No song on Steven Curtis Chapman's new album is more likely to stand the test of time as a Christian pop anthem than "With Hope." Chapman wrote the comforting ballad after three students were slain at his alma mater, Heath High School in Paducah, Ky. As the song quietly unfolds, Chapman finds solace in the knowledge that "we can cry with hope/ we can say goodbye with hope/ 'cause we know our goodbye is not the end."
Chapman's bedrock faith is the foundation for all of the songs on "(Speechless)," so that even when the lyrics are inspired by tragedy or self-doubt, they radiate a fundamental optimism and help shape some of the more engaging melodies and rhythms.
Yet there are times when Chapman seems a bit too enamored of pop trends. "The Change," for example, is an overwrought blend of funk and rock. Mostly, though, Chapman's passion for celebrating God's grace pulls him through even when his music seems derivative or contrived.
Chapman is currently on tour with his frequent songwriting collaborator, Geoff Moore, who has just released a self-titled solo album. Three of its songs were composed by the duo, and one of them, the chummy "Thanks to You," finds Moore and Chapman sharing the vocals. Refreshingly low-key and rootsy, the album's strengths primarily reside in Moore's husky vocals and his understated themes of compassion and faith.
Appearing Friday at Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge. To hear a free Sound Bite from Steven Curtis Chapman, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8122. For a Sound Bite from Geoff Moore, press 8123. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)