by Mark Woodhouse
Ghost Ship are back with their second full-length album – Costly – and I, for one, am very excited. Their first offering, The Good King, was awarded Reel Gospel’s Album of the Year in 2013, and is still on high rotation on my playlist.
So, they have a lot to live up to!
Between then and now, a lot has happened to Ghost Ship as a band, and this album was written during some difficult times. And it shows. But in unexpected ways. This isn’t sorry, introspective, or melancholic music. This is joyful church music!
Invitation begins the album by inviting us to come and find everything in Jesus. I love this song. So I’m giving you a big chunk of the lyrics:
“Come and find your rest in Jesus, come and find a refuge for your soul.
Come and find relief in Jesus, come and find your peace and lose control.
Come and find the gift of freedom, come and find redemption for your soul,
Come and find your life in Jesus, come and find the love that won’t let go”
How good is that?! And I love the way the song builds to its climax. And the featured banjo.
So, we’re invited to find this ‘costly’ love that won’t let go, and this love features strongly in a bunch of other songs as well. Scarlet features the kind of tinkling piano riff that I wasn’t expecting on a Ghost Ship album, and sings to God: “You have loved me when I did nothing to deserve it.” Heavy as the Sea describes how God’s love is, er, indescribable. And You Loved Us First picks up on this love shown to us: a reminder to the church that “We can love the way that you loved us, because you loved us first.” What a great song for the church to sing! But while this song has such great lyrics, it has an underwhelming melody.
In any case, this love is the love of a father! Adoption is another great song that I find getting stuck in my head, and it’s all about the love our father has for us, his adopted children. He is totally and faithfully committed to his children (in Hesed), and this family is the church, who are encouraged to Look What God Has Done. This song is great, with a pulsing synth pushing it along. (Wait, synth?! Yes. But calm down, it’s not like they’re doing a Citizens and Saints or anything). “Who are we that he would save us? Who are we that he would send us?” We are the precious Bride of Christ, whom he has redeemed! So, “To God be glory through Christ our saviour’s church for all generations”!
And he has redeemed us on the cross by his blood. I see the costly love of Jesus When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Jesus Saves). I’m not a huge fan of giving old hymns new chords and a chorus, but Ghost Ship have nailed it on this track! This is my favourite song on this album. They’ve taken the brilliant and moving lyrics and tune, added a beautiful groove, kept the contemplative mood in tact, and added a note of triumph with the simple chorus: “Jesus saves sinners by his grace.”
I’m probably being a bit rude to Ghost Ship by dissecting the flow of their album like this, because there is a flow… It’s just convenient for me this way. Costly started with an Invitation, and it finishes with a focus on the end times with The Revelation of Jesus Christ. This song first appeared on their 2011 EP, A River With No End, and I assume it has been re-recorded here because it’s an awesome song. And there’s banjo! It comes straight from the book of Revelation, and pictures the great hope of the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1) where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death will be no more.
One of the great strengths of this album is its biblical depth. I love how Fear and Love weaves together passages like Psalm 23 and 1 John 4:18:
“Even though this valley is as dark as death
Even as I stumble through its shadows
I will fear no evil, for my God is near
Perfect love will drive away my fear.”
There are two songs that are less biblical and more personal; Adoption and Provide. Both songs put us, the singers, in the place of the suffering, the outcast, the hopeless. And I really appreciated this perspective, and the answer of God’s costly love and provision.
This is a wonderful album. It teaches us so much about God, draws so much from the Scriptures, and applies these eternal truths gently to our hearts. I want to sing these songs with my church family (except Hesed – I think that will be hard for a congregation to sing, which is a shame because I so love the concept of the song!). But has it lived up to the high standard of The Good King? I’m not yet convinced, but time will tell. I’m giving Costly four-and-a-half out of five.