Music Reviews: Josh Garrels and Mumford & Sons

JoshGarrelsI don’t do too much reviewing on this site, and I don’t really have the time or expertise for a good blow-by-blow evaluation of these albums, but I thought I’d draw attention to a couple I’ve been listening to lately.

I make no secret of the fact that I typically dislike Christian pop music. It is usually very derivative, very safe, and very corny. I’d rather listen to someone interesting with whom I disagree any day. So, when a friend claimed that Josh Garrels’ album was his favourite of any kind ever, and when he said it’s a free download, I thought I’d check it out (I’m also pretty stingy).

Having given it a few listens, Josh seems to me to be the born-again lovechild of Jack Johnson and Tracy Chapman, sometimes being the acoustic guitarist, sometimes donning a 10-gallon New Country hat, and sometimes unexpectedly breaking out into how I think Aretha Franklin might sound if I ever listened to her.

Although that ought to endear him to me about only one-third of the time, the combination is pleasant, if not always as musically challenging as it might be, and there are some strong songs on the album. For my money (oh wait, I didn’t pay!), the album is never better than on the first track, and (perhaps as a function of his over-generosity), the album feels  a couple of tracks too heavy to be able to get one’s head around it in a single listen. Nevertheless, I rate it pretty highly, especially given how totally free it is. Get the album here (or from me, but I think Josh wants you to sign up for the album. Sign up then get it from me):

http://joshgarrels.bandcamp.com/

If his guitar were any bigger, he'd have to charge you for his songs

If his guitar were any bigger, he’d have to charge you for his songs

*****************

Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More

English folkster types, Mumford & Sons, are not trying to fish in the Christian music pond — their album even contains swears on at least one track — but on their way to critical acclaim in Britain, they’ve managed to turn out some very interesting Christian-themed songs.

I have to say at the outset that their success is surprising to me, because I didn’t know the UK was so broadly in favour of quite that much banjo or mandolin or whatever it is they keep playing, and the rhyme schemes can be annoyingly two-dimensional at times. Nevertheless, the depth evident in their album outweighs those gripes, and thoughtfully putting Christian ideas and songs based on Plato’s Republic out there on the radio when other artists are singing about whipping their hair or lipgloss does set them quite far apart.

The Cave (excerpt)

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s land

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

And another one:

Roll Away Your Stone (excerpt)

You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals

Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek

It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home
that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart

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3 thoughts on “Music Reviews: Josh Garrels and Mumford & Sons

  1. Jon Livingston says:

    I was surprised at the depth of listening experience in mumford and sons. I was also surprised at how quickly you can become sated with earnestness and mandolins, which had my finger twitching for the skip button after a week in my car. They say if you don’t put salt on your food you will not overeat. Mumford and sons is a healthy earnest meal that could do with a bit more salt.

    • Jordan Pickering says:

      I agree there. I think it’s the excessive (and excessively simple) rhyminess. Which is a surprising flaw from such a capable writer.

      And mandolins.

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