Album Review :
Paul Colman - From the Saltland To the River
Artist: Paul Colman
Title: From the Saltland To the River
Release Date: 10/30/12
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- Is That It?
- Your Cactus Heart
- The End of Myself
- Love is Where You Left It
- Welcome to the Human Race
- I Miss You
- The Best is Yet To Come
- Getting Back to You
- Saved My Life
- Home Again
- One Prized Pearl
- Coming Back
Releasing his first solo album since 2005’s Let It Go, Paul Colman has had an interesting career so far. Founding the Paul Colman Trio back in 1998 until their amicable split in 2003, as well as serving as a guitarist for the Newsboys from 2006-2009 and reuniting with the trio again to release another PC3 album Return in 2011; From the Saltland to the River is Paul’s latest offering, this time not as a trio and not signed to any label, but rather all the funds used to produce and create this album was given by fans via an indiegogo campaign (similar to the frenzied kickstarter). Though this album is made independently, From the Saltland To the River is still a great album from Paul, presenting relevant issues and heartfelt encouragements to listeners with the assistance of many co-writers and musicians, from Phil Joel, Jon Thatcher, Mia Fieldes and Stu G., to Tyler Burkham, Jennifer Knapp and Brian White. With a variety of musical genres on the album ranging from rock to pop to slow reflective ballads; Paul’s down-to-earth Australian humour and honest frankness is very much a part of the record as he relays that ‘…these songs are about the journey from self-sufficiency to surrender. The title comes from Jeremiah 17:5-8. I didn’t want to sign to a label because I wanted to write and release exactly what I wanted to without someone telling me what to do because of the whims and fancies of a particular market…’ With his songs often blunt and direct, leading to this album being perhaps the most unsettling and uncomfortable to date from a listeners point of view, Paul doesn’t stray from the gospel of grace, and clearly reminds us with the encouragement- ‘…here’s to the failures we’re leaving behind, cheers to the future cause it’s just begun, the best is yet to come…’ (‘The Best is Yet to Come’). A certain purchase if you have enjoyed Paul’s work with a certain larrikin attitude, this is an album for those who are longing to travel from the dry places in life to the abundant in water, hope, joy and fulfilment.
One of my favourite songs on the album, ‘Getting Back To You’ debuted on Youtube under the working title ‘The Only Way Forward’ back in June 2012. Playing at a concert in Norway, Paul gave the crowd a night of new music with I think, one of his personal songs to date. Written with his friend Phil Maderia; ‘Getting Back to You’ gives us a great reminder of going back to simplistic roots without the complication of life. Sometimes as we grow up with busyness, technology, circumstances and opinions coming at us from different angles; we can sometimes miss and forget the simple things, yet often very profound, that God is our centre, our circumference, and the person we ought to get back to before we move forward in whatever task we need to do. With Steve Mason (guitarist for Jars of Clay) on the steel lap guitar creating great sounds to accompany Phil Joel on backing vocals; Paul as given us encouragement that ‘…the only way forward is getting back to You…’ Sometimes humans can make things complicated than what they really are. As we continue to dive in deeper in relationship with Christ, we will soon learn that Jesus has to be a part of whatever we do. An infectious cheer and a danceable beat that would make any listener jump up to their feet and dance, ‘Getting Back to You’ is undoubtedly for listeners who may need a little simplicity in their lives as they start to realign their focus in new chapters of life. Well done Paul for such an enjoyable song.
With a variety of musical styles employed by Paul in each of his songs, it is the slower and less upbeat melodies that give us the greatest messages, ‘The End of Myself’ being a great example. Filled with a great amount of lyrical imagery, we are given an honest depiction of life through the eerily refreshing electric guitar reverbs- ‘…been down a rollercoaster, seen a lot of highs and lows there, and felt the thrill just to be hanging on, but life’s no rollercoaster…you never end up where you started from…’ Portraying life as it is- hard and difficult as we sometimes question even the Lord’s presence in certain circumstances, Paul gives us hope in the chorus and explains that life is ‘…the end of myself…’, understanding that surrender to Christ for Him to lead our lives into the great unknown with the anticipation of adventure and discovery is the way we ought to live. Acknowledging our lack of control and thereby giving it to Christ is a freeing gesture, with ‘The End of Myself’ helping to provide some perspective in the process. ‘Alright’ is an acoustic 3 minute track, yet it’s also a slow melody that motivates the soul to believe that everything in our lives, the hurt, pain, heartache and shame, is gonna be alright, and that even though ‘…right now there’s a part of me that wants to let go, wants to be free…’, our choice to disconnect ourselves from our friend, Saviour and Creator is met with more of a longing from Christ to continuously show us our peace that we can only find in Him. While these two songs aren’t similar in musical style, their lyrical messages can’t be more similar- that Christ is waiting for us to surrender everything we have, even the hurtful things we may be even ashamed to reveal, so that we can live at the end of ourselves and walk fully in the confidence that our lives will be alright. Well done Paul for such riveting tracks of freedom and hope.
While many of his songs are motivating and encouraging, some of his melodies seem to ask the questions that many of us quietly avoid. ‘Welcome to the Human Race’ is one of such songs. While many of us may not admit it, we live in an affluent society, and our values and morals have quickly become eroded over the years. Even as Christians, we have been comfortable within our own lives to take notice of any sort of changes. As Paul begins to list what Jesus stands for and contrasts it towards what ordinary society seem to advocate today, I can’t help but see myself in some of those categories, and though not intentionally, Paul calls us each to task with this uncomfortable but moving message- ‘…Jesus was the prince of peace, we’re marching off to war…if he was walking across our borderline, we’d probably lock Him up…’ While most of the song is primarily done to give us encouragement as Christians to stand out and not follow and conform to normal society, the bluntness of this acoustic melody may be a bit much for some. Nevertheless, this heartfelt song about necessary change moves into a joyous song about proclaiming that our best days are ahead of us in ‘The Best is Yet To Come’. This Irish-like pub song is a great reminder of taking the promises God has shown and told us and turning it into the lives God has created for us. While this song can clearly be sung in places other than church, it is Paul’s background as a history maker and a gospel presenter that really shine through as he declares ‘…we’ll prove to the cynics who said it can’t be done, the best is yet to come…’ While proving to people who disbelieve us is a great motivation to change; our motivation should be that Christ fuels and readies the change inside of us. An encouragement is also that even though we can come against trials, God is standing beside us as we dust ourselves off and learn from our circumstances. Full of accordions, acoustics and a great sense of pub atmosphere; ‘The Best is Yet is Come’ is a song for those looking towards the future with great anticipation and hopeful promise.
Paul Colman’s storytelling technique is nothing but exceptional as he leads listeners from story to story as he paints situations and encouragements that is able to uplift and inspire. ‘Love is Where You Left It’ is a solemn song full of light acoustics about giving advice to a couple who are struggling with their relationship or marriage, while ‘Your Cactus Heart’ is sung from God’s perspective as He tells us all the things He loves- even the ‘…cactus heart, your 10 feet wall, your armoured car…’ While on one hand this song shows us how much Christ loves His children as imperfect as they can be, through the acoustic strums and powerful vocals, Paul also shows us the fallen nature of humans, and how we all like to build ourselves shelter for us to hide in so that everyone we meet don’t have to see the real us and the pain we so often feel. ‘I Miss You’ speaks about the travels (especially on a music tour) and how Paul misses his wife and kids and longs for them to be with him every night when they are away, and is also thematically similar relationship-wise to ‘One Prized Pearl’, describing the moment that he met his wife and comparing it to the biblical story of a man seeing a prized pearl in a field, and thereby selling everything he had to purchase the land and the satisfaction and enjoyment of the prized jewel. Paul also delves into the Prodigal Son in both ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Saved My Life’, with each song providing a message of forgiveness, love and acceptance from the Father to us in these energetic songs full of electronics and an edgy rock atmosphere. Yet it is the album closer, ‘Alive’, and current radio single, that sums up the album’s message in general with this 5 minute anthem of encouragement and praise. With Paul Mabury and Jon Thatcher on the drums and bass respectively, Paul relays a message of needing to understand and chase after what we’re good at and enjoy so that we can live our lives to the full, with no regrets and a zest and zeal for whatever lies ahead of us. As Paul longs for God to ‘…take me down to the river, wash me in the water tonight…’, we are given a timely reminder that Christ’s presence within us will be invaluable for the journeys we have ahead. Well done Paul for this great song and a great end to a thought-provoking album.
Overall: As good as independent albums go, From the Saltland to the River is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. Creating a reputation for writings songs like ‘Turn’, ‘Fill My Cup’, ‘Gloria’, ‘The One Thing’, as well as singing the rap section on Newsboys’ ‘Your Love is Better than Life’ and co-writing the famous ‘Something Beautiful’ with Peter Furler; Paul’s 14 track album is a must for any fan of Paul’s, either in the Newsboys, with the trio or by himself; or even for fans of Peter Furler, Phil Joel or even other Australian artists like for KING AND COUNTRY and Rebecca St. James. This album is a great representation of a 7 year wait between albums, with each song providing heartfelt emotive issues pressing at every individual that only God can assist and help with. Recently on the Our Backyard Tour, touring around Australia with Stellar Kart frontman Adam Agee and good friend Scott Darlow, Paul’s introduction back into solo career performing is greatly enhanced by the poetic representation about life, struggles, hope and the restoration of self through Christ our Lord. Well done Paul for such an enjoyable musical experience.
RIYL: for KING AND COUNTRY, Phil Joel, Newsboys, Peter Furler, Rebecca St. James
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3