Carrollton – Sunlight and Shadows

Centricity Music

Release Date: September 18th 2015

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Carrollton– Sunlight and Shadows (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. More Now
  2. Let Love Win
  3. Meant to Be
  4. Tell Me
  5. Holding Onto You
  6. Withered (The Jetlag Sessions)
  7. Free to Live (The Jetlag Sessions)
  8. Open Wide (The Jetlag Sessions)

‘…it’s not just about being in a band. There’s a bigger picture to this. If there wasn’t, I don’t think we’d be here today because of the sacrifices you have to make, because of the sacrifices you ask your wives and kids to make. If we weren’t doing this to really try to build the kingdom and, in some way, bring hope to people, I think we’d have better things to sacrifice our families for than just to try to make a dollar…’ This is a very sobering quote by Carrollton, a band signed to Centricity Music. In fact, that quote goes just beyond making music. It goes to every career we as a human race embark upon. If there isn’t any passion and enthusiasm in whatever we undertake, then we might as well pack up and abandon our pursuits. And this is what we hear on Carrollton’s latest EP release- passion and enthusiasm. These 4 men from the hometown of Carrollton (of which the band derived their name) release their new album on September 18th 2015, and with the new album stream via, you can hear the album a week early. And boy, are we in for a treat. Foot stomping, a country twinge, musical leanings to artists like Jonny Diaz, Finding Favour and Rhett Walker Band; passion that is infectious, and a whole lot of fun, comes Sunlight and Shadows, a collection of songs that remind us all that if there were to be sunlight, there ought to be shadows, implying that without the bad times, we can’t experience, to the fullest capacity, the good times. From the promotional single “Holding Onto You”, that released last year, to their first single from the EP, “Let Love Win”; this is an album certain to be enjoyed and loved by listeners who appreciated their first EP, as well as others who enjoy artists like Todd Agnew, Rhett Walker Band, needtobreathe or Jonny Diaz.

Released in August 2014, “Holding Onto You” starts with an acoustic guitar building up to a theme of holding onto Christ no matter what, as Carrollton, embodying the southern gospel/country twang that is present is almost every album release from an artist that comes from the south; invite us into a story of sorts. Presenting a persona who has been ‘…looking for a piece of mind, and I’ve been looking for, a reason why…’, we are called to rest in Christ and hold onto Him regardless of how we may feel, but rather of who He is. With light electric guitar reverbing effects that definitely show us that we are in Southern States of America territory, Carrollton infuse passion with southern-gospel history to present a song certain to be loved by people who enjoy CCM and southern gospel alike. While the single release could’ve meant that this song could’ve been on Carrollton’s debut EP release in 2014, the song nevertheless is on Sunlight and Shadows, as we are reminded that ‘…the sun is gonna rise once again…’, alluding to the figurative nature of how sun and shadows echo the good and bad times in a person’s life.

“Let Love Win”, the first single from the EP, features the band embody Rhett from Rhett Walker Band with such precision (in fact, I almost thought Rhett Walker Band sung the song when I heard it for the first time). Thematically about letting love win rather than fighting battles in our own strength and therefore causing friction between friends and family, right from the first lyric we hear transparency in how ‘…Lord Your love builds bridges that could not be burned, it speaks truth that could not be learned, it’s a treasure we could never earn…’ A standout on Sunlight and Shadows, kudos to the band for standouts “Let Love Win” and “Holding Onto You”; some of my favourite songs from Carrollton throughout their whole career!

Throughout the rest of the EP, we hear the southern gospel effect in each of the remainder of the songs, and while at times it can feel like a southern gospel album and may not necessarily be enjoyed by those who may not like that particular genre, the band nevertheless delve into issues and themes that are paramount for the Christian soul to experience and learn about. “More Now” starts with a big drum beat as the first track on the EP features lead singer Justin Mosteller presents a story song, about a persona with a child-like faith earlier on, but ‘…I thought I was done, and I almost gave up, when my whole world was crashing down…after all I’ve been through somehow, Lord I believe in You more now…’ It’s ok to believe in Christ when things are going well, but it is when things are falling apart where we really discover whether our faith was built on solid ground or not. “More Now” is a testament to the tough times growing a person in every way.

“Meant to Be”, presented with an acoustical driven music atmosphere, sees Justin be at peace with his circumstances, that he is right were he’s meant to be, something we may not see in our own circumstances when we’re in it, but looking back on hindsight we can see God working. At 3:20, the shortness of the melody doesn’t detract from its poignancy and compelling nature, as Justin and the band continue to present themes worth hearing about, from us needing assurance from God that we are loved, are His children and are His no matter what happens around us (“Tell Me”); and the truth that in time, colour, life, vibrancy and joy will return to the Earth in the form of heaven at the end of time (“Withered”), to opening up to Christ in every way possible, knowing full well that when we open our lives to Christ, we surrender full control of ourselves, hopefully gaining the peace that comes in the surrendering (“Open Wide”).

“Free To Live”, one of these songs where I know I haven’t heard before, yet the melody sounds eerily familiar, rounds out Sunlight and Shadows, and is presented in a stripped down “Jetlag Sessions” atmosphere as Justin and the band unveil that ‘…I’m not gonna be captive to the worries of tomorrow…You know the future, and You set me free to live in, so I’m gonna drive on through cause I believe it…’, a theme that we can all embrace. Worrying about our present or future states is only going to be detrimental to the here and now, rather we ought to lay it all on Christ, which is what this song alludes to.

Centricity Music’s relatively new signing to their roster is a welcomed one- a cross between needtobreathe, Rhett Walker Band and Jonny Diaz, this is a band who has managed to infuse country, CCM, and southern gospel all within the one collection of songs. This is a great album if you want to hear an artist that is not within the same mould of CCM, and while it may take some time getting used to a band that doesn’t have a ‘casting crowns’ stamp on them; what occurs within these 9 songs is nothing less than pure enjoyment and encouragement. Well done Carrollton for a great follow-up EP, and one of the most unique and out of the box selection of songs to be released in September 2015!

3 song to listen to: Let Love Win, Holding Onto You, Tell Me

Score: 4/5

RIYL: Rhett Walker Band, needtobreathe, Jonny Diaz, Todd Agnew, Finding Favour

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