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Review: David Crowder Band – Church Music September 25, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Reviews.

David Crowder Band
Church Music

1. Phos Hilaron [Hail Gladdening Light]
2. Alleluia, Sing
3. The Nearness
4. Shadows
5. Eastern Hymn
6. SMS [Shine]
7. The Veil
8. We Are Loved
9. All Around Me
10. How He Loves
11. Can I Lie Here
12. Birmingham [We Are Safe]
13. Chuch Music – Dance [!]
14. What A Miracle
15. Oh, Happiness
16. God Almighty, None Compares
17. In The End [O Resplendent Light]

There is church music, and then there is David Crowder Band’s Church Music. Churches and churchgoers will forever wrangle with what sort of music serves as the best soundtrack for corporate worship. There were hymns, and then Jesus Music, and then the Praise and Worship phenomenon, with hymns making little comebacks all the while. Finally, along comes Crowder with music for worship that sounds so very modern but completely avoids the clichés that have saddled so much of our generation’s praise music. One song has lyrics from the 4th century. Another is new but could fit right into the Book of Psalms. Altogether, 17 songs melt into one another for a 73-minute expression of God’s presence and our response to it.

David Crowder dropped a tantalizing statement in an interview with Andrew Greer for Christian Music Today: “Each [song contains] a nod to a formative moment within the history of music in the church, and these moments… appear on the album in historical order. It’s a musical puzzle.” No surprise, then, that the album opens with Phos Hilaron, an ancient text for evening prayers. This is Crowder’s second take on these words, having co-written a very different version with Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio for the outstanding 2004 Passion Hymns album. Beyond this opener, the progression of church music through the CD is frankly lost on me, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of these songs.

Consider the pairing of tracks 3 and 4, The Nearness and Shadows. The former is a driving, syncopated anthem about light and dawn and the presence of God so powerful the walls shake and the sky trembles. Shadows follows, a quieter march that considers again the contrast of light and darkness, but allows that we sometimes live in the shadow. “When the shadows fall on us / We will not fear / We will remember.” The line sticks in my head, and I’m glad, because I know I’ll need it. In yet another subtly beautiful Crowderian metaphor, our time in darkness is comforted by a similar darkness, but one that held an eternal promise: the shadow of the cross.

The band’s always capable rhythm section (B Wack and Mike D) gets a gold star for driving this album nimbly and seamlessly through changes in tempo and mood, while DCB’s signature keys and programming add layer upon layer of depth to each track. An example is All Around Me.  On the surface, it’s a slowed-down cover of the stirring Flyleaf original (Lacey Mosley guests on another track) established on a simple piano line. It’s stripped down and stunningly effective. A closer listen in a quiet room with good speakers reveals a staccato keyboard undercurrent, and maybe a distorted vocal track, and even the sounds of a thunderstorm. None of the additional layers is necessary; they’re more like the little details at a Disney park, or the jokes in a kids’ film that only the adults will get. They don’t cross the line to distraction; they serve the melody and augment the lyrics, delivered by Crowder with surprising range.

Another cover follows, John Mark McMillan’s How He Loves, further demonstrating Crowder’s ability to take the occasions when he sets aside his own formidable songwriting skills and choose the ideal cover. The rest are originals, and they’re wonderful. There’s a particularly funky set of tunes near the end: the title track, which bears the appendage Dance [!], could be off of the Newsboys’ “LoveLibertyDisco”, and Oh, Happiness is absolutely infectious.

Crowder’s diction is particularly poor in spots, so this is music best listened to alongside the lyrics.  The CD is packaged in cardboard, with its own removable sleeve, like a vinyl LP. I’ve yet to see all-cardboard packaging that allows me to keep fingerprints off my CDs, but this is close. Two songs are listed in the fancy font from the cover, but the label tells me there’s no significance to this. The trademark “good reader” bonus does show up in the liner notes again.

David Crowder told me once that he plans CDs in a repeating cycle of style, but through that repetition I’m amazed that the band keeps getting better. They find the perfect balance of familiarity for ardent supporters and the freedom to explore new sounds, and through it all they mature and improve. This is what praise and worship music should be.



1. Top 9 of 2009 « A Window in the World - January 8, 2010

[…] 6. Review: David Crowder Band – Church Music […]

2. Will - June 9, 2015

Dude! Great review! I LOVE the DC*B and wish they where still around. I had no clue that the album went through song history. Right on point about how amazing they really where. Thanks for this review!

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