Album Review: Found Wandering – Inspiring gospel folk from Philadelphia

Gospel has a lot of connotations as a genre and I think this Found Wandering album fulfills all of those connotations. It’s got lots of great harmonies, a rollicking opening track, and plenty of divine imagery.  This album with its gospel folk focus might take our typical readers in a new direction, but it’s full of inspiring and genre-bending tracks of note.

The first track begins with a theme about going to heaven, “That Home Far Away.” It begins the album eschatalogically, with a focus on the end. It’s a beautiful way to set up a truly unique album. What makes it unique is that folk-gospel blend. At times feeling like a big band full of incredible sounds, other times feeling small and intimate.

The third track “By the Mark” is a cover of the exceptional Gillian Welch (made famous by Dailey and Vincent) track “By the Mark,” stripped down with violins and quality vocals. The whole song has an aura of reverence for its subject. Feeling simultaneously classic and newly fresh, it’s a wonderful take on a track many will be able to sing along with on first listen.

“Greystone Chapel” has a nice upbeat toe-tapping rhythm to it. It is, of course, a cover of an exquisite Johnny Cash. It’s not exactly what you’d call a typical gospel track, but it certainly has its own confessional elements. The song makes references to life inside of Folsom Prison. Found Wandering do a great job of breathing new life into to the track, not the least of improvements coming from the layering of lead female vocals. It swings, and it swoons.

“Hallelujah Tis Done” is the kind of track you’d expect from a gospel folk album. Elements of Appalachian mountain music, sacred music forms, and certainly biblical imagery are prominent in the track. The strings and the vocals work together for a wonderful sound. When the full band joins in, it feels like vintage Nashville meets the gospel of the hills. It’s great.

Found Wandering also cover “Come on up to the house,” a track by the bluegrass virtuoso Sarah Jarosz. The slowed down version takes on a bit of a different connotation, but revisits the end times themes of the album opener. The piano and steel guitar really make the track work. Keeping things down tempo, the album’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” is atmospheric and soothing. For those used to the blaring bagpipe version, this will feel like an entirely different track. The “let’s bring in the worship band” turn after the first thirty seconds or so takes the song in a much more predictable direction.

“The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow” might be my favorite on the album. It’s got a nice narrative element, but it also has organic blues country (read: gospel) melodies. The two-female harmonies that drive the song are really great. It probably feels the most like a song you’d hear in a honky tonk. It’s the kind of gospel tune you’d picture Johnny, Merle, and Waylon singing in their vintage country churches.

The penultimate “They Hung Him on a Cross” is another obvious gospel song. It features guitars and a banjo. It also has an appropriately melancholy lyrical delivery. “They hung him on the cross for me.” Found Wandering transitions the banjo melody into a larger rock band style, which seems again to shift the meaning of the song a bit. It seems that the lyrics intend for listeners to be moved by the realities of sin, then the powerful band breaks seem to encourage a celebration of victory over sin and death. It’s an interesting vision for the track.

The last song “Turn, Turn, Turn” is the classic folk song from the 60s which is, of course, based on a scriptural reference. The intricate harmonies on the song work really well for Found Wandering’s sound. Honestly, it would be great to hear a full album more of this style. The strings really do great work in highlighting the lead singer’s formal and precise diction. There’s absolutely nothing in the song that would lead listeners to believe it wasn’t recorded in about 1968. That’s a compliment.

All told, the album is a must listen for fans of gospel folk music as a niche genre. Also, fans of new folk music will find a lot to enjoy here. Fans of the Rend Collective and Pacific Gold should find this album amenable to their tastes. Do enjoy, dear friends.

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