|The Space Between Living And Dying|
|Study In F|
|Hand Of God|
After reviewing indie projects at Christian Music Today for nearly two years, I’d yet to award our highest rating of five stars to anyone. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I just happen to be a persnickety critic with high standards for a so-defined “masterpiece.”
Then I was finally won over by Jeff Caylor and his exceptionally crafted Okay album. It was only appropriate to award it a perfect five, given the high quality and sheer catchiness of the songs. Much to my surprise, the very next indie project I listened to by Jeremy Casella was equally worthwhile. Much like someone’s favorite impressionistic painting, there’s always something new to notice about RCVRY (i.e. Recovery).
Initially, it was the experimental nature of his sound that intrigued me the most. Instead of sticking to the simple guy-with-a-guitar formula that has worked so well for a plethora of indie singer/songwriters, Casella masterfully integrates piano, tasteful (not dated) synths, horns, and even glockenspiel to surprising effect on standout tracks like “The Space Between Living & Dying” and “Daylight.”
The second half of the album is a little more driven by acoustic guitar, though the arrangements are never boring, thanks to Casella and an all-star cast of supporting players, including Sixpence guitarist Matt Slocum, Normals keyboardist/vocalist Cason Cooley, and piano man Ben Shive, who’s worked with the likes of Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, and Andrew Peterson.
Upon deeper listen, however, it’s Casella’s lyrics that really stick with me. Christian music has faced its fair share of criticism for failing to connect faith with real-world struggles, but tracks like “The Curse” are refreshing and relatable reminders of our common humanity: “Have I been left by the side of the road?” The song “Distress Signal” is also particularly poignant as a cry for community in Christian living: “Brother I can’t do this anymore/Your silence is killing me/Hiding major against minor chords/You disappear right in front of me.”
Well-written, gorgeously executed songs wouldn’t be complete without a great voice to match. A mix of the soft quality of Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay) with the tone of Charlie Peacock—and perhaps even some young Paul McCartney—Casella doesn’t sound like every other Christian singer/songwriter out there. That much could be said for his enjoyable rich and artful songs listen after listen.