Asleep at the Oars, Dreaming of Freedom
Album length: 10 tracks
Street Date: August 6, 2010
An independent alternative/indie band from Knoxville, Tennessee, Standing Small has been making some waves recently on indie music websites due to the release of their latest album. Their third project (second full-length) is entitled Asleep at the Oars, Dreaming of Freedom, and, along with their other two albums, can be yours for whatever price you wish to pay for it through their Bandcamp page, or completely free through Indie Vision Music.
With Asleep at the Oars..., Standing Small brings an indie sound almost like a cross between My Epic and Death Cab For Cutie (more of My Epic's overall style, but it's toned down like some of Death Cab's slower material). Most of the instrumentation is pretty basic, but even so, the musicians sound experienced. "Call in the Troops" is a good example. The tempo changes a few times throughout the song, and the band members adjust accordingly and near-flawlessly. When listening to the album, the farther in you get, the more you start to see the talent in the band. The opening song, "Falling," didn't really do much in the way of preparing me for the rest, as it didn't really hook me. But getting past it, Asleep at the Oars... really picks up. Another highlight is the overall feel of the hopeful "Out of Control." The soft piano and light guitars playing with Ryan Fletcher singing, "And He's calling all around you and He's so glad that He found you and He's breaking down the walls to show that He's the God of all," makes "Out of Control" one of the top songs.
Asleep at the Oars... is a good album, but it does have its faults. A minor fault is, while the music is very well-written, it does tend to drag here and there (as I mentioned, it's pretty much in the first song, and maybe a little in the second song, "Forsaken"). But the album's biggest weakness is Fletcher's vocals. He can sing well - he proves it plenty of times in these songs - but he also tends to do things his voice either isn't capable of or just needs a lot of work to do. He uses a lot of falsetto, and it just doesn't sound very good. He also seems to have a little trouble singing in most higher keys, as displayed in "Hallowed." However, the message of victory in Christ is still pretty powerful, despite the poorly-executed vocal work, in the words, "He's coming around, it's breaking His heart, He's loving the ones the world has forgot, He's breaking the chains with both of His hands, bringing to life what once was dead, He's singing a song to those who will hear and bringing a love to conquer all fear, He's drowning out shame at the sound of His voice, repentance of sin, the heavens rejoice."
If you give Asleep at the Oars, Dreaming of Freedom a chance (and if you like some tamer indie music, you probably should), don't expect to instantly love it. It's an album that takes a few listens (and an open mind) to really start to enjoy it. Critically speaking, I'd really only ask for either some work on the vocals, or a different utilization technique for them as they are. Outside of that, I hope we hear more from these guys in the future.
- Review date: 9/1/10, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
Album length: 10 tracks
Street Date: August 6, 2010
- Falling (3:10)
- Forsaken (3:37)
- Oh Brother (3:56)
- Man Overboard (4:06)
- Call in the Troops (4:35)
- Covered (4:32)
- Out of Control (4:31)
- Sailing Away (4:01)
- Hallowed (5:02)
- Two Hands (2:56)
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): Let's start with the seemingly obligatory question - what does Standing Small mean?
The name was thought up after counting the cost of the endeavor set before us. We took a look at the history of men who have held positions that often can be set upon a pedestal and realized the danger that there could be in that. Often times we see the leaders of our church or the leaders of worship fall into the trap of thinking that without their sacrifice this work could not be completed. We understand that this will always be a temptation that we have so we wanted to have a name that served to remind us who "we" actually are and where "we" actually stand in the grand scheme of things. John 3:30 reminds us that "He must increase, but I must decrease." It is our hope to remain humble and transparent no matter the work that is done through us.
JFH (Scott): Similar question - what does the title of your new album, Asleep at the Oars, Dreaming of Freedom, mean?
The name was taken from a book that I enjoyed back when the record first began forming. The actual line is
JFH (Scott): Lots of bands are giving their music away these days for various reasons, including you. What made you decide to do it?
"Now a man who loves with his heart yet holds a doubt in his mind, is but a slave in a galley who sleeps at his oar and dreams of his freedom, till the lash of the master wakes him. I myself was that slave, and I dreamed of freedom, but the sleep of my grandfather was upon me."
The meaning to us has taken full shape over the last 3 years of this writing process. We began to feel like we had become a crew on a ship, led by a captain we did not respect. We had fallen into all forms of communication which did not serve to edify. We found it easier to condemn each other than to correct or reprove. I believe our offering of worship had become somewhat unacceptable before God. One night, I was reading Isaiah 58 which says:
4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of
wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
The Lord then goes on to ask, "Is this the fast that I have chosen?"
Upon reading the next verse I was floored.
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
I felt like the Lord was telling me that I had brought something before Him that was unacceptable and even offensive to Him, but that there was a way to make it right. I shared this with the band and, as I recall, it seemed as though we could all relate in some way. We had received the instruction to awake from our sleep and make straight our paths before God. Not that this has been completely remedied, but we are now aware and hopefully willing to grow and change.
We decided this because we began recording this record in July of 2007. All things financial and touring continued to keep us from finishing this record. Once we finally committed to finishing it, we felt like we owed it to anyone who wanted to hear it. It has been such a blessing thus far. We are very proud to have had the opportunity to work with Indie Vision Music as Brandon has a much larger avenue to get our music out there than we felt like we did.
JFH (Scott): What inspired the songs on Asleep at the Oars...?
Real life. Touring. Married life. The call on each of us to serve God, our wives and, if anything was left, the band led to such a real experience for us. It came out with each song in such a way that the CD is gapless when listening to it all the way through. It is supposed to almost never stop from song 1 through 10. It is a real account of our life through a story of a captain and crew.
JFH (Scott): What bands do you listen to and/or are inspired by?
I really enjoy bands like Cool Hand Luke, Abel, Austin Crane, The Dirt and the Flood, Doug Burr, So Long Forgotten, Joseph W. Dunlap and This is Luke. Also Curt Vernon, a songwriter from Kentucky that blows me away. I love anything that presents the gospel through music in a way that you know it took everything out of them and that it was the only thing they could do with the talent they have been given. Each of us differ quite a bit though musically which seems to serve us well when coming together with ideas.
JFH (Scott): How did your band come together?
Corey Goins (Drummer) and I have been friends since we were young. We began playing music together in high school when his mom got him a set of drums. I had been playing guitar for a year or two so we just started covering songs we liked in his basement. That turned into several different bands through our youth. Corey and I parted ways for about 5 years. He pursued other things and I continued playing music out of Nashville. I received a call from Corey one night and we both realized we were going through some very similar things in life. He was considering dropping out of seminary and I happened to be considering a complete change in my life as well. We met up and talked for a bit in Nashville and decided to start playing again. I had already recorded our first record, Sister Wisdom, so we began playing those songs while we wrote new ones. Over time, we had different people play along with us but nothing ever too dedicated. Our first bass player introduced us to Ben Howard (piano/backing vocals) and he began running sound for us. He never really let on that he played piano until I caught him one day playing a song of ours. We then scolded him for not informing us of this and demanded he join. This has became the core of Standing Small. We have, in the last year or so, acquired a guitar player by the name of Joe Dunlap. Joe was a part of one of our favorite bands ever our of Ohio and has been playing music since he was 4. We asked if he'd start playing electric with us live. He accepted and has been playing with us since. We consider him a member but we try not to put too much pressure on him as we hope he'll get his CD finished and play on it.
JFH (Scott): What are some of the challenges you face as a musician?
We face all types of challenges. Everything from financial needs to spiritual failings. We have some of the most supportive wives we could ask for and are surrounded with friends who hold us accountable and aren't afraid to call us out. We also struggle with being completely indie. We do everything ourselves. We screen print all of our own merchandise including our album covers as well as booking, writing and now recording. It has its amazing perks but also demands a lot from each member. Honestly, we are not sure what we want to see change in that department, though so we are pretty happy with where we are currently.
JFH (Scott): If Standing Small could play a show in any city with any other band(s), where and who would you pick?
Hmmm! This would be completely different depending on who you ask in our band but I think we'd all agree that we'd love to play with bands like So Long Forgotten and Ascend the Hill, as our desires seem to be pretty similar. There are really too many in my mind. Both possible and impossible. I guess as far as city/place, it would either have to be The Channel in Greenville, SC or Joe's Java in Wilmington, OH as they have both became a huge part of our family.
JFH (Scott): What has God been teaching you lately?
The most prominent thing is that currently we only see things in part. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says:
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
With such a divide amongst believers, I have to remind myself that we only see in part. And, until Christ returns, this is how it will be. Each of us will form and shape our own understanding of who God is. It is my hope that I will do it as closely to scripture as I am capable with the willingness to always seek the truth... even when I disagree. Outside of the foundations of our faith (which are that I am a sinner, Christ is the only perfect sacrifice to satisfy God's wrath and through Him and only Him can I enter into the Kingdom of Heaven), there are some overwhelming things to unpack as far as who God is and how He will specifically deal with each one of us. So these things will, at times and at best, remain a mystery to us but we will deal with them according to our current ability and understanding. I hope to have grace and charity in these things.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.