Authentic Christian Rock

What You Believe (Independent)
Authentic U

By Kory Wilcoxson

To peg local group Authentic U as a Christian band is almost unfair. That is too narrow a description to capture both Authentic U's sound and their message. This ain't acoustic, Amy Grant raise-your-hands-in-the-air praise music.

Instead, from the opening chords of "Generous One," what you get is melodic rock with lots of energy and spirit-filled lyrics. The first two songs, "Generous One" and "Favorite," both bring to mind early 1990s U2 or INXS in the way the guitar riffs and pop hooks weave together into an arena-worthy sound. Vocalist and songwriter Ken Smith is able to convey the soulfulness of the lyrics with just the right amount of emotion, letting bandmates Gabe Riggs, Andy Garby and Robert Berger stand out in their own right.

Smith, who traveled the world with U.S.O. tours before settling down in New Albany, Indiana and starting Authentic U, is obviously a man of faith, but he doesn't wear that on his sleeve or use it as a bludgeon. Most of the songs are more introspective, drawing upon personal experience to articulate practical spiritual insights, like on the title track: "What you say and what you do / it must be what you believe."

The album is strong, but certainly not perfect. A few of the songs lack inspiration and a few times I found myself wishing Smith's vocals matched the power of his words. The band has certainly created a worthy canvas for Smith to let loose a little more; if he does, the strength shown in the first two songs could carry over to the whole album.

You can get Authentic U over at http://www.authenticu.net.