Coppe Cantrell’s The Breastplate of Righteousness isn’t nearly as preachy or staid as its title may imply to some. Cantrell isn’t bashful about expressing her faith, but it’s never put across in a strident or accusatory way toward her listeners. Cantrell’s message ultimately testifies to the enduring value of perseverance and the importance of belief and abiding hope in the face of life’s slings and arrows. There’s proselytizing here too, but never abrasive. Cantrell’s foundation is religious in nature, but even those who place their faith elsewhere can connect with Cantrell’s themes. The album’s thirteen tracks are, above all else, intensely human.
Her passionate conviction in her religious faith announces itself from the start. “War Cry” is utterly unambiguous. She rounds off the song’s potentially hard lyrical edge, however, with a relaxed yet intensely physical arrangement and five-star vocals. Cantrell’s collection doesn’t contain itself to a narrow musical scope, but instead plunges into the present and plunders the past for its musical inspiration. The totally contemporary underlying vibe of “Work on You” meshes well with the sustained gospel feeling permeating the album’s thirteen tracks. It has a weaker presence in some, but it isn’t ever far from finding expression through Cantrell’s voice.
The dance groove of “Dance in the Dark” gives considerable appeal to Cantrell’s drawing a clear line in the sand between those she views as saved and those mired in sin. Her words don’t condemn those souls, but instead express an adamant wish that they find redemption. The bass playing and hand clap rhythm accompaniment are tasty touches, but other lowkey elements such as the slight slur of the tempo add unexpected twists to this song.
Groove-centric bass is one of the album’s hallmarks. It provides irresistible hooks for tracks such as “No Fear” which again helps to make its pointed messaging all the more memorable. Cantrell’s songs benefit a great deal from top-shelf production values and this cut is an excellent illustration of how it enhances the song’s effect on listeners. “The Breastplate of Righteousness” comes at the right time, just past the album’s midway point, and you can hear it as a sort of hinge swinging listeners into the rest of the album.
It’s certainly one of the more deliberate-sounding efforts on this release. The song’s soulful keyboard-driven shimmer is more than enough to sustain the multi-part harmonies and Cantrell’s lead vocal. Light percussion provides a near-perfect pulse for the performance. She steeps the message and language of “Who Say to Me” in the Bible’s tenor and it may strike novice listeners as being a bit heavy. It certainly strikes quite a contrast with the comparative light sprinkle of keyboards scattered throughout the song. It builds a light connection with the listener that comforts rather than cajoles.
Don’t let the title “Jesus Rocks” mislead you. Cantrell doesn’t suddenly take a left turn into guitar rock territory. There’s no question though that this late cut surges forth with the same intent we associate with a rock song and the emphatic vocals are convincing. There aren’t any weak songs on this release, but it’s arguable that Coppe Cantrell cutting one or two tracks likely condenses The Breastplate of Righteousness’ overall power. It’s ultimately no matter, however. This is a great release.