Sixsteps Records/Sparrow Records
Release Date: September 23rd 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- American Intro
- Keep Me
- Run Devil Run
- My Victory
- Prove It (feat. KB)
- All You Burdens
- Back To The Garden
- Promised Land (Glory, Hallelujah) (feat. Tedashii)
- All My Hope
- Shouting Grounds
- All We Sinners
- American Outro
- Praise The Lord
- Great Rejoicing
- American I/O (feat. BT)
While I may never fully understand why David Crowder split from his bandmates from David Crowder*Band, and it is still a tad weird seeing David make music again in the absence of his band mates (who are now The Digital Age); the fact remains- that the split of one of the most popular bands in CCM history resulted in the popularity of both The Digital Age (with Mark Waldrop and Mike Dodson as co-lead singers) and Crowder’s solo music ministry. With DC*B providing us with plenty of smash hits and inspirational worship melodies, “O Praise Him”, “Open Skies”, “Here Is Our King” and “Everything Glorious”, to “Let Me Feel You Shine”, “No One Like You”, “After All (Holy)” and “Shadows”; David stunned the world a couple of years ago, with the release of a solo album that nobody expected. Neon Steeple was one of my favourite albums of 2014, spawning hits such as “I Am”, “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)” and “Come As You Are”; and now two years later, David is back with his sophomore release as a solo artist, named American Prodigal.
Standing tall at 17 tracks, with David trying his hand at a smorgasbord of genres (and succeeding at each genre too!); we hear Crowder fuse together the acoustic folk nature of his music of late, and the electronic beats and music undertones that have been creeping their way in the DC*B music towards the end of their own music career- and this experimental music works quite well. There’s hardly a step wrong in this over an hour intricate musical experience worth many revisits- in fact I’d go as far to say that this is probably the best album of the year in terms of musical diversity and seamlessness transitions between every melody, each with something to say, and each serving a purpose. David has put no filler tracks here, and just like how artists like Martin Smith and Peter Furler each made solo music work after Delirious? split and Peter left Newsboys respectively; Crowder, and especially this sophomore album, is certain to find the niche market- people who have enjoyed Crowder’s band music before, or if you loved Neon Steeple. Fans of artists like Capital Kings and All Sons and Daughters will especially love this album, and I’d highly encourage you all to check out this 5/5 album out when you have time. Or maybe check out this album, even if you don’t have the time! It will truly bless you and inspire you!
Releasing as singles prior to the album release, “Run Devil Run” and “My Victory” anchor the album musically and thematically, with one being an in-your-face electronic rocker and the other being a slower paced worshipful ballad. As Crowder ardently delves into spiritual warfare in the overt and intense “Run Devil Run”, proclaiming that ‘…I got something make the devil gonna run, I got something make the devil be gone, run devil, run devil, run devil run, you bet your bottom dollar he’s gonna be gone…’, we are glimpsed into a melody that we can declare unashamedly in the face of any adversity. Jesus’ name has power, and if we tell the devil to run in His name, that will surely happen. Not many songs are about the devil and God’s power over the angel of darkness, however Crowder’s offering is sure to promote quite a bit of discussion and perhaps disagreed views on theology. Nevertheless, this song is sure to create quite a stir and is sure to get us all thinking about how much power God has v the power others things have according to our own emphasis. While the more relaxed and reflective CCM ballad “My Victory” vividly depicts the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross. As Crowder earnestly cries out that ‘…Oh, Your love bled for me, Oh, Your blood in crimson streams, Oh, Your death is hell’s defeat, a cross meant to kill is my victory…’, we are encouraged to actively acknowledge our Saviour as being that- the One who saved us from eternity separated from God. What a contrasting yet necessary pair of singles Crowder has released, and a pair of songs setting the tone for the rest of the eclectic and vibrant album.
Opening and closing the album with “American Intro” and “American Outro” (and ending on the deluxe edition with “American I/O (feat. BT)”- in essence these are three ‘songs’ or musical pieces if you will, sung in three different, sometimes repetitive, yet engaging and unique ways (yes, at the same time!); we hear Crowder effortlessly and fervently sing out to God, with the phrase ‘…c’mon hallelujah…’ permeating through the entire three ‘versions’ signifying his reliance on God, and his realisation that it is God who holds allthings together, thus the reason for the simple yet reverent refrain. Yet if you thought that these three offering (or one if you want to call it that!) are weird and simply out of place on a Crowder album, then never fear, as there’s still plenty here for everyone. The rest of the 12 melodies songs on the already gigantic track list that is American Prodigal tackle a manner of topics with subtlety, directness, tact and determination, as relevant issues are brought to the fore.
With the album divided into two parts (subdued worship and loud bluegrass/country/rock), there’s enough here for even fans of one genre, but not the other; to love. The musically intense electronic and synth heavy “Keep Me” features Crowder rapping a bit (something new that I seriously had to double take on!), as he proclaims across stomping feet and hand claps, an earnest prayer. As Crowder cries out and reiterates that the devil keeps calling him to the things of this world, however he’s asking God to keep him from temptation, and to walk in the ways that He wants for him; the quick paced and ‘loud’ melodies continue with the 2-minute harmonica prominent bluegrass and country inspired “Prove It”, featuring KB on guest vocals, as Crowder challenges us to walk in the freedom God has given us, and not say one thing and do another. The confronting and somewhat uncomfortable theme of metaphorical slavery- living like we’re in chains when we’re actually not- is the take home message here, and while it may take some time listening and re-listening to this track to fully grasp the concept of living life like we’re truly free (cause that what we are!); Crowder packs a lot into the 120 odd seconds here that is definitely worth mulling over.
Another high octane, short but to the point rocker featured is the banjo infused and electric guitar rocker “All You Burdens”, as Crowder speaks directly to our burdens, telling them that they have no hold on us any more, that ‘…we shall overcome…’, while the 5-minute country and worship infused inspiring melody “Promised Land” (featuring Tedashii on guest vocals) is chock full of lyrical gems, so much that I had to listen to the melody several times to fully appreciate the musical and thematic layers here. With Crowder fervently singing God’s praises in the chorus, and then listing off God’s amazing qualities in the verses, asking ‘…who has the power to heal the heart, who has the power to light the dark, who has the power to make me whole, oh my sweet Lord, who has the power to conquer death, who has the power to raise the dead, who has the power who holds the world, oh my sweet Lord…’, as well as Tedashii delivering a near flawless 1 minute rap at the end of the song, this melody is like 3 songs in one, but it works in this case, and is one of the album’s stronger tracks! While the last ‘stand up and shout’ type of melody is “Shouting Grounds”, a melody that in indeed made for shouting and declaring, with Crowder unequivocally reiterating his thanks and gratitude to God, as Jesus has delivered us from death, hence we have a reason to praise Him with gusto and passion.
The latter half of the album is filled with worshipful moments, and while some may be put off or disinterested by this fact, Crowder’s successful attempts at worship in these seven earnest offerings are some of the best worship songs I have heard in a while. The hymn like country twinged ballad “All We Sinners” (present previously on Passion’s Salvation’s Tide Is Rising) echoes Crowder’s earlier sentiments that we are saved through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ; and reiterates that we are saved because of Jesus, again reason enough to praise Him. The themes are simple enough, but nonetheless I feel are needed, as we fully grasp the enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Released as a promotional single a few days before the album release, the synth led, haunting and mysterious sounding ballad “Back To The Garden” is relatively quieter in comparison to the rest of the songs on the album, but I reckon that’s a clever and creative way to accentuate the lyrics more, as Crowder asks God to take him back to the garden, obviously a metaphor for God to take him back to the place where he feels the most alive, to the moment where his faith was more alive than ever. We all have our moments of doubt and times in the valley, thus this prayer of longing to be back in the happiest times of our faith is sure to bring healing to all, and comfort as well knowing that Jesus is the One who can restore everything that is broken.
While “All My Hope” is led by brilliant piano, with a gospel like atmosphere permeated throughout, as Crowder channels his inner Kirk Franklin or Israel Houghton. In my opinion, this markedly different yet also refreshing melody is sure to put a smile on all of our faces, as we are eloquently reminded that ‘…all my hope is in Jesus, thank God that yesterday’s gone, all my sins are forgiven, and I’ve been washed by the blood…’.
With “Forgiven” and “Shepherd” being the most CCM songs on the album (and undoubtedly one of them is certain to be an official single soon, and be included on the next WOW Hits album next year!), some may roll their eyes at Crowder stooping down to the ‘level’ of artists like Casting Crowns or Chris Tomlin; although I personally reckon that sometimes simplicity is required for conveying a message that needs to be put forward. With Crowder relaying across simple yet effective synth and keys that we are forgiven, that we can ‘…say goodbye to every sin, you are forgiven…’ (“Forgiven”), and highlighting in no uncertain terms the promises delivered to us in Psalm 23, that ‘…surely goodness will follow me, every promises will be light to my feet, when my heart is prone to wandering, Jesus you shepherd me…’; some may say that these two songs are some of Crowder’s least creative work. While that may be true from an objective standpoint, there’s something special about these two songs, that have me loving them more and more with each listen. Maybe it’s because of the themes not being complicated, but whatever the case, these songs enhance an already inspiring and compelling track list.
With the deluxe edition of Crowder’s American Prodigal comprising of “Praise The Lord” (a keys led, and bass infused reverent worship melody admitting that the more we know about God, the more we’re yet to know, and that’s ok) and the heaven focused inspiring and comforting “Great Rejoicing” (reminding us that spending eternity with Jesus is an event that will occur in the future, and we can look forward to that day!); there’s no denying that these 17 melodies from one of today’s most respected CCM artists are truly magical; with this album skyrocketing to near the top of my list of favourite albums of 2016. American Prodigal is simple one great worship song after the other. If you loved Neon Steeple, then American Prodigal will blow your expectations out of the water!
One of the most progressive, experimental and encouraging worship music albums of the year so far; Crowder still continues to play his music in an era without the DC*B, and here’s hoping that there are many more albums in the future from the talented singer/songwriter. Even if bands break up, their music can still impact, and Crowder has reminded us through his first solo album and now this Herculean effort that a band break up isn’t gonna hold him down- with this album giving us some of the best songs of his whole entire career so far (yep, including the band stuff…)! So what are you waiting for, pick up some Crowder, and let’s have a party with some banjos and harmonica, shall we?
5 songs to listen to: My Victory, Forgiven, All My Hope, Shepherd, Praise The Lord
RIYL: The Digital Age, Hawk Nelson, Skillet, Switchfoot, Chris Tomlin