Song of the Day: The Prayer Chain - Fifty-Eight

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I had this song on my mind the other day as I was thinking about what song I was going to choose for this week. The modus operandi: Ruminate on a song and make a choice. Find it on YouTube. Listen while I’m writing. Dang. I’ve loved this song for years, but was still surprised at how good it sounded more than 2 decades after it was recorded. I highly recommend headphones!

This song has so many layers. So many things that make it great. It’s difficult to know where to begin. The clever title? It’s a reference to the time-signature (5/8). Or is there something more? Something even more cryptic.

Lyrically, it kills me:

He learned to run, when I learned to walk.

As a kid who grew up without his dad, this song slays me. In fact, my father also left when I was an infant . . . for reasons too complicated to go into here. But this post isn’t about me. It’s about a fantastic song.

The guitar tones are immense, and they hint at what’s to come on their next album, one regarded by many fans as their magnum opus. And while Mercury is indeed a great album, my heart has always been drawn towards Shawl. Sure it sounds a little date nowadays. A product of its time. Equal parts grunge and jangly alt-rock. Signs of a band coming to terms with its own sound. Its own creative force. Much like “Fighty-Eight” itself.

It speaks of a child growing up on the fringe of traditional definitions of family. Written and performed by a band on the edge of conventional Christianity (whatever that even means). This songs epitomizes not only the band’s career (in this writer’s opinion), but the entire 90s Christian alternative scene.

Why won’t you love me?
Why won’t you hold me?
Why won’t you love me?
Why won’t you hold me?

If any of that sounds trite or cheesy, you probably weren’t there.

Live version here:

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John wornall
John wornall
September 11, 2020 4:22 pm

Love that album! Also, the Whirlpool ep before Shawl was really strong. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get into Mercury. I tried.
I wish I bought the Shawl vinyl album when I had the chance.

Last edited 2 months ago by John wornall
Roland Werner
Roland Werner
September 25, 2020 6:51 pm
Reply to  John wornall

FYI: The Prayer Chain re-stocked some copies of ‘Shawl’ on their Bandcamp page. Looks like they still have Black, White, and Red vinyl versions available.

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