Empty and Beautiful
After three lower-profile albums, singer/songwriter Matt Maher enters the Christian music market in earnest with 2008’s Empty & Beautiful. The album hints at Maher’s interesting resume — in the ‘90s, he worked in Catholic community service projects across the Southwest alongside the legendary Rich Mullins. His sense of Christian love for the downtrodden informs tracks like “Look Like a Fool” and “Unwavering” with a faith that goes beyond his own personal salvation. Musically, the tracks here are mostly built around Maher’s jazz-inflected piano and folky acoustic guitar work, punched up by robust drums and electric lead guitar. “Shine Like the Son” musters real rock ‘n’ roll bite, while the title number surrounds Maher’s clear, earnest vocals with a billowing string backdrop. In between these extremes are a brace of catchy pop/rock tunes, with “Leave a Light On” and “Your Grace is Enough” standing out for their buoyancy and smooth construction. Maher excels at weaving scriptural quotes into his lyrics — “Unwavering,” for instance, uses the Beatitudes to powerful effect. Empty & Beautiful contains enough echoes of Maher’s own spiritual journey to make it a distinctive and memorable work.