Christian anthems. With Blue Mountain, Heath is livening up his signature sound with a tinge of bluegrass and a hint of folk. He’s being a bit bold himself.
“This is the album I’ve always wanted to make,” Heath says.
His passion for these stories is evident not only in the way he references them, but in the storytelling itself. These songs seem to more accurately reveal the personality of a man who clearly loves Jesus.
Heath’s faith is not inherited or indoctrinated. He was not raised in the church. A native of Nashville, Heath had not heard about Jesus until an invitation to a Young Life camp changed his life forever.
At the age of 16, he wrote about the experience in the song, “I’m Not Who I Was,” which would appear years later on his first album, Don’t Get Comfortable.
Avoiding a sophomore slump, Heath would follow his initial success with What if We, an album of introspection that included “Give Me Your Eyes” and “Love Never Fails.”
In Blue Mountain, Heath is still telling stories of faith-based struggles and redemption but through the eyes of a fictitious community of people living in the imaginary Appalachian landscape of Blue Mountain. That setting fosters the musical deviation, the Americana feel, Heath brings to this, his fourth studio album.
“Jesus in Disguise,” is already garnering radio airplay. The song came from Heath’s belief in things unseen.
“I came up with the idea of a blind man, approached by a young man who questions why he should believe in Jesus when he has never seen him,” says Heath. “The blind man tells him to keep his eyes open.”
The plea is for God to open our eyes, for we are all like the blind man until God gives us vision to see.
While “Jesus in Disguise” aptly anchors the 11-song disc, I was particularly moved by these three tracks:
“Love Will Be Enough”
Raised to appreciate the simpler things in life, I was immediately drawn to the guitar-driven “Love Will Be Enough.” Heath paints a poignant mental image of a young family questioning the importance of lifestyle choices.
“Paul Brown Petty”
“Paul Brown Petty,” based on the life of Heath’s grandfather, reminds me of my own grandfather and that generation who “grew up in the depression and… fought in the war.” The song’s simplistic bluegrass style is reminiscent of the legendary Bill Monroe, providing another unique touch point for me as my grandpa’s family grew up across the road from the Monroes.
The haunting drum beat in the background of “Dyin’ Day” evokes a similarity to Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart,” as Heath recounts the story of an imprisoned man, who, while facing an earthly death, reveals that his days of isolation have not been endured alone. The man has let Jesus in, so the heartbeat is not one of condemnation but of promise.
Heath was named the Gospel Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year in 2009 and 2010. Blue Mountain certainly should put him in contention again.