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Gold and the Sand

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Nov
Gold and the Sand
Sounds like … a countrified version of John Mayer, with echoes of Ryan Adams, Jakob Dylan, Ruth, and Matt Wertz.At a glance … His stylistic leanings are a bit by-the-book, but Corey Crowder and his band know a thing or two about what makes a good and gritty country/folk song.Track ListingSouthern WayLoveLook How Far We've ComeHigher GroundLeaving YouHelpless HeartInnocenceChangesDevilsSlow DownI've Become SomethingLonesome Road

In keeping with its geography, Tooth & Nail Records has done its part in introducing the sounds of Seattle and its rocking derivatives to the Christian market. But there have been exceptions from the label's ranks, offering occasional forays into hip-hop, techno, worship, and even Latin-tinged pop/rock. The latest square peg in the rock roster is newcomer Corey Crowder, a South Carolina boy with a heart for the heartland. His national debut, Gold and the Sun, reveals his soft spot for Americana, a blue-collar world-weariness that well suits his country, folk, and acoustic inclinations.

Crowder names some of country/folk's down-and-dirtiest exponents as his influences—Hank Williams and Bob Dylan are the first two listed on his MySpace page. Gold and the Sun isn't as dark or gritty. His is a winsome approach, due in part to his John Mayer-esque warmth, a vocal proximity that renders the songs amenable rather than unruly or renegade.

It's unclear whether Crowder's stories of love, heartbreak, and transience are lived-in, observed, or imagined—for his age, he could just be a good student of the classics he grew up listening to. But Crowder has a keen sense of what makes a great country or folk song. In "Love," when he sings of wanting to kiss and make up with a significant other that he's wronged, you can tell he really means it.

The same is true of just about every song, whether Crowder is giving a pep talk to a former lover ("Helpless Heart"), dialoging about life's journey, or dreaming of making it to the other side ("Higher Ground"). You'd wish he'd be a little more forthright about how faith has played a part in all of these travails. Maybe he's just not that kind of guy … but then his influences were.

Not all is gold, particularly Crowder's reluctance to intermarry his proclivities, which he's all too willing to compartmentalize—his folk songs are folk songs, his country-rock tunes are country-rock tunes, his Western hoedowns are Western hoedowns. Some stylistic interplay would have been welcome and more interesting, but then again, this singer/songwriter is just getting started, at least on a major platform. The longer he's at it, the more his various personas take on a life of their own.

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