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"I feel like my call simply comes down to this - having integrity as a songwriter and writing a good song to the best of my ability. If I'm faithful in this one little thing, then God has something to work with and He'll take care of the rest. I'm humbled to have seen Him do it time and time again." - Jason Gray

Jason Gray's new CD, A PLACE CALLED HOPE, is Christian music at its finest, combining various styles, such as rock, folk, and soul with acoustical guitar which creates upbeat, interesting music, while effectively expressing the Gospel, timeless Christian truths and feelings with Gray's originality and passion. "He attends to the heart, mind and spirit" of his audience. His God-inspired lyrics feed both those who are rock-solid in their faith, and those who are seekers.

Jason Gray is a gifted song writer / singer, every bit as talented as such artists as Steven Curtis Chapman, Andrew Peterson, Caedmon's Call, Rich Mullens and Mark Heard. Though influenced by Rich Mullins, Randy Stonehill and Peter Gabriel, Jason Gray has his own unique way of writing and composing "unforgettable and intimate songs that are at once simple and profound."

"Jason is delightful! He inspires me to be a better songwriter. He's a songwriter's songwriter," so says Dove-nominee, Sara Groves, whom he has gone on tour with during the Spring of 2002.

Jason Gray got the idea for this CD, A PLACE CALLED HOPE when he was traveling in the countryside, on his way to a performance. Even though he was running late, he had to get off the freeway, and check out this town called Hope. He discovered a small, quiet, peaceful, modest town. He couldn't stay long, because he was running late. He left, feeling disappointed that not more people wanted to live there. Instead people pick the big cities, where there are a lot more things to do, plenty of distractions.

Jason Gray explains that Hope is also a place in the "geography of the Spirit," where we go to wait, wait for the renewing of our strength. While Hope is a place of "peace, joy, and laughter," to get there we must turn from life's distractions, and be willing to trust and surrender to our Lord Jesus Christ all our fears, troubles, pride, self-centeredness, rebellion, and self-reliance in order to stay in this place called Hope, which is in the domain of Jesus Christ.

This isn't easy to do, but the ultimate Hope, Jesus, patiently waits to give us "what we have exhausted ourselves looking for everywhere and in everyone else while it was always right here in front of us. Jesus waits for us to not merely reside on His property, but in Himself - who waits, in a place called Hope," says Jason Gray.

The songs on this CD explore various aspects of human nature that hinder or attitudes that can help us arrive to the place called Hope, and actually dwell in Jesus, walk with him, strengthening us with his love, support, mercy, and hope that can be found only in Him.

Through Sara Groves, Jason connected with Sara's producer, Nate Sabin, who then produced A PLACE CALLED HOPE, bringing new ideas to Jason Gray, on how to stretch and expand his talent, in his Christian music ministry. Nate Sabin, as reported by Joe Tougas, in The Mankato Free Press(2000), had different ideas for Gray, concerning not only for the total sound of his new songs, but also that his songs should explore the emotional side, the heart of hope, faith and belief, instead of only focusing along the tried and true, safe, comfortable intellectual, thoughtful lines, that proved to be so successful in his first two CDs.

"I wrote the songs about faith, trust and surrender, but discovered in the process that trust and surrender are difficult concepts for me." Gray had to ask himself, "Do I allow him to enrich the project with his perspective or do I just insist on my own way?"

Believing that self-reliance and fear can sometimes keep us away from Hope, Gray stepped out in faith and leaped into the unknown, pushing himself creatively out of his comfort zone into new uncharted territory. "Circumstances in my life converged to where as I was making the CD, the CD was making me."

Though Jason Gray's fine voice and accomplished expertise on the guitar and hammered dulcimer are still the bedrock of his inspiring music on this CD, he also included various elements from pop to folk, to rock, to soul,to create a different sound, using some fine, professional Nashville studio musicians, duets with Sara Groves, vocals by the Sound of Blackness, and even experimented with his own voice, all which adds musical depth and enjoyment on the basic tracks. This new sound serves Gray's vocals and music nicely, not overwhelming it with studio perfection, which was a great worry for Gray, who wanted a more professional sound, but didn't want to loose "grit and sincerity."

Lyrical Themes that Flow Through His Songs.

1). Roadblocks get in the way of the Hope, such as Fear, Self-reliance and Rebellion, and Holding Back Behaviors.

A) Fear:

LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER (written by the late Mark Heard) - Arranged by Jason Gray, additional vocals by Sara Groves.

Lyrical Sample: Look over your shoulder and tell me what's coming, tell me what is the bogey that you're so afraid of, the eyes in the back of our heads can persuade, that just for the moment mercy has swayed, look over your shoulder and tell me what's coming.

If you must be afraid, be afraid of yourself, for being afraid of the fears you have felt, you will weather well in a climate of love.

HIDE AND SEEK - By Jason Gray.

Jason Gray explores the fear of being hurt, because of what has happened in the past. Using the game of hide and seek to illustrate how some people want to have relationships, but are afraid to let others get too close.

Lyrical Sample: 1) When I was younger, I would hide behind a tree, but I'm more clever now, I've learned to hide behind me, with assumed identities, I'm master of disguise, you may never see me, though you look me square in the eyes.

Chorus: Oh 1,2,3, won't you come and play with me, try and catch me if you can, and if you can I'll hide again, but will you please keep looking then, as I'm seeking to be found in hide and seek.

B) Self-reliance and Rebellion:

THE PRODIGAL- (By Jason Gray, who was inspired by scripture: Luke 15:11-31).

Lyrical Sample: 1) I thought I was so cool, I thought I had it all down, I took you for an old fool, but now I suspect that I was the clown, you gave me a home of love, I took the money and ran, to the city of angels, but now it looks more to me like the city of man.

2) I thought I knew what I wanted, I thought I could find myself, I thought I could design my freedom, but now it feels more like a prison cell, I tried philosophy and with no consideration of disgrace, I tried sex and revelry, until I landed on my face that's when...

C) Other Behaviors that can hinder Hope:

THINGS WE HOLD BACK - Jason Gray, with Sara Groves helping on vocals.

Lyrical Sample: 1) Some hold back when they know they should, in the heat of a moment some wish they could. Some hold back afraid to try, other hold back and they don't know why. Some hold back the voices that haunt them, If they could, some would hold back time, others hold back the urge to dig deeper, for fear of what they might find.

Chorus: These are the things we hold back, if we don't take care they make for us a home, so look deep into the life that's yours to live, you may find you hold back a thing of two of your own.

2) The Strength, Love, Guidance, Mercy that We Get from the Hope, Jesus.

A) God-inspired Love in Relationships:

THE DANCE - By Jason Gray, back-up vocals by Sara Groves.

Gray is a master at using "powerful metaphors" in such songs as THE DANCE (with a 1 2 3 waltz beat), that relates marriage to dancing. "In Columbus, Ohio, a couple, who had waited to speak to him after a show, gratefully thanked him for his song, THE DANCE which inspired them to try to work things out in their troubled marriage. And so it goes, every night that the Lord brings together Jason Gray and the people who at that very moment need to hear a song that he's been given."

Lyrical Sample: 1) Sometimes we tired of being ourselves, and wished that we could dance with somebody else, frayed and foot sore, we wanted to leave the floor but to equal the charge of love's sure demands, this is the art and the call of the dance.

2) And though now my love we have danced for awhile and our shoes have shuffled over many a mile, though we've borne every scuff and every dip in the floor, the music rings cleaner than ever before.

THE LETTER- By Jason Gray based on Romans 10:8 - The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth as close as the heart in your chest.

A man writes to his beloved, who has trust issues, being hurt from past relationships. A reassuring letter that she can reread over and over aloud, to unseat her doubt. Studying and reading God's word can have the same effect on people, as they read aloud His promises which show His faithful, merciful love for us through Jesus, washing away our doubts, giving us a peace and joy that comes from belief. It is as if Jesus is sending people hurt by other worldly things that they thought would give them a satisfying love, an invitation to trust and believe in him.

Lyrical Sample: I left you with a letter, to have 'til we're together, my heart poured out on each and every page.....For I know you have been hurt before, And may suppose I'm just one more, charlatan to take your love and run, but open it and you will see, that you can open up to me, and let the days of faithlessness be done. I'd like to think it maybe quickened your breath, when you read the part of how my love is stronger than death.

I'd hope you'd read it out loud, the sound unseating every doubt, as my love found expression in your voice, you could not deny me then, or ever doubt your worth again, or ever wonder if you were my choice, as my word became flesh in your heart, my love for you to burn within your deepest part.

B) Living life through our Christian faith, trusting the Lord.

IF YOU LEAD ME - By Jason Gray (Stepping out in trust and faith).

Jason Gray describes this as "a song from the waiting room."

Lyrical Sample: I'm not really looking for a heavenly sign of water into wine, I'm just trying to get a sense of clear direction, I'm listening for your tone and the slightest of inflections.

Chorus: If you lead me, I will follow, every morning, each new morrow, I would beg, steal and I would borrow, just to have you lead me that I may follow.

A LITTLE MORE LIKE JESUS- By Jason Gray. (Vocal back-up by Sounds of Blackness). The result of stepping out in faith: We become more Christ-like.

Lyrical Sample: 1) I know of a young woman with shekinah in her eyes, burning bright as a white hot fire, burning deep as the midnight sky, most times you'll find her busy paying her dues at the local mission, lending an ear to a troubled heart, serving soup in the homeless kitchen, and the words she speaks are like a song you'd imagine an angel might sing...If you listen to the hearts of the lives she's touched, you can hear a gentle ring.

Chorus: She looks a little more like Jesus, every day, yeah she looks a little more like Jesus every day.

SURRENDER- By Jason Gray (How to stay on /get back on track:). Song was inspired by Jacob's wrestling match with God and ultimate surrender. Genesis 32:22-31.

Lyrical Sample: Jacob, he wrestled God by the waters of Jabbok, he got a new name to remind him and a hitch in his walk, and he say yay oh yah oh weh.

Jesus, He said "come to me for my burden is light, cast your troubles upon my back and cast off the night"....But I hold fast to my troubles, though the weight of them makes me older...

Chorus: And I know sometimes I like to take control, and try my hand at the Maker's role, but a mess is the most that I can make it seems, so I come before you now on bended knee, Singing I surrender.

THE WEIGHT OF GLORY (The value of trials) - By Jason Gray. "Often, my world has to be turned upside down before I see what is of true value. Still for all the pain in the process, when the dust clears, I never doubt it was was worth it." - Jason Gray

This song is an encouragement for when a person is going through struggles and trials, when things seem dark and painful. Another great metaphorical piece, where Jason uses climbing a steep mountain, to explain the value of our trials, if we persevere, depending on the Lord.

Lyrical Sample: The mountain is high, the treasure so deep, there's gold in them hills, but the climb's so steep, yet every stumbling block can be a stepping stone, for your foot to find purchase, as further up you go.

The rain will fall, the waters will rise, the waves press in, on your every side, to make you feel, under Love's sure hand, the full weight of glory, in every grain of sand.....

C) God's Mercy and Love - Our Dependence on Him -

LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND -By Jason Gray. (Vocal back-up by Sounds of Blackness).

It explores Philip Yancy's observation that no amount of human tinkering can fix what's broken in us. We need to be empowered by Jesus Christ.

Lyrical Sample: I grew up on the south side of hope, in the arms of mistress indigo, her love like a bottle banging on the back of my head. When I woke up on the ground, I picked myself up and I put my foot down, over my shoulder I said as I walked out the door....

Chorus: 1) I'm leaving it all behind, but I just can't let it go... (Trying to give up sin on his own).

3) And every self-help remedy, only led right back to me, yeah I may be the place to start, but I can only get so far, because the way that leads to life, is a living kind of death, you go down in the water, and take your first breath. I heard a voice by the river call, "though you stumble, you will not fall, if you just reach out and take hold of my hand..." Mercy took me in and then pulled me under, I came up clean to the sound of thunder, as I broke through the surface, I was singing on the other side..."I'm leaving it all behind me now" .

Chorus: 2) Oh sweet Mercy, like a river covers me. (After accepting Jesus, taking His hand, giving up self-will and keeping both eyes on Him).

THE NEW JERUSALEM - Music by Jason Gray & Words by Jason Gray & Mark & Kathy Einan (Vocal back-up by Sounds of Blackness) Based on the scripture: (Revelations 21:2-5). A glimpse of what believers have to look forward to, because of our faithful, loving Lord.

Lyrical Sample: The new Jerusalem, the consummation of all our dreams, coming down in glory at the end of the story of our lives, the new Jerusalem, like a bride upon her day of promise, in sure anticipation of the great emancipation of her love...

A PLACE CALLED HOPE - Words and music by Jason Gray & Tim Helmen.

"I've been tempted to think of hope as a state to achieve through discipline. But lately I'm persuaded it's more a presence through our surrender, to be achieved by - that hope, like grace is a gift." - Jason Gray.

Lyrical Sample:

1) I'm not proud to confess, I know the back streets of Shame too well, or that I've spent more than a couple nights in Disgrace, on the floor of a cheap hotel.....

2) I quit town and drove all night, and even made it as far as Regret, by sunrise I was well past Good Intentions, but I found that I wasn't there yet. Too proud to ask for some directions, so sure I would find it on my own, I just keep pressing on 'til I ended up, in the middle of Nowhere, all alone, broken upon that place where all make-believe dies. *I finally gave up, and that's when it took me by surprise....

Chorus: This place called Hope, A place called Hope, don't you bother to come looking for me, in the places where I used to be, I've been found by a place called Hope.

To find out more about Jason Gray, check out his CDs and or order them, you can go to his website: www.JasonGrayMusic.com. You can also order his CDs through your local music store.

To find out more information about Jason Gray, listen to his music, and order his CDs, go to his website: www.JasonGrayMusic.com.com

Reviewed by: Julie Carr / ChristianMusic.com

Sources: Jason Gray (Info. on his CD), his Web-Site: www.JasonGrayMusic.com, information sent by McCain & Company and interview article, by Joe Tougas in The Mankato Free Press (2000).

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