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with Jesus

By David Werther.

Josh Garrels, Jacaranda (Small Voice, 2008).

           Josh Garrels’ music defies easy categorization. He once described it as hip hop and soul, rooted in the Delta Blues and west African rhythm, with an infusion of folk. However, his mix is as far from a discordant mishmash as one could imagine. Rather, it's a profusion of beauty as one might picture in a rainforest.

           Garrels’ wife, Michelle, is from Peru, where Jacaranda trees grow in the jungle. When she came to Indiana to marry Josh, the Jacaranda tree, in their Indiana greenhouse, came to symbolize “a welcoming displacement as we wander the earth.” Wandering is a choice. It's up to us whether we will leave Babylon with its “careless consumerist consumption . . . described as expensive taste” (“Zion and Babylon”), for our long-remembered childhood dreams of beauty and joy (“Don’t Wait for Me”). If we do depart, the Desert Father will take us up from the dark and cold to our home (“Desert Father”).

           Till then, our rejoicing will never be far removed from lamentation (“Rejoice and Lament”), nor our joy from sorrow (“Desert Father”). In the meantime, the music on Jacaranda is filled with beauty and truth to nurture us as we follow the lion, “with his claw and his crown” (“Rabbit and Bear”) over the flood and devastated land (“Words Remain”). Garrels has given us a table in the wilderness.

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