Of Dirt and Grace: Live from the Land, the latest release from the prolific Hillsong United, is equal parts acoustic/live performance and concept album. Taking the songs from 2015’s Empires to the Holy Land, they’ve produced a wholly new album, with songs and videos recorded at various locations that connect the songs and/or to the scriptures that inspired the songs.
“[W]e recorded the songs live and on location in some of the most beautiful places we have been – it was surreal being in the places Jesus ministered,” shares Joel Houston, one of the pastors of Hillsong NYC and a member of Hillsong United.
Of Dirt and Grace: Live from the Land by Hillsong United
Track and Location Listing
1. Madness (Here Now) / By An Empty Tomb Just Beyond The City Walls
2. Say The Word / By The Mount Of Beatitudes
3. Heart Like Heaven (Falling) / As The Sun Went Down Over Galilee
4. Touch The Sky / From The Lowest Place On Earth & The Cliffs Of Arbel
5. Street Called Mercy / From Via Dolorosa & Dead-End Road By The Old Dead Sea Works
6. When I Lost My Heart To You (Hallelujah) / By Fire In The Hills Of Galilee
7. Even When It Hurts (Praise Song) / In The Cold Night Of A Not Too Distant War
8. Prince Of Peace / From A Golan Heights Memorial Of War & By The Shining Lights Of The Old City
9. Empires / From The Ruins Of Katzrin
10. Rule / From A Stage By The Dead Sea
11. Captain / Adrift On The Sea Of Galilee
12. Closer Than You Know / From A Quiet Place Beneath An Olive Tree
13. I Surrender / By The Ancient Walls Of A Ruined Temple
14. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) / From The Sea On Which He Walked
15. Scandal Of Grace (I’d Be Lost) / By An Empty Tomb Not Far From Golgotha
Here’s a trailer for the album that explains the concept and shows some behind-the-scenes footage:
[Video via YouTube]
And here’s the video for “Prince of Peace,” which was recorded at the Golan Heights War Memorial:
[Video via YouTube]
I was blessed by this album. I’m not a huge connoisseur of worship music, but I’ve been in church a long time and so have heard a good mixture of it. A lot of it is so polished as to almost sound plastic, devoid of passion. I’ve never experienced that with a Hillsong album, least of all this one. I won’t over-spiritualize the ancient locals that served as a backdrop to this album, but as a history major, I have a deep appreciation for the power of the mind and memory and the inspiration and emotion that can enhance a moment of creativity and performance.
And to that end, Of Dirt and Grace is a beautiful album, a passionate and creative performance. While these songs were recorded separately, there is a wonderful flow and continuity between them. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a sweeter sounding album. That’s not saccharine sweetness, mind you. “Even When It Hurts (Praise Song)” is haunting, properly expressing the pain often found in the Psalms, and yet even in this, the song is sweet in its style and sound, offering a living example of “bittersweet.”
If you enjoyed Empires, you’re going to enjoy this album even more, since you’ll be able to experience the songs in a whole new way. As a live album, it’s sonically perfect. As a concept album, it’s intellectually inspiring. As a worship album, it’s both spiritually uplifting and challenging. But then, what else have come to expect from United?
– 5.0 Stars
A copy of this album was provided to me by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.