All the Wrecked Light starts off with a reading of Psalm 90 set to background music and, from there, starts to systematically work its way through the Psalm. Musically, the album stays mellow. Lots of acoustic guitars, strings, and piano throughout. There's also drums and some tastefully placed electric guitar -- the electric guitar in "Dismayed + Light (Jodi)" is perfect -- as well. Despite the various artists, the work feels like a cohesive singer/songwriter project from one group. Dispersed throughout are also some interlude/instrumental pieces. Something like "Kingdom of Dry Grass" is an interlude with some spoken word, but musically it picks up notes of "Jodi" while played on strings. These moments are both beautiful and fittings breaks in the narrative.
Lyrically, the album is obviously scripture-based as each song is a dissection of Psalm 90. However, these feel like real songs instead of a word-for-word reading of scripture. It's another thing that sets this album apart from similar concepts. For instance, "Wrath: Take One" (picking up at Psalm 90:7) has Caitlin Anselmo of Carousel Rogues singing "All this liturgy is a thin defense of artistry. Our best organization of the damnation of the time. Blood and wine just remind the soul and mind that everything sacred leaves a stain. Starting Sunday night, we hide in carousels and wishing wells." There are several other highlights along the way. My personal favorite song has to be "Dream + Fade (Vanity)" with Wild Harbors. Ella Mine's smoky vocals absolutely steal the show when she is featured -- especially in "Dust," "Return" and "Morning." As for the men involved, Dennis Parker has a southern drawl that works perfectly in his songs, Cardiff State adds some lighter/airy sounds to the project, but Justin Schumacher is my favorite appearance.
This concept is executed exceptionally well. Hubin knew the sound she wanted for her songs and vision and then brought the right group of artists on board to help carry it out. This would be an ambitious undertaking for a single artist to pull off, but Hubin was able to do it while working with seven other artists. There isn't a bad entry on this album, and it doesn't feel like a 55-minute listen. Hannah Hubin's four-plus years of work on this project paid off in a big way. It's such an impressive album musically and vocally and provides a deep dive lyrically. I would highly recommend anyone giving this album a few listen-throughs to soak everything in fully. I know I plan to continue listening and finding new things to love about All the Wrecked Light.- Review date: 6/3/22, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
Hannah Hubin: It was actually a glorified homework assignment. For my capstone project for undergrad, I could either write a thesis, do an internship, or take on a project. I loved the medium idea of a collaboration with musicians, and given the time I had already spent in Psalm 90, it seemed like a great foundation to build on. I never planned on an album though; I just wanted a live, one-night production over holy week - something to move my community through Lent to Easter in a creative way. After that first performance, Caitlin Anselmo stepped up with a vision to produce the evening as an album.
Hannah: A few times. Growing up in Nashville, I live in a community of musicians. I had done some lyric work with friends earlier in college - folks I still love collaborating with. But only a handful of songs.
Hannah: "All the wrecked light" is a line from Cardiff State's second song and the penultimate track of the album:
"and i'll tell old stories of all the wrecked light/the memory just like a crack/in the walk on a saturday night/and the breath come to dusty bones/and i'll tell of how a world on loan/was made into a footstool to a throne"
The story of the album is both the story of the created light of Genesis being "wrecked" in the fall and the Light himself - Christ himself - being wrecked on Good Friday. Cue John 1:1-5: "All things were made through him," and in Scripture we see both all things and him meeting death and destruction. On the other side of the resurrection, though, in the new creation, both wreckages are "old stories" we tell of what is real but past, for ours is the resurrected Lord and the resurrected world. When the Psalmist writes, "Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil" (verse 15 - the verse that inspires Cardiff State's song), he's both looking back to all the wreckage of the earlier verses and forward to that hope of restoration. I think that's how we live most of our days too.
Hannah: A wing and a couple hundred prayers. I knew Ella and Isaac Horn and Justin Schumacher personally. The other folks I reached out to via FB messenger or email, explaining the project, sharing the lyric draft, and trying my best to describe the vision. Collaboration cannot mean control, and I knew that when I started, and I know it better now. I had no recipe for what these songs should be - just lyrics and a general genre in mind for each song pairing. It was an invitation for artists to take what I had begun and make it their own, and I started sending that invitation out to musicians I respect. They were all people who work to understand poetry, so I knew they'd try to be true to the lyrical intent; they were also all people who love Scripture, so I knew they'd try to be true to the purpose as well. These seven artists were a combination of crazy enough and kind enough to jump on board.
Hannah: In many ways, I think Moses in Psalm 90 is doing in 17 verses what the Preacher of Ecclesiastes takes 12 chapters to write. "Dream + Fades (Vanity)" covers verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 90, which I think make the correlation clearest: "You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers." Both Moses and the Preacher recognize the brevity of life here on earth after the fall; everything ends, everyone dies, all is vanity. It's no prosperity Gospel or southern-sugared Christianity. So when Wild Harbors sings, "all i've made and saved/is taken with the tide/all i've made and prayed /is taken with the tide," we think of Psalm 90's sweeping flood, and we might think of Ecclesiastes 1: "All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again." When they sing, "vanity of vanities/i thought it was a scarlet queen/vanity of vanities/but it's the preacher in the street/vanity of vanities/the preacher's crying in the street/vanity of vanities/is this what holy men believe?" we're back at Ecclesiastes 1 again, and it's unnerving. We don't expect that sort of seeming-despair from Scripture - from a preacher caring for his flock. But when the song ends with the seeming-vanity of the crucifixion ("i staked it all upon a man/staked upon a cross"), we remember that our Lord himself experienced the brevity of life, the sweeping of the flood. At the same time, we know even before we move to the next song that the man "staked upon a cross" isn't going to stay there. It's the resurrection that leads us to rethink the vanity of his life and ours, and this track is beginning to hint at the way Easter light casts back through Psalm 90 to Ecclesiastes and our own withering blade of grass.
Hannah: I've known Ella as a close friend since junior high, and she was the first musician to jump on board this project. Even though her last three songs are divided, they really have the sense of being one movement, and more so in the live performance. I was confident Ella would catch the vision for how these pieces work together and communicate with each other to the listener. I also knew this set of songs needed a voice that could capture a tremendous range of emotion: grief, despair, anger, doubt, anticipation, and hope. I knew Ella's craftsmanship would be masterful here, but more significantly, after nine or so years of life with her, I trusted her own heart and faith to breathe true depth into these songs.
Hannah: That's encouraging to hear! Honestly, it was astounding how few changes to the lyric draft we made. I know we added or subtracted a few syllables here and there in most songs. I think we added two or three lines to one of Wild Harbor's songs, and we rearranged sections of Carousel Rogues' lyrical piece. I stayed in touch with the artists as they were working, and they all very kindly bounced even the smallest edits off me, just to make sure we weren't making any significant shifts to content. All of the musicians working on this project are incredibly creative, and they took on the challenge of making a song out of my lines with tremendous grace and ingenuity. They weren't intimidated by atypical lyric formats. And honestly, I attribute a lot of the cohesion of the collaboration to prayer. I was asking folks from every circle of my life to be praying for unity for the artists and project while it was in process.
Hannah: This finishes the thought I began above - about folks praying the project into completion. I knew going into it that I was beginning something I couldn't finish, simply by nature of not being a musician. Seeing fourteen research assistants and seven artists step up and breathe life (in that same image of the creating Lord) into this project was a massive testament to the body of Christ as Paul talks of it-making and being made, all in the image of God, all needing each other and each other's work. By the time we made it to the first live performance, I had about 50 folks to thank for pulling it off, and I was already feeling like I was part of something I barely started and certainly wasn't finishing; I was on the edge, watching. The album project brought in another 20 artists. Even that doesn't include the 307 Kickstarter supporters without whom we would never have been able to record the album. That means this album is a collaboration among nearly 400 folks - plus countless others who prayed through the two years of work. It may be an exposition of Psalm 90, but it also might just be the greatest image of the body of Christ I've had in my life. I've had the opportunity to lean into the design of God's church in a way I hadn't before, and that's changed me.
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