Chris August, The Upside of Down
“Starry Night” became an instant anthem when Chris August burst onto the scene in 2010. The song propelled the success of his debut album, No Far Away (Fervent) and the popularity of August’s songwriting, earning the respect of industry leaders and fellow artists. Now, with The Upside of Down, the singer-songwriter proves he’s not a one hit wonder. There’s not even a hint of a sophomore slump. In fact, The Upside of Down, which August co-produced with Ian Eskelin (Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets), shows greater depth and maturity across all 14 tracks.
Lead single “Center of It” is proof of August’s continued ability to compress a load of truth into three minutes. Not only is the steady melody catchy, but the lyrics are immediately memorable. The title track, while not as musically interesting as other cuts, reveals a clever play on words, with August musing on how trials often bring us to a place of closer intimacy with God frequently missed in the “good” times.
Songs like “This Side of Heaven,” “Let There Be Light” and “I Believe” all play to August’s acoustic side. These tracks reveal lyrics brimming with honest confessions and vulnerable questions, sometimes left unanswered. “1989,” another acoustic cut, finds August longing for child-like faith and recalls John Mayer with an artistic intro mimicking bicycle wheels pounding pavement. “Water into Wine” is a poetic gem as August draws on Jesus’ first miracle to describe the change taking place inside of him: “I’ve been lost/Chasing dreams of yesterday/Found my heart always leading me astray/So take these broken wings and teach them to fly/’Cause You’re changing me from water into wine.”
Of all the acoustic renderings, by far, the best track is “Restore.” “Nobody’s growing old together...” August begins. From there, he launches into a beautiful ode to preserving marriage by keeping Jesus at the center. The chorus carries a striking sentiment: “I know you’re feeling like it’s falling apart/And you can’t go on anymore/But God is a God who knows how to heal/So just give it up to the Lord/And He will restore.” The sincerity of these lyrics is so genuine, it’s hard to believe August has never been married. “Restore” has the potential to become the theme song for couples struggling to keep their marriage alive.
Although, much of August’s repertoire is comparable to work from Brandon Heath, Bebo Norman and other thought-provoking singer-songwriters of that caliber, he throws a curveball on a few songs choosing to show off an R&B side his counterparts often avoid. Much like the soulful color of Ben Rector, Dave Barnes and Marc Broussard, August gets a little funky with some ‘70s throwbacks on “Unashamed of You” and “Let the Music Play.” He also draws on gospel influences on the powerful “Amen” and “A Little More Jesus,” the latter of which seems watered-down and cliché in comparison to what August has shown he’s capable of on other tracks.
All in all, August has produced a collection of songs focused squarely on the hard-hitting truth of the gospel, but he does so in a way that’s kind and generous. If The Upside of Down is any indication, August has a long career ahead of him. He’s discovered his sound, his niche and a growing audience begging for more.