I hadn’t bought a “Christian” artist’s music since I was in in 9th grade (and I guess technically I didn’t buy this one, it was a gift) until for Christmas I asked for “Jacaranda,” Josh Garrels’ newest album. A year ago I had never heard of him, but I was one of the lucky 700 that made it to PAPA Festival last summer, and Josh performed one of the nights. He was the only performer the entire week that was called back for an encore (besides the Psalters), and it’s simply because he is an unbelievable combination of lyricism, musical talent, and unique sound. Josh’s lyrics are penetrating, deeply penetrating, to the point of conviction and call to action. Yet, far from an individualized understanding of the Cross, his lyrics seem to combine the personal and global, the rich meanings of Christ for the whole world while movingly reminding us of a joyful, loving Messiah. His singing is more like spoken word poetry, because that’s what his lyrics are: poetry. And while he (quite uniquely) addresses and critiques issues of justice (“Zion and Babylon,” “Rejoice and Lament”), he also has songs that show the mystery of a creator through the beauty of life (Heron’s Wings is about his daughter). One of my favorites is “Rabbit and the Bear,” a creative, story-like reminder of the true freedom that comes in our Lion, very remeniscent of something C.S. Lewis might write.
My distaste for much music with “Christian” lyrics is that often it is either poorly written, lyrically or musically, and mostly absent of anything that encompasses a fuller understanding of the Gospel that includes our participation in the kingdom. This does all those things. His website (joshgarrels.com) has a lot of stuff of his on the main page to listen to. Others not on my CD that I love (but are on the webpage) are Joyful Boy and Break Bread Together. Here’s his encore at PAPA: