I’m the sort that doesn’t want God mixed in with my entertainment. Nor do I usually find it inspiring or instructive. Coppe Cantrell’s The Breastplate of Righteousness, however, boasts a baker’s dozen worth of tracks that push back hard against my resistance. Blending the personal and Scriptural works in Cantrell’s songwriting because she never neglects the need to connect with listeners on their level rather than allowing her faith to widen the distance between the performer and her audience. She understands human struggle, loss, and grief, but she’s found an answer that she’s eager to share with anyone willing to listen.

She covers much of the spectrum about the presentation of that message. “War Cry” certainly reveals the zeal of her religious faith as she swears herself over to essentially serving as a Soldier of Christ in an endless war against darker forces. Couching that allegiance within a loping behind-the-beat reggae style arrangement cut with a smattering of African/world musical sounds is an effective vehicle for Cantrell’s voice.

The first track likewise highlights one of the album’s consistent signatures. Cantrell lasers in on supplying “War Cry” with a memorable vocal performance, varied and brimming with harmonies, and continues to do so during the second track “Work on You”. She pulls back on her stylistic reach and plays to more obvious strengths, but the results are fresh. Combining soul and gospel singing, religious lyrics, and a sparkling pop texture produces gripping results. Cantrell has a voice that commands attention thanks to a multitude of factors, but her immediacy and authenticity stand out.

“Swing to the Right” plants one foot in pop music while planting a flag in funkier territory as well. Cantrell invokes a funk affect, however, more as a light garnish than committing herself and the song full throttle. It’s a welcome turn nonetheless. I’ve tagged “Dance in the Dark” as one of my personal favorites from the release and believe many others will share that point of view. It instantly embeds itself in the listener’s memory thanks to infectious bass playing, though Cantrell’s singing again captivates.

The slinky trajectory of “No Fear” favors funky strands again, but Cantrell keeps a deft balance between those influences and straight-forward vocal-focused pop. The union makes for natural bedfellows. Synthesizing it with the spiritual tilt of her message gives this statement of ongoing faith pizazz it would otherwise lack. “The Breastplate of Righteousness” lives up to its billing as the album’s title song.

She eschews the radio-friendly conceits of the earlier tracks for a more considered take. It’s a mesmerizing and eloquent effort that weaves a spell with well-controlled yet bewitching magic. “Keep Asking” has a light churning in its arrangement and a thoroughly modern sound that further sweetens the religious material for believers and non-believers alike. Hooks are laden throughout many of The Breastplate of Righteousness’ songs and “Keep Asking” is one of its best.

“Time to Get Wired” is the album’s penultimate song and a romping, high-stepping pop track that pops with urgency. It’s the last concerted blast of musical energy from a thoroughly vigorous collection and signals Cantrell’s commitment to the material that she’s still bringing the goods this deep into the album. You can’t deny Coppe Cantrell’s The Breastplate of Righteousness. It bristles with energy, faith, and intelligence throughout its thirteen songs.

Mindy McCall