The Journey Home
(Available on iTunes and at www.melissaotto.com). Reviewed by Gerald A. Klingbeil, associate editor of Adventist Review.
I met Melissa Otto; her husband, Jason; and their young daughter Nyah from Down Under at a camp meeting on the South Island of New Zealand. I thoroughly enjoyed her acoustic songwriting style—she played very competently a guitar and a ukulele without any playback. If you like the sound of unplugged and engaging lyrics, this is definitely something for you. The Journey Home is her latest (2014) album, preceded by Blue Sky (2011) and Opened (2008).
Melissa started singing early with her siblings and parents, and the group became known in Australia as the Otto Family. In 2010 Melissa was awarded Best Christian Artist in the prestigious Music Oz awards and was also one of five nominees for best songwriter that same year.
The clarity of Melissa’s voice and her unique melodies will engage your ears very quickly. However, it was the deeply spiritual and personal texts that made me listen—even after a late night of preaching. “When it all goes quiet, and I stop trying/To fill all the spaces, I remember/I hear a still small voice, from the one I know/Calling me home, when it all goes quiet” calls followers of Jesus to become quiet and relearn the art of hearing God’s love calling.
“Just You And Me” is an intimate love ballad reminding us that we need that safe place called family. I imagine that Melissa’s husband, Jason, a lecturer at Avondale College, smiles every time he hears this love song. “Rise Again” starts off with a wonderfully arranged a capella anthem: “Do not boast over me my enemy/For my Father is the victor/Your darkness only makes Him brighter/He’ll make me more than a conqueror/When I fall I will rise again.” We are reminded of the real battle going on around us—where we often find ourselves center stage.
In “You’ll Never Leave” we hear about a Daddy (with capital D) who watches over His children, even when “we keep performing to try to keep up.” We can follow Melissa’s ongoing conversation with God throughout the CD. Here is someone who asks deep questions and expresses doubts. “Why should I be afraid, because I have a Father who is with me all the way,” however, is not just a nice line in “Why Should I” but rather a deeply held conviction helping us overcome doubt and pain.
The last song, “Can You Hear,” is a worthy song to cap the CD. “Father, we could hear Your voice/Singing us through the night/Just the knowing of Your love/Gave us the courage to fight.” In fact, that’s a great way to end this review as well. Those interested in hearing the sweet melody of an unswerving commitment to God that sings us through the night will enjoy listening to this fellow traveler. By the way, I heard that Melissa and her young family are planning to come to the United States in 2016 for an extended concert tour. You won’t want to miss hearing her sing “When It All Goes Quiet.”