Album Spotlight: Pat Barrett, ‘Shelter’

Posted on Friday, April 19, 2024 by Lindsay Williams

"Shelter" Pat Barrett

Pat Barrett often spends more time behind the scenes than he does out front. Especially in recent years, the gifted lyricist has co-written a number of hits recorded by some of the biggest names in worship music today, including Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham, Elevation Worship, and Maverick City Music, among many others. The “Build My Life” singer released his self-titled debut in 2018 as the flagship artist signed to Tomlin’s label imprint, Bowyer & Bow. His latest effort, “Shelter,” marks his third studio collection.

While not technically a live record, “Shelter” exudes the same warmth and intimacy of a one-take recording. Captured at Nashville’s historic RCA Studios, Barrett’s voice is clear and passionate. From start to finish, the acoustic-driven project is sparsely produced showcasing Barrett at his best as he helms a guitar, a welcoming vocal and thoughtful songs of praise. Yet, it’s the vocalists who back him that make this album feel like a true piece of the live experience. Gang vocals and choirs accompany the singer/songwriter on all 12 tracks communicating one loud message to listeners: Lift your voice! If anything, “Shelter” is an open invitation to sing.

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The soulful, surprisingly bluesy title-cut, which Barrett co-wrote with Cody Carnes, employs a bit of subtle country instrumentation — a departure for the father of three. Yet, the Atlanta native has never sounded more sincere than when he sings of taking refuge in the shelter of our Heavenly Father.

Barrett also explores previously uncharted sonic territory on more playful selections like the gratitude-filled “Every Good Thing” and current radio single “Beautiful Life.” The recording artist says he feels more free than ever before to create lighthearted faire — something he never would have given himself permission to do years ago. Now in his late-30s, he claims this newfound freedom comes from age, hard-won wisdom and life experience. These two cuts, in particular, however, reveal his growth as an artist and his willingness to evolve so he can, perhaps, land on something that allows God to speak through him in fresh and unique ways. 

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As for “Beautiful Life,” Barrett recently dropped an alternate version of the single that includes award-winning trio CAIN. The addition of the siblings’ harmonies splashes a fun touch of color onto the already standout track. Of the song, Barrett shares, “Life is a beautiful gift, and sometimes you got to sing that at the top of your lungs! Getting to do this song with my friends, CAIN, is such a joy for me! We’re hoping that wherever you are, whatever you’re going through, this song reminds you of what people have believed for thousands of years: He makes everything beautiful in its time… (Ecclesiastes 3:11).”

Barrett paints outside the lines on “Hopes For You” as well. The album’s crown jewel, “Hopes For You” was initially written as an open letter to his children. Yet, as Barrett found himself in the vocal booth, he quickly realized the sentiments in the song were also aspirational things he wanted for himself — traits he yearned to model for his kids. Filled with meaningful advice like “Guard that beautiful heart” and “Don’t settle for the easy road,” “Hopes For You” might just be one of the best songs in Barrett’s arsenal, to date.

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Elsewhere, he shines in his traditional wheelhouse of giving the Church new songs to sing. Several notable selections address our spiritual posture, encouraging open hands and open hearts. Album opener “Better Hands” is a song of surrender reminding us our best laid plans are always best held in the hands of the Father. Meanwhile, “How We Remember” provides a moving selection that will undoubtedly be a gift to churches around the world for years to come as God’s people take communion. The beauty and truth of Barrett’s lyrics buried in “How We Remember” lead listeners to recall the costly sacrifice of Jesus and the significance behind the bread and wine we now use to symbolize His time on the cross. Further down the tracklisting, “No Body” — co-penned with Brett Younker, Jason Ingram and Steven Furtick — unfolds like an anthem tailor-made for Easter. Both Elevation Worship and Passion have recorded powerful versions of the song, and now Barrett gets to put his own stamp on the offering that declares, “There’s no body in the grave.”

On the poignant “Seen Known Loved,” he ascribes purpose and meaning to every life; and on call-to-worship anthem “Praise Him!” Barrett enlists the help of Katie Torwalt for a Gospel-tinged duet that heaps adoration on the One worthy of worship.

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Thematically, across the album’s dozen originals, Barrett takes stock of what’s most important with a hearty amount of thankfulness for his family, his faith and the beautiful life he’s been given, however brief it may be. Among his musings, he seemingly unlocks the simplest of secrets to life: love, gratitude and hope.

“These songs are just so special to me,” Barrett enthuses of the selections that comprise “Shelter.” “They’ve helped me trust more deeply, encouraged more thankfulness in my life, and they’ve been an invitation to constant communion with Christ Jesus. I pray they do the same for you!”

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