I was never entirely sure what to expect with David Crowder*Band’s final album, but I can tell you, it wasn’t the two-disc, 34 track, three act musical rollercoaster ride I experienced.
Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass In C [The Happiest of All Keys]) and its verbose title gives you a sense of what’s to come. In essence, the band has produced three albums throughout the many, many tracks of varying lengths.
ACT I: Rock Opera
Act I is a serious, at times somber concept record that employs plenty of Latin—both sung and spoken—and experimental instrumentation between tracks. The themes of light, repentance, and coming to life abound, and are demonstrated in a number of ways.
High points of this first act—Tracks 1 through 20—include the second track on the album, “Oh Great God, Give Us Rest,” opens not with a bang, but with mellow piano and a simple, subdued plea for God to bring His life into dead places. With David Crowder’s voice sounding amazingly like LIVE’s Ed Kowalcyzk, he sings, “Could you take a song and make it thine from a crooked heart twisted up like mine?” The song shifts into a louder more dramatic dynamic as Crowder pleads, “Let it shine, let it shine; on and on, on and on, come alive!”
Another standout song from Act I is the first single released from the album, “Let Me Feel You Shine,” which is the ninth track on the first disc. Also referencing light, this song features machine gun-like beats, distortion guitars, Hillsong United-like whoas in the chorus and uncharacteristically synthless instrumentation. Attendees of the 7 Tour were treated to this song live, hearing Crowder’s very appropriate second verse: “I lift the knife to the thing I love most / Praying You’ll come so I can have both / What I need is for You to touch me / What I need is for You to be the thing that I need.” This song is all about the desire of believers to have God’s presence in our lives. It is, of course, one of the standout tracks on the album.
There are plenty of interesting and dramatic interludes between songs on this first act, but the one that caught my attention most was track 16, titled “Sequence 3.” This instrumental is hard to explain other than to say that it’s like the soundtrack that plays behind the climactic, triumphant scene in a movie (think “Inception” or “Remember the Titans”).
That track leads into “Sequence 4,” which features Crowder doing whisper-type vocals (reminiscent of Joshua Radin) as he sings the Gospel in a nutshell over banjo and synth interplay: “What a love, your son for my salvation / What a cost, your wondrous incarnation.” That sincere yet subdued, reverent thanks comes across well.
The band plays around with a number of genres and stylistic choices, from the sound effects of the opening track (“Requiem…”), to the Gregorian-style chanting of “Lux Aeternam Shine,” to the spoken poetry (complete with Latin translation) in “A Burial.”
More Crowder-like sounds emerge with the happy dance beat and music box tones of “Come Find Me,” as well as the ambient techno instrumentals and heavy beat of “God Have Mercy (Kyrie Eleison)”—a calmer, more somber version of the beginning of “God of Wrath” from the Can You Hear Us? album. Perhaps taking cues from the Lecrae-influenced “Shadows” on the Passion: Here For You album, “Fall On Your Knees” puts a hip-hop beat behind thankful vocals and rhythmic, strumming electric guitars.
Crowder has some lo-fi moments, too, as he sings in Johnny Cash/Bob Dylan style on “Why Me?” and“Sequence 6”—where it’s just him and an acoustic guitar. This raw element acts as a palette cleanser while listening to the album, and it really works to make each style stand on its own.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra-like “Sequence 1” provides plenty of fast-paced, ascending and descending guitar and piano riffs, and some Pink Floyd vocal moments. The rock gymnastics continue with dramatic choral tones on“Sequence 2,” which is almost entirely in Latin, and has something to do with the final trumpet blast at the end of time.
A poignant moment near the end of the first disc is “Sequence 5,” which is a first-person account of the moment when Jesus felt the Father turn His back on Him. “You left me when I gave you all that I had,” Crowder sings. “Oh save a place for me.”
As Act I and the first disc came to an end, I found myself entertained and encouraged, but I didn’t find many radio hits or congregational worship songs outside of the already-released “Let Me Feel You Shine.” I wasn’t sure what to expect for the next 14 tracks.
What I found was an entirely different experience on the second disc. Two different experiences, actually, as Act II provided more Crowder-like worship songs, and Act III provided new and old country/bluegrass hymns.
ACT II: Church Music
Act II, which lasts from Track 1 through 10, features five out of the eight best songs on the album, and many of them are fresh congregational worship songs. There are a few moments that throw back to Act I—such as the opening mandolin in “Reprise #2” (of “Oh Great God, Give Us Rest”), “The Great Amen,” which repeats the word “Amen” with a choir in growing dynamic intensity and choral complexity, and “A Return,” which includes a dramatic telling of the Prodigal Son story, from both the son’s and the father’s perspective.
The first song that caught my attention in this second act was “Oh My God,” another song Crowder introduced to his 7 Tour audiences. Violins lead the uptempo refrain as Crowder sings, “Death will lose and we will win!”
There’s a seemingly seamless transition into the next song, “I Am a Seed,” another uptempo, hoedown-friendly tune that cleverly declares: “Oh I am a seed / I’ve been pushed down into the ground / But I will rise up a tree.” It’s a knee-slapping, do-si-do-ing good time.
The best song on the album, in my opinion, is “After All (Holy).” It’s the most singable. It’s the most church-friendly. Its music is dramatic; its lyrics are poetic. Singing an empassioned, tribal chant-like “Holy!” catches on so quickly, and the declaration of God’s supremacy resonates well. And with lyrics like “My cup, it can’t contain all of your glory / Hosanna, we are found / After all, you are holy,” it’s easy to see how this song soon will be a staple in churches.
“Oh, Great Love of God” is another one of the best tracks on the album, with its hymn-like verses and singable, electric guitar-driven chorus. “Servant king of rich and poor / Beggar that the world ignores / Oh let me see your face / Hidden in simple things,” sings Crowder. Later in this mid-tempo song we get to a phrase that is, consciously or not, a mission statement of the David Crowder Band: “This is not a song. This is a revival.”
An honest questioning and longing propels “Sometimes,” a song about longing for God’s promises to be realized. “Sometimes every one of us feels like we’ll never be healed… Sometimes every one of us aches like we’ll never be saved.” Pinging synth tones propel the hopeful chorus: “When we’ve given up, let Your healing come. When there’s nothing left, let Your healing come.” The song crescendos to a worshipful explosion of admonition: “It’s your love that we adore / It’s like a sea without a shore / Don’t be afraid, just set your sail.”
ACT III: Grand Ole Opry
“Oh My God, I’m Coming Home” starts off the third and final act of the album: the acoustic hymns portion (Tracks 11-14 on the second disc). The song sounds live, as it just features and acoustic guitar and Crowder’s raspier-than-usual vocals—which sound fantastically raw, by the way.
In the style of B Collision, "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms / ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus (Medley)"features banjo-driven instrumentals, violin accents and an easy bluegrass beat. Crowder and Co. effortlessly meld the two hymn standards and provide fresh sincerity to them.
I had to search Google to see if “Jesus, Lead Me to Your Healing Waters” was an old hymn, because it sounded as if it was an age-old Southern Gospel favorite. Truth be told, this song is a Crowder original, which is evident as soon as you look at the lyrics. The same guy who wrote, “And He set me on fire, and I’m burning alive” on “You Are My Joy” clearly also wrote, “Jesus purify me in your fire / Burn me up until I see / Jesus purify me in your fire / Burn me up until I believe.” It’s the twangiest, most country song I’ve heard out of the band to date, yet it works.
As the album—and the David Crowder Band itself—comes to a close, the stripped down, apparently live recording of “Because He Lives” seems appropriate. As Crowder and the rest of the guys move on to new things in their lives, the lyrics of this old song seem especially true: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth living just because He lives.”
What a way to go out! The Crowder Band knew they had one last shot at this together, so they released a firehose of music onto an unsuspecting public. While you may not resonate with every song on this album, it’s absolutely safe to say that there is something for everyone on Give Us Rest. From the artistic concept album to the passionate worship to the raw bluegrass hymns, Crowder has given us a beautiful, long goodbye that’ll satisfy us for years to come.