The overall effect is a singular type of unsophisticated sophistication—it feels both homespun and skillfully assembled.
The oddly inviting instrumental “Home Shore Highlights” intermingles the organic and the electronic with idiosyncratic aplomb. Listen, for instance, to how the synthesizer takes the lead at some moments, a homely glockenspiel at others. The overall effect is a singular type of unsophisticated sophistication—it feels both homespun and skillfully assembled. On the one hand, the song is little more than a variety of recurring, related melodies on top of an unhurried tropical beat; on the other hand, things feel ongoingly off-kilter and endearing. As different sounds take turns in the spotlight, one consistent underlying element is the hands-on percussion, mixed with a bashy spaciousness that adds three-dimensionality to the aural landscape.
What might be the song’s signature moment, if not an actual hook, is that repeating place in the unfolding melody in which we get an even-tempoed march up the scale: a full, eight-note ascent that, in fact, occurs in pairs—when it happens once, it happens again a few seconds later (first at 0:43/0:51). Once this progression gets in your head, you tend to anticipate it in a variety of spots in which it doesn’t show itself. This makes its final appearance, at 3:04/3:12, seem particularly gratifying
“Home Shore Highlights” is the first single available from Rain Patch, the second Rewilding album, which is due out in April. Rewilding is masterminded by the Philadelphia-based musician Jake McFee, who wrote and recorded the bulk of the album in Glacier Bay, Alaska, where he decamped for a few summers starting in 2017.
You can pre-order the album (digital, vinyl, cassette) via Bandcamp.
Rollicking, front-porch gospel, delivered with kindly spirit by the 70-year-old Smith.
What better for the holiday season than an actual piece of gospel? Nothing against silly and/or sentimental Christmas songs but how much sturdier and more appealing is this homespun, Christ-supporting hoedown? And I say that as someone with no attachment to (or, to be blunt, faith in) Lenny Smith’s particular views of who the Lord may or may not be. But this is a heartening song—more fun than hymns or carols usually are, and as such more inclusive than it might initially sound. Someone having a good time, singing a catchy melody, with spirited, front-porch accompaniment, describing his idea of a happy world, without bad-mouthing anyone but an unspecific group of people called, simply, “the wicked.” (And even those folks seem to be approached with compassion by the kindly Mr. Smith.) This is a rollicking good time, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why anyone is offended by the reality of someone expressing a different belief system or celebrating a different religious holiday. How insecure in one’s own spiritual life does one have to be to be intolerant of someone else’s?
Oh, don’t get me started. Just crank up “How Blessed is the Man,” and see if you can’t feel a little bit blessed this holiday season yourself.
Lenny Smith is 70 years old and has been writing Christian music since the 1960s, all in the so-called “folk mass” style. His 1974 song “Our God Reigns” was a big hit with churches around the world who were embracing folk worship at the time. Family life intervened—Smith and his wife have five children—and he taught school and worked as a carpenter and sang his songs at his church and was very happy with his life. Eventually his son Daniel grew up and became a musician himself—he fronts the quirky-earnest, gospel-inflected indie art pop band Danielson—and sat his father down to record some of his songs, which became Lenny’s 2001 album Deep Calls to Deep. “How Blessed is the Man” is from Smith’s long-awaited follow-up album, Who Was and Is and Is to Come, released in November on Smith’s own label, Great Comfort Records. MP3 via Great Comfort. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.