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Redeeming the Days

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Oct
Redeeming the Days
Sounds like … an eclectic and mellow alternative pop mix that draws from Terry Scott Taylor, The Fray, Marc Cohn, Charlie Peacock, David Gray, Gavin DeGraw, and Elvis CostelloAt a glance … the relatively unknown James Tealy reveals himself a truly creative talent with this inventive alternative pop EP that's intelligently crafted both musically and lyricallyTrack Listing Dawn Permanent Foreign Is Familiar Blue Horizon ourteen Room to Run

It almost becomes repetitive for us music critics to explain what we're looking for in an artist. While innovation is nice, it's really a matter of finding someone who doesn't sound exactly like other artists out there, someone who's willing to vary their music from track to track, and someone who brings personality to their songwriting (and in our field, expressions of faith). I'm happy to say that James Tealy easily meets all the criteria.

Universal Music seems to agree, since they offered the indie artist a publishing deal for his songwriting. Tealy (actually Thiele, changed to reflect the pronunciation) has worked in a variety of professions over the years: youth worker, indie artist, speaker, author, WAY-FM employee, and worship leader. But the New Orleans native found new songwriting inspiration after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in 2005, changing his outlook on what's most important in life.

Processing that experience led to the writing and recording of Tealy's Redeeming the Days EP. "Permanent" insightfully reflects on Matthew 6:19-21, placing our hope in things beyond this world: "In the meantime, I'll keep a looser grip/On the stuff I've piled in this sinking ship/And I'll hold tight through this long night to Jesus/'cause he's permanent/'cause he's everlasting." The EP's title comes from "Blue Horizon," written out of the feeling of loss from the Katrina tragedy: "We're freeing the gold from the dross/We're seeing the love in the loss … We're redeeming the days." With "Foreign Is Familiar," Tealy touches on the language barrier that hinders us from explaining faith and hope to non-believers as well as non-English speakers. And "Dawn" echoes the melody of Delirious' "White Ribbon Day" while comparing the sunrise to new life in heaven.

Tealy's smart lyricism is matched with impressive production by Monroe Jones (Chris Rice), who helps vary the ambience in every song. Recalling everyone from Terry Scott Taylor and Charlie Peacock to The Fray, Marc Cohn, and Gavin DeGraw, this EP offers alternative pop that's neither too organic nor programmed, utilizing different percussion, keyboards, and guitar effects throughout. I know Tealy has a heart for youth (reflected in the stories behind "Fourteen" and "Room to Run"), but his style skews older, perfect for college age and above looking for intelligent pop music from a faith-based perspective.

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