It was by chance, or perhaps Divine Providence, that I came across Joyful Sorrow‘s 2003 full-length release Quietude. Quietude is one of those “Christian alternative music” cd’s. However, it’s creativity and integrity place it several notches above the kind of music one associates with the Christian music industry. In the same vein of Jesse Eubanks‘ Meditation, Contemplation, and Prayer, Neilson Hubbard‘s Sing Into Me, or maybe the Cush Spirituals ep (while sounding nothing like these), Joyful Sorrow has created a work of artistic vision that boldly and beautifully proclaims Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
That last statement may have all of our non-religious readers running, but hold on for just a second. Quietude‘s music alone is of a high enough quality to grab the listener for the 47 minutes it plays in the stereo. Opening with the serene sound of wind chimes (an idea I’ve always wanted to use on a cd of my own), and coming across at times like a sparser Ida, or a faster, louder Low, Joyful Sorrow plays intricate neo-folk music that is pretty and at times contemplative. The music on Quietude transcends the whole slow-core genre, though, with a timeless (almost medieval) quality about it that can be heard on such tracks like “Delusional and Pure” or “From Forest to Forest”. At other times, Joyful Sorrow mixes folk with an almost loungesque quality on songs like “To Be At War”, with light brushed drums, intricate guitar and vocal melodies that are slightly reminiscent of jazz. Another feature of Joyful Sorrow that causes its music to stand out is the dual vocal assault of Steven and Heather Zydek. In this respect, actually, they most resemble Ida, as the Zydek‘s combined voices sound quite similar to Ida (without ripping them off), and bring added dimension to the band. The musicality and songwriting of Quietude is deliberate, making for an enjoyable listen. The cd ends with the sound of wind chimes again, revealing the attention to detail that Joyful Sorrow takes with this cd.
As alluded to above, though, what makes Quietude even more special (to this reviewer’s ears) is the lyrical content of the cd. Supported by the striking music, the Zydek‘s lyrics poetically pay homage to saints of the past, at the same time offering inspiration and instruction from the lives of the saints. One brief example of this intertwining of narrative and indicative elements appears in “Mary”.
I used to wear costly aromas
And take men into my bed
This is how I made my living
This is how I understood living
I’ve been called a whore, a tramp, disgusting
But God’s image is still here
Now I choose to live my life out
In peace and repentance
Glorifying my maker
Loving all creation
Finding lyrics as striking as these, sung over music as beautiful and suited to the lyrics as Quietude‘s music is, is actually a rare thing. Joyful Sorrow comes across as passionate about their Orthodox faith, intelligent in their expression, and never preachy. Joyful Sorrow quietly and sensitively express their love for God, and their appreciation for the saints of old, in a manner that is thought-provoking, and ultimately enjoyable for the listener, whether Christian or not. Quietude is indeed beautiful stuff, and Joyful Sorrow has crafted the cd I wish I could. For fans of: Ida, Simon and Garfunkel, Low.