“Bloodshot” by The Choir Deeply Satisfies

It’s difficult to envision veteran Christian alt rockers The Choir being in the company of country artists back when it was barely out of its teens, a time finding artists such as The Carter Family, Bob Willis, and Bill Monroe routinely crisscrossing the country planting seeds of a genre they created. Also, it’s not that Bloodshot, The Choir’s new album, is in any sense a country album. However, there is a common thread; more on this in a bit.

Throughout its career The Choir has with graceful ease traversed between atmospheric and near avant-garde, musically built around Derri Daugherty’s sometimes dreamy and at other moments razor slice guitar while Steve Hindalong’s lyrics have purposefully plumbed relationships, life fragments, and faith through a poet’s eyes. In this respect Bloodshot is no different than its predecessors. The Choir have for decades made extremely even albums, never failing to deliver something solid wrapped within textural diversity. Bloodshot, however, has some twists revealing Messrs. Daugherty and Hindalong, plus Tim Chandler on bass and Dan Michaels on assorted reed instruments, are still more than capable of bringing something new to the turntable.

Bloodshot is in many ways the most straightforward album The Choir has ever recorded. Not that the music is an exercise in formulaic commercial ear candy; rather, the songs are simpler without being simplistic: more direct, more immediately accessible. Daugherty frequently employs strummed chords as a foundation upon which to bounce his effects-rich electric work, using it to create far more guitar interplay than is present in most Choir efforts. Even when there is but one guitar present, Daugherty accomplishes the rare feat of creating multiple sound swirls dancing around each other, always perfectly meshed within the song in lieu of drawing attention to themselves alone.

The album also differs lyrically from the majority of prior albums in that it is far more heavily relationship-focused. Not that faith is being dismissed, but on Bloodshot Hindalong is at his most playful and celebratory of love between two people. This is the album you play for those who deride Christian music as bereft of romance.

Where the album harkens back to country’s emerging years is in its songs at their core. They are solid, uncomplicated, and tuneful; the essence of country long before it went cosmopolitan. It is not difficult to hear the compositions and picture them coming out of a dome-shaped AM radio, performed by a small acoustic ensemble in some station’s studio designed for live music. Whether this is intentional or unplanned is something only The Choir can answer, but regardless it is there.

It’s easy, and sadly all too common, for an established band to trot out the same ol’ same ol’ album after album, knowing this will satisfy the vast majority of their audience. The Choir think and act differently. Bloodshot isn’t a radical departure, but rather a superb exploration of songs and sounds fused together, creating a record that’s memorable for all the right reasons.

The album is available for preorder on iTunes.

How I Wish I Knew

There has been a great deal of melancholia lately among people I know, many deeply cared for. The young and newly single mother, wondering if she’ll ever find genuine love for the first time let alone again. Another young woman whose joyous anticipation along with her husband of their first child together has now turned to grief as the baby has passed away while still in her womb. The depression monster eating people alive, stealing whatever joy they might have while leaving them numb and indifferent to life’s pleasures. Yours truly, watching his employer turn out the lights, searching for and wondering who will be his next employer if in fact there will be one. To put it simply, not a ton of recent fun.

It’s challenging, knowing what and what not to say when people are hurting. The challenge exponentially rises when you are the one in pain, ofttimes leaving you unwilling to talk about things at the exact time you most need to communicate concerning that which seeks your slow destruction. John Donne was right; no man is an island. However, it is not only the final death of one affecting us all. It is the little births and deaths among those we know, joys and sorrows we share out of love bringing us together as we help each other through the bloody cold mud that life so often churns for us to stumble through.

We laugh with those who laugh, comfort those who mourn, and grieve with those who grieve. Sometimes all we can offer is our presence, as any words we might have to offer sound too trite, too cliched to say aloud. Yet these times of being there are often far more valuable than anything we might have uttered. In a world demanding all communication and contact be at its convenience, with phone calls abhorred and texts answered at leisure, making oneself available for another is a sadly revolutionary notion. There is surprising healing in presence; well, surprising to those caught up in a world of omnipresent communication but minimal contact.

Yes, sometimes we don’t know what to say. This doesn’t leave us incapable of reaching out. A hug, a hand on the shoulder, a reassuring smile; these speak volumes. What matters is the love behind the effort. None of us always have the right words. But we can do the right thing. Even when we wish we know what to say.