Beauty Will Rise is the kind of artistic statement Steven Curtis Chapman wished he had never made. Conceived in the wake of his daughter Maria's death, it finds the golden child of Christian music in the depth of the valley of the shadow, after more than 20 years of music and ministry spent on every imaginable mountaintop. Covered in sackcloth and ashes, Chapman makes no qualms that this is a collection of songs for, about, and inspired by Maria -- a gut-wrenching tribute to the "little girl with dark brown eyes that disappear when she smiles." That line, the very first of Beauty Will Rise, is but a foretaste of the bittersweet yearning Chapman has had to wrestle with since his daughter's passing -- the blessed hope that he'll see her again, the pain it'll be until kingdom come until they reunite. Humanly, Chapman is still mourning, even wailing and beating his chest at times, and those familiar with his tragedy -- which stirred a media maelstrom in 2008 -- can't help but weep with him who weeps. In "Heaven Is the Face," the album's opening track and somber first single, Chapman is so forthright about his grief and longing, you can almost hear him sigh as he sings, "Heaven is a sweet maple syrup kiss / And a thousand other little things I miss with her gone." It's a heartbreaking line, perhaps the most heartbreaking of Chapman's entire career, but it sets the tone for the rest of Beauty Will Rise, an anthology of psalms and laments in the spirit of King David -- praise intermingled with sorrow, resolve in the midst of doubt, hope in the face of uncertainty. For decades, Chapman always had all the answers, but here he lets down his guard and is even willing to dispute his own deep-set convictions, as when he bravely ponders in "Questions," "Who are you, God? / 'Cause you are turning out to be so much different than I'd imagined." Coming from the lips of anyone else, such challenge may seem like business as usual, but for Chapman, one of CCM's brightest, the fist-shaking is as bold and risky as anything the gospel music market has ever seen. Just as bold is Chapman's choice to toss out the adult-contemporary playbook he knows so well and scale things back to the bare essentials -- outside of the sweeping, urgent title track and the stirring "Spring Is Coming," nearly all the songs consist of just Chapman, his guitar, and just the right amount of backing to propel his thoughts forward. In this respect, Beauty Will Rise also works as Chapman's one and only singer/songwriter album to date -- his heart is on display here for all the world to see, Christian radio be damned. No matter how you look at it,Beauty Will Rise is an act of courage and faith -- if not Chapman's best effort yet, certainly the most audacious and compelling of his illustrious two-decade-plus career. Blessed the moment Maria hears it.
AllMusic Review by Andree Farias