Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Music CD Review: Open Hands by Laura Story + Giveaways


ALBUM:  Open Hands
Artist: Laura Story
Manufacturered by:  Fair Trade
Format:  Audio CD
Release Date:  March 3, 2017

Throughout the Bible, there are countless stories of ordinary people whole-heartedly attempting to live a life fully surrendered to God’s unique calling on their lives. More than once, God asks people of faith to relinquish control and simply trust Him. These days, singer/songwriter Laura Story is discovering the beauty found in letting go. It’s this posture of surrender that she’s striving for on her fifth studio album, Open Hands (Fair Trade Services).

“We have this picture all the way through the Scriptures of all these great leaders in this process of surrendering everything. What the Lord is asking them is not, ‘You need to hold on tighter. You need to manage this better.’ What the Lord asks us is to surrender,” she offers, “It’s about learning to live with open hands, learning to live life in this constant state of saying, ‘Lord, my life is Yours. My time is Yours. My resources are Yours. All of this is Yours. Do what You will.’”

Story has built a life—and a career—around submission to her calling. She’s led worship at Atlanta’s Perimeter Church for the past 12 years. In addition to penning songs recorded by artists like Chris Tomlin, Story has found success as a recording artist in her own right. Since the release of her solo debut in 2008, Story has amassed a GRAMMY® Award, a Billboard Music Award, multiple GMA Dove Awards and an RIAA Gold certification for her massive No. 1 hit “Blessings.” In addition, she’s also the author of two books, including the latest "When God Doesn't Fix It - Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can't Live Without."

Open Hands is the follow-up to 2013’s critically-acclaimed God of Every Story, and in the years that have passed since her last release, Story has given birth to twins, making their brood a family of five. Now, as a mom to three kids—Josie, Benjamin and Griffin—the posture of “open hands” feels more necessary than ever before as she juggles ministry and motherhood.

We never get to a point where we can do life apart from complete and total daily dependence on Jesus,” Story admits. “The irony is the less control we have, the more peace we have and the more, I would even say, success and joy we find. It’s a contrary picture to what the world tells us, but it’s gaining through letting go.”

Open Hands’ fresh collection of originals blends Story’s signature congregational worship with intimate moments. I wanted to make an album so that each song I write would be just that seed of hope or that lifeline that someone listens to during that tough moment and thinks, ‘I’m going to choose to trust God, even during this,’” Story shares. “I pray that God would speak through me in the midst of the music.”

A parade of A-list songwriters, including Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Mia Fieldes, Hank Bentley, Sarah Hart and Seth Mosley, among others, pepper the album’s 11 tracks. Through writing sessions both alone and with others, Story began to gradually see this common thread of surrender emerge.

“Rather than picking a theme and writing around it, a lot of times, it takes me writing to be able to step back and see what the themes are, not just of the record but of my life,” she says of her creative process. “It was neat to step back and see that ‘open hands’ is a theme that ended up presenting itself rather than me choosing it.”

The title track—already a chart-topper prior to the album’s release—features guest vocals from Third Day’s Mac Powell, a fellow Atlanta-native and Story’s longtime friend. “You Came Running” borrows imagery from the biblical narrative of the Prodigal Son. In true Story fashion, several selections (“Awake My Soul (1000 Tongues),” “For The Love of My King”) reimagine timeless hymns, which she refreshes with an original chorus.

“I’m pretty sure that the theology that I learned as a kid was from old hymns. It’s amazing, even now as an adult, how those hymns come back and really provide that sturdy foundation for life. It reminds me of how important it is for me to teach my kids those old hymns,” Story reflects, adding, As long as I am singing, I will be singing hymns.”

Poignant piano ballad “Give You Faith” finds the singer pondering the legacy she wants to leave her children. The song is about releasing your kids into the hands of God,” she explains. “The most important thing that we could possibly give our children is to not just tell them about the faith that we have but to live out that faith as a family. Sometimes that means not giving them everything they want but showing them that the most important thing in my life isn’t even them—it’s actually my faith in Jesus Christ—and just point them to Jesus.”

To that end, Story readily admits motherhood has impacted her songwriting on all levels. Thinking specifically about her daughter, she says, I’ve realized that these songs form people’s theology, and they affect how this little girl is going to think about herself in the future. They might affect decisions that she makes in the future because of what she believes about God and what she believes about His Word. I’ve changed as a songwriter with kids.”

Reflecting on the world her kids are growing up in, Story wrote the album’s sparse closer, “Grace Abounds,” after weeks of turning on the television only to continue to watch stories of terror attacks, extreme injustice and racial tension make headlines day after day. “It’s easy to lose heart, and the song is about just acknowledging the brokenness. First of all, we can’t just pretend like it doesn’t exist,” she advises. “When it seemingly doesn’t make sense, I’m choosing to believe that God’s grace is enough. God’s grace is enough for any social injustice. God’s grace is enough for any loss that we go through. God’s grace is enough for any loneliness that we experience, for any relational strain and for any relational rejection.

“When it feels like hope can’t be found, when we don’t even know how we’re going to put one foot in front of the other,” she continues, “Scripture teaches us that’s when grace abounds.”

Story isn’t afraid to write about grace at work in the middle of unexpected, unexplainable situations. She can only write from experience and how she’s seen God redeem the darkest chapters of her own life. “My greatest goal is always for my story to encourage listeners to believe that they, too, can live out their faith in the midst of hard circumstances,” she says. “I truly believe that the songs we sing and the songs we write act as the soundtrack for people’s faith. So I want to give people the most substantial tools that give them the clearest picture of who God is and who they are in Christ.”

The life of a songwriter is a sacred calling and one Story doesn’t take lightly whether she’s writing songs for her church, for a new record or simply for herself as a cathartic release. “It’s not about my songs or my story or even my artistry,” she asserts. “It really is about Him getting the glory for the work that I believe He has chosen to do through songwriters and through songs. It’s a unique work that He’s chosen to do there.”

She may lead others in worship through song on stages both big and small, but on a daily basis, Story is intent on loosening her grip and choosing to live with open hands as an ultimate act of praise.

“Worship at the very core of what it is is ‘worth-ship.’ It’s the easiest definition I’ve ever heard of worship. It’s giving God worth, and sometimes that means verbal adoration and praise. Sometimes that’s showing Him worth with our calendars and our checking accounts. No matter what it is, it always begins with open hands. It always begins with a willingness to say, ‘You are worth whatever cost you call me to give,’” she maintains. “Worship in its very core begins with surrender. That’s how we really show God that He’s worth it all.”



Laura Story's Open Hands album is strong. It evokes emotions that I can't explain. Wait, maybe I can however best I can. With great numbers like Death Was Arrested, title track, Open Hands, You Came Running, Give You Faith and many more, we feel the love, the NEED to surrender to our Lord. Just as the parable of the lost son, we come come running towards our Father. We are lost, and we are broken. We need our Lord in our life, and that's when we open our hands towards Him - let him take it all.   That is Open Hands.  



As I listen to this album, reflection is so natural. I am reminded of my first encounter with a song of Laura Story's, and it wasn't a happy memory, but now, I can truly see God's plan in using Laura Story's Blessings to comfort and to bless me. A traumatic event that only God can provide the comfort and fill the hole in me, and He chose Laura's song to do just that. I will always remember. And this album speaks just that, comfort, love, grace and faith. 


In this album, so many songs, all beautifully written and performed. The words will capture you. As a reader, the words was what sounded me first, the melody second. I love that this album featured other artists as well, creating songs together, praising Him, as a collective.  Don't miss this at all! Have it for yourself or gift it to those you know need comfort or encouragement.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this CD from the manufacturer. I was not required to write a positive review, and have not been compensated for this. This is my honest opinion.

For my review policy, please see my Disclosure page.

TO PURCHASE A COPY:

    

Currently on Amazon, Open Hands mp3 is only 69 cents for a limited time. 



GRAMMY® award winning artist, speaker, songwriter, author and worship leader Laura Story has a gift for penning songs that connect with people all around the world. Among her successes as a solo artist with her smash hits “Mighty to Save” and “Blessings,” Laura has also penned hit songs for other renowned artists including Chris Tomlin’s “Indescribable.” Her solo artist music debut in 2008 with Great God Who Saves led to four Dove nominations and the award for “Inspirational Album of the Year.” In 2011, Laura released her sophomore project Blessings. The album and the emotionally powerful title was inspired by her real life trials and adversities, primarily her husband Martin's diagnosis of a brain tumor. The album resonated with a huge audience and led to whirlwind career highlights for Laura, peaking at the No. 1 album spot for three consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Contemporary Christian Overall chart, topping the iTunes® Christian/Gospel Top Songs chart and holding the No. 1 spot for an impressive 28 consecutive weeks on the Christian charts. The success of the single “Blessings,” which was certified RIAA Gold, includes the GRAMMY® Award for Best Contemporary Christian Song, the Billboard Music Award for Top Christian Song and the Dove Awards for Song of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. The song inspired Laura's first book, “What If Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops?” in 2012. God Of Every Story released in 2013 to much acclaim, and her first ever Christmas project God With Us, released in October of 2015. Laura recently released a new book and bible study curriculum When God Doesn’t Fix It; Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can’t Live Without.  She has a graduate degree from Covenant Theological Seminary and has served as a worship leader at Perimeter Church in Atlanta since 2005, but her greatest joy is being a wife to Martin and the mother to Ben, Griffin and Josie.

TO CONNECT WITH LAURA STORY:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 


(1) Winner will win an audio cd of Laura Story's Open Hands album.



“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

                                                                                                                                                                      

30 comments :

  1. I love Laura's music. Thank you for the chance. Blessings

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    1. I love her music too!! =) (We do have a lot in common!!)

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  2. I don't think I've listened to her songs before and I listen to Christian radio. Her voice is beautiful and the message is so needed in my life right now. I will listen for her while driving!

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    1. That's great Danielle! I appreciate your support of Just Commonly! Your name is a friendly name I love to see!

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  3. I have never heard her music before, other than Mighty to Save.

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    1. O, I would highly recommend her songs. Blessings is a personal favorite, as you can tell from my review.. and this Open Hand, and Give You Faith,, I had tears in my eyes the first time I listened to it carefully.

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  4. I love Laura Story! Blessings is my favorite song. I heard it for the first time when she toured with Third Day and they performed a benefit concert in Birmingham, AL after the 2011 tornado super outbreak. It seemed to be the perfect song for the circumstances and it's had a special place in my heart ever since.

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    1. So agree! I think her songs can apply to so many different circumstances! Just love it and feel so blessed to have the opportunity to share this with others!

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  5. I love Laura Story - and Blessings was the first song of hers I heard as well. I cried through the whole thing lol. Another fave is What a Savior.

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  6. I had not listened to her songs until today. I have subscribed on youtube and will be listening

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    1. Great! I think you'll really enjoy it. Many songs were written by her.

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  7. I don't think I have , but I will have to check out her music! :)

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  8. I have heard her songs on the radio. Blessings is my favorite.

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  9. I have heard Laura's songs on the radio. She has a beautiful voice! The one I'm most familiar with is Blessings. Thanks for this giveaway! :)

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    1. She does have a beautiful voice. I love worshiping with her songs!

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  10. I love "mighty to save." The message is great!

    mia2009(at)comcast(dot)net

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  11. No, l don't think love hread this artist's music yet.

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    1. I hope you'll give it a try! Thanks for stopping in!

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  12. Death Was Arrested is my favorite. We sing it often at church. I like the lyrics.

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  13. No, I'm not familiar with Laura's music.

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    1. Try her out on YouTube. Her songs fills the heart!

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  14. I have not listened to her music but I would like to.

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    1. Jeanna, check her out on Youtube, great way to see if you like an artist's songs and singing style or voice.

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  15. I am a huge fan of Laura Story! I love "You Are Love" and "Blessings"

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