Do you like to be inspired?
What am I saying? If you're like me then you love to be inspired, especially through music. But you might never expect it to come in the form of folksy roots derived from a singer-songwriter of Middle Eastern decent, paired with a drummer donning the surname, Bjorklund. Does that sound like something different? It is.
I'd like to introduce you to my friends, Dear Saint Isaac.
Dear Saint Isaac is an American singer-songwriter band, based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's a collaboration between core members, Symon Hajjar and Garth Björklund. I've known these music makers for several years. We’ve even had some collaborations of our own. Recently, I sat down to listen to their first, feature length, self-titled release. I had to share my thoughts. This is music I had to hear.
Dear Saint Isaac opens to the cadence of Lately, a tender strumming, self-reflection that, as it breaks into stride, punches you right into the albums overarching theme, the transcendent. No, Dear Saint Isaac, is not just another worship album (as if that's what we need more of). In fact, it's not a worship album at all, but what it is, is worshipful. Take the lyrics, One day you wear the crown/And the next you're in the ground /I want to live for more than just right now, are a good look at what it means to live a life of real significance. Much like the opening track, the album runs a course where it wrestles with soulbearing questions. It's lyrically pensive, but not too pretentious.
In the closing words of Good News Hajjar writes on the sobering costs of real faith, asking, Is anybody ever really listening when they're living off commission/a paycheck can be a handcuff, so be careful what you love/Be careful of the things you won't give up, all the while the track swinging in and out of acoustic strums, layered over steel guitar lulls. It bites at the raw essence of what country music once was i.e. good folk music and honest narrative. And while this appeal, is a throwback to the sounds of Neil Young or Crosby, Stills, and Nash, music I was raised on, by mid-album, you find yourself challenged by songs such as Press On, with lyrics like Orphaned by fathers we may never know/ We were raised by the T.V. and the radio, a statement Millenials can identify with. As the album rounds out, you find yourself marching to Bjorklund's drums on Dirty Feet, debatably the best track on the entire LP. This song is rife with personal pleas and expressions of appreciation for Christ and His benevolence. And what better way to express it than through pocket drums, a taste of bluegrass banjo, and a full choir. Dear Saint Isaac closes out with the melancholic reflections of Hallelujah. It speaks of doleful expressions set to piano and cello that then work their way back to beautiful moments of choral greatness. I like to think this crescendo captures the album at its best. It’s scintillating and wonderful; honest and intense.
In short, Dear Saint Isaac is a well-composed, musically earthy reflection on the realities of brokenness, love, hope, and the difficulty found in longing for eternity, while contending with the human condition. Like us, it’s fractured, but bound together in the beauty that is Christ. The whole album is listener worthy. I’m not saying that just because this is a band featuring a few of my friends, I'm saying that because this is just good music; music that is beautiful, transcendent even. And in this present time, as artists, it’s still okay to make something just because it’s beautiful. You decide.
You can support Dear Saint Isaac in this project through the links below. For the present time, they are offering a sample listening here, through a 4 Song Pre-Release on Noisetrade. You can also catch the video of Dirty Feet here on this blog. Dear Saint Isaac wishes to express their appreciation for your support. They are in the final stages of making the full album experience available to the masses. Be certain you get a copy or grab a download. Support good, local art and give this album a listen.