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Hiding Place is only the second album release from 25-year-old Tori Kelly, but it feels like an album from a veteran singer because of her previous collaborations with artists like Ed Sheeran, The Black-Eyed Peas, Pentatonix, Lecrae, and country star Thomas Rhett. Acclaimed gospel singer, writer, and producer Kirk Franklin is a key partner on Hiding Place, co-writing and producing every song. The album has more of a gospel feel than Kelly’s previous work; each song could easily be heard in church with themes that plainly extol God’s love for us and encourage our faith in God.

The album starts with “Masterpiece,” a funky gospel tune that showcases the virtuosity of Kelly’s vocals from the very first note. The song explores God’s unfailing love even when we judge ourselves harshly for making mistakes. Lecrae contributes one of the verses, returning the favor to Kelly, who featured on one of his recent tracks as well. He delivers it with upbeat enthusiasm uncharacteristic of his usual delivery style. The music is so infectious, it’d be near impossible to deliver it any other way.

The mood immediately becomes more somber with the second song “Help Us to Love,” when Kelly earnestly prays that God will help us love the way God loves us.

The next song, “Sunday,” picks up the mood though the tempo stays slow and again highlights Tori’s amazing vocal skill as she considers our need for God’s grace. The thick bass line and dabbling organ sound, along with several modulations, appeal to music lovers. It turns into one of the hottest jams with Tori scatting through the chorus.

“Psalm 42” strays from the gospel genre, sounding more like a Hillsong or Bethel worship song with its ethereal pads, acoustic guitar, and slow driving beat. Using David’s famous psalm as the chorus, Tori sings about our tremendous need for our Creator. This worship anthem builds before using an extreme echo to fade into an expansive void.

“Questions” drips with raw honesty as Kelly soberly reflects on the suffering we see all around us, leaving us with her questions:

What happens when the healing never comes?

Do we stand and curse the heavens?

Or lift our hands and feel the Son?

The mystery's not clear.

Just once, Your voice I'd love to hear.

What happens when the healing never comes?

Her words are the focus, supported by a subdued piano and eventually a string quartet.

The final two tracks of the album come back to the gospel genre and build to a crescendo. “Never Alone” offers an indirect answer to the song “Questions.” The only words from Kirk Franklin on the album come with a micro-sermon when he preaches: “There is not a hole too deep, that God’s love is not deeper still. We’ve come too far to give up now. Let’s go!”

The final track “Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well)” highlights Kelly’s voice once again, this time backed by a gospel choir. This song offers original verses arranged around the classic hymn refrain of “It is well with my soul.” Franklin offers a creative arrangement of both Kelly’s voice and the choir, making it perhaps the strongest track on the album.

Hiding Place will bless the music lover and the Christian looking for encouragement through new and familiar refrains. Tori Kelly explores a sound different from her previous work, but listeners will find that her signature soaring vocals and bold lyrics of faith remain constants in her work. (Capitol)

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