ASD are going deeper in their content and lusher in their sound, as they learn from spiritual giants, who have gone ahead of us. These songs are rich enough to reflect on one at a time.
Time: 10 tracks / 42 min
Reflecting the start of Genesis, and an appropriate way to begin this collection, “Heaven Meets Earth,” celebrates Aslan creating Narnia in C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew. Effectively, though, ‘Heaven meets Earth’ is the album’s theme as it takes inspiration from nine lives, each either (surprise, surprise) a poet or saint.
Further back in time, other writers to inspire the American duo’s distinctive harmonies and fresh tunes include John Newton and William Cowper, whose Olney Hymns were originally not allowed in churches, where only the traditional psalms were sung. Cowper and Newton aimed to bring God’s love back to the people via “familiar pub melodies.” AS&D share that same lyrical honesty and hunger to connect people with God.
These songs celebrate wonder, mystery, love, humility, resilience, redemption, mission and patience; the latter being inspired by the life of writer George MacDonald and his quote, “the principle part of faith is patience.”
The saints inspiring this fourth release include Peter, Thérèse, Patrick, Francis, Augustine and, erm, John Calvin.
This concept opens the fridge door to generous platefuls of spiritual protein. However, something gets lost in the industry mincing machine that grinds meaty content down into puréed clichés, with the result that the lyrics hide some of the richness found in the liner notes.
Maybe it’s co-writer Jason Ingram who boils the life of St. Francis to the lazy shortcut title “I Surrender” (yes, in yet another song! I don’t know how anyone can still write this and present it with a straight face). The only clue, a very oblique one, to the saint’s identity is in the verse:
“The riches of this world will fade; the treasures of our God remain.
Here I empty myself to owe this world nothing and find everything in You."
My other concern is that their easily-recognised sound needs more variety if it is to avoid the feeling of “Haven’t we just heard that tune?” Having, for example, Leslie Jordan’s vocals further up-front than David Leonard’s in “The Path of Sorrow” is refreshing in that respect; so is a lusher, almost orchestral wash behind several songs.
All Sons and Daughters do experiment a little with sound, adding blink-and-miss-‘em waves and heartbeats to the opener, as well as chorusing “Holy” in an ethereal, majestic way in the same track. In contrast, bar noises and country flourishes back the Americana of “My Roving Heart,” taken straight from John Newton’s Olney Hymns.
Languidly paced and discreetly backed, the pair’s harmonies are up-front enough to risk samey-ness, but that danger significantly recedes if you focus on the richness of the worshipful content. It’s deep enough to dwell on one song at a time, and humility is one bright thread that runs through the whole disc.