On the first spin, Shawn McDonald's Roots sounds like a nice album.
Listen to it again. Let it sink in. Notice sonic flourishes like the toy piano on the opening track, Clarity, and the liberal and effective use of strings throughout the disc. Listen closely to how much of the album is scripture, and appreciate how McDonald interprets the verses. Shadowlands, on listen six or seven, gives you a ba-da-bing moment: Oh! Psalm 23. I was just grooving to the syncopation and soulful singing.
On previous efforts, McDonald has been known for being a bit more raw and ragged. This album shows a lot of accomplishment -- an ear for what the song needs, an interpretation, and the skills to execute it. McDonald essentially operates from an acoustic palette but finds a wide range of strokes so the album never blends together or loses a listener's interest. Sometimes, it's not obvious what a song will become. Waltz in 3 starts of a clever idea that winds in a classical reinterpretation of the appropriate theme, "Won't you take me, and make me, beautiful." There are several spaces of beauty and loveliness on this disc, including the final tracks, Winter and Hallelujah, which brings back the toy piano so subtly you barely notice, until you've taken time to notice. But you'll find these things, because Roots grows on you.
New today: It's a quiet new release today with only one marquee release, Colour from electronic and ambient artist Andy Hunter. His previous efforts have been amazing, so we'll give it a listen.
4Him's Mark Harris at Northeast Christian Church on Friday, March 28.
Newsboys at Pikeville's Eastern Kentucky Expo Center at 6 p.m. April 6.