A Little Lower Than the Nagels
Rating: 4 out of 5
“Songwriting is turning the heart inside out and letting the world hear its meditations. If a song is truly authentic it is a Christ event, a giving of your life for the benefit of those who have ears to hear,” singer-songwriter Rick L. James said.
This quote alone describes James’ music best. An international recording artist, guitarist, studio musician, songwriter, worship leader, ordained minister and tenured youth pastor, he has traveled throughout the US and Africa providing hope and healing to those in need. Having performed his music on radio stations, TV programs, churches, and coffee houses, James’ biggest gig was at Church of the Nazarene General Assembly in Orlando, Florida, where he performed for over 10,000 people.
It is perhaps no surprise then, that James began singing at the age of five when traveling with his family of Evangelists. Having learned guitar at 15, by the time he was 17 he was performing at Nashville’s renowned Ryman Auditorium and working as an assistant guitar teacher in the Doc Stone School of Music in Dickson, Tennessee. Many songs and worship services later, James is back with his latest release, A Little Lower Than the Angels.
Starting off A Little Lower Than the Angels strongly with in-your-face percussion, James grabs the listener’s attention right away. Best described as contemporary Christian rock music with hints of country and Americana woven throughout, James offers much to his listeners without sounding too preachy.
“Who am I that you are mindful of me/When you know I’m as sinful as I seem/I can’t wash blood off of my fingers/So your blood to make me clean…I’m amazed that I’m the one you love,” James sings on the title track. One of the more energetic on his 10-song release, James’ catchy songwriting leaves an impression on the listener.
Second track, “(If You’re Not Gonna) Move This Mountain” begins with gritty guitar and equally fit percussion. Singing of hardship, James questions his life and asks for advice. “How in the world did I get here/How in the world do I leave/The promised land is straight ahead and just beyond my grasp/I’m trapped between the mountain and the sea,” he sings. A song many can relate to, James asks God, “If you’re not going to move this mountain can you help me across to the other side?” With solid finger picking, background vocals and percussion accentuating the song, the album is off to a strong start.
Based in Springfield, Ohio, his songs are all-encompassing to worship services and believers everywhere. While ballads like “You Are There With Me” can be easily heard in services, tracks like “We Lost the G” are comical and tongue-in-cheek, offering much versatility.
A humorous tale of a sign that read “All singers welcome” before the G blows away and eventually reads “All siners welcome,” James offers something new to his listeners. A more Americana roots-esque track, “We Lost the G” is an enjoyable, light hearted song. While the static heard throughout the song is a bit distracting, it offers an older record-like quality to the performance.
“Few things give me the joy and fulfillment that playing music and singing to the Lord does. To me, music is a form of prayer.” With the goal to offer a quality music program while being a servant to the needs of his audience, James does just that on A Little Lower Than the Angels. Ending with two acoustic tracks, he reminds listeners what they are put on this earth for. It’s not every day a musician can do that.