A wistful melody emerges from the strings that adorn the intro to “Lord Hear My Song,” track one of the new record Love is Here, by Esswein. This welcomes us into her world of praise, worship peace. Without a trace of inhibition, she strikes relentlessly at our hearts with her titanic vocal, which cuts through the thick sonic tapestry that makes up the main melody of the song. Her words come to us with a sense of urgency that is impossible to ignore when she starts to belt out the chorus, and before we know it we’re galloping alongside the drums towards a cathartic fever pitch that you’re guaranteed to remember long after the music has come to a stop. Esswein doesn’t waste a speck of time in Love is Here, and her perky, friendly tone stands in refreshing contrast to the gloom and doom of modern radio-oriented pop.
The bristling “Sparkle in My Eyes” churns as it comes together out of the shards left behind from “Lord Hear My Song,” but soon forms a much more cohesive pop piece that does everything its title would suggest it should. Esswein’s voice is once again the star of the show, towering over the familiar beats and legitimately affectionate melody that bounces around beside her. It’s quite rare, both in and outside of Christian music, for a vocalist to be responsible for generating the entire foundation of a song’s stylization, but that’s exactly the case with Love is Here. The singing of Esswein is so prominent and sharp that even if you mixed it lower in the final cut, we’d be drawn to it nonetheless.
“Eternal Life” stampedes through the speakers with a guitar intro that has a slight psychedelic bend to it, slowly shaping into a more stock rhythm that is easy to fall in love with upon a single listen. The chorus stomps with a militant repetitiousness that we’re not expecting but still manages to grab the lion’s share of our focus before dropping off into a beautiful string breakdown near the finish. For being a record that most critics would say is driven by its direct, specific lyrical content meant to connect with one particular group of listeners over another, the music itself is stylish, sophisticated enough for the enthusiasts and still accessible to casual fans trying to find some easy listening to get through their day.
Love is Here comes to a conclusion with the lumbering “Following You,” which both brings us full circle and affirms the strong message of faith and kinship with God that has pushed Danise Esswein out of obscurity and into the limelight of the professional stage. She gives contemporary Christian music aficionados a lot to be intrigued by in these four modestly appointed songs, and one has to wonder what she could do if given the space that a full length, album-sized canvas would afford her. My gut tells me that she still has a lot left to say, and that Love is Here is but the first of many emotional releases that we can look forward to as she embarks on her career path.