Wayfarer – The River

Wayfarer advertise themselves as being a band that “repurposes” hymns and spiritual songs.  Essentially what they do is take old spiritual lyrics and create new music for them.  That new music, heavily influenced by Dan Koch (formerly of Sherwood) is a beautiful combination of blissful vocal harmonies and timeless melodies.  The sound is balanced, the lyrics uplifting, and the final product is an incredible album.  Upon first listen (and many, many since then) this is a contender for album of the year.

The Seattle-based inspirational folk band mixes a few different styles on the relatively short five song EP.  While some tracks have a vintage 60s folk feeling, others are a bit more reminiscent of the recent work of bands like Fleet Foxes or Band of Horses.  Throughout the album listeners have a chance to encounter classic spiritual lyrics in a way that may not resonate through the traditional hymns.  This “repurposing” is really intriguing and the music, as a result, has a richness that is often bereft of more recent music in the Christian music subgenre.

It’s hard to decide which songs on this album are the best because they’re all so good in their own way.  I think for the first time I can finally relate to how artists say they like all of their songs the same and picking a favorite is like picking “a favorite child.”  Honestly I’ve developed that type of connection with the songs on this album and can’t pick a favorite.  The opening track “Alas and Did My Savior Die” is heart-wrenchingly honest about the death of Jesus and the music really embodies that 60s feel.  The second track “How Long” absolutely sounds like a track straight off of Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues.  That, for me, is high praise.

The third track “Shall We Gather at the River” is the closest to a favorite that I could pick.  The optimistic chord structure and amazing, jaw-dropping lyrics really fill me with joy.  “Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy songs will quiver
With a melody of peace.”

Okay so those are not original lyrics, but they are effective!  They give the song an overall appeal that is perfectly highlighted through an upbeat musical structure.  The song is a fantastic embodiment of the use of the crescendo.  It builds… and builds… into the spiritual climax that brims in instrumental anthem, followed by the voices of a well-harmonized chorus.  This song is everything I love about music all wrapped into one.  It’s supernatural and I couldn’t ask for more.

“Jesus Pilot Me” follows with similar brilliance.  It has an adventurous tone to it… by that I mean it makes you want to take a journey.  An apt metaphor if there ever was one.  In any event, the driving beat early in the song gives a sense of potential in the song.  It feels like there’s more to be gotten if the listener hangs on.  It does not disappoint, either.  The song, perhaps predictably, is a bit of the Underwood “Jesus Take the Wheel” theme, but with good music and deeper lyrics.

The last track on the album celebrates the core of Christianity, Christ’s love.  “What Wondrous Love is This” encourages listeners to consider the commitment of Christ to die for us.  “Christ laid aside his crown for my soul…”  The music is the kind that would sound amazing in a sanctuary, with cathedral vocals over a rhythmic guitar.  “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.”  The repetitive “I’ll sing on” is celebratory in amazing ways.

Let me put it to you this way; I purchased this album within minutes of my first listen.  There are entire bands that I love and have seen in person but do not own their music.  There was something deeper; something powerful about this band and this album that I needed.  The packages on bandcamp right now are fantastic deals.  I encourage fans of folk music, amazing vocals, and particularly spiritually-inspired music to give this a listen.  It’s the kind of beauty that doesn’t come around very often, so enjoy it.

Get the album free here on Noisetrade.

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