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Contemporary Christian music’s waters have been stirred with the arrival and growth of Josh Garrels. This folk musician from Portland, Oregon, has much to say through his music, with a brutal honesty and fragility.
In his albums, Garrels explores life’s themes such as love, longing, helplessness and hope with a delicate string of thoughts put together with prose in mind. His lyrical content is deep, perhaps comparable with the thoughts of the writers of the Psalms in the Bible. Of late, modern Christian music has seen far too many lyrics that stay at ’shallow waters’ (perhaps also a common trend with contemporary music these days). Garrels chooses to venture into the deep.
Listen to his most popular release “Love & War and The Sea in Between.” Stirring themes hold each song of the album together, causing the listener to appreciate the album as a whole, instead of as one hit singles. His opening song, “White Owl,” uses beautiful imagery to capture the picture of a person standing at the borders of the unknown. “Farther Along” then arrives, which would be the anchor song of the album – a song anyone can relate to, which addresses questions on the chaos happening in the world today. The pre-closing song, “Pilot Me” rounds off the album, a prayer to God to steer his boat.
Garrels relates the beauty of the Pacific Northwest to having an influence on “Love & War and The Sea in Between.” “The evergreens, mist, rain, rocky coast, and stretches of uninhabited woods feel wild and untamed. Living here has deeply affected me and my work,” he mentions in an interview with Sara Billups.
Upon its release last year, “Love & War and The Sea in Between” was put out for free download for a year. Garrels wasn’t planning a publicity stunt; it was his gift back to God. Over the one year, it reached more people than he had even planned for. Christianity Today named it the 2011 Album of the Year.
There has been much development since the album’s success. Garrels has a much wider listener base from around the world. And with his current collaboration with Mason Jar Music, an audio/video production company based in New York, you can eagerly anticipate an excellent documentary, “The Sea in Between,” filmed on Mayne Island. It aims to weave a fabric of Garrels’ career as an artist, while presenting the challenges and rewards of being an artist in today’s context. You can view the trailer here.
The teaming up of Garrels and Mason Jar Music is something of a creative explosion. Mason Jar Music states its philosophy: “Technology has made it easier and more affordable for the average person to produce and distribute his or her own content, empowering artists and eliminating old gatekeepers. This in turn has created countless opportunities for success but left artists to their own devices in achieving it. To some, this new era means the death of the art of recording and filmmaking. We disagree. To us it means that the power structure has changed; the control is in the hands of content creators. Though sales are down, people are consuming more content than ever before. New mediums must be established to present and distribute art and to re-establish strong bonds between artist and audience.”
What better way to bring out this viewpoint than with an artist like Garrels.
If you missed the free download of “Love & War and The Sea in Between”, there’s a ‘B-Side & Remix’ of the album that you can get for free on his website. The titles of his other albums are “Jacaranda”, “Lost Animals”, “Over Oceans”, “Stone Tree” and “Underquiet”, all of which can be obtained from his website.
Upcoming shows are on 14 and 15 December in Colorado.
Image Courtesy : Josh Garrels Music