And so it is that, once again, master songwriter Andy Gullahorn takes us in just ninety seconds to a place of raw emotion and opens our hearts to receive beauty and truth.
Gullahorn's release schedule is neither frequent nor predictable, but with 2013's Beyond the Frame and this year's Fault Lines, he's on a strong stretch. There's a fairly strong theme on the album related to addiction and recovery. There are specific examples, like the lyric above, and more general contemplations of struggle and healing. The theme can lend itself to maudlin musing, but there is great hope and promise here. Even the titles are encouraging: "Not Too Late," "Not Bad Enough" and "I'll Meet You There." The latter is Gullahorn's version of a co-write that appeared on his wife's most recent (and similarly wonderful) album, Mortar and Stone. Gullahorn's take sounds like vintage Jackson Browne, and it's a profound chorus of friendship: "Don't fear the long descent. The path's been broken in by saints before us. Each tear you cry will find itself inside that ancient chorus." (Parents, this is a brilliant song to encourage your children through difficult times.)
Another co-write is "If You Want to Love Someone," which also appears on Jason Gray's Love Will Have the Final Word and which lends this album its title. The lyric is based on a quote by Keith Miller: "The way to love someone is to lightly run your finger over that person's soul until you find a crack, and then gently pour your love into that crack." Gray tells a story that encapsulates who Andy Gullahorn is and what Fault Lines is all about. "It was four years ago," Gray recalls, "and I was on tour with him and Andrew Peterson. It was at a painful time in my life, and I was in the back lounge talking with him, and just spilling out my pain and regret. I got done and I braced myself for the point where he would offer me an answer or try to fix it. Instead, he said 'Okay, I want you to stand up, and here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to hug you. And I'm going to time it, and you have to let me hold you for two minutes.' Okay. Awkward. He's a man's man, he's not a huggy person at all. But I stand up and he hugs me and he has his watch and he goes, 'Okay, I'm timing it, I'm not letting you go. And I'm kind of laughing, and then I start crying, and then I start ugly crying, and I kind of slump, and my friend Andy is just holding me. He didn't offer answers, didn't offer me anything except for loving kindness in that moment of pain and shame. It's one of the most healing things I've ever experienced in my life. A real example of him pouring love into a very exposed, broken place in my life."
Musically, Fault Lines is typical Gullahorn, but typical Gullahorn is sublime. He remains firmly entrenched in (or perhaps confined by) the acoustic singer/songwriter canvas, but he fills it with rich colors. Gullahorn is a sneaky-good guitarist, and you have to listen carefully to appreciate his versatility. "Over and Over" is a good example; the guitar is as emotive as any you'll hear. Still, the "acoustic singer/songwriter" label carries with it a tendency toward sleepy background-music listening, and for music of this quality that's a disservice. These songs merit investment from the listener. If there's any criticism here, it's that there are a few moments where a little exploration of up-tempo or instrumental punch might add variety, but these moments are rare.
And if Gullahorn is a sneaky-good guitarist, there's something else he's a bit sneaky at too. He has a way of drawing a listener into a song, through humor, say, or shared experience, and then actually moving that listener from a feeling to a truth. "Is It Real" opens with an allusion to Donald Trump's hair, after all. "Freedom 2.0" is another prime example. Its numerical appendage is a result of a song from 2005's Room to Breathe, but this is a modern autobiographical take on a similar theme (and, of course, not one to be confused with George Michael's "Freedom! '90"; this one clearly has no exclamation point). Give the song a listen and track your emotions. There's knowing sadness in the pangs of distance. Then there's a classic Gullahorn turn that will make certain listeners laugh out loud. He's disarmed us at this point, and we laugh even more in the second verse. Finally, though, Gullahorn moves us, teaches us, and leaves us a bit of a mess as we head straight off to hug our children.
To anyone struggling with addiction and longing for hope (and after all, isn't that all of us?), Fault Lines is an inestimable gift. It's also the rare example of an album from an underappreciated artist that moves the reviewer to implore the reader: find it, listen to it, and share it.- Review date: 1/27/16, written by Mark D. Geil of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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