When longtime favorites The David Crowder*Band called it quits, playing their last show together in January of 2012, many in the CCM world were left lost and wondering. What would become of these great artists who’d wormed their way into our hearts and ear buds for over a decade? The majority of the band answered that question with the formation of The Digital Age but it’s been a long two years waiting to finally get a whole album of new music from the former band’s eclectic namesake.
Thankfully, it’s an album that has been well worth the wait as Crowder builds upon elements hinted upon in the DC*B years but that were never fully realized until now. Creating a sound he likens to “folktronica,” fusing the old and the new together in a sound that is altogether Crowder.
In his own enigmatic words, he shares, “Neon Steeple is a collection of songs and sounds looking forward to the past and counting the present as sacred. It is a longing for belonging, a search for home. It is a collection of choruses that believe that this is not all there is. It is the sound of the Appalachians and Ibiza. Folk music and EDM. The music of the People. Folktronica. Digital and Analog. The Ones and Zeros and the Handshake. The Banjo and the 808. Neon Steeple is both a critique and a hope.”
That fusion of sound finds the artist tackling a sound that offers up thoughts of artists like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons crossed with heavy doses of Avicii and more. And the result is supremely enjoyable.
Fans of Crowder have no doubt already had a chance to sample a few of the album’s early singles in “I Am” and “My Beloved,” both solid introductions to the record’s intriguing sound. “My Beloved” in particular is a clear highlight, the artist’s rich country-infused vocals and Ron Block’s resonant banjo picking through a toe-tapping arrangement fueled with bright gang vocals and danceable rhythms that shine. Perhaps the most ideal definition of “folktronica,” it gets things off to a rocking start early while the powerful worship tune from this year’s Passion gathering, “Here’s My Heart,” will also be familiar to fans.
Yet those tracks, as excellent as they are, are simply the start of something great as Crowder works through a set of tracks that conjures up continued juxtapositions of the old and new, forging new musical ground. “Hands of Love” offers up bright, energetic programming offset by banjo and acoustic guitar as does “You Are” while “Come Alive” and “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)” are resolutely mixtures of both, moody instrumentation and organic percussion cementing them as two of the stronger songs on the record as Crowder sings, “All who’ve strayed and walked away, unspeakable things you’ve done/Fix your eyes on the mountain, let the past be dead and gone/Come all saints and sinners, you can’t outrun God/Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome the power of the blood.”
That message, of our need and desperation being met by a graceful and loving God, is the lyrical theme that resonates throughout each of these songs. The piano-driven altar call of “Come As You Are” resonates with the line “Earth has no sorrow/That Heaven can’t cure,” while Hank Williams’ “Jesus Is Calling” is rendered with a classic country vibe complete with slide guitar that hammers home that same message. And when Crowder is joined by legendary artist Emmylou Harris on “My Sweet Lord,” the foundation is cemented to the ground, Harris’ rich harmony vocals accenting Crowder as he intones “Blind is the fool, I see that now/I broke the rules, and let You down/I walked alone, now I have run dry/I need my sweet Lord’s help tonight.”
With Neon Steeple, David Crowder reasserts himself as a musical tour de force, making music that is as artistically successful as it is lyrically. The fusion of the old and the new comes across as effortless in the artist’s hands and, with a powerful cast of supporting players, his vision is realized and should launch the album onto the “must listen” lists of listeners everywhere.
Download Neon Steeple on iTunes here.
This review was first published at Soul-Audio.com.