It's been awhile since I've tipped you off to some good, free (and perfectly legal) music. Needtobreathe has launched its Tour de Compadres, and, lucky for us, a sampler with two live tracks from themselves, as well as one each from Switchfoot, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, and Colony House.
The EP starts and ends with needtobreathe. The first is "Wasteland" from the band's Live from the Woods at Fontanel album.
It's an interesting choice for an opening track. It starts slow and steady, with the repeating refrain, "If God is on our side, then who can be against us?" It ends on an anthemic note, with a slight gospel feel. Perhaps just in case anyone is wondering if the band is leaving its Christian music roots.
The track is raw and shows an edgier side to Bear Rinehart's always astounding vocals than some of the band's other tunes. This is a song for grown-ups.
Switchfoot follows with "When We Come Alive." The band's signature style is there, but with a bit more pop laid over the top. It works.
The guitars are still dark, and Jon Foreman sounds like, well, Jon Foreman. The song is a bit reminiscent of F.U.N., with its high choral vocals on top of the chorus.
Next up is Ben Rector with "When I'm With You." The song is strongest at the beginning, when Rector's vocals and guitar stand out, as does his interpretation of his lyrics. The song builds as it moves along, but occasionally feels overproduced. It would be interesting to hear it stripped down. (Keep in mind, I prefer almost any song in its acoustic form.)
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors add "Shine Like Lightning." This has a classic rock feel — complete with guys half-singing half-shouting "hey, hey" — with a slightly country edge. It is a danceable, but with strong lyrics. This is a hopeful party with hot guitar.
In case you couldn't tell, I love this song. It's worth the entire download. (So are all the other songs, but this one has serious staying power.)
"Keep On Keeping On" is Colony House's contribution. I hadn't heard of Colony House previously, though I'd listened to two of the band members' dad — Steven Curtis Chapman — for longer than I care to admit.
This band is a good sign for the future of Christian music. The band doesn't bill itself as Christian, but with references to the devil, and an opening line, "Weaker brother, lift your eyes," the band's roots aren't hidden.
The sound is original. It's definitely alternative rock with a not-so-subtle blues edge. Colony House has musical chops. The melody feels familiar, but the band toys with rhythm with good results. We'll be hearing more from Colony House in the future.
"Wanted Man," needtobreathe's final track, feels like it should be the opening track. It was at the live show, in fact, and is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. But this end is deliberate. This sampler is about the tour, and needtobreathe wants you to know its music has grown up, but you'll still have fun at a show.
This is classic needtobreathe — a driving start, but backing the instruments off to let the vocals show. They come back in, of course, long enough to let the audience get some dancing in before easing back again. And then, when you're expecting an end, the song drifts into a slow reflection. It's beautiful. It pauses, and then you've got the guitars again, coupled with some heavy bass drums and the band singing the refrain together. No holds barred.
This is a great sampler. But don't take my word for it. You can listen here, and download it for free. NoiseTrade will ask for your email, and you have the option to leave the artists a tip.