Gerald Crabb – “Sometimes I Cry”
Channel your inner Johnny Cash for a moment. Maybe even think about this post. Tap into some Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. A little Stevie Ray Vaugh…Some Easter Brothers and vintage Kentucky Crabb Family. I hate comparisons anyways…
When I received this, I largely looked over it. Completely my fault. A moron, I sometimes am. I took a brief listen and mostly wrote it off. And the very thing I wrote it off as, in reality, blew me away. Like most cases, a few times hearing it set me in motion. Due to time constraints, I want to briefly break this down, yet attempt in my humble and individual voice to praise this as it ought to be praised.
And it shall be praised. I completely endorse this project, this piece of art that I have been listening to the last week. There are no magnificent string arrangements. There are no heavy, over-bearing brass orchestrations. There is not even an incredible voice blasting through these old, cheap speakers of mine. But there is a haven for my blue collar roots. Gerald Crabb, to some degree has become gospel music’s modern Bob Dylan. Not a bad singer, certainly not someone who whets the appetite of a concert go-er by the voice alone. But it’s what the voice conveys. These songs are a collection of realistic expectations and heartaches of death, heaven, grace, broken relationships, redemption, family, and crucifixion in a simple, yet utterly deep, and profound way, piercing through the darkness of humanity, it’s doubts, fears, and weaknesses, the stuff of life…just like a later Cash or Dylan would do.
As I sit and listen, I’m in this southern, Appalachian culture, in which I have acute familiarity. Mr. Crabb sipping on a sweet tea, strumming his guitar in a blues-driven wilderness as my grandmother dips her snuff on the front porch, Bible in hand. It’s not something I know I’m going to pop in frequently. But when I do, I know it will be refreshing. Gerald Crabb’s “Sometimes I Cry” in moderation is like a fine delicacy. You have to do it. You have to give in. Not quite as far, but a guilty pleasure in a sense. Like going to that dirty local corner bar as older men and women sit around drinking cheap natty light and PBR, a hazing room as they smoke cigarettes, divorced men, with kids they rarely talk to, women who have not yet found their identity in Christ, and use their bodies as magnets for the same divorced men who no longer find satisfaction in one night stands, yet not strong enough resist temptation, leading to the same sick cycle in hopelessness, and the man singing on a stool with a guitar in hand just relates to people in the room, from all walks of life. Better than a jukebox. This man has lived it. His very essence resonates with each line and each chord. He’s like you. He’s like me. And he pours out his heart as it shadows Christ. And there’s something quietly astonishing in that. It is a testimony of aesthetic beauty in the face of hardships.
It’s true that most of this work would match favorably as a soundtrack to “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” or “Cold Mountain” (a personal favorite…a la Jack White appearance). Solid blues and country bluegrass. But it’s more than that. It’s a man sharing his own life in a way which his music understands him.
This project is not for the average southern gospel fan. Yes, Daywind was kind enough to provide a copy, but I want to call it as it is (I actually had forgotten this thing was even going to be released). From top to bottom, it’s one of the best albums I think I’ve listened to all year in Christian music. That doesn’t mean I think it’ll make a personal top 5 or anything, but the music itself is alarmingly real and contrite, the words are reflective, and the man is a Crabb. I think this kind of album would do well in the country market. The man is essentially a throwback on what my parents and grandparents grew up listening to.
It helps that Crabb co-produced this with Russell Easter Jr. and Jared Easter, highlighting the bluegrass elements as they don’t over-saturate the material as simply a “bluegrass” project, because it is not. Also featuring artists such as Marty Raybon, Weston Hinson, and the one and only Terry Franklin (who can virtually sing any style) among others, make for a special and unique musical piece as well as a poetic memoir of a man’s spiritual and emotional journey.
Now, a quick rundown on some notable songs.
– Sometimes I Cry: Obviously the song of the year should make its way here. Let’s cover it now. Nothing like hearing the writer sing his/her own song.
– Prince of Peace: Up-tempo virtuoso of “Hurt”, at least in highlighting the themes of pleasure and vanity. His own Solomon’s calling card, if you will. This is the kind of song I’d like to watch in the studio as they play.
– Everybody’s Got Some Things: The man has fought the battles. A subtle, depressing song hitting on the vices and failures of the past. The chorus is lyrically gorgeous. It’s an accurately painted picture of a man living with regret. Grace is over-reaching. And that trumps over all. But this is what I feel at failure and sin’s impact. Cross-over status? I think so. Send this to country radio.
– What I Know: Strap on your Les Paul. Enjoy the coarseness in his voice and the assurance of a man trusting in Christ in the midst of a stale state of mind. Great track.
– Livin’ In Me: You know it’s a Crabb project when the Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout. Great blues groove, simple message. The only reason I’m actually commenting on it is because I think it’s a great closer.
– New Man: I’ll end here. This is my favorite song on the project. I once attended a concert in which the emcee essentially said the Gospel is wrapped up in “getting up” after you fall down. Somewhat of an inclusive and shallow definition, but it’s better than one of those cheesy acronyms. The soul of this song is found in the process of sanctification. Being like Him. Getting it right until we are found like Him.
This isn’t for everybody. But if you like music in general, you’ll like this. In fact, you might like this as much as I liked it. I’m not sure what kind of label or classification this would be listed as stylistically (in marketing anyways). I don’t get too strung out on that. The depth is there, but you have to uncover the pieces of the man. I don’t know how much Daywind will push this, but if you don’t get it, it’s bound to have itself attached to a cult-like status. It will find its way in other markets for sure, but Crabb is a writer for the common man. And this effort shows. The brilliance is found in its simplicity.
It releases next Tuesday, September 27th. Grab a copy and be surprised.