When Shawn McDonald began offering his rhythmic brand of acoustic folk-pop in 2002, he was something of an outlier in the Christian music world. He’s retained his integrity even as he’s expanded his sound over the years, as Brave clearly shows. McDonald’s troubled early years as a drug-dealing street kid may be far behind him, but the perspective of a rebel learning to follow a righteous path still informs his work. The upbeat grooves of “We Are Brave,” “Hope Is Right Here,” and “Your Love Is Saving Me” bolster the spirit of believers facing struggles and temptations. McDonald is equally adept at inspiring anthems like “Flower in the Snow” (matching a poetic lyric with a textured synthesizer-drenched track) and thoughtful family-oriented tunes like “Learning How to Lose” (a look at the complexities of marriage from a biblical perspective). Producers Chris Stevens, Jamie Kenney, and David Garcia embellish the album with electronica washes and programmed beats while respecting the songs' organic underpinnings. Brave harkens back to McDonald’s earliest work in its mix of ordinary experience and heaven-directed vision.

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