When a member of a group releases a solo album, it reveals that a distinct period of growth has taken place in the artist’s career. To craft a solo album, one has to understand their craft not just as a singer, but as a communicator. The music on Riley Harrison Clark’s new solo album, Welcome To Me, is just that. Produced by Wayne Haun with Riley as the Executive Producer, this album gives Riley a distinct sound that fits his vocal style, but more importantly, his heart and passion for the music. As you listen to these songs, you won’t just hear Riley singing, you’ll hear his faith, struggles and love of ministry woven into each lyric. Let’s take a closer look…
1 Glory To Glory
Message: This first song contrasts God’s greatness with His tender care of His people. As the first verse describes, the God who brought the stars into existence and works multitudes of miracles isn’t just the Lord creation praises, but the One who gives a helping hand to His children when they stumble. What a God! The chorus goes straight into the glory of God and how we can’t help but sing of it when we break out in song. Even more, when our heart aches with the trails of this life, He wraps us in His mercy. Just think, the One to whom nations bow, dwelling in us… Unfathomable! The second verse goes on to give a personal testimony of how the Lord found us when we were lost and welcomed us into His family. The theme returns to the thought of a faithful God being faithful to us and how our response is to forever give Him praise and honor.
Other Comments: Written by Riley Harrison Clark, Joel Lindsey and Jeff Bumgardner, this tune kicks off the project with an upbeat message of God’s grace and glory. As you listen to the track, you’ll hear strings, brass and full background vocals that give a fulfilling “choir” effect – Wayne Haun did an excellent job of orchestrating this arrangement! What an encouraging song!
2 Welcome To Me
Message: Have you ever felt that those around you never see the true “you?” That maybe you’ve tried so hard to be perfect that your failures have been covered up by a mask? If that’s you, then this song will resonate in your soul. In fact, the first verse speaks of following rules, jumping through hoops and everything else that one would prove to the world that they have worth. But the truth is, what the world really needs to see is the real you…and that’s what the chorus talks about. It lists the things that aren’t pretty, yet, are proof that God’s grace is real and far reaching. The second verse goes on to say that you can pretend, but you can’t do anything extra to make God love you. In fact, when you come to Him as you are, He makes you new. So new, that you may just feel like you need an introduction! As for how the world views a growing, yet, imperfect Believer in God’s grace? Three simple words – welcome to me.
Other Comments: This song deals with a tender topic and therefore, requires tender music. Piano, a solo violin and a guitar come together for a soft, yet, compelling accompaniment to this soul searching song. This is a beautiful song that deals with a heavy topic in a hopeful, positive way.
Message: God’s faithfulness. It’s the subject of countless songs, but “Still” revists the topic in a new fresh way. For example, the first verse talks about striving for acceptance, looking good in front of others and making future plans…all without the Lord. Sounds lonely, right? Well, the lyric goes on to tell us that even in our wayward plans, He was still there. In fact, when we get still enough to hear His voice, we find out that all along He was interceding, imparting strength and making us whole from the inside out. You would think that kind of grace would be unforgettable, but there are days we find ourselves in trouble, on our knees saying, “I know it’s been a long time, but…” And you know what? Even in those times, He’s still faithful!
Other Comments: There are many songs in the Gospel Music world with the title of “Still,” but don’t expect this one to be a re-make from another artist, ‘cause this one is brand new. With a cool Jazzy beat, this soulful tune can both make you feel sorrowful from not spending time with the Lord and joyful because of His faithfulness, all at the same time!
4 I Surrender
Message: This song portrays the testimony of a Believer who felt like they had nothing, but gave their all to the Lord anyway. In the first verse, they acknowledge that life hasn’t been easy – there’s been wounds, brokenness and overwhelming circumstances. Yet, with God leading, these things have been turned into new opportunities that their empty hands would never have imagined. The chorus exclaims, “I surrender! Lord, I give myself to You!” Everything’s on the altar – who they were, who they are and who they dreamed to be. The second verse goes on to give us the result of such faith: clear vision, a bright future and dreams ahead we couldn’t have come up with ourselves. My favorite line comes from the second verse as well, it says, “I’ve always heard of who You are, but I finally believe it.”
Other Comments: When I hear this song, I can’t help but think that it’s Riley’s own testimony. If you know the story behind what was going on in his life before he started singing with Tribute Quartet, you’ll see the similarities. It’s fitting then, that he would co-write a lyric that’s like a follow up to his personal story, telling all where God has taken him and offering them the same hope.
5 You Will Be Found
Message: This tune kicks off with a series of questions that cover the subjects of loneliness and abandonment. To those who’ve felt such emotions, the lyric encourages them to let go of those feelings. Why? All you have to do is reach out your hand and Jesus will come running to you! The chorus continues with those same encouraging thoughts. When you’re in darkness, or need a friend, or feel broken – He’ll find you. The second verse talks about a place where that loneliness ends and all you have to do to obtain it is to call out to the Lord. What a promise!
Other Comments: This song was originally written for a stage musical called, “Dear Evan Hansen” that came out in 2017. Here, Riley adapted the song for the Gospel Music audience and it fits quite well! I saw him perform this ballad at NQC, and it’s just as powerful on stage as it is on the CD. A great pick!
6 Running Down My Fear
Message: No truer words have been written than the lyrics of this song. As you can tell from the title, the verses and chorus speak of fear, but more importantly, our response to it as a child of God. The first verse begins by using a lion as a metaphor of the worries we face in life – it’s big, it’s strong and it roars. And right beside you, “it,” stands. Fear. It coaxes you away from meeting the challenge in front of you…until you put it in its place. Instead of fear putting you around, you’re going to run it down! And that’s what the chorus says. Fear doesn’t have a place in the Christian’s life. No matter what we face and how scary it looks, Jesus is bigger and He’s in us! So, run it down and show it your faith. In the second verse, we’re assured that though fear can be paralyzing when it whispers it’s lies in our ears, we’ll never know what we’re capable of until we take the risk. So just give the doubts to the One who is guiding the way and move forward!
Other Comments: Another tune from the pen of Riley, this time, with co-writer Lee Black. I love this song! The mandolin and rhythm guitar give it a real fun beat and the lyrics are encouraging. A lot of people struggle with fear and I think this song could become a theme song to all who identify with this topic.
7 Then He Opened His Arms
Message: Written in the first person, this ballad combines two Bible stories from the New Testament and their encounter with Christ. The first story is of the woman with the issue of blood. The lyrics describe the emotions this woman could have felt while crawling to Jesus. Maybe she didn’t feel worthy enough to ask for healing? Whatever her thoughts, she was surprised to find that the Healer had open arms even for her. The refrain speaks of the mercy and love that Jesus offers when we come to him – no matter what we need healing from, He opens His arms in love. Continuing on, the second verse covers the story of the father who brought his son to Jesus for healing. Just like the woman with the issue of blood, he found the Lord a willing Healer. The climax comes in the bridge of the song, where the lyrics go on to speak of the most significant time when Jesus opened His arms – to the undeserving and lost – on the cross.
Other Comments: The background music to this ballad has everything one would think of when it comes to a song about healing; strings, soft “ooohing” from the background vocalists, piano and the occasional flute and brasswind for effect. A beautiful song! With all the struggles of life that this album goes over, it’s just fitting that there be a “healing” song on it…and this one does not disappoint!
8 One With You
Message: In this lyric, the writer craves a deeper understanding of God’s ways. Insomuch that, they don’t just follow the Lord, they want to be one with Him in every way possible. The first verse explains that we are a small light in God’s glorious plan. The more we want to reflect His glory, the more strength we need from Him. What could be better than that? How about being one with the Creator and receiving that never ending supply from above? The chorus goes on to list all of the things that this person wants to be one with in God’s kingdom. Things like, God’s grace, power, image and truth. In the second verse, the lyric speaks of how God is the potter and we are the clay. In His capable hands, our faith grows stronger as He fashions us into the person He designed us to be.
Other Comments: Another great uptempo song! I loved how this song encourages a closer walk with the Lord by just listening to the lyrics and the snappy music.
9 Remember His Faithfulness
Message: What do you do to remember the faithfulness of God? Well, the first verse of this song suggests to identify a time when God carried you through a dark time, and when you have that memory clear in your mind, then praise Him. Why? Because He’s still the same. The chorus explains that the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever and therefore, nothing ahead of you is greater than the trails He’s already walked you through. My favorite line is towards the end of the chorus, and it simply says, “Don’t ever forget, He’s never failed yet…” The song then goes into the bridge which describes several different bleak situations, but encourages the listener to know that even in hard times like these, they are not forgotten.
Other Comments: I call this type of song a “soft ballad.” It has everything you would identify with a “big ballad,” except, the background music stays mild throughout the song and has a quiet ending. This lyric is the perfect fit for the music and not only is the last song on the album, but another co-written by Riley, Sue C. Smith and Lee Black.
Conclusion: Welcome To Me is an album that speaks of all the things we’ll face and/or need to be reminded of in life. Whether it’s being brave enough to let people see the true you in the title track, facing loneliness in “You Will Be Found,” standing up to fear in “Running Down My Fear” or depending on God’s faithfulness in “Still” and “Remember His Faithfulness,” every aspect of life is addressed on this CD. It’s genuine. In the songs that Riley co-wrote, he didn’t mind talking about fear, failure and loneliness – all things we face in life. However, the best part of this album isn’t the acknowledgement that life isn’t perfect, but rather, it’s the hope that Jesus can conquer anything we face. It’s an album that speaks of what can happen when a Christian surrenders all to Christ.