I recently had an opportunity to come to know some of singer, songwriter Christa Wells work. Noisetrade suggests Christa Wells is like A Fine Frenzy, Over the Rhine, Andrew Peterson, Sara Groves, Brooke Fraser. While her tone is similar to Ms. Sudol’s (A Fine Frenzy), she has a softer, less strident voice and a, gentler pace ( this from big fan of A Fine Frenzy since One Cell in the Sea through to Pines.) I find her more reminiscent of an Ellie Goulding, Sarah McLachlan and Fine Frenzy mix, which is to say, she has her own voice.
What sets Ms. Wells apart, however, is the content sung out through that lyrical voice. An example of this is Shine: it speaks to us a fundamental truth that we know we fall short of, not only our call, but even our own dreams and hopes. However, we are not left adrift in our inadequacy. We often feel like we have nothing to offer because we fall short. Shine reminds that, yes, we do fall short but we have hope through Jesus Christ. We may reflect his glory and do his work by his strength within the community that is part of his grace to us.
…Yes, we could lay our talents in the earth/We could pile on the doubt like dirt/Or we can shine// He shines His light through a prism/We give back what we’re given/…Shine, we shine, His light refracted
I love that Ms. Well’s music avoids mere platitudes. She sings of times of pain when we must simply come along side someone with no other answer than love, patience and reminders of the great everlasting love and grace of God found in Jesus as she does in Come Close Now:
I’m afraid of the space where you suffer/Where you sit in the smoke and the burn/I can’t handle the choke or the danger/Of my own foolish, inadequate words/I’ll be right outside if you need me/Right outside//What can I bring to your fire?/ … Can I come close now?//Lay down our plans/Lay down the sure-fire fix/Grief’s gonna stay awhile,…We speak what we’ve heard/We sit together, in the burn/
Even in this support of another in pain, there is good news – we are not alone in coming to you, but Christ’s grace and strength are given to us that we might stay and “speak what we’ve heard”.
She also has a clarion call to trust in Christ, to believe the good news even when we’re tempted to close our eyes:
You have heard of the strange figure/Who visited the poor/He gave his own body/To ransom their souls/Seems too good to be true/But you haven’t found it false//I believe there is a light coming to find you with your eyes open – Have your Eyes Wide Open
In her earlier album, How Emptiness Sings, she approaches her themes in similar ways of nuanced, grounded recognition of God’s grace to us. Whether it’s about the immutable pillar of love of God in – Everything Moves but You to seeking the pearl worth any price, not a prize of simple wealth and health on earth, rather the prize of Jesus Himself in Panning for Gold to the fact that our response to earthly sorrow and pain is to sing God’s glory in – How Emptiness Sings. She sings of joy and pain, community and loneliness and heartache to bursting love as she shows God’s light on all aspects of our life together. She recognizes the realities of this world, both the pain and the good news. She brings out the reality of the heartache we have but does not ignore the reality that we are not bereft of hope but live in the hope of Jesus.
It is the light of that knowledge that bathes our earthly condition with the joy of the Lord. Our joy is not found in a god who answers our earthly whims but God who answers in His own person. Who doesn’t, in the immortal words of Joni Mitchell, provide us a Mercedes Benz, color TV or night on the town, rather he provides himself. It is this truth, so aptly recognized and sung by Ms. Wells, which provides an antidote to syrupy songs and to despairing ditties. Her voice is well aligned to grounded reality while soaring to heavenly heights; her tone has husky highlights while periodically gaining a high, haunting sound.