Music Review: 33Miles, "33Miles"
Release Date: April 10, 2007
· Official Site
by Paul Schultz
Published: May 3, 2007
Ah, the sweet sound of unambiguous Christian lyrics. That's what you'll
get with 33Miles, the self-titled debut by a trio of guys who share a
strong passion to bring encouragement to the church through their musical
abilities. Their mission kind of reminds me of a bumper sticker I recently
saw: God loves you, whether you like it or not. The group's name is a simple metaphor for the 33 years that Jesus spent on Earth, and they hope to get many "miles" out of their unabashedly commercial music in an effort to bring Christ's message to as many people as possible.
The talent assembled is impressive. Lead vocalist Jason Barton is formerly of the Christian boy band True Vibe. Chris Lockwood played guitar for the now-defunct group Truth. Collin Stoddard is the youngest member and majored in music before adding his gifted piano playing to the mix. Pulling it all together is Sam Mizell, a hot new producer who also co-wrote nearly all the songs on the album. The production is very much of the pop gloss you get from the majority of country music today. When things are revved up, 33Miles sounds a lot like Rascal Flatts. Unfortunately for Jason, I can't stand Gary LeVox's voice, which unfairly steers me away from a favorable proclivity toward this set.
The themes are simple and could be construed as clichéd, but they still work well for the struggles of a new believer. The opening song -- and first single -- "What Could Be Better" (co-written by Barton) contemplates looking forward to life in heaven ("Can't wait for the day when I get there/When I see Jesus face to face") while avoiding earthly distractions ("Pardon me if I just don't listen/To everything the world says I’m missing"). In "Come With Me", the search for greener pastures comes with the invitation "If you're looking for a Savior/If you're looking for a friend/I know someone you should meet". A similar sentiment is echoed in the Barton and Lockwood co-penned "The Best Man" ("I have always dreamed to be that superhero/To fly right in and somehow save the day") with the relationship to Christ taking on nuptial overtones.
The first couple of songs keep a lively tempo, with the middle section firmly ensconced in MOR power balladry. "Stand Amazed" speaks of the struggles to trust God ("Let my need for you remain as real as the moment I was saved") and "This Is Now" offers hope in uncertain circumstances. Asserting the existence of God is the thesis of both "There Is A God" ("All around the evidence is speaking the truth/From the center of my soul to the edge of the universe") and "I Can't Deny" ("I can't deny/you're way too evident/I can't ignore your presence in this place"). And, the concept doesn't get more spelled-out than on "Salvation Has A Name", co-written by MercyMe's Bart Millard: "Salvation has a name/Mercy has a face/Holiness was crucified/And rose to give us
grace". The disc rounds out with a fine rendition of Brad Paisley's "When I Get Where I'm Going".
33Miles is ultimately nice straightforward pop-rock, with pleasing three-part harmonies calculated to be as inoffensive as possible. The lyrics may strike the seasoned Christian as a little too fundamental, but it never hurts to be reminded of the simple truths of faith. You somehow sense greater works are in store for 33Miles, with glimmers of brilliance scattered throughout and a centerpiece tune that bestows their grateful heart ("Thank you for everything/Thank you for loving me"). If adult contemporary Christian pop with a kickin' country vibe is your thing, you'll get plenty of mileage out of
what 33Miles puts on the road.
For reviews of bands with more ambiguous
Christian content, check out Until June, The Almost,
Circleslide, or NEEDTOBREATHE.
33Miles - "33Miles"
01. What Could Be Better
02. Come With Me
03. Stand Amazed
04. There Is A God
05. Hold On
06. Thank You
07. I Can't Deny
08. Salvation Has A Name
09. This Is Now
10. The Best Man
11. When I Get Where I'm Going