Perhaps I am guilty of nostalgia, but there’s something about the old tent meetings under the open starry sky, the flickering of lanterns, and the ebbs and flows of a fire and brimstone preacher’s call for sinners to repent that really gets me going. The 42 member group The Lower Lights have put out a few albums, and this is their latest. As you listen to these hymns, you realize not only that they are breathing new life, a revival of sorts, into these hymns, but that they are evoking the revival feel of old-time American Christianity.
The group’s many musicians and vocalists allow the album to span a wide range of sound. In “I Saw the Light” and “I Need Thee Every Hour”, you almost feel like you’re listening to Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue with its gravely vocals, loose instrumentals, and rootsy jam feel. “Calling You” sounds like Allison Krauss dropped in and sang a duet with Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink. The somewhat haunting “Go Down Moses” is reminiscent of Conor Oberst’s “No One Would Riot for Less” from his album Cassadaga. The whole album is held together by a Drunkard’s Prayer style of production–like it was recorded in a warm living room.
One of my favorite tracks is “Where He Leads Me”. The way the notes bend and sway, you can almost smell the warm breeze billowing through the tent as crickets chirp quietly. The whole album has a simplicity that sounds and feels more earnest than a lot of music out there. As you listen, you might find yourself picturing some simple small town musicians sharing their favorite hymns around a campfire…which is pretty much what they have done. Give it a listen, and see if it doesn’t have you pining for times gone by.