You want a party? With its energetic celebration of grace, this one has more than a hint of heaven about it.

Label: Sixsteps
Time: 6 tracks / 25 mins (+ 5 mins video)

With his band, David Crowder made a series of sizeable leaps over the years, from plain embarrassing (that Lime release) to imperious, creative and majestic (Give Us Rest). His last two releases veered from energetic country music to bombastic prog – all within the same album.

It may be that he felt he could progress the music no further at that stage. He announced that he was going to take a break then go solo, playing country music.

Fast forward to 2014 and he made a less dramatic leap from David Crowder Band to just Crowder, releasing Neon Steeple.

Then Crowder had a party at his home church in Atlanta, with a mechanical bull and inflatable jousting, among others attractions, and then they moved onto the (somewhat sizeable) church front porch and continued the evening with a celebration of the reach of grace. There is joy at seeing the light, open invitations for the broken to come to God, and praise for God’s protecting love.

Neon Porch Extravaganza is the live EP from the event, featuring Neon Steeple material. As he promised, there is country: it starts off with a sample of a hoedown, leading almost seamlessly into “My Beloved,” and the banjo works its socks off for the first two tracks.

But it is very far from pure country; there‘s a good deal of rock spirit and sonic exploration in there, and as the six-tracks progress, that old variety comes back: there’s a fuzzed rock guitar and a minute of rap from Tedashii on the stomper “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)”; a lovely, brief unplugged cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We're Going Home“ with only acoustic guitar and pedal steel; and a dance-inspired pop riff framing “Hands of Love” (where that  background banjo returns from getting charged up). The huge musical span has changed no more than the name has.

Crowder’s own voc al performance is typically passionate and inspiring, while the musicianship and mix are spot on and the music is the ideal vehicle for the lyrics:
“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal...
  So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
  all who are broken lift up your face.
  Wanderer come home, you’re not too far.
  Lay Down your hurt... come as you are.”

And as the anthemic chorus of “Lift Your Head” puts it:
  “If you’re lost and wandering, come stumbling in like a prodigal child
  See the walls start crumbling when the gates of glory open wide.”

The bottom line is that, if you liked Crowder’s band, you’ll still have a ball with this one; and while it was not available for review, given the man’s late track record, the Neon Steeple studio release should be just as good, if not better.

Derek Walker