The frontman Chris Anderson owes a little too much to Bono vocally to qualify as an original. But the nonapocalyptic lyrics and ingratiating melodies, which Anderson and his two male bandmates capably rock, are (mostly) his own, and Alana Rolfe’s violin gilds them without recalling Robbie Steinhardt or Scarlet Rivera. (Rolfe’s lead singing on the two songs that she wrote isn’t bad either.) Most ingratiating of all is the whistling-gilded “When All You Got Is Worry ... Let Go,” which is simply good advice at its catchiest.
This U.S. answer to Sweden’s First Aid Kit does itself proud. The Indiana-based Jurkiewicz sisters would do themselves even prouder, however, if amid all of their tuneful, acoustic, cusp-of-adulthood, sensitivity-flaunting vignettes they’d come up with something as instantly stunning as the Enskede-based Söderberg sisters’ “Emmylou.” Instead, Lily & Madeleine tiptoe through their tropes, leaving it to Paul Mahern’s subtle production touches to put them all the way over—and to their adult co-writer Kenny Childers to help them give up their adolescent ghost.
Determined to avoid slavery to its meal ticket (instantly identifiable CCM), the band farms out the composing to co-writers of dubious spirituality but a proven track record of generating relentless hooks. And, for the most part, the mesh takes. A winsome vulnerability emerges, only succumbing to vulgarity by acceding to “suck” in “Can’t Complain.” Does the reference to “church” in “Disaster” compensate? Not entirely, but it does provide context. And when in the title cut Matt Thiessen longs to hear more from the Holy Ghost, hope springs eternal.
This Vancouver-based vocal trio takes a shopworn concept—gospel-blues as inducement to social-gospel activism—and deepens it just enough to allow even non-fellow travelers to board “This Train” and ride shotgun in the “Christian’s Automobile.” The singing and unobtrusive yet expressive rock ’n’ roll backup, in other words, raise the songs to a place where not only moth and rust but also politics do not corrupt, giving Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” their most redemptive contexts ever.
The 14 tracks on Far Away from Everyday (Harp Guitar), the latest album by the jazz pianist and harp guitarist Brad Hoyt, play like a rich, mysterious soundtrack, not least because the liner notes link the compositions to dramatically suggestive scenarios. The Ennio Morricone–worthy “Impossible Liason,” for instance, resulted from Hoyt’s being smitten by the photo of a girl in a high-school yearbook published in 1940, and the gypsy-jazzy “Sharper’s Revenge” grew from Hoyt’s imagining a clever criminal on the run after bungling a heist.
But it’s the tender “Look Inside,” featuring Phil Keaggy on the six- and 12-string classical guitars, that will pique Christians’ interest. “John Catchings played cello on some of Phil’s stuff back in the day,” Hoyt told WORLD, “and I always loved hearing his guitar with that instrument.” So Hoyt wrote a part for the cellist Sascha Groschang. “I really like how it all came together.” Hoyt’s—and Keaggy’s—fans will too.