By David Werther.
Josh Garrels, Love, War and the Sea In Between
A thumbnail sketch of the recent history of the music industry would include the following elements: companies get greedy and overcharge for CDs; listeners respond by stealing music online and sharing it widely; the music industry begins to focus on the sale of individual songs, rather than CDs, hoping that listeners who refuse to shell out - for a CD will pay a buck to add a song to their ipod.
Consider an alternative scenario: an artist recognizes that his abilities are a gift and that he is indebted to both the Giver and the audience that appreciates it. So, after months of labor, writing and recording a CD, the artist gives it away.
Josh Garrels exemplifies the alternative scenario. His gifts are extraordinary; his singing ranges from a vulnerable and fragile-sounding falsetto to rap. He is a multi-instrumentalist, who plays guitar, charango, keyboard, bass, piano, organ, and hammer dulcimer and adds sample sequencing. He's also a poet, drawing images from the Bible, Homer, and nature, expressing them in arresting and affecting ways.
Garrels released Love, War and the Sea In Between (hereafter LWS) on June 15th, deciding to give it away for a year. See http://joshgarrels.bandcamp.com/. In an interview with Relevant Magazine Garrels attributed the give-away to a recognition of his audience's generosity (contributions covered the recording of the album), and a conviction from God — in response to a "cliche prayer" — that making the recording available was the right thing to do.
LWS is about struggles. Garrels told Relevant Magazine that, due to divorces among close friends, he has focused his attention on the preciousness and precariousness of marriage ("Now all that is left is what might have been" ["Slip Away"]) — thus love. In keeping with the Christus Victor motif, he has begun to see salvation in more expansive ways, as conquering evil systems, strongholds and powers ("Lesson number one, overcome" ["Resistance"]) — thus war. And, moving his base from the Midwest to Portland Oregon has brought images of the ocean to mind ("Over the waves and through every sorrow; Savior please, pilot me" ["Pilot Me"]) — hence sea.
Songs about trials can be traps, leading the listener to go further inside himself, taking him back to the source of his troubles. However, the transcendent beauty of this "electonica folk neo-soul" music (so tagged on Garrels' website) offers the listener liberation.