- A Day is Coming
- Gone to the Grave
- I Will Know Him
- Song in the Air
- Spirit of God
- Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul
- The Sands of Time
- Once I Had a Glorious View
- Shed a Beam of Heavenly Day
- Sweet Rivers of Redeeming Love
- The Sands of Time (Reprise)
Growing up in church, I used to love hymns. Okay, not exactly. I loved them when they were over. I loved them when we would keep it short by only singing the first and last verses, but that was about the full extent of my love for them. But, as I get older I have grown to respect the classic hymn. Not so much the music composition, but more the lyrics. Lyrics that so skillfully meld weighty theologic truth with poetic beauty. Heck, now days I can’t even get through a chorus of “It is Well” without shedding a few tears. Well, Pacific Gold (formerly Wayfarer) is a band that takes these old classics and repurposes them into something very different as opposed when they were originally sung in churches a 100+ years ago. With the new release, Sing My Way Home, PG uses the lyrics of these spiritual songs and breaths new life into them using their brand of indie rock and psychedelic pop.
With the opener, “A Day is Coming,” I was immediately hit with that 60’s “groovy” beat that would sound at home on an old Donavan record, complete with whistling and fuzz guitars. Included here are some excellent female background vocals, who are actually the wife and mother-in-law of lead singer Dan Koch. Also, there is a crazy ‘reverse’ guitar solo, which Dan describes in detail on his Sing My Welcome Home podcast. I should mention that the original lyrics are not always used exactly as the hymn is written. In this song, for example, I don’t believe that there is a single line that is left with the original hymn’s phrasing. There is plenty of information on the Pacific Gold blog, in which there are even pictures of the original hymnal pages the songs were taken from, along with in-depth commentary on the writing process.
“Gone to the Grave” is a hymn originally written by a father whose son had recently passed away. Here, PG does a great job of taking the overall theme of the hymn and reconstructing a piece that brings with it a hopeful mourning. It’s not easy to write a song that transmits such an extreme sorrow yet still be uplifting, but the band pulls it off here. The pace of the album slows down somewhat over the next set of tunes, especially with the beautiful “Spirit of God” accompanied by a soft acoustic guitar. The lyrics here really strike a cord:
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasy
No sudden tearing of this veil of clay
No angel visits, no opening skies
Just take the dimness of my soul away
The pace picks back up with “Sands of Time,” kicking off with echo effect guitars and a nice driving bass line. It’s a little difficult to describe, but all the songs have a certain production that makes them seem aged. Maybe it’s the muted drumming or the ‘distant’ guitars, but you certainly get a sense that the tunes you are listening to are much older than they actually are. In all honesty, it’s a nice change of pace from the super crisp production in most newer music. Not that I would always want that, but it does work on this record.
From the piano driven “Once I Had a Glorious View” to the laid back “Shed a Beam of Heavenly Day,” the band continues to craft innovating instrumentations along with lyrics that have an incredible amount of heft to them. “Sweet Rivers of Redeeming Love,” has an almost doo-wop quality which could leave the chorus resounding in your head for a week or more. Dan has a voice that creates an atmosphere which delivers often meaty lyrics balanced with a sound of gentleness and love.
Overall: In all honesty, I wasn’t sure I was going to care for this record, but thankfully I was wrong. Pacific Gold manages to not only re-energize lyrics from old, but also fosters a style that reawakens musical genres from bygone eras. This record would not only be relaxing to have playing in the background while you’re at work, but you could also spend some time with it and really listen to it. There is some stuff that is really touching and praise worthy in those old words. So, three cheers to Pacific Gold for enlightening me on how much these old songs have to offer, and for providing the musical backdrop that will be enjoyable for years to come.
RIYL: 60/70’s Psychedelic pop, The Followers, The Sunrise