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Artist: Shawn McDonald
Label:  Sparrow
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Duration:  12 tracks, 46:20

Merriam-Webster defines a ‘musician’ as a composer, conductor, or performer of music. The same source defines an ‘artist’ as one who professes and practices an imaginative art, a person skilled in one of the fine arts, a skilled performer, one who is adept at something. In one package, these attributes are found in Shawn McDonald. Closer represents McDonald’s fourth full album release containing all the story telling, praise and worship, and musical prowess as previous efforts but with a much more polished pop sensibility. 

Readily apparent in this grouping are the fine qualities of McDonald’s vocal gifts, inspired lyrics and song writing, accompanied by a smooth mix produced by Christopher Stevens of Sanctus Real fame. With this release, you will wear out the CDs pamphlet reviewing the lyrics again and again.  

Closer opens with “Better Way,” setting the stage with the refrain ‘I believe that there is a better way.’ “Hope,” co-written with Joy Williams, is a light pop full of its namesake, listen for the rising orchestration in the background symbolizing hope rising. “Closer”, which is currently climbing the FM charts, is a piano led story of despair and the need for redemption symbolized in the verse ‘looking for color in a shade of grey, looking for love in a drop of rain.’ With a deep base and fingers clicking, “Something Real” lays the foundation for the answer to a question we all ask with ‘how could we miss the point when it’s all about love.’

Musically, “Rise” shows the roots of McDonald’s music with acoustic guitar and brushes smothering the snare drum, together welcoming this song’s message of praise.  “Eyes Forward” has the rollicking piano and the vocal adventure that only McDonald can provide, this song showcases his vocal range and ability. The message of ‘Don’t take your eyes off the prize’ is far from lost in this incredible song. The album ends with “Mystery” which debuted during his 2009 tour. This offering sums up the trials of life and the message of hope _Closer_ portrays with ‘Now I’m sailing on the sea of mystery, and I’m floating on the ocean of unknown, and I’m not going to come ashore until I find that I’m looking for, I’m not coming back ‘til I find love.’.

While most songs in this collection were written during a three year low period in McDonald’s life, the album as a whole contains a hopeful message. Out of this dark period come light and hope in the form of McDonald’s music, and his faith and hope. Together, they underline the age old phrase ‘He builds everything new again.’

SS Mertens

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