Former poet Bradley Hathaway turned into a singer/songwriter with the release of 2007's
The Thing That Poets Write About, The Thing That Singers Sing About. Now, not even a year and a half later,
we're treated once again to some more indie masterpieces. Hathaway's A Mouth Full of Dust was independently released
again, first through iTunes, with the disc due out sometime in March.
Now, The Thing That Poets Write About... was a story album. It revolved around the tale of a man who fell
in love with a woman (even to the point of wanting to get married) and their eventual devastating break up.
A Mouth Full of Dust, however, is not a concept album. Instead, Hathaway just wrote some beautiful songs and put
them all together on an album. Even still, the album does center a lot around love again, sometimes his love for a girl,
sometimes for God (and God's love for us), and in "I Don't Believe In Love," he just sings about the 1 Corinthians 13
description of love (with a few of his own descriptions thrown in as well).
Album opener, "Covered In The Blood," is kind of all over the place. It opens very slowly and in a somber manner,
with Hathaway singing to someone who had done him wrong in the past. Later in the song, he says "I was praying at the altar
of God, but He wouldn't let me get very far, He said if I wanna talk to Him if I have to talk to you first, and forgive you
for all this hurt," and he forgives the person, saying "it's all over now, it's covered in the blood." The music
then picks up with crashing cymbals and a faster pace, with an oddly - but somewhat well-placed - violin (or viola).
It ends with some screaming atop all the near-chaotic music. "Can't Get With This" is an upbeat and folky tune about the
corruption in the world (and even some that unfortunately exists within the church), and about how we need Jesus to hurry
and help us. The beat stays pretty much the same throughout, with the exception of near the end where all we hear is a
nicely-played banjo for a few seconds. "Samuel" is next, the first of several longer tracks (and the longest, clocking in
at eight minutes and ten seconds). "Samuel" is almost a return to his spoken word/poetry days, but still with
mewithoutYou-esque music behind it. He talks a lot about his life experiences, until about three and a half minutes in,
where the music almost dies down completely. When the music picks back up, it almost feels like a new song has begun,
but then it returns to the same sound, reassuring us that it's the same song. Now one thing to keep in mind with this song is
that about five minutes in, you really have to pay attention and take everything he says in context. Hathaway says,
"Now Adam and Eve were both naked, and bore their souls and bodies to one another and they were accepted, I wanna be naked
too, yeah let's all get naked, I wanna be naked with all of you." If you just hear the last couple lines, you might
question the man. But again, taken in context, it makes perfect sense, and he's definitely not condoning public nudity,
but instead the purity and innocence that was shared before the fall of man.
Up next is a very quiet, pretty song entitled "Look Up," a song whose chorus says "Look up look up look up, look up into
the sky love, you see the moon shine, it's so high up above us, it rolls around on account of a bunch of scientific stuff, I
like to think it does just because He loves us." The quietness gets even quieter as it rolls into "Mary."
It features some amazing musicianship (mainly composed of a piano and some soft drumming) and lyrics which were written
very well, and the two were put together perfectly - definitely a highlight of A Mouth Full of Dust. The
aforementioned "I Don't Believe In Love" follows, continuing in the toned-down sound prevalent in the last few songs.
In "Not Giving Up," Hathaway sings about the toughness of living in the world, and the criticism we receive for believing
in the Lord. "I'm not always running to win a prize, sometimes I just wanna cross the finish line, if You don't come back
before I'm dead, will You meet me in the end?" It's a feeling we all have sometimes when the weight of the world is
almost too much. But he displays that even though it's hard, he won't give up and he will at least cross the finish line.
After several slow songs, "Lord Have Mercy" picks back up with a beat similar to "Can't Get With This." It features a
faster beat, an electric guitar and bass, and a banjo (mainly in the chorus). Just as the song is titled, Hathaway asks
God for mercy, as he is a sinner. "There's no mountain that's too high, no hole that's too deep, no desert that's too dry, no
ocean that's too wet, that can keep Him from loving me, Lord have mercy on me a sinner, the biggest sinner of them all,
Lord have mercy on me a sinner, a sinner since the day that I was born." Next, for seven minutes, we're given the
offering entitled "Momma." I don't think I can say that there is a bad song on the album, but "Momma" probably stands out the least of
them all. The vocal pattern doesn't change much throughout its duration, and for five minutes it's almost too slow, as it
feels a bit too long. A little after the five minute mark, though, the music really picks up, with lots of drums and an
orchestra of instrumentation that leads us out at the end. To close the album, Hathaway delivers "Don't Wanna Miss."
The first line is rather convicting, "I've only ever known two men to walk on water, and one nearly drowned when he found
it was hard to keep his eyes off of himself and onto You, and to be honest my clothes are dripping wet too."
Hathaway speaks of trying hard to follow after God, and just how difficult it is. Again, musically, it's mostly quiet, except for
near the end when he is playing the guitar and singing a bit louder for emphasis.
A Mouth Full of Dust is similar to Hathaway's last album in that they both have similar strengths and weaknesses.
Musically, it's crafted very well. The sound is excellent for an independent release, and the lyrics are poetic, real and
wonderful. The weakness mainly lies within his vocals. Any fan of his will certainly enjoy hearing them, and honestly they do
fit very well with the sound and the feel of the music, but Hathaway is not much of a singer (as he has even admitted himself).
He's somewhat tone deaf, and doesn't carry a tune very well. But again, oddly enough, it complements the music quite nicely.
Any fan of Bradley Hathaway's older stuff (his poetry or his songs) needs to pick up A Mouth Full of Dust.
- Review date: 2/18/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com