As a Christian and music lover, I constantly am on the look-out for relevant, thought-inspiring true works of ART that will lead me to a new appreciation of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus. There are precious few groups today that match that description for me: Soul Junk, The Prayer Chain, Ester Drang, U2, Pedro the Lion, Charity Empressa, Joy Electric, and not many others (incl. to a certain extent, Radiohead, though their lyrics are not from a Christian worldview). I mean, I love all music, whether Christian or not, and not all of the music I like has to be lyrically intense (such as some of my favorites: Cush, Lassie Foundation, Melody Unit, Electro Group, etc).
But every once in a while, it’s good to come across a cd that will challenge my and inspire me, both musically and in my faith. I can now confidently add Jesse Eubanks new cd to my short list of works that are indeed creative in concept, and meaningful in words, and true to the artistic and conceptual aesthetic the artist strives for. In short, the cd is MORE than just a cd!!!
First of all, there’s the packaging…the cd comes in a hand-crafted book with a simple black cover. Inside the book is a detailed account of how the project came together, with thoughtful information provided by Eubanks as to the creative process. The book also contains lyrics, some stories of people who have inspired and encouraged Eubanks in meditation, and contemplative prayer. Also included are several passages of prayers and poetry from artists, as well as traditional sources such as a book of anglican prayers. The book is informative, well written, and achieves its goal in communicating the purpose and spirit behind the project. I was impressed just thumbing through the book, before I ever listened to the cd.
Of course, there’s the music. I hope Eubanks doesn’t mind me saying this, but fans of Charity Empressa‘s s/t debut will love this cd. It should not be surprising, then, that Eric Campuzano is lists as an influence in the liner notes. Much like Charity Empressa, Meditations… is full of droned-out, reverbed guitars, with occasional etheral and passionate vocals floating lightly over the drone. The drones are not as layered and “thick” as Charity Empresa…giving it a more delicate, almost vulnerable sound. You don’t know (in the first track) whether the guitar sound will hang around for a while, or fade out. This effect gives the song a certain type of frailty, and as the singer cries out to God, it all fits.
The other songs are just as sensitive, and beautiful. Eubanks uses the sound of rain as a “drone” in one song, on others a preacher wails in the distance. A key aspect of Meditations… that makes it all the more effective is the percussion elements Eubanks adds. From what I gather on this board and his site, percussion is his main talent and interest, yet he doesn’t go overboard with the percussion on Meditations…. Instead, tasteful, light shakers and other percussion instruments permeate the songs, adding dimension to the ever present drone. The vocals are also well recorded and performed: his voice reminds me of Doug Moss, or Tim Taber in his quieter moods. Other instruments are used sparingly throughout the cd, adding variety to the whole body of work.
In short, it almost pains me to write this review, because too few people will read this, and even fewer will actually write the guy and get a cd. It is a work of artistic and even spiritual depth, crafted with a broken heart to Jesus, and with the spirit of artistic experimentation. It’s the kind of cd you’d expect a label like the now defunct Absalom Records to put out, or maybe burnt toast vinyl or sounds familyre. Beautiful, adventurous, and oh so sensitive, Meditations… will be in my player for a long time…and it already is a cd that challenges me to seek God with an added fervency…..