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Lights of Distant Cities
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4 Stars - Excellent
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Release Date
October 23, 2012
Label
BEC Recordings

Style: Subtly programmed singer-songwriter acoustics; compare to Andrew Osenga, Jill Phillips, Andrew Peterson

Top tracks: "At the End of Me," "Collide," "Wine from Water"

Singer-songwriter Bebo Norman self-started a nationwide career in the mid-'90s with his acoustic vulnerabilities, wearing his heart on his guitar to the delight of spiritually sensitive Gen Xers searching for substance among the otherwise oft superficial scope of CCM's programmed pop landscape. And though already a recording and touring vet by the time he signed his first record deal, he became a commercial success selling hundreds of thousands of records, headlining tours, and topping radio charts.

But in every bestselling career, striking a balance between pleasing ever-changing consumer tastes and staying true to one's core—to what endeared the artist to an audience in the first place—is tricky business. And for Norman, a songwriter in the truest sense, the tightrope has been nearly impossible.

For Lights of Distant Cities, his eighth studio recording, Norman, on the eve of his fortieth birthday, recruited longtime friend and touring partner Gabe Scott to co-write the bulk of the album. The collaboration gives Norman's new material an engaging familiarity, covering his experiences and perspectives as a father, husband, and spiritual pilgrim with a fresh and honest take, begging the question why these two have never written together before. Pairing Scott's writing and playing prowess with the hip songwriter-sensitive programming-induced production of Ben Shive (Sara Groves, Andrew Peterson) enhances Lights lyrical transparency while naturally playing to Norman's commercial sensibilities.

For instance, a soiree of effects swarm "Broken," capturing ...

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