A Third World Symphony for a Fresh Season

Glenn McCarty

Artist: Shaun Groves
Title:Third World Symphony
Label: Independent

The Internet has done remarkable things for the music industry of late. Take Kickstarter, for example, a website which allows artists to raise support for their work by soliciting donations from their fan base. Among those who have utilized this democratic tool is acclaimed singer/songwriter Shaun Groves. After three successful albums on the Rocketown label, Groves went on a hibernation of sorts, devoting more time to his family and becoming a global ambassador for Compassion International.

Now, in a funny sort of way, Groves’ work with Compassion has yielded a new album, part of what seems like a fresh season in the tall, thoughtful Texan’s career. Third World Symphony is more globally-minded and urgent than Groves’ previous work, but just as remarkable in its poignant ruminations on postmodern Christianity. And musically, it’s as solid as they come. Groves combines terrific folk melodies with a knack for spinning listen-twice couplets, like the question, “What in this world ain’t busted? Crowns and cathedrals rusted, is there a thing we can trust in, down here?” on “Down Here.”

A contemplative singer/songwriter album similar to Andrew Peterson’s work, Symphony flies on the strength of its songwriting and Groves’ eloquent delivery. Opener “All is Grace” feels like a call to worship, or something Caedmon’s Call might cook up, with nifty touches like banjo and pipes over the lyric, “Thank you for daily bread, through us fill the empty, Thank you for bodies whole, through us mend the breaking.”

Symphony’s global perspective is truly refreshing. This isn’t an album which seems to be only interested in ME first. Instead, as the title suggests, it places the focus on giving to the needy and finding ways to think globally. “Kingdom Coming” urges, “Till the sword is spared, and the bread is shared, till the dying’s done, let your kingdom come. Till the rich ones give, and the poor ones live, till the weak are strong, let your kingdom come.”

This song could be the album’s unifying anthem. Coupled with a yearning melody and the slightest hint of harmony vocals, it’s a haunting and convicting piece of work, as is the entire album, which benefits from the steady hand of producer Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay). He helps keep things lively amidst the organic instrumentation, placing the focus on Groves’ message and his Cliff Young-esque tenor. It’s a credit to Groves and his enterprising fan base that these songs have the opportunity to reach a wide audience, because this is a project which deserves to be heard.