Wednesday, February 26, 2014

prayer minstrel: Josh Garrels

It has been several months since my last Prayer Minstrel post. I figured I should break that cycle and post another one!

Josh Garrels. You'd think this guy came straight out of Portland, Oregon, but he's actually from Indiana. He is pretty much the epitome of a hipster who collided into Jesus. A pretty fab combination if I do say so myself! He is one of those musicians that accompanies you throughout life's seasons. I first began listening to him in early 2012 when I saw a free download for one of his albums online. I don't think you can place his music into one particular style. From folk-country, rap, indie, to acoustic groove. He is very colorful with his songs and instrumental arrangements. I love it when an artist can blend together their own unique style without trying to either imitate the styles that are popular nowadays or make something so out-of-the-box weird that you're left figuring out what exactly they are trying to create. Garrels is a visionary and pioneer as a musician. There are few out there, particularly in the Christian music scene, that are moving ahead with as much vigor as he. I think it is especially profound when you cannot just label an artist as Christian. He doesn't fit into one category because his music transcends those bounds. He uses themes that unite all dimensions of humanity but also pulls listeners back to their Creator. He is specific without being preachy, but all-encompassing without being vague. Good job, Garrels. I predict his music will outlast generations.

While I enjoy weaving together the right words to reflect an artist's music, I am compelled to summarize Garrels with these words from Joshua Hedlund at Indie Vision Music.

Josh Garrels has done it again, using his well-developed creations to sing (and occasionally speak) about the richness of God’s creation. The first third gives us more of the layered indie sound of Jacaranda, the middle section hits on some of the folky campfire sounds of his older work or of Lost Animals, and the last act shows Garrels continuing to develop himself as an artist with soundtrack-worthy offerings. The musical grooves would still be interesting and encouraging without the lyrics (there aren’t many musicians who can get away with five wordless tracks on an album), but it’s the poetry that really sets Josh Garrels apart, expounding upon oceanic themes to celebrate adventure, life, love, community, and home.

Perhaps this is what I love most about Garrels music. He is a fellow-pilgrim on his way to Glory and this sense of travel is evident in his songs. He even manages to capture intimate glimpses of his humanity, the grace of God that surrounds us in pain, and the sweet relationship we have with Christ our Lord. His lyrics are earthy, but rich and beautiful. His voice, although warbly at times, is deep with resonance and somehow you just end up loving his voice for its unique qualities. The gentleness of his voice is evident throughout all of his albums, even when he is rapping there is nothing harsh or grating about it. All of his musical arrangements are like a painting! Orchestral, intimate,and organic, it feels like you're listening to a film soundtrack. Another evident part of his music is his connection to the creation of earth. Maybe that is the organic aspect to his songs. Garrels even shares his affection for the wild: “I’ve always had a deep connection with the woods, fields, and lakes. They somehow make me feel free and timeless, yet also brave and purposeful. My dad was an avid walker, and would take my family on hikes in the woods. All through my life, when I’ve been in the midst of a personal crisis, hurt, or spiritual need, I’ve gone to nature to pray, think, and even scream and cry.” {source}

His album, Love & War & The Sea In Between is deeply personal to me because it was something I listened through some tough and joyful transitions of my life. There isn't a song on there that I don't find myself absolutely obsessing over. Even now, as I play the songs I recall the days that his music accompanied and the bittersweet tint that filled those moments. Josh is a rustic poet and he knows how to place this earthly life into memorable songs. A perfect example of this is found in his song, Beyond the Blue.

 Stand on the shores of a site unseen
The substance of this dwells in me
Cause my natural eyes only go skin deep
But the eye’s of my heart anchor the sea
Plumbing the depths to the place in between
The tangible world and the land of a dreams
Because everything ain’t quite it seems
There’s more beneath the appearance of things
A beggar could be king within the shadows,
Of a wing

And wisdom will honor everyone who will learn
To listen, to love, and to pray and discern
And to do the right thing even when it burns
And to live in the light through treacherous turns
A man is weak, but the spirit yearns
To keep on course from the bow to the stern
And throw overboard every selfish concern
That tries to work for what can’t be earned
Sometimes the only way to return is to go,
Where the winds will take you

And to let go, of all, you cannot hold onto
For the hope, beyond,the blue

Yellow and gold as the new day dawns
Like a virgin unveiled who waited so long
To dance and rejoice and sing her song
And rest in the arms of a love so strong
No one comes unless they’re drawn
By the voice of desire that leads em’ along
To the redemption of what went wrong
By the blood that covers the innocent one
No more separation
Between us.

So lift your voice just one more time
If there’s any hope may it be a sign
That everything was made to shine
Despite what you can see
So take this bread and drink this wine
And hide your spirit within the vine
Where all things will work by a good design
For those who will believe

And let go, of all, we cannot hold onto
For the hope, beyond, the blue

Said I let go, of all, I could not hold onto
For the hope, I have, in you

Josh Garrels in his element.

 Perhaps even best of all is that Garrels is a family-man. The love for his wife comes across in a couple of his songs, as well as in his video for Little Blue, in which his wife accompanies him to sing and play the xylophone. How can you not adore this guy?

 There are two songs, which I've posted with lyrics below, that seem timeless and ancient to me: Words Remain and Good Friday. There is something about the combination of words, his voice, and song arrangement that really encompass the soul-cry of a man uniting himself with the spirit, the flesh, the death, and the resurrection, and the hope of Christ Himself. I can imagine both these songs came out of a very deep place of introspection, loss, and soul-tribulation for Garrels. They are haunting, like a prayer one cries in a shadowed place where the death of Christ is manifested and personalized. There is a weeping quality evident in Garrels voice as he sing-cries the last words of both songs. Both are tremendously powerful and leave the listener with a resounding silence and the image of the Cross to behold.

I want to share his entire albums on this one post, but that would be ridiculous! I highly recommend you check out his songs on Youtube (they are all on there!) and then go purchase them via Amazon or wherever!

Flood Waters
Higher than the yonder mountain and deeper than the sea
From the breadth of the east unto the west
Is the love that started with a seed

Stronger than the wildest horses and the rising tide
The chords of death hung so heavy round our necks
Will be left at the great divide

Flood waters rise, but it wont wash away
Love never dies, it will hold on more fierce than graves

Farther than the pale moon rises upon the open plains
Past the time of the longest blood line
There shines an immortal flame

Somewhere in between forever and this passing day
There's a place moth and rust cannot lay waste
This is grace, the face of love

Flood waters rise, but it wont wash away
Love never dies, it will hold on more fierce than grave

(lyrics I posted early in my post)

Pilot Me
I will arise and follow you over
Savior please, pilot me
Over the waves and through every sorrow
Savior please, pilot me
When I have no more strength left to follow
Fall on my knees, pilot me
May your sun rise and lead me on
Over the sea's, savior pilot me
O' Lord

Words Remain
Heaven and the earth will pass away
But your words all remain

And my hands are growing old
And weary with pain
Still I fold them to pray

To the one unchanged
Yesterday and today
I will try to stay awake
Take my last breath of faith
As I wait for you to come

Take me beyond
This land undone
Over the flood
By your word, spirit, and blood

It was prophesied long ago
Every word set in stone

Not one will pass away
Or walk alone
All that I own

Does not compare
To the love that we share
Please remember me

When the hour arrives
And you must decide
If you'll wait for me to come

Take you beyond
This land undone
Over the flood
By my word, spirit, and blood

 Good Friday
 Broken wing, forgotten dream, shattered thing
That a mans hands can’t ever truly mend

Shadow land, desert sand, a man searches
For a love that’ll never die

Truth be known, you’re not alone
Your aching bones will find a home
In place where God he sets us free

Wake me up before you go
I will listen for the sound of your voice

Hear the wind in the trees
It goes where it please
Like the breath in me

And all who have breath can sing

When we laid your body down
In earth and in the ground
Oh child, rest your soul.

Will a hope be made good
When a word is understood
In the day, will we see you again?

Gather round, hear the sound
Of a story that’s so old that it’s been told
Before time

He was born in the flesh and the blood
In a world that was dark as hell, and dead in sin

Born of the spirit, and the virgin child
He’s the son of God, son of man

I didn’t recognize that look in his eyes
When they cried
With a sorrow that no man has ever known

Hang him high, watch him die, hear the cry
Crucified up on that God forsaken tree

And all who have breath can sing

When we laid your body down
In the earth and in the ground
Oh Lord, rest your bones

Will a hope be made good
If your words are understood
In the day, will we see you again

Oh Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?
Oh my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Oh Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?
Oh my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?


  1. Hm, thanks for this introduction to Josh Garrels!
    I feel like I've heard him before, yet I can't remember.
    The songs on his albums are so diverse, as you've so thoroughly and aptly described in your passages about his music. I'm listening to previews of Over Oceans. I like "My Child" and "Songbird" so far.

    1. Yeah, he is becoming pretty popular so I am sure you probably have run across his stuff at some point. :) Glad you're taking a listen to some of his songs! I really love his use of words.

  2. "Fire By Night" more so than "My Child."

  3. Yay!!! Josh is awesome. Glad you profiled him, he deserves it haha. I love his eclectic yet original sound and his lyrics. Even if our husbands are mean and make fun of his voice! lol

    1. Yes, our husbands know he is so talented and that is why they feel the need to nit-pick something about him, haha! Seriously, though, Josh never gets old. Every song is a gem!