Tim and Betony Coons (www.giantsandpilgrims.com) are on a year long creative journey together called “Almanac” that includes three main components: Adventure, Art, and an Album. I’m just touching on the Album portion.
Also, I’m mostly giving impressions here of the lyrical content, but I’d hate for you to get the idea that I’m not equally moved by the musical habitat that these guys have crafted to house and co-operate with the lyrics. It’s lovely to listen to. Here’s an album walk-thru review:
1. Shimmer No Waves
The album begins with a call to quietness, the need to create a special space conducive to listening. This whole project seems to me to be an effort for the artists themselves to shape their lives in a listening way. Don’t disturb the surface of the water. Let’s do what may be the hardest work – the work of attentiveness.
2. Written In Our Clothes
This travel song sets a great atmosphere of early morning and the ache to move out into some unknown territory. Maybe it’s into new honesty in a relationship or a new season of life. Maybe it’s into the path that this sequence of songs is pacing out. My first impression was a little escapist, but in light of the remainder of the album that is clearly not the case. It’s a call to transformation, which takes a leaving.
3. Paint Your Tigers Gold
Coon’s lead vocals are just as much a part of creating an atmosphere as the instruments. His imaginative vocals carry a trusting fragility in this song about facing fears together. When fears loom large and it’s so hard to see past the paralyzing terror to anything more true. “Summon all of your rave revelry. Say a word against the indecency.”
4. Ships Passing In The Night
There’s a beauty and an ache in this song. We want to love and be loved so badly. We all know what it is to swing the bat and repeatedly know we haven’t made contact with the ball. (Not that to love is to swing a bat at someone, but you get it.) There remains a promise though that the missing itself will pass away.
5. We Are Proud
“A song that darkens in your blood, that heredity has pushed along, now I’m managing that silent song”. Overcoming the wounds that have been passed down is a frightening task and feels overwhelming sometimes. This song takes it on – until we’re standing side by side ‘shouting the psalms’. It’s never in-your-face, but I am enjoying the many appearances of family members and family life as the songs unfold and how that’s done with honesty and dignity.
6. Run Run Run
At first listen I thought this was a defeated song, but the more I dwell with it I sense a hope that’s less rooted in sentimental denial and instead has been rebuilt more sturdily after the crumbling of idealism. The Chorus calls us to “Run to the edge unbroken”. I don’t think that means that we refrain from brokenness, but that we run though we’re broken and find out that somehow the brokenness was part of what made us whole.
7. Like The Morning
A sweet song of constancy in love. Two voices blending and supporting one another are the center of the production. The production communicates the content here of a love that is not blind or idealized but chooses to always go further together. “Roll your fists let your words cut… And I will hold you closer.”
8. Rally Those Hopes
“House is hot, filled with dynamite. Set the table just to set us free. Rally those hopes pick up the pieces.” I always appreciate artists who can bring the daily grit and normalcy of “breath, blood, and reality” to bear on their work. In this case, the work is made out of that lived-in life. Then the call is clear: keep stepping forward into that daily rallying of hope – “Tell the truth at Winter’s end, we made it through…”.
9. We’ll Be Strong
This one harkens back to an earlier song “Ships passing in the night” with its creative depiction of two people trying to please each other but in the process not quite ‘getting each other’. There is a gift of faith in this song that climbs up higher than two people’s ability to perform satisfyingly for each other. There’s a call into a knowing trust.
10. Stop Glorifying Busy
“When the silence stops who are we?” Paradoxically, our frenetic busyness is actually the shrinking of a life, and to do less is to enter into a larger life. I like the play on the words ‘the least I can do’ here. Does my incessant effort to contain the whole world just compress me into a smaller space within myself? Does the letting go of a loud name-making allow me to expand into the space thus created for a wider life of listening and contact with people?
11. All The Lights
Chesterton is one of my favorite writers. I love him because he walked through some deep darknesses, and yet few writers are more in touch with the surprise of finding that the heart of reality is an unstoppable joy. “All the lights” keep coming on in this song, and they are surprising and fitting at the same time. We thought joy and hope were really gone this time, when they show up it’s like a good punch-line: unexpected but exactly what we knew we should have expected.
12. Breaking Love
I know, in my own story, who I am is made out of the interweaving of many storied lives who participate with me. That means other people pull and tear and thread and knit to make that fabric. Love breaks us to help us get honest with ourselves. Love breaks us to startle our eyes open to a starfield of shining broken hearts around us. “You remind me of the breaking love I need.”
Overall this is a cohesive record. It’s worth the cost of attention if you can give it several listens from start to finish. The invitation of the opening track asks us to join the artists as they create a listening-life. The result is at times a difficult look at life, a ‘breaking love’, that follows through to a surprising contact with hope, not in spite of fragility, but somehow because of our willingness to be fragile.
I’ve just touched on the musical part of Tim and Betony’s Almanac year. Have a look at their Kickstarter video below (the fundraiser is over) to get the full scope of what they’re doing. Then stop by their website to further explore, listen and purchase: www.giantsandpilgrims.com!