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Caedmon's Call - 40 Acres Is Not That Big

  • 1999 10 May
Caedmon's Call - 40 Acres Is Not That Big
"For you so loved the unlovable that you gave the ineffable. That who so believes the unbelievable will gain the unattainable."
--from "There You Go" written by Aaron Tate


by Dan MacIntosh for the Music Channel at

Caedmon's Call's new album is called 40 Acres, which is -- when subtracted from the landmass of planet earth -- a rather small plot of land. Yet, with their gentle, acoustic rock sound and wide-ranging topical songs, Caedmon's Call still covers a lot of musical ground.

Its most fertile harvesting territory is among college-aged listeners. And compared to what seems like a tractor convoy of musical harvesters who minister to the teen or the adult contemporary groves, Christian musicians who reach out to collegians are few and far between.

Nevertheless, those collegiate years are just as pivotal as any other -- if not more so.

"I think college is a time where you take all the things you learned growing up at home -- and all your sheltered times with your youth groups or your church groups -- with you when you move away and go to school," explains organist Randy Holsapple. "And then it's time to apply everything you've learned."

Much like with educational pursuits, many find that while they may have once thought themselves prepared for the great big world out there, they quickly come to the realization of just how much they don't know.

"You usually get into some things you weren't ready for, or you haven't dealt with before," continues Holsapple. "It's a whole different set of problems, and it's a time where you learn how to use the tools you have."

Stepping into that gap, and helping young adults to cope with this transition is where Caedmon's Call feels it is called to minister.

"I think there's a need there," says Holsapple. "They are our peers, and that's who we feel called to minister to."

This folk-rock outfit has grown from being little more than a local favorite, to becoming one of Christian music's most popular acts. Part of these growing pains involved the difficult experience of watching its previous record company (Warner Alliance) struggle to keep its head above water, which resulted in Caedmon's Call's decision to leave the company.

Although the move to Essential Records has been a fruitful one, it was never an intentional plan.

"Warner Burbank," says Holsapple "decided that Warner Alliance, I guess, was not that important to them, and they started downsizing. They laid off somewhere between eleven and fourteen people -- and a lot of these were our close friends."

"Arrangements were made for bands to get off the label, so in Christmas of 1997 we were released from Warner Alliance, and ended up signing a deal with Essential."

With 40 Acres, this Houston-based group has made a more rootsy sounding album than its previous self-titled 1997 release. Listeners will hear the added sounds of "harmonica, accordion, and believe it or not, trash cans," explains Holsapple. "I think it represents the band sound-wise more than the last record did."

The group worked with producer Glen Rosenstein this time out. Rosenstein's credits include such notable names as Ziggy Marley, Madonna, and U2 in the secular realm. He also produced the new album from their new labelmates Plumb.

"There's not as much power rock guitar on this record," says Holsapple, when asked how this album differs from the last one. "It's a little more acoustic than the last one."

"There are songs on here that talk about struggles," explains Holsapple, when asked about this recording's lyrical themes. "Struggles with faith, or wanting to walk off the line. Just real true feelings that we have as Christians."

As fans of Caedmon's Call know, the songwriting duties in the group are almost evenly divided between the compositions of Aaron Tate, and the writings of Derek Webb. Their works reveal very different approaches to the creative process.

Whereas Webb will often begin his songs with an observation about the physical world ("Faith My Eye" begins with the line "As I survey the ground for ants") and then proceeds to ponder the spiritual through the lens of the physical. Tate oftentimes starts his songs with something spiritual ("Shifting Sand" starts with the line "Sometimes I believe all the lies") before he applies these metaphysical truths to the physical realm.

Even still, these two approaches meld together seamlessly on the new project, with a sound that is trademark Caedmon's Call. Welltrademark recorded Caedmon's Call. Without a doubt, the live setting is where the band is at their best. Whereas other bands may reach their full potential within the recording process, letting the studio be the tool that brings out their strengths as a band, Caedmon's Call shines brightest in front of an audience.

"I think live is where it all happens," states Holsapple. "In the studio, sometimes you just can't get across what you do live; whether it's because of the energy of the audience, or whatever."

Part of their live "magic" comes from the fact that their concerts have almost a communal spirit - the band has perfected the art of relating to their audience. "Caedmon's Call is much larger than seven people on stage," says Holsapple. "Everybody's involved: from the crew, to the management, to the fans. It's all one thing. And I think we all feel that way, and I think that comes across. I think that the people who follow us feel close to us because of that. There's really no line (of division) there."

Caedmon's Call is as much a family, as it is a musical outfit. They make their fans feel as if they too are also are a part of this extended family. "We make ourselves accessible," says Holsapple. "When we get through playing, we like to go out to talk to our fans. We -- as a band -- get a whole lot out of doing that. It's great to get through playing, and talk to people and hear what they have to say."

Caedmon's Call is still a little thunder-struck by all of the attention they are receiving of late. Their debut album sold over 250,00 units, and Essential believes that the group has only "scratched the surface" when it comes to reaching those in the college-aged audience.

"The band started out with two or three people wanting to learn a Rich Mullins song to play in Sunday school," says Holsapple of this group's humble beginnings.

From the Sunday school room to the concert hall, Caedmon's Call has covered much ground. And with the release of 40 Acres, Essential can expect to get a lot more mileage out of this group.

The album's cover is an aerial view of a green valley, with patches of land blocked off for farming. It reminds us that although our journeys in this life may seem long, from God's eternal perspective, they're sometimes not nearly as overwhelming as we'd first suspected. Muck like how our big world seems much smaller when viewed from the window of an airplane. With their comforting music, and life-affirming lyrics, {{Caedmon's Call}} brings a little of God's viewpoint to this life, adding joy to the journey.