2 years ago, I was looking through some show posters from Raleigh's music festival Hopscotch and I stumbled upon some work by Doc Reed (Reedicus). I immediately loved his illustrations, lettering and composition and had a passing thought of getting to work with him someday, somehow. As Sentimental Creatures was being developed, I knew it needed killer album art. I reached out to Doc Reed and was thrilled when he agreed to get involved.
It didn't take much for Doc and I to get on the same page. He spent time listening to the record, took the vague art vision I had and expressed it in his unique style. Doc's very first suggestion was - a wolf crying flowers. I loved the idea of using such a cool animal as the icon, and spent some time discovering how it would fit with the album.
Wolves sometimes get a bad rap spiritually, so I searched for something that would bring redemption to this beautiful creature. Immediately, I found this passage from Isaiah 11:
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat…and the calf and the lion and a little child shall lead them…The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra…They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain. For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (click to read the whole passage)
In that one sentence it was settled: the wolf shall dwell with the lamb. This was significant to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, this passage is a beautiful picture of redemption. For a wild wolf to dwell with a lamb, it must first be redeemed. These verses speak of the "renewal of all things," the redemption of creation. Fittingly, the album is full of thoughts of the coming Kingdom, the new earth, the reign of peace when all creation will live in harmony.
Secondly, I love that the 2 animals at the top of this list of co-existing creatures are the WOLF and the LAMB. The wolf is beautiful, wild; designed for greatness but capable of savage behavior. The lamb is pure and simple and is the animal most often used in scripture to represent Jesus and his sacrifice that brought redemption. Lyrically, the only specific name I use for Jesus in this project is "The Lamb." So in view of what those two animals could represent, it is brilliantly beautiful to hear the promise that "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb."
If the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and if it must be redeemed to do so, it must have a moment of redemption. And that is what I think we are witnessing in this album art - a wolf crying flowers as it is redeemed.
A friend told me about a passage in a Max Lucado book, that paints a fictional picture of the start of the reign of King Jesus - A mother and child are hiding out in a cave to escape the wars. One morning following the final battle, the mother comes out to find her child surrounded by a pack of wolves. Filled with fear she runs toward them, only to find the child laughing, rolling around and playing as if with a pack of dogs - the reign of Peace had begun.
I am so grateful for art, music, and creative writing and the window they provide for us see into the glory that awaits us. Dare to believe that in the end, things really will be as good as you want them to be.
I first said the words "sentimental creatures" as an endearing title for my little friendship with my dog. I liked how the words sounded together and soon found it a fitting way to describe my idealistic view of life and people and God. I am sentimental to a fault, but to my advantage I have found a lot of meaning by viewing life this way.
Sentimental: marked by feeling rather than thought. Having or expressing strong feelings of love, sadness, etc., in a way that may seem foolish or excessive. (syn. passionate, dreamy, nostalgic, softhearted.)
This little phrase turned out to be a perfect title for this record, an accurate way to describe the content and a good name for listeners who find themselves in this music. The songs are deep and emotional, romantic and sappy, to an uncomfortable extent for the pragmatic mind. And I think that is ok. It is good to dare to believe that when it is all said and done, things really will be as good as we all wish they would be.
Here is a journal entry from January, as I was getting my own pragmatic mind to submit to my sentimental heart:
"I will never shy away, curb my sentimentality and romanticism. The world is harsh and cold. And if humans are capable of the dreamy escape, fantasies of a New World, let them travel there and be free if only for a moment. For this natural and childish longing proves a future reality that awaits us."
"So what if my language is terribly sappy, overly sentimental and romantic, constantly drawing comparisons from the deepest and sweetest forms of human love? I find it backwards and blasphemous for there to be countless volumes on human relation and to wince when applying similar language to our relationship with the Divine, or to save for Him only cold and formal terms.
Is it possible to be too intimate? Too kind? Too passionate? To go "too far"? Assuming to ourselves that language like that should be reserved for human lovers only?
Never forget what came first! Do not be so foolish as to get it backwards. Do not define the Creator by the creation, but rather the creation by the Creator.
There's no love between friends, no love from a parent to child, no love from a lover to another that is more than a shadow, just a shadow of the Source, Love Himself, for which no words or language can be too extreme."
MAY 12, "Sentimental Creatures" went live on the world wide web and was well received by many wonderful listeners. Thank you for all of your feedback!
Sentimental Creatures is the result of 4 years of writing, and 10 months of work and creativity of some amazing individuals. In the coming weeks I will write a number of blog posts called "Sentimental Creatures For Geeks" sharing some of background information with anyone who would like to 'geek-out' with me. I'll cover credits, the name, the art, and write song-by-song liner notes. If there's anything else you are curious about, feel free to leave a comment or email in.
I miss the music-listening experiences I had as a kid: saving my money, buying a CD, and listening to the whole thing on my discman while reading the CD insert - lyrics, credits, thanks you's, and all. So for nostalgia sake, for you who want to read this, and in honor of the awesome people behind this record, I am writing this credits post.
Drums and Percussion // Mason Self - I know Mason from Raleigh and over time woke-up/clued-in to his unique type of drumming. Mason's playing style is hypnotically groovy, complicated yet easy to listen to, and at times I have to convince him to play louder, an odd problem to have with a drummer. His drumming was a perfect fit for this record, bringing much texture and movement to these songs in a clever way. Mason is a great person to be around; he and his wife exude peace and joy. He plays music full-time for Gungor and a handful of other artists and also makes crazy beats on an OP1.
Pedal Steel // Josh Kaler - Absolutely no instrument moves me like the pedal steel. So for this record, it was no-brainer. The beautiful pedal steel playing was provided by Nashville musician Josh Kaler. Josh has played for many artists including Butch Walker and a personal favorite of mine from a few years back - Jump Little Children / Jay Clifford.
Vocals // Jacob Early, John & Samantha Ray- The vocals on this record were done by me, Jacob Early, John & Samantha Ray. Jacob did a beautiful job singing with me on "Deserve" and "Dimensions." John and Sam, my brother and sister-in-law, are featured on "In the Meantime" "There's Still Time" and "Dimensions." Together we did the gang/group vocals on "Too Good" and "Twenty Four"; since the four of us span bass to soprano, we felt pretty unstoppable together.
Producer // Jacob Early - Jacob proved to be a perfect teammate for me in the making of this record. He's an innovative engineer, ready to try anything to get the right sound. And he's an excellent producer, with killer instincts for song arrangement and development, and a knack for writing catchy parts.
Mixing Engineer // Chad Wahlbrink - Chad and I connected 2 years ago through Mason Self, and I've been blessed ever since. Chad is a very gifted engineer with an amazing discography of work at his young age. So if you need new music go here. Chad came to the beach with us and captured PURE:Live in 2013. It was a joy to have his touch on this record as well.
Mastering Engineer // Taylor Bray - At the very last minute Taylor agreed to master Sentimental Creatures and did a wonderful job adding the a final coat that fit the music very well. I connected with Taylor through my sister-in-law Sam (listed above) because they worked together to make Sam's beautiful EP Royalty in 2012.
Executive Producer // Elijah Mosely and Threshing Floor Audio - It was truly a dream come true to work at Threshing Floor Audio under the executive leadership of Elijah Mosley. 4-5 years ago I heard a few records that came from his studio that changed my mind completely about the blending of faith and music, and I felt for the first time like I knew where I could fit. Elijah is a pioneer, quietly and radically changing the music scene.
Art and Design // Doc Reed - I first saw Doc Reed's art on poster for Raleigh's festival Hopscotch. I was really impressed and kept him in mind for over a year. When he agreed to do the cover art, he absorbed himself in the music and created a piece that has been a perfect fit for the heart of the album. I will share more in an upcoming post on the art and design.
Thank you to all of these brilliant individuals! I am a fan of each of you for good.
LAYERS and LAYERS are being added to the tracks as of late! Our approach to this album is unique because I've been challenged by others (and challenged myself) to play the majority of the instrumentation. With the exception of drummer Mason Self and 1-2 other special guests, I will perform most of the arrangements myself, including: guitars, bass, keys, banjo, horns, and aux percussion. Recent days have looked a lot like the images below - me hopping on whatever instrument, teaming up with producer Jacob Early, and building arrangements for these songs.
THE ALBUM IS ON TRACK TO BE RELEASED in late Spring 2015. It is still un-named at this point and a few ideas are on the table. We are happy with the 10 songs that have found their place on this project.
FRIENDS, FAMILY & FANS HAVE GIVEN $3000 toward the album recording this fall! I am so grateful and thrilled for everyone to hear what they have invested in. There is a remainder of $3,500 needed over the next 2 months to finish the production of the project. I'm confident that all of this will come together in just the right time. Thank you for your interest and support!
Keep the record rollin' HERE!
In recent months, we have received requests for chord charts for some of the songs on the PURE Live CD. We are excited to hear that these songs are being led in various gatherings and hope they will continue to be great fuel for worship. Per-request, here are charts for Psalm 103, Psalm 73 and Behold the Lamb:
Lyric & Chord Chart for Psalm 103 "Praise the Lord, O my Soul"
Lyric & ChordChart for Behold The Lamb
Lyric & Chord Chart for Psalm 73 "Enter the Sanctuary"
This week marks one year since a group of us gathered to record a live collection of Psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit. Release in April 2014, this project entitled 'PURE Live' was a collaborative effort, fully funded by fans and friends, featuring a great 8 piece band, captured live in a home on the coast of NC. This raw, unique, intimate record is worth a listen and was intentionally made as a gift to the listener. PURE Live is available for free digital download on Bandcamp and Noisetrade. Here is a collection of photos to revisit this week, last year:
These shots were taken during 3 days in the studio tracking with drummer Mason Self. Been scheming with Mason for 2 years about doing a record and it's been so cool to see it become a reality. Mason's presence is a blessing, his drumming is addicting and his additions will make this record really special.
HELP KEEP THE RECORD ROLLIN' HERE.