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JFH Music Review


Crowder, 'The EXILE'
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Crowder
The EXILE



Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Folk / Worship / Hip Hop / Electronic
Album length: 12 tracks: 38 minutes, 11 seconds
Street Date: May 31, 2024


READER RATING:   


David Crowder has been Christian music's resident weirdo for almost thirty years now (the first David Crowder*Band independent album release was back in 1996), and in the somewhat staid world of worship music, he has been a consistent force of creativity and original thinking in both his ministry and his life in general. (Take a few minutes to wander through Crowder's official Instagram page and you will quickly see his love for odd road signs and mislabeled and misspelled food packaging.) Crowder's music, while perhaps quirky compared to his peers and friends in the genre of worship music (your Chris Tomlin's, your Phil Wickham's, etc.), is often more friendly and middle-of-the-road than his personal appearance would suggest. His music manages to find a consistent home on Christian radio stations and in Sunday morning services. But his love of odd instruments and campy, southern expressions often finds its way into a few tunes per album.

With his new album, The EXILE, Crowder continues to lean into the "southern gothic" (a term coined by the legendary southern short story writer Flannery O'Connor) aspect of his sound, with banjos played in minor keys and swampy atmospheric instrumentation all over the place. The ending song, "Truth Be Told," is a fitting example of this sing-song tradition. Against the aforementioned banjo background, Crowder takes this common southern expression and weaves a wonderfully catchy melody and set of lyrics that skillfully capture the theme of the album: "A day is coming for coming back home / Back to where the heart belongs / Feel the yearning, can you hear the groan? / The day is coming / Truth be told / Truth be told / Every little thing's gonna be alright / Tears of joy is all we'll cry / Every little thing's gonna be alright / On the other side of exile."

But before that excellent closer, there is a whole lot of great southern rock and roll to be found. The radio single, "Grave Robber," features a zany slide guitar intro and a raucous chorus that delivers the celebratory news of redemption: "I got stolen by the grave robber / Picked me up from that rock bottom / Washed my soul in that Holy water / Brought me back to life (brought me back to life) / One more stone rolled away / One more sinner been saved by grace / This dead man, he ain't dead no longer / All because of that grave robber." The equally rowdy "Unstoppable" features a nifty steel guitar and harmonica interplay over a "four on the floor" beat that shows Crowder at his music-gumbo best.

But the album's finest moment, over all, might be the great cover of the alt country classic "All My Tears," by the legendary (in their Americana circles at least) songwriting duo of Julie and Buddy Miller. Longtime Christian music fans will most likely recognize this tune from Jars Of Clay's cover of it nearly twenty years ago, on their album Good Monsters, and Crowder's version has the unique feature of having writer Buddy Miller's haunting vocals alongside his own. The song explodes in the middle into a frenzy of fiddles and stomp box goodness and is a fantastic addition to the southern gothic feel of the album.

Alas, a few paint-by-numbers CCM songs ("Hands Of Jesus," "Still," "Somebody Prayed") water down the swampy, backwoods feel of the album. One of these days, David Crowder will give us a full-fledged work of southern rock goodness, but The EXILE is still a great listen, for both the soul and the ears (and the foot stomping, too), and shows that Crowder is still traversing a path that is very much his own. The EXILE is a fine blueprint for how to traverse a landscape "that is not our own," and to the savior who is continually "calling us home."

- Review date: 5/30/24, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com



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. Record Label: sixstepsrecords / Sparrow / Capitol CMG
. Album length: 12 tracks: 38 minutes, 11 seconds
. Street Date: May 31, 2024
. Buy It: Apple Music
. Buy It: Amazon.com (CD)
. Buy It: Amazon Music (MP3)

  1. The EXILE Intro (0:34)
  2. Grave Robber (2:52)
  3. - [DASH] (feat. TobyMac) (2:59)
  4. STILL (3:12)
  5. Rinsed In The Blood (2:57)
  6. Even In EXILE (3:36)
  7. Somebody Prayed (3:46)
  8. Hands Of Jesus (3:57)
  9. Lord Of All (4:32)
  10. Unstoppable (3:05)
  11. All My Tears (feat. Buddy Miller) (3:32)
  12. Truth Be Told (3:16)

 

 



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