Current reigning Christian Artist of the Year, Michael W. Smith steps up to the plate for his thirteenth turn at bat. Thirteen must be his lucky number, because never before has he released an album so mature, yet fabulously fun, laced with such poignancy, as he has accomplished on This Is Your Time. As practically everyone knows by now, the title song, written by Smith and Wes King, is about Cassie Bernall, the modern-day Christian martyr from the Columbine High School shooting earlier this year. Smitty (who writes only music and then relies on others to translate his ideas and thoughts into lyrics, just in case you didn't know) calls King's powerful words "the lyric of a lifetime." I have a feeling he may be right -- this could easily become Smitty's new signature song for the next decade.
The most intriguing thing about this album is that for the first time ever, Smitty has a different lyricist on every song. And quite a repertoir of lyricists it is, too, including: Cindy Morgan, Dan Haseltine, Ginny Owens, Chris Rice, the already-mentioned Wes King, and Smith's wife Deborah D. Smith, among others. The usual mix of love songs and thought-provoking spiritual anthems are mixed with a pair of songs about two of Smith's daughters ("Anna" and "She Walks With Me") and the requisit instrumental. This time out, though, Smitty trades in the bouncy pop sounds found on Live the Life for more mature orchestration and sounds, harkening back to I'll Lead You Home. That's still my all-time favorite Smitty album, so I think it's a great direction.
Top Picks: The tear-jerking title cut, "Worth It All" (love that killer guitar riff on the bridge), the powerfully anthemic "I Will Carry You," the rock-tinged "I Still Have the Dream," and the amazingly poignant "Everybody Free" (who else but Chris Rice could write lyrics like these?).
Pros: Such a wealth of talent could only produce something this great. The variety of voices pulls together to form a surprisingly cohesive album. Cons: "I'm Gone," despite its great lyrics by Ginny Owens, doesn't really do anything for me. It's a little too Stevie Wonder for Smitty to pull off. The Verdict: Despite its one misstep, This Is Your Time still ranks among Smitty's very best efforts. A very worthwhile and enjoyable experience from an artist that only gets better and better.