Release Date: March 18th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Walking On Water
- My Help
- Here We Go
- These Arms
- Slow Dance
- Heavy Load
‘…[the transition] just left me wandering for a little bit and that’s when Shellie and I met. God’s timing was more evident than any other time in my life… I really believed I was done for good [in music]…in the midst of all that chaos and confusion, God brought me back to why I started doing music in the first place…’ With these words spoken by Trent Monk, formally of Monk and Neagle and now one half of the husband-wife duo We are the Monks (like Love & The Outcome and Copperlily); we are able to see the lengths God went to in order to bring about a change of heart as he weaved his story through Trent and brought him back to what was the most important in his life- his faith and music. Acoustic/folk/CCM has been a genre of music that I have been delving into lately, with We are the Monks the latest album in the genre that I listened to.
With artists like Josh Wilson, needtobreathe, Bebo Norman, All Sons and Daughters, JJ Heller, Steven Curtis Chapman, The Sonflowerz and Michael Boggs all showcasing their acoustic/folk/CCM side in various projects in the past, We Are The Monks, formed by Trent and his wife Shellie; are a great addition to the genre, utilising musical techniques to unveil an 8 track album that does the genre of acoustic/folk/CCM justice. With an acoustic guitar, keyboards, powerful vocals, and a swaying beat all musical highlights in an 8 track album that’s a little too short; this is a perfect gift if you love to explore a genre of music that’s unique, quiet, reflective, emotive, powerful, encouraging, and all of the above, as We are the Monks steadily climbs the list of favourite acoustic/CCM albums I’ve heard since Copperlily’s Love is a Legend.
The first song on the album, “Walking On Water” starts off with an acoustic melody strum as Trent does his best to impersonate Bear Rineheart from NEEDTOBREATHE, as we witness a theme of stepping out to follow Christ, even if it is as absurd as Peter walking on the water, or even if it is as trivial as talking to the person next to you on the train or bus (with the Lord prompting us of course). Acoustic pop at its best, the musical elements of acoustic guitars, light percussion and Trent’s passionate vocals are just enough for the poignant lyrics to sink in as we hear a song that can be easily as good without much instruments as a song could be with a variety of them. A song that could easily be at home with various other melodies on NEEDTOBREATHE’s Rivers in the Wasteland, this folk-bluegrass-acoustic melody fuses into “My Help”.
Again acoustic, “My Help” is a powerful worshipful melody- one of the most emotive and reflective songs within this 8 song set. Choreographed in such a way where it could almost be portrayed as a modern hymn (a la “In Christ Alone”, “We Believe” or “10,000 Reasons”); Trent and Shellie declare out the theme of our help coming from the Lord- ‘…where blinded eyes can now behold the light, where broken ones can finally feel alive, where hope is real and peace not far away…’ Compelling and worshipful, reflective and encouraging; “My Help”, alongside “Walking on Water”, bring a formidable album start, as We Are The Monks become one of my favourite independently produced albums of 2014 so far.
“Stronger” brings the pace of song down even more as Trent, Shellie, acoustic guitars and hand claps a melody that reminds us all that we are strong in Christ, and that ‘…I’ve been to the river, I’ve washed in the water and love is making me over…love is making me stronger…’; while “Here We Go” utilises string instruments to create an eerily haunting and refreshing atmosphere as the Monks unveil to us listeners the love they have for each other, that ‘…we’ll never be alone…here we go…’ “These Arms”, another hymn-like melody, plays off both Trent and Shellie has they harmonise quite well in a song whose message is that of God protecting us in His arms that are always available for us to run to and be at home in, which moves into “Slow Dance”, which is neither slow nor dance-like. With a Rhett Walker/needtobreathe southern twang, Trent equates a slow dance to life in general, and with layered vocals, this country-like song provides us all with some perspective when we hear how ‘…the highs, the lows and every turn in the road can lead you right where you belong…’
Finishing off the EP/album with “Heavy Load”, another reflective melody, this time singing about us laying down our heavy loads at the cross, and “Rise”, a radio friendly congregational worship song produced by Ed Cash (and a great way to finish an album with some radio/CCM familiarity); We are the Monks have given us 8 tracks to enjoy and be proud of knowing, loving, appreciating and worshipping alongside; as both Trent and Shellie make this duo one of the duos/bands I’m most excited for- for 2014 and years beyond. While many listeners may compare this unique folk/acoustic sound to Monk and Neagle’s sound around 7-8 years ago; We are the Monks have nevertheless delivered both musically and lyrically- to push forward an EP worthy to be listened to more than once- either on Spotify or iTunes. Well done Trent and Shellie for such an engaging, poignant and heartfelt album!
3 songs to listen to: Rise, Walking on Water, Here We Go
RIYL: needtobreathe, All Sons and Daughters, Rhett Walker Band, Josh Wilson