I’ve never been a fan of Contemporary Christian music, mostly because of the bombastic arrangements. I like my religious songs Emmylou or Willie style, with organic production and, if I’m really lucky, a bit of struggle before the redemption.
So it was with great enthusiasm that I dove in to Diamond Rio’s “God is There.” I’ve always loved the sound of this band’s records, even when the material was slight. When the material was solid, like the back-porch bliss of “Meet in the Middle” or tongue-twisting charm of “How Your Love Makes Me Feel”, nothing sounded better.
“God is There” opens promisingly, with a sparse piano accompanying Marty Roe’s voice. It sounds so similar to their best single ever, “You’re Gone”, that it got my hopes up. The opening verse tells of a young girl struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, feeling abandoned and alone.
The message in response, “God is there”, is a poignant reminder that she’s not alone. God is there. Unfortunately, so is a frighteningly loud wall of sound that destroys all of the intimacy that had been so delicately crafted.
The cluttered and overwrought production drowns out the band’s distinctive harmonies during the chorus, but what’s worse it that it also drowns out the song’s message. The lesson that the lyrics teach is that God’s presence is always there, even when it can’t be seen or heard. The song is far more effective when the production reinforces that message instead of undermining it.
Listen: God is There
This is disappointing by one of my favorite groups. They managed to largely stay away from this muddy, electric sound throughout their whole career until now. The thing that set them apart from other groups is their distinct harmony and their crisp, distinct band. The latter is clearly missing here.
That’s what kills me. It touches on something that I actually believe, but the production is so out of sync that it’s jarring.
Yeah, it’s too bad they didn’t go with their signature sound for this song. Unfortunately, this kind of production seems to be one of the latest trends among many country ballads. However, I’m still glad to see Diamond Rio trying to make a comeback.
Kevin, Diamond Rio signed with Word Records, which is big Contemporary Christian label. That means their sound is going to have to change quite a bit in order to fit the CC format. They know their days of country success are well behind them, but instead of throwing in the towel (like so many 90’s country artists have done), they are looking to extend their career with a possible future in the CC industry. You just can’t listen to their very first CC single and expect to hear “Meet in the Middle”. CC radio is far different than country radio. Production, arrangement, style, etc. are totally different. Country fans who aren’t accustomed to CC music will need to cut Diamond Rio some slack on the change in sound. And this talk about “over-production” is cliched all over the music industry. People in every music genre complain of “over-production”.
They talk about it because it’s so prevalent these days. Just because people “all over the industry” talk about it a lot, it doesn’t mean the problem does not exist. We can’t stop pointing it out just because everyone seems to fall victim to it nowadays. That’s like saying talking about the effects of the recession is cliched, because politicians complain about it all the time. If production is the big problem with a song, it’s impossible not to identify it as such.
I haven’t listened to CC radio in a few years, but from what I can remember, this sound isn’t exactly going to work on that format either. So, it seems that they’ve changed their sound to try to appeal to that market, but I’m not sure it will get much play on Joy FM or similar stations. Furthermore, they are trying to get country radio to play it too, which is how it got on our radar. So, we kind of have to look at the song from a country music point of view, not a Christian Contemporary perspective.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this “over-production” sound that people complain about is a mainstay in many genres of music today. I think it’s gotten old for music critics to constantly criticize artists (though the criticism should go to the studios and their producers) for this sound. For example, Sawyer Brown’s Mark Miller was criticized by music critics for the “over-production sound” when he put together Casting Crowns’ first CD on his label. Yet, Casting Crowns is about the biggest act in CC today. Whether you like it or not, it’s everywhere now. It’s only a problem for those who aren’t adapting to industry changes in sound.
As for Contemporary Christian radio, Diamond Rio’s song actually fits in today’s CC format. Country radio has lost much of its “twang” from even 10 years ago, and now you can’t distinguish a lot of it from modern pop and rock. That’s why Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts are so successful in crossing over. And the fact that Diamond Rio signed with CC giant Word means they are taking a new road in their career, which is why I think it’s unfair to continue to compare them to their country roots of the 90’s. They are releasing it to country radio, as well, because of their past success in that genre–they will get some airplay and sell a few more albums. I listen to Country and CC, and this song will probably do well on CC radio. If you get a chance, listen to 33 Miles, which is a popular new CC group that’s hitting it big now. Their sound isn’t that different than what you’re hearing in this new Diamond Rio song.
WTF? Throughout the whole album they made Marty Roe’s voice so much louder than the others you can barely hear the harmonies that made them so great.
another country act looking for the churchyard, yet finding the graveyard.
The piano sounds exactly like Queensryches someone else? song off of promised land, total rip off.
Your kidding me right? Like Diamond Rio or anyone over 13 listens to Queensryches? Yeah that’s who I wanna steal my chops from for my next song about faith, a hair metal band!! They are being marketed to CC radio so hence the bigger production.They still have a lot of Country fans so its being pushed into both circles.Regardless of musical borders This song is loaded with passion and a beautiful message. Save the Tomatoes and cheapshots to throw at really awful stuff …which this is NOT!