Fortunately, things have turned out all right for Smith and his family—both parents are now cancer-free. But regardless, the young singer/songwriter proves that adversity doesn't necessarily lead to a depressing outlook. As many Christians can attest, adversity can also bring clarity, sometimes even gratitude and joyfulness. It's a matter of gaining perspective through the Lord, and no doubt part of the reason Smith chose to title his debut Real (2007).
The opener "Get Up," explores familiar territory by telling us to shake off complacency and hurt by starting again and living life. However, Smith paints a unique picture with clever wordplay born out of personal experience: "3 a.m. it came too soon/I was having a fight with myself in my living room/In disbelief I lost to me, so I grabbed my pillow and I went to sleep/And in my dreams it occurred to me/That I would stay up late to vindicate/My lack of being anything that I was trying to be." A mouthful for sure, but it's so much more interesting than simply saying, "I stayed up late trying to figure myself out."
That writing style permeates throughout. "These Things" begins as a loving testament to Smith's parents for their hard work and Christian wisdom, but ends as a reminder that we should serve the Lord gladly in all we do. "Real Love" draws inspiration from 1 Corinthians 13 to compare and contrast between everyday love and what Jesus offers to us. And "Make Me Move" praises God for being in control, but couches that praise in funky music and lyrics. Sure, you've heard songs like "This Is Certain" before, offering hope that the sun will shine again and God is trustworthy, or "What I Plan to Do," about loving others the way God first loved us. You just haven't heard the sentiments expressed in this way.
Jakes laid-back Louisiana style is shared by his band mates, Jared Morvant (Keys and background vocals), Chris Arceneaux (Skins to the hipper crowd) and Darren Phipps on Bass. The combination of these musicians (who in their spare time actually enjoy each others company), is a phenomenally energetic performance that has graced the stages of clubs and churches alike across the country.
However you choose to slice it, Real is an impressive effort for a newcomer, especially considering that it's essentially an independent release retooled through Rocketown. It's the sort of album people are quietly clamoring for in Christian music these days—something that's accessible, but still different enough in approach to distinguish it. In short, Jake Smith easily proves himself as one of the best new artists, and Real more than lives up to its title musically and lyrically.