Prime Cuts: My Victory, Shepherd, Great Rejoicing
Crowder is a national icon. He's in a class of his own as far as sound, identity, and even his appearance are concerned. Donning a ZZ-Top-esque looking beard with his dusted snug baseball cap, Crowder looks more like a throwback 60s hippie than a worship leader. Likewise, his music defies categorization. Crowder once described his sound as "folktronica" which is essentially the convergence of warm rootsy acoustic driven folk and the metallic sounds of pumped up synth beats and loops. "American Prodigal," Crowder's sophomore solo record, takes the singer-songwriter further into folktronica. However, with this new record, the songs are less esoteric as his solo debut record "Neon Steeple." Rather, the words and direction of the songs, are deliberately more embracing and substantially more nuanced towards congregational singing.
One of the songs that have already made it into the repertoire of many churches and also to the Passion conference is "My Victory." The song is transparently one of the album's lodestars. "My Victory" feeds a lacuna in worship songs as it addresses our need for self-surrender in order to fully embraced Christ's victory on the cross. A message that is cardinally Biblical yet so often neglected. Calling to mind those ancient black spirituals cumbered with a retro-Rend Collective rock, "Run Devil Run" is a jaw-dropping sonic wrestling match between the triune God and Satan. Not to be missed is the cinematic "Back to the Garden." Unfolding like a movie reel with a U2 ethereal howl, "Back to the Garden" is a song for both the ears and the eyes.
With the use of distorted vocals, lighting speed banjos, clipped drums, and waffling synths, "Keep Me" evidences Crowder's belief that all instruments can live with in harmony with each other without genre divides. Though many songwriters have found inspiration out of the shepherd imagery found in Scripture. Few are the songs that actually bring the Shepherd to life the way Crowder does with "Shepherd." Raw and upright honest; the country leaning "Praise the Lord" showcases Crowder's sandy voice giving grit to this worship piece. Great Rejoicing," the set's current single, is an exuberant burner that celebrates the second coming of Jesus. This is also one of the album's busiest offering combusting together both the traditional choir sounds and the theatrical outbursts of electric guitars.
At the end of the day, "American Prodigal" is for those who are tired of the slick and recycled worship music we are often bombarded with. Defying genres and rules, Crowder shows us that the worship of Jesus is boundless and formless. Thus, if you are prepared for something radically different yet theological substantial, "American Prodigal" won't disappoint.