Musical Storytelling With The Gray Havens
Bruce Von Stiers
The styling of Christian music is far more diverse than thirty years or so ago. There is rock, country and pop styling that have now become part of the fabric of faith based music.
One style that has never quite gone away is folk in Christian music. There are several artists whose main focus is faith based folk music. And a few artists combine folk with other styles to come up with a unique musical format. Faith based folk pop is one such format and the duo The Gray Havens are making quite a splash with it.
The Gray Havens is the husband and wife duo Dave and Licia Radford. They have recently released their first full length album, Fire And Stone.
The album was produced, recorded and mixed by Mitch Dane,a Grammy winning producer whose previous work includes an album by J.J. Heller titled Only Love Remains that I reviewed several years ago. The mastering was done by Matt Odmark, who is a guitarist for Jars Of Clay.
The songs on Fire And Stone were written by Dave and Licia along with Mitch.
Dave does vocals on the album along with playing the acoustic guitar and piano. Licia does vocals.
Backing up Dave and Licia are a very talented bunch of people. Will Sayles on is on drums. He has recorded with and toured with greats such as Norah Jones, Over The Rhine and Derek Webb. Will also played drums on the Newsong album, One True God, which I reviewed about four years ago. From recording on albums by REM, Reliant K, Michael W. Smith and Gretchen Peters, Dave Henry is a much sought after musician. He provides the strings music on this album. Kevin Whitsett has played and recorded with the Rhett Walker Band. He is on bass for this album. Stephen Mason, who is the lead guitarist for Jars of Clay, plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lapsteel and mandolin. Dustin Ransom has worked with Jars of Clay and Laura Story. Here he plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, synth, Rhodes, organ, accordion, mandolin, glockenspiel, xylophone and does hand percussion. Tyler Somers of the folk/pop duo Jenny & Tyler provides backing vocals. Ryan Horne is a folk/ pop artist whose songs have been featured on Hart of Dixie and Sons of Anarchy. He also provides backing vocals on the album. Seth Phillips is an Americana, rock singer/ songwriter. He helps out with backing vocals here too.
The songs on the album have a story-like quality to them, making the sound, and the theme, somewhat unique. Dave and Licia have said that they draw their influences from poetry, theology and even authors like C.S. Lewis. Another strong influence was J.R.R. Tolkien, hence the name The Gray Havens.
Inheritance is the title of the first song. It is a melodic tune with strong acoustic guitar, subtle vocals and has a ship as its focus.
Aching but fluid vocals can be found in Songs In The Night. Even though Dave takes the lead for the first part of the song, Licia joins in and makes it a bit less dark.
The Stone is a slightly sad but melodic song. It has great guitar as well.
A church choir sound starts out Sirens. Then Dave's vocals are backed by stern piano music and a slight, dark accordion sound. The song kind of reminded me of those sad songs you sometimes hear in film soundtracks. The end of the song has an almost Beatles ballad tone to it.
Jack and Jill, Pt. 2 is an interesting song. It is a toe-tapping song that gives bit and pieces of fairy tales as a foundation for life lessons.
Music, They Call Me has a lot of great music and terrific lead vocals by Dave. Licia chimes in and there are great backing vocals. The liner notes state that Dave begin writing the song after watching Avatar. Although isn't about the film, Dave was nonetheless influenced enough to write this cool song.
Stole My Fame (To: Grace) has a kind of pop rock toe-tapping sound. It made me think of Billy Joel.
Under The Mountain slows things down at first, then speeds things up for a decent pop sound. Dave and Licia meld their vocals together in front of terrific backing music.
If The Walls Move is a beautiful ballad.
The final song on the album is Far Kingdom. It is a definite folk styled song and is about the kingdom of Heaven.
Something I learned while reading the press material about the album was that Dave was on season five of American Idol. He even made it to the Top 20 before being eliminated. That was the season that showcased the talents of Chris Daughtry and Kelly Pickler. So to say that Dave is talented and can hold his own would be a bit of an understatement.
Dave and Licia seem to make a perfect duo. With the great songwriting, terrific vocals by both of them and the piano and guitar music make The Gray Havens a treat to listen to. With all of that and the backing music and vocals from the very talented guest performers, Fire And Stone is definitely an album to check out.
Fire And Stone is available on iTunes and other online venues such as amazon.com It is also available from The Gray Havens web site.
The official site for The Gray Havens has a lot of information about Dave and Licia, along with songs from the album and videos. The site can be found at http://www.thegrayhavensmusic.com/
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© 2015 Bruce E Von Stiers