Darryl Dash recently met Melanie Penn and told her about music stuff on Reformissionary. He kindly encouraged her to send me her new CD. I checked out some of her music online and liked it. So Melanie sent me a CD for review.
I have other reasons to be connected with Melanie. She is on staff with Redeemer City to City and is a friend of and has played with Mike Cosper (Sojourn, review of Wake Up Love) and Tim Smith (Mars Hill).
I get way too much downloaded music lately, and miss having the artwork and lyrics in my hand. The artwork is well done having the lyrics handy is always helpful for understanding and appreciating good music. Melanie's voice is just gorgeous. It's sweet and powerful, yet she knows how to be whispery and fragile. It's perfect for lyrically rich songs...which is exactly what she delivers.
I absolutely love the first three songs in sequence: "Circus Song" is the opener. It starts the album with anxiety over relational dependence: "I thought I was over you / But I'm not I'm really not // How long, how long until love's gone?" But the sound It's followed by "Wake Up Love" that seems to take the next step toward healing and finding love. It's hopeful but cautious. In the beautiful, light-footed "Ordinary Day" Penn explains, from the perspective of the Holy Spirit (?), His daily dance in the world and in our lives. Much like our common experience of personal pains and struggles with the eventual reawakening to God's presence and providence right in the middle of them.
The album continues through some wonderful tracks. "A Star's Lament" is still opening up to me and worthy of mediation. "Daydream," a Lovin' Spoonful cover, is delightful. I'm a big fan of the simplicity of and Penn's range in "Glass Pane." Rich storytelling.
Melanie said on her blog recently...
I’m glad the Christian community has embraced this album – although I have not tried to be a 'Christian Artist.' I’m not even sure what “Christian artist” means. Undeniably, I am a Christian…and on my good days I am an artist.
I think understanding Melanie's approach to art is helpful. This album is good art, Christian or not. And there's a nice fullness to Wake Up Love. There's sadness and struggle, but there's also great hope and thoughtful Christ-haunted lyrics throughout.
Rumors of a man of sorrows
Circulatin' far and wide
That He'll come back again
But I won't wait until then
I just passed by the town limit line
I walk east leaving Sorrow behind me
Maybe that Man of Sorrows will find me
Won't you find me?
Please say something
But I don't either
The train is coming around
So why don't we?
I'm still hoping
The end is so much sweeter
We'll start trusting
That Holy Ghost healer
As a whole Wake Up Love is poignant. It's never lazy. It will resonate with people who like music about relationships, who've lost in love, and who are looking for hope through the pain. Many songs circle there. It's a very accessible album that rewards the first listen. It's only better now that I'm near my 15th. It's has musical touches throughout that please discerning ears that like to find layers and sound decor. And please don't think this is only for Christians. It will be a joy to many who love all sorts of music.
I should also add that unlike some albums I love, Wake Up Love is great for playing in the house with the family around.
Wake Up Love is easily the one album I've been caught humming or singing when no music is on. This is one of my favorite albums of 2010 so far. Buy it. I think you will fall in love with it too.