Review: Bluetree – Live in Oklahoma

It is traditionally seen as tough for a British band to crack the American music scene. In recent years one band has had a pretty decent deal of success. One Direction have had all sorts of inexplicable success across America, with hordes of fans turning up to stalk them wherever they go. And the British press has given their American chart exploits a good deal of coverage.
But there is a second British band that has been doing phenomenally well State-side, without any mainstream press coverage back home. Over the last few years Bluetree seem to have spent half their time playing tours and conferences in America, and have built up a huge fanbase over there. They may not generate the same volume of tweets from teenage girls, but the American people don’t seem to be able to get enough of one of Northern Ireland’s lesser known musical talent (I say lesser known as anyone you stopped in the street in Belfast would have heard of Snow Patrol, but a much smaller percentage would have heard of Bluetree – sadly they are probably better known in America than at home, which opens up a whole side debate about why UK radio stations ignore our worship artists…)
And with such a huge American fanbase, it makes sense that they would record their new live album over there.
Live in Oklahoma consists mainly of songs from their most recent studio album Kingdom (which I was a big fan of), so if you liked that album you’ll know what to expect here – songs that passionately declare God’s love, Jesus’ healing power and the victory we have through the cross. As well there are several new songs added in – these new songs stylistically are very similar to the sort of songs United Pursuit Band do, with simple yet profound lyrics repeated over and over in a very catchy way, and in particular I can see Hold on to Hope being one that could become a regular at worship services. There are also covers of a few great worship songs, each with a Bluetree slant – the Martin Smith anthem Waiting here for you gets an added refrain, as does When I survey.
And this isn’t just a Bluetree album – Nathan Jess pops up to add some guest vocals and take the lead on Forever Reign and No limit to your love, plus there is also an epic spoken word piece I Am by David Bowden that is full of profound biblical truth, with Bluetree providing sweet backing music too – that was a real unexpected treat for me, as I love spoken word, especially when they are full of deep truth, but this is the first time I have come across one on a worship album.
For me the highlight of the album was opening track Under my feet which opens things up full of energy, passion and with a bit of a dancey beat to it. The rest of the album, while clearly full of passionate praise, doesn’t quite live up to the energy and tempo of that first track, and for a live album I would have liked to hear more of the crowd, who you don’t really hear much of til God of this City. But still a very good live album that doesn’t just play it safe and repeat all the old studio songs but adds in new stuff, mixes in some covers and takes a risk adding in a spoken word piece too. America – we want Bluetree back!  
Live in Oklahoma will be on iTunes in the next few days and physical CDs will be available on Bluetree’s website soon.
{Full disclosure – the band provided me with an advance copy of the album in order to do a review. I was not obliged to write a positive review}

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