Three years after he captured the hearts of contemporary Christian music fans with the stirring number-one single “Eye Of The Storm,” Gotee Records’ Ryan Stevenson invites us to contemplate God’s steadfast love in his newest collection No Matter What (buy). Seeking to write songs with a purpose that focus on our “beloved identity” in Christ, his sophomore full-length offers gospel-centric lyrics and uplifting pop sounds in an overall appealing package. On No Matter What, Stevenson is best when embracing his sunniest pop tendencies. Openers “Lift You Up” and “Child In Your Arms” recall the lighter side of his mentor tobyMac. The album’s middle is where things slow down, literally and figuratively, in a trio of radio-friendly songs featuring high-profile guests Bart Millard and Amy Grant. And then, after a funky interlude (featuring Ryan’s dad as special guest), “Single-Wide Dreamin’” appears as the surprise highlight. Turns out a song about growing up in rural Oregon has some of the best songwriting on the record, with lyrics that celebrate the beautiful little things about Bonanza, OR, and a sound that plays with an easygoing rock vibe and the lightest touch of hip-hop. Tightly-paced and, overall, a fun mix to get you into the summer spirit a little early—these eight songs are inspiring, inviting, and easy to love. Still, while Stevenson is a solid singer and songwriter (and “Single-Wide Dreamin'” not withstanding), it would be fun to hear some more adventurous production or personal lyricism next time around. But if you’ve loved his radio songs and are looking for an uplifting and reliable pop record, this is one worth checking out.
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