Release Date: February 3rd 2023
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Colony House– The Cannonballers (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- Landlocked Surf Rock
- Would Ya Could Ya
- Trying To Survive
- One Of Those Days
- Don’t I Know You
- Man On The Run
- Don’t Give Up On Me
- Do You Ever Feel
- I’m Not Dying
Reflective, introspective music and myself haven’t always gelled that well. Apart from personal, honest, and emotional worship and Christian music; sometimes hearing a mellow track that doesn’t explicitly speak about Jesus, doesn’t actually resonate with me right away. Normally with songs other than ‘Christian’ songs, it takes a while for me to be fully immersed into the message and heart of slower, reflective, mid-tempo ballads (inclusive of artists like John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Jewel and Sarah McLachlan). It’s different with upbeat pop songs, as you’re dancing and toe tapping away to the catchy beat. And you’re possibly not even intentionally listening to the lyrics. But with songs that have less of a radio format; these tracks aren’t that polished and hence not as engaging from first listen. Yet over the past few months, and even up to a year + ago, I’ve been inspired and moved from the get-go by an artist who on the whole is reflective, contemplative, and introspective in nature. They do not sing about the parties and the good times we can experience in this life; but rather this artist speaks about matters beyond the natural. Colony House, who we have blogged about a few years ago here; have released 3 full-length albums, and each speak about heartfelt, personal, relatable and relevant topics- ranging from love, life, God, death, relationships, our inner psyche, the human condition and everything in between.
Similar to Needtobreathe, Skillet, Switchfoot, for KING & COUNTRY and up-and-coming sibling trio Echosmith in theme, musicality and lyrical content; Colony House have toiled and toiled and toiled. And as an opinion, I firmly believe that there is no other album to inspire, to comfort, to encourage, to provide hope to us in this time, than Colony House’s January 2020 album- their third project Leave What’s Lost Behind, produced by Ben Shive. We reviewed the album here; as well as their 2021 EP Rotten Tomatoes. But now the guys are back with a brand-new album. The Cannonballers released this past couple of weeks… and in my opinion the entire album is a powerful, compelling, moving, and hard-hitting collection of tracks which are well worth the listen. With lead singer Caleb Chapman (Steven Curtis Chapman’s son!) drawing us in with his passionate and earnest vocals; this heart-warming, comforting yet sometimes uncomfortable album, is highly needed during these times. I personally reckon The Cannonballers will be one of the many standout albums this year- this project is a must listen!
When I stumbled upon the guitar riff that drives the song it kinda felt like a rollercoaster ride, so I began to form the lyric around the first rollercoaster I remember riding as a kid, the Wabash Cannonball at Opryland USA Themepark. It was just a short ride with only a couple loops in it, nice and to the point. As the ride concluded I would already be thinking about getting back in line for another go. The song’s meaning is multifaceted and alludes to the pace of life we all seem to be living at these days… fast. ‘Cannonballers’ is a short ride with a couple twists and turns, but hopefully by the time it ends, whoever is listening will want to hop back in line for another go.
Eleven brand new Colony House songs [what the fans can expect]. That’s just the basics right there. I probably say this about every new album, but I’d say this is our best one yet! I gotta say that because I believe it. They can expect things that they’re familiar with from the band, things that they’ve grown to love as far as sounds, melodies and themes. But we also pushed it quite a bit as well. There’s some new territory that we’ve never really fully dove into. It’s just a healthy mix of everything that’s made Colony House to this point and hopefully what pushes us to the next level of Colony House.
For those of you who haven’t read about Colony House or their rise to fame, you can read about them in our blog. And now that you’ve caught up, let me first briefly touch upon track #3- the title track and the lead single. Though the single “Cannonballers” virtually released out of nowhere, can I just say that these guys have delivered one of the most compelling and inspiring songs of the year? The melody speaks about a person who has committed a crime and is running extremely fast from the law; and though there is no resolution here, the band subtly encourages us all to not be in these situations in the first place, and they also encourage us to be forthright and honest about everything we do. A high-octane, energetic rock song; Colony House delivers a track full of metaphors and full of passion and heart; and no doubt this song will create some discussion at the dinner table about whether it is ok to run from your demons, or whether it is better to face them all head on, no matter how scary it is and no matter the consequences.
The rest of the album is full of double and triple meanings, as the band deliver a high-quality rock album filled with thought-provoking lyrics. The album opener is “Landlocked Surf Rock”, and is a no-holds-barred, unashamed ode to Nashville, and is a celebration and a homage to the place that these guys call home, as lead singer Caleb outlines that “…There’s a song that is literally about Nashville called “Landlocked Surf Rock.” It’s light-hearted and full of energy and will be the first track on the album. It’s a handshake song so to speak… the “Nice to meet you, we are Colony House” type of song. With that said… it is also the song that has snuck up on us and brought us to tears because of the emotions and memories it evokes. This song talks about our home, being this wild and ridiculous place that will make you roll your eyes at it but not without a smile on your face. We were all born here, we grew up here, we have buried the people dearest to us in this place and are now raising kids here… no matter how far these songs take us away from our home, it’s that “Landlocked Surf Rockabilly kinda feeling that keeps us dreaming” and coming back to the place we love more than anywhere else… Tennessee…” Though “Landlocked Surf Rock” is comical and at times tongue in cheek, the song reminds us all of the concept of a home, and inspires us to always keep moving forward until you belong in a place that is safe and home to you.
“Would Ya Could Ya”, a head-banging bonafide rock melody, describes the sense of getting back to the simplicity of the times before the pandemic, as Caleb reiterates that “…It’s too easy to get used to the grind of everyday life… the hustle and the hurry we all willingly submit ourselves to. “Would Ya Could Ya” is about breaking that cycle…”; while the introspective and reflective early-Swtichfoot-esque rock melody “Trying To Survive”, an album highlight, speaks about working the daily grind and all of us trying to make it through life and essentially trying to survive- making ends meet and ‘…fighting for my life, I’m just like anybody anywhere looking for a purpose here, navigating complicated times, I’m just like everybody trying to survive…’. “One Of Those Days”, probably the most important song on the album, delves into the often-swept-under-the-rug and taboo topic of mental health, as Caleb powerfully and emotionally outlines the hopeless and desperate feeling of feeling lost, anxious, useless and just downright miserable. As Caleb cries out that it’s ‘…four in the mornin’, my room starts turnin’, my eyes are burnin’ with the light, I’m wide-awake, but I feel so tired, I’ve been runnin’ for miles, and I’m still so far away, I will pull myself together but right now I’m just havin’ one of those days…’; we are presented with a melody that peels back the layers of the possible feelings of someone struggling in their life, and encourages us all to offer help to anyone who needs it- especially the friends and family and loved ones in our own lives.
“Everything”, a sombre, melancholy, contemplative and harrowing ballad, can be interpreted in two ways- either as one person declaring their undying love for someone who may not feel the same way or may not know about the love from this person. the second way could be this person loving God but believing Him to not love them for one reason or another. Either way, this song reminds us that humans are insecure and sometimes we can get in our own heads sometimes. Believing that we’re not worthy of love is something that we all need to deal with; but once we realise that some people (friends, family, a spouse, or girl/boyfriend) love us unconditionally, as well as God, that revelation can be freeing, and we can live life more to the fullest. “Don’t I Know You”, a sobering and thought-provoking track, is another gut-wrencher, as it highlights the universal reach that love has on people- that even people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s can still feel an innate love for people they have somewhat forgotten.
“Man On The Run”, my favourite song on the album, is a 4 minute track highlighting a casual conversation between Caleb and Jesus, where he is crying out to God to show more of Himself to him, that ‘…I am a man on the run, looking for somewhere I belong, keeping my head down, keeping my mouth shut, figuring out that I’ve been talking too much, I am a man on the edge of losing it all just to see what is left, I’m holding my hands out, begging for change, give me an answer, show me the way ’cause I am a man on the run…’– a situation where Caleb feels like he’s “…running away from something when really I am just taking a detour back to where I belong. Back home. I’m trying to talk less these days and listen more. Not doing so well. But I’m working on it. I’m trying to keep my head down and figure out what really matters to me. This song is an honest conversation between me and my maker…”; while “Don’t Give Up On Me”, a prayer to God asking Him not to give up on us even when we’re far from Him and even when we make mistakes and fall, is equally as impressive, as the song is thematically similar to Andy Grammer’s song of the same name. “Do You Ever Feel”, a melody sung to a friend from the past, speaks about reminiscing about the good times and cherishing friendships that have ended because of the beauty and symbolism they represent from the positive memories of the past; while The Cannonballers ends with “I’m Not Dying”, a challenge or dare of sorts- where the band inspire us to live life to the fullest rather than to just coast through life on autopilot- “…It’s a song about wanting more than just surviving. The song is about examining yourself and asking yourself the hard questions. At the end of the day it’s a cowboy song about wanting turning over a new leaf, and we think that’s what’s what The Cannonballers represents for not just ourselves but maybe for some you too….”
So first off, all of our albums are five syllables long. It’s something we started on When I Was Younger. We had heard that Kings of Leon did that and we were massive Kings of Leon fans when we were just wee lads and we thought, well, it worked for them, so let’s try it.
It hasn’t panned out the same way for us, but we still believe that it could. When The Cannonballers hit the floor as an option, we were like, well, it does meet the requirements of a Colony House album title. Beyond that, we have a song on the album called “Cannonballers” and when me and my brother were kids, there was a theme park in Nashville called Opryland and our favorite roller coaster was the Wabash Cannonball.
This whole album kind of centers around our love of Nashville and Tennessee because we’re all born and raised Tennessee boys. The Cannonballers pays homage to the old Nashville that we grew up in that is really nostalgic for us.
There’s also this Jekyll and Hyde thing that comes in with The Cannonballers that we like. There’s this dark side that’s more rowdy, rough and tumble, that kind of beckons this road rally, no regard for law kind of rascal, that is a cannonballer. Then on the other hand, there’s this youthful energy to it, just a kid cannonballing into the pool without a care in the world. I think this album kind of dives into both of those. It has elements of this darker side and a lighter side.
Is Colony House being passed the baton of rock music from Switchfoot or from Needtobreathe or from Skillet- at least within the confines of Christian music? It sure seems like it here. For me there’s no fault with this album. Probably the only nitpick is that the album is too short in duration (33 minutes!)- but that’s neither here nor there. Other than that, it’s actually one of the most impactful and hopeful albums of 2023 thus far- standouts include “Trying To Survive”, “One Of Those Days”, “Man On The Run” and “Don’t Give Up On Me”! As we are glimpsed into one of the finest storytelling pieces of just pure art- that will live on and on and on in the hearts of many; if you’re not a fan of Colony House by the end of this exquisite listening experience, then you probably never will be! Will, Caleb, Scott and Parke have created something special here, and something to be proud of. So, jump on the band wagon, everyone… I think I’ve convinced you all enough! If not, then listen to their 2020 work of art- Leave What’s Lost Behind!
We spent a lot of time singing songs to people in rooms with a lot of faces, some of them familiar, most of them strangers. When you look out, for me at least, it’s just like one of the greatest mysteries is seeing all these faces and just wondering why they’re there, how they got there and what’s going on in their life because it’s probably amazing, something spectacular, or even something terrible. It’s something.
I just think it’s really interesting that I’ll just never know most of the stories in the room at the shows we’re playing. There’s something really powerful in acknowledging that and realizing that there is a common thread. No matter what side of the equation we’re on, whether it’s a terrible time in our life or an amazing time in our life, I think we all are looking for, in the words of the song, some light, some hope, joy or fulfillment or purpose. It’s a gift of a song to get to play just because I think it’s acknowledging how special the people are out in the audience, not how special the people on the stage are, even though I think they’re special, too.
Nashville is like a dream you will never fully understand. It is a magical town that offers itself to storytellers, and dreamers. I still feel like I am brand new at this whole thing somehow, even though we’ve been a band for nearly 10 years now, and I think Nashville has something to do with that. You never “arrive” in this town… you never “make it.” The best of the best simply keep on doing it because they can’t help it… For many, Nashville means a fun pitstop or a rowdy vacation, for others it means a good investment, but for us, Nashville is and always has meant home.
Nashville always felt like a small quiet city… in a way, it felt like it was just trying to keep up with the big cities, and I think that’s kind of how our band has felt for all these years, I wanted to try to encapsulate the emotion that this town is a place that keeps us dreaming. Though it has changed and grown into something totally different than it was growing up—it will always keep us coming back.
3 songs to listen to: Trying To Survive, One Of Those Days, Man On The Run
RIYL: Needtobreathe, U2, for KING & COUNTRY, Delirious?, Lifehouse, Sanctus Real, Relient K, Echosmith