Kellie Loder released her long-awaited third album, Benefit of the Doubt, in early December at The Ship, following a 7-year interval between albums.
Loder has always struck me, both personally and professionally, as a highly confident and prolific songwriter, an engaging performer, and someone in possession of a laser-like focus and work ethic, which makes the space between Benefit of the Doubt and her previous albums intriguing.
Loder’s first two releases: 2010’s Imperfections & Directions, and 2009’s The Way, fall solidly in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) camp, with Imperfections & Directions earning Loder a Juno nomination for Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year in 2012.
While Benefit of the Doubt maintains the spiritual and inspirational overtures of mainstream of CCM to my admittedly largely uninitiated ear, Loder has said she consciously moved away from the genre with her newest release; that while that she remains guided by her faith and spirituality on a personal level, she’s found more room to express herself creatively as songwriter outside of the boundaries of CCM.
I can’t help but wonder whether her journey away from the genre (and her early successes within it), account for some of the time in between releases given the talent and ambitions that ultimately coalesce on Benefit of the Doubt.
All 10 tracks, starting with “Telescope,” and followed by the standout, “Molded Like A Monster,” are finely tuned songs written, recorded, and co-produced by a woman who has full confidence in her talents. They’re the culmination of Loder’s laser-focus and hard work, alongside skilled engineers and producers based here in Newfoundland (Ian Foster, Daniel Adams), and Los Angeles (Justin Gray).
Benefit of the Doubt is, I suspect, exactly the album Loder and company wanted to make. Despite all of this, it’s a uniquely challenging album to review. The artist Kelly Loder most reminds me of is East-Coast talent extraordinaire Gordie Sampson. Sampson, an impressive singer-songwriter in his own right has released 4 solo albums, won multiple East Coast Music Awards, and a Juno, yet it’s his endless list of songwriting and co-songwriting credits for other megawatt artists (Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Willie Nelson, Chris Issak, Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys, and on and on) that’s staggering.
Loder’s talents could easily place her in the path of more East Coast Music Awards and Juno nominations. If I was in the business of giving advice, though, I’d implore her to bypass L.A., and like Sampson, head straight for Nashville where contemporary Christian music and pop-oriented country effortlessly crossover and flourish with mainstream artists and audiences alike.
All of this is not to take away from the accomplishment of Loder’s newest release, but rather, to say that each time I listen to Benefit of the Doubt I’m struck, not by how much other artists would make Loder’s songs shine, but by how much her songs would make other artists shine. It’s a rare gift, and one that songs like “Boxes” hint at with lyrics like “I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t dream of a house on the ocean, where I can write music with all my friends.”