Album: Joy and Sorrow Meet
Artist: Weston Skaggs
Genre: Alt Country Praise & Worship
Label: Sprig Music
Release Date: July 29, 2016
Standout Tracks: Greater Than You Know, Out of the Wreckage, Down In My Soul, Hammer and Nails
Almost exactly a year ago, we published our write-up of Dust & Clay, an EP from singer/songwriter Weston Skaggs. We were impressed with his unique approach to folk-rock and the adept application of his strongest instrument – his voice.
Since that time, Skaggs signed with upstart label Sprig Music out of Watertown, NY, and quickly got to work on his first long-play release. The result is Joy and Sorrow Meet, a record that breaks free of over-produced, homogenized worship and, instead, delivers an original but strikingly familiar listening experience.
Produced by Chris Hoisington (Brothers McClurg) and recorded at Old Bear Studios, a converted warehouse, Joy and Sorrow Meet wastes little time in establishing its bold intentions. Let a Song Go Out From My Heart starts the record in an unexpectedly informal manner, which sets the tone from that point forward: vulnerable lyrics wrapped in classic gospel with an alt-country kicker.
Sonically, Joy and Sorrow Meet is intimate, stark, and expansive. Hoisington gives Skaggs plenty of room to explore vocally, with tasteful, stripped-down arrangements that never obstruct the artist. The attention to craft is evident in tracks such as Hammer and Nails in which actual railroad spikes are used to represent the tell-tale striking of metal against metal. Of course, the background vocals are gorgeous and, in the case of tracks like “Greater Than You Know”, they will flat-out give you chills.
The album has a solid flow between songs that avoids abrupt shifts. It moves adeptly between toe-tappers like “Down In My Soul” (think Elvis) and more introspective tracks such as “Out of the Wreckage”.
Of course nothing is perfect. Some songs could due with a little polish or, in the case of “Pocket Sized God”, could have been left off entirely. And while Skaggs has a lovely falsetto, there were times it felt he went to that well more than necessary. Actually, many of the highlights of the album were in the subdued moments where he worked in his lower register.
Joy and Sorrow Meet is an aural treat and a welcome tonic from the mainstay commercial releases. Download the album now and enjoy some handcrafted, quality folk-worship.
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