The He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still, small voice.
And if the Lord has preceded His revelation to Elijah with song, it might have come out something like Ahna Phillips's new album, Small Seed of Hope. Intimate, unassuming, deceptively simple with depth and richness in its foundation -- this album is not for the casual listener looking for winds and earthquakes and fires. But, when you focus on its still, small voice, you will reap astounding rewards.
I have listened to this album quite a few times through so far since its late March release. The songs themselves are individually beautiful -- each one, indeed, a small seed of hope. But, I think, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The songs are very language-oriented. By that, I mean that the music seems -- though always enchanting and a necessary frame for the lyrics -- like an afterthought. In that way, this album hearkens back to an earlier time in devotional music, when prayers and praises were set to simple, somewhat monotonous, melodies -- so that the music did not interfere with the words.
When you push play on your iPod or CD player, you are transported into a complete and encompassing world. Some of my favorite outposts in this world are as follows:
"Weary One" leads off the collection in a minimalist way -- just a girl and her guitar. But, such a voice! Then, in comes the most subtle and mesmerizing percussion. Wait, is that a banjo? If so, it is an unobtrusive one. There is a meditational quality to this song.
"If I Were Brave" is lovely and kind of funny. There is an unexpected twinge of sadness to it, as well. I like the rhyme of "ocean" and "sunscreen lotion."
"Stephen" is another sad song. If you die a tragic and untimely death and you are vaguely acquainted with a songwriter, they're going to write a song about you. They cannot help it. Since tragic and untimely deaths are none too uncommon, every songwriter I can think of has indulged in the pathos of a death song. And that's OK; it's just sad, you know? That said, surprisingly "Stephen" has one of the more up tempo melodies in this collection.
"Who Loves You in the Dark" is pretty and quiet and encouraging, and I think the arrangement employs a glockenspiel -- and it is so fun to hear and say and type out glockenspiel. I'm always looking for more opportunities to do all three.
"None Too Soon" is the shortest song on the album, and it is one of my favorites. Not because it's short, but because it is perfect. It is a cri-de-coeur that is both a wee plaintive but filled with humorous goodwill about living in God's time.
"Never Not Belong" is another favorite for me. Simply gorgeous and complete in its conception and heart-rending in its presentation. I drew my breath in sharply when I first heard the first two lines of lyric -- you know, the way you do when you are confronted with a stark and concise truth.
Fallen angels could not ache for home like you do
Neither mercy nor anger can make the truth be more true
I do not know much about Ahna Phillips. But, I am so glad -- with that deep, bone-marrow gladness -- that she made this beautiful album and set it free into the world. Go and buy a copy and encourage this talented and needed voice that sows such hope in our fallen world.