Typically, the aim of The Sound Option is to reach fans of a certain artist/band in the secular realm and point them to a viable comparison in Christian music. The main point of this is to get people thinking about the music they’re hearing, and to abandon lyrical themes that are contrary to the Christian faith, in favor of music that supports and strengthens that faith.
This week, our job is a little different, because we’re writing about friends on both sides of the comparison. The Civil Wars started in 2008 as a side project of Christian music pop/rock powerhouse Joy Williams
and her songwriting colleague, John Paul White.
In just three-plus years, the duo has gone from obscurity to performances on the Tonight Show, opening for Adele
, and two GRAMMY Award wins. Plain and simple, the instrumentally stripped-down, vocal harmony-driven, lyrically rich tunes are catching on. (Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan.)
“We’ve got songs that deal directly with loss that we’ve had in our own pasts,” Williams says. “We love to write about these things and hint at it while not giving the whole thing away. If the stories that we’re singing about and the things that we’re speaking of are true, hopefully they’ll draw out the stories of the people who are listening, and that can create some invisible cycle of safety and exhilaration and freedom, and of being transported somewhere else for a little moment in time.”
The band’s breakthrough hit song, “Poison and Wine,” talks about a relationship that is, to the singer, simultaneously enjoyable and destructive: “Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise / I don’t have a choice, but I still choose you.” The band has said the song is about the good, bad and ugly parts of married life. The song “Falling” also hints at similarly broken love.
“Barton Hollow” is a good old-fashioned folk song that appears to be about a man who is on the run after killing someone for money. It’s a fun song to sing, but I just don’t like singing the phrase: “Devil gonna follow me e’er I go / Won’t do me no good washing in the river / Can’t no preacher man save my soul.” As folksy and entertaining as the song is--and I listen to it, happily--I don’t like the conclusion that anyone’s outside the grace of God.
The song “C’est la Mort” is beautiful, but carries a message that one’s eternal destination is important only to the point that one’s lover joins them: “Heaven or hell or somewhere in between / Cross your heart to take me when you leave / Don’t go... please don’t go. Don’t go without me.”
But there’s plenty of good stuff, too. Their song with Taylor Swift--“Safe and Sound” from The Hunger Games soundtrack--paints a bleak picture of war and turmoil, yet calmly promises safety and redemption.
The Civil Wars clearly are a special act. But is there anyone in Christian music that presents such raw musical honestly while overtly declaring the truth of Jesus?
We suggest you give the artful worship duo All Sons & Daughters
A passion for their local Nashville-area church brought former Jackson Waters frontman David Leonard and singer-songwriter Leslie Jordan together. Initially introduced by one of their pastors in the summer of 2009, Leonard and Jordan wrote several songs together with ease, and quickly discovered their shared passion for strengthening the church through authentic worship.
They shared their collaborations at church, and without even trying, caught the attention of a congregant with ties to Integrity Music, a worship music label. When they led worship for the label’s chapel service a few weeks later, it was only the third time the duo had shared a stage.
Now, the band has released two critically acclaimed EPs and Season One
, their first full-length album, made up of the songs from the EPs. Simple instrumentation, powerful, passionate lyrics and seamless, tender harmonies--with the occasional hand clap and foot stop--paint a worshipful picture unlike anything else out there today.
The Southern duo exudes “an all-natural, no-frills honesty” in their harmonious creations. Amidst tender melodies and chiming acoustic instruments, you’ll hear hand claps and foot stomps.
Fans of The Civil Wars should enjoy what is easily All Sons & Daughters’ most powerful song: “All the Poor and Powerless,”
a song about how the seemingly most unqualified elements of society are loved of God: “All the poor and powerless / And all the lost and lonely / All the thieves will come confess / And know that You are holy.
Other stylistic relatives include the reflective “Buried in the Grave,”
the worshipful and grateful “Your Glory,”
the declarative “Dawn to Dusk”
and the inspiring “Wake Up.”
Jordan explains the inspiration behind the group’s unique style and songwriting. “We’ve got to go deeper into the love story of Jesus and dig in the dirt of each other’s lives together,” she says. “In churches everywhere there are people who still feel dead inside. We have to get past the surface level and walk in relationship with each other and with Christ.”
The harmonies and hallelujahs of All Sons & Daughters take the style of The Civil Wars to the next level with a passionate pursuit of Jesus.
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