How could you not take to a guy like this? Meet David Crowder, in his own words:
I was born half Baptist (the East Texas, King James carrying, pipe organ, hymnal singing, Southern, type Baptist) and half Pentecostal (the Holy Ghost, jumpin’ and shoutin’, hand-waving, prophecying, Southern, type Pentecostal). Later, I was born again.”
I’ve been a fan of David Crowder’s music for over a decade; nobody sounds like him. Here’s my summary of his unique style:
Texas gospel rockabilly
Electronic dance beats
simple, piercing lyrics
= David Crowder
Hee Haw, Aqua Net, and Olivia Newton John
David on his musical influences:
The son of an insurance salesman and a social worker, fructifying in the piney woods of Texarkana, I was as muddled as the name of my town. We drove a light blue Ford Thunderbird; not the old, classic kind, but a brand new one that had a sticker on it. The one with the electric windows and mirrors and the headlamp covers that flipped open when you turned on the headlights and an in-dash eight-track player. My dad and mom both used Aqua Net hair spray. He parted it on the right side and always carried a comb. She got permanents and had curlers that heated up every Saturday night while we all watched The Lawrence Welk Show and Hee-Haw. The eight-tracks in rotation were Elvis, Willie Nelson, Olivia Newton John, and Bill Gaither. Everything I’ve ever done musically can be traced back to there — that Ford Thunderbird, those sounds, the view out of those windows, and my brother punching me in the arm on the way to Sunday morning Church. That is all metaphor and all true.”
After 6 albums, the David Crowder* Band broke up in 2012. But, David has kept making music under the name “Crowder” and released his first solo album, Neon Steeple, in May 2014.
Like previous David Crowder albums, Neon Steeple has a story to tell from start to finish. Although there are a few standout songs that work well on their own, the best way to listen to the album is in one sitting, beginning to end.
Here’s David describing his work on the album:
Neon Steeple is a collection of songs and sounds looking forward to the past and counting the present as sacred. It is a longing for belonging, a search for home. It is a collection of choruses that believe that this is not all there is. There is more, there must be. It is the sound of the Appalachians and Ibiza. Folk music and EDM. The music of the People. Folktronica. Digital and Analog. The Ones and Zeros and the Handshake. The Banjo and the 808.”
Four Year-Old Dance Party, etc.
Neon Steeple is a beautiful album that tells a beautiful story in an unsentimental and creative way. It’s also a lot of fun.
The song “My Beloved” is a favorite of a four year-old in my household. (The video is embedded above, but the album track is a much better version.) It’s a clap-your-hands-stomp-your-feet happy hoedown.
One of my favorite tracks is “Come As You Are” (embedded below) that is an invitation to the weak, weary, broken-down to lay down their burdens and shame.
Another standout track is the southern throw-down “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains).” It’s an aggressive, growling song.
But to pick out those three tracks is to give the impression that the rest aren’t worth hearing, an impression I don’t want to give.
“I Am” is another favorite of mine; I love the ambiguity in the central hook:
“I am holding onto you;
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on…I am.”
Who’s holding whom? That’s the question, isn’t it?
Another great track is the duet with Emmylou Harris (“My Sweet Lord”): just achingly beautiful.
“Blind is the fool, I see that now;
I broke the rules, and let ya down.
I walked alone; now I have run dry:
I need my sweet Lord to help tonight.”
The entire album is really strong: I recommend it.
“Making Dead People Alive”
As much as I appreciate David Crowder the musician, I think I appreciate David Crowder the writer and theologian even more:
Neon Steeple is both a critique and a hope. The meta-narrative of scripture is about innocence lost, it is about displacement, about things not being right and a search for belonging and home and forgiveness and reconciliation, the tension of death and life, what it means to be alive. The story is not about making bad people good, it is about making dead people alive. The story sold is rarely that.
What if we started believing?”
What if indeed?