Music Reviews: A Darker Red Road, Or Obsessed With Faith

October 4, 2021

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Cody Carnes: The Darker The Night / The Brighter The Morning

Disturbed: Live At Red Rocks

Casting Crowns: Glorious Day – Hymns Of Faith

Rooks: The High Road

Dan + Shay: Obsessed


Atlanta-based musician and worship leader Cody Carnes is principally known as a member of the Gateway Worship team, who have a distinctive sound that might reasonably be expected to be evident in this solo debut. Happily – not because that sound is bad in any way, but because Carnes’ own musical identity is allowed free reign – this is not the case. Opener Resurrection Blood suggests Crowder trying out for the Greatest Showman sequel, while What Freedom Feels Like is tight, hooky pop, a la Ed Sheeran. Til The End Of Time, which features Carnes’ wife Kari Jobe, is thoughtful electronica (as is Rooms, also featuring Jobe), and then The Cross Has The Final Word approaches something like a traditional worship song for the first time in the collection (a powerful live version closes the tracklisting). This experimentalism continues throughout the album, with varying levels of success. Banner is a highlight in the final third, a suggestion of how Rufus Wainwright might sound should he make an unlikely foray into worship music, and the meditative Nothing More To Say is quietly powerful.


Disturbed are an appealingly straightforward band, doing what they do very well indeed, but with a limited scope. Front and centre throughout is David Draiman’s powerful, driving baritone. His vocal control is fantastic, both complementing the compact, muscular sound of the band behind him and defining the direction they take through each arrangement. Given the way Draiman interacts with the crowd at this outdoor concert, it’s clear that all or at least the majority of the audience are clearly Disturbed devotees, possibly expecting an established narrative throughout the set. Whatever predictability is involved, however, doesn’t detract at all from the intensity of the performance or the passion of the response to it. Early on, Ten Thousands Fists, sets the bar in energy terms, before Prayer and Stupify highlight the more mainstream hooks. Their biggest recent hit – the cover of The Sound Of Silence that has had almost two-thirds of a billion hits on YouTube – sits plumb in the middle of the set, allowing for a dynamic reset embellished by the also relatively tender Inside The Fire. Then Stricken and Indestructable rev up the adrenalin again before trademark tune Down With The Sickness closes matters with a two-fisted air punch. There’s a definite formula here, and few risks are taken; no boundaries are stretched. But that means no less authority and no less enjoyment – this is a top-notch concert.


A mixture of hymn-like originals and interpretations or re-writes of traditional hymns, Glorious Day is an exhibition in the combination of message-conveying lyrics and memorable melodies to make songs (for the most part) easy to sing – a hugely important facet of worship music that is too often overlooked – and genuinely meaningful. When We All Get To Heaven is beautifully stripped down – picked acoustic guitar, violins and magnificently matched vocals in a folky arrangement that is at once true to the original and refreshingly different. My Jesus I Love Thee does something similar, but in a reflective minor key that promotes thoughtfulness. Blessed Redeemer is a great example of Casting Crowns‘ sure hand with inspiring, swelling dynamics – heart-lifting stuff even without the encouraging lyrics that go with the music. There is also a good balance between more contemporary ways of phrasing things – as in the 2005 original Praise You In This Storm – versus the more traditional Sweet Hour Of Prayer or I Surrender All (All To Jesus). Whichever your preference, this a well-curated collection – wonderful to simply listen to, and a meaningful aid to personal worship if you’d like to engage with it in that way.


Canadian three-piece Rooks come from Calgary, a city known for its many progressive arts institutions and programmes. It sounds, though, like their primary inspiration comes not from those surroundings, but from much further south – Georgia, perhaps, where The Black Crowes were formed; or Texas, home of ZZ Top. The High Road is packed with Southern Rock-tinged guitar-driven tunes that could have soundtracked the Seventies, but for, perhaps, Canyons and Ghosts, two more meandering, atmospheric tracks that add a bit of a proggy, keyboard-layered colour and wander into the Eighties in nostalgia terms. Such musical looking back, however, does nothing to impede the progress of Rooks in terms of their stating their case as convincing rockers. Early on, Connection is a high point, its spare but unavoidable guitar hook all that is needed to propel the piece to its fist-in-the-air chorus. Vagrant Dreams is brisker and more muscled and the relatively poppy Fire, if it doesn’t already involve strutting on stage, really should. Yeah is pretty much the summation of the philosophy here – toe-tapping, head-nodding rhythms, agreeably chunky guitars and a chorus that unashamedly proclaims, “I sing that old rock and roll, a chorus everybody knows, something you’ve all heard before” before the whole band yells, “Yeah!”. Hometown Hero is a late standout with a different template, a ballad that could have come from the pen of The Waterboys’ Mike Scott. Listeners hoping for something avant-garde or boundary-shifting, look away. This is proudly mainstream retro rock ‘n roll that’s well written, played and produced.


Nashville-based country-pop duo Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney tap deeply into the heritage of their hometown and combine their excellent voices – they’re primarily singers; Smyers plays guitar, but their arrangements are handled by session players – with widescreen production and strong songwriting (they’re involved in almost all the tracks here) for undeniable mainstream appeal. It’s mainstream in the sense in that the subject matter in the lyrics – women and the trials of relationships; driving; love and being in love; mash-ups of all of these – is the stuff of almost all country music, and there are also added pop touches (Smyers co-produces with Scott Hendricks, who has helmed albums for Blake Shelton and Faith Hill, among other genre luminaries) that further help the songs to sit comfortably in the listener’s psyche. There is no real filler, and tracklist highlights are evenly distributed. Opener All Nighter is four-on-the-floor guitar pop; From The Ground Up is a tear-jerking, strings-soaked ballad; How Not To explores the emotional confusion inherent in trying to let go of someone you love; and the title track, which closes the album, is beautifully produced lounge music with fantastic horn arrangements.

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