This is one that you want to hear over and over, knowing that it will be an experience that gets deeper with successive plays.
Label: Integrity Records
Time: 15 tracks / 72 Minutes + DVD (ca. 24 minutes + enhanced content)
This disc should not be as special as it is. With two singers (Leslie Jordan and David Leonard) who play guitar and keyboards, the format is as common as grass, yet - with help from producer Paul Mabury - the way that their voices merge and swim in a warm lagoon of sympathetic sounds makes it far greater than the sum of its parts.
Free from predictable directions, these tunes drift, morphing slowly into different shapes, like smoke swirls – yet the two voices cling so close together through all the changes that it makes you wonder whether they are really brother and sister. It works well on headphones.
This collection combines their début EPs (even though they were only released a few months ago) sequenced as the originals, but adds one new song to the end of each. As a bonus, a DVD includes band interviews and performances based around three of the songs, together with chord charts.
This is not stylistically over-adorned. Often simple, with cello here and a burst of choir there, and percussive elements that take me to Future of Forestry or Gungor, the sound is all laid at the service of the songs.
The title alludes to the seasons of life, which we tend to work with, yet which sometimes surprise or shock us. The liner comments, “The songs ebb and flow like the fall days: some bright and colorful, while some dreary and grey.” Several of these songs were written for specific people in their church and the authenticity shows. Like the psalms, these songs express confusion, praise, hope, brokenness, and submission.
After just half a dozen tracks, I felt that I had fed on a whole disc. Here are snatches of some lyrics that connect so well: "There are a million scars for every mistake / but we are not chained to the secrets we make;" and "Will your grace run out if I let you down / 'cause all I know is how to run / 'cause I am a sinner / if it's not one thing, it's another / caught up in words, tangled in lies / but you are a Savior and you take brokenness aside and make it beautiful."
Two other songs (at least) stand out. "Reason to Sing" is utterly personal, like they are singing just to friends who are struggling, giving them words to use in prayer: "When all the pieces seem too shattered to gather off the floor / and all that seems to matter is that I don't feel you anymore / I need a reason to sing / I need to know that you're still holding the whole world in your hands."
The other (and I am writing this between Good Friday and Easter Sunday) captures that mood: "There was a day we held our breath and felt the sting of bitter death / when all our hopes were buried in the grave...our hearts were torn between our faith and what we knew before our king was buried in the grave... all we had was a promise like a thread / holding us, keeping us from fraying at the edge / all we knew was, you said you'd rise up from the dead."
Not everything works as powerfully. A co-write with Paul Baloche is almost as vacuous as most of what fills his new release and "All Praise to You" is equally generic.
But the overall standard of both lyric writing and melodies on Season One is tremendous. Despite a tendency to melancholy, these minor-key triumphs can suddenly soar and many are highly memorable. Fresh, original and authentic, this is a fantastic piece of work.