Cathartic in a time of grief

A Seed, A Sunrise
Caroline Cobb
Label: Independent
Length: 7 songs/32 minutes

The first two songs on A Seed, A Sunrise by Caroline Cobb embody watching and waiting, a pining for Messiah’s coming. The lyrics and the plodding piano notes convey the bleakness of our fallen world on the opening “We Wait For You.” Those looking for popular holiday classics will not find them here. These are originals suffused with biblical references and poetic expression.

The scope is amazing. It’s not just a profound meditation of the first advent. It also looks forward to when Christ will come again. Now more than ever that can be a comfort and hope.

Don’t imagine all of this in a lower key. The third track, “Hallelujah, Christ is Born” breaks the spell of the long dark night of waiting. Cobb gets soulful and there is a joyful-sounding piano solo.

The next track, “Joy (As Far as the Curse is Found)” has an exciting rhythm that continually builds to a wonderful piano hook. You also get some gorgeous mandolin accents. Some of Cobb’s favorite lines from “Joy to the World” and “O, Come All Ye Faithful” are refashioned here.

The sound is that of real instruments, people playing live in the studio. Any electronic enhancement is in the background. The style is in keeping with producer Isaac Wardell’s past credits (Josh Garrels, Sandra McCracken).

Contributors include Tyler Chester (Madi Cunningham, Switchfoot), Andrew Osenga (Andrew Peterson, Caedmon’s Call) gospel trio Resound (Lauren Daigle) and a fourteen-piece string orchestra.

The broad content makes this something that can be enjoyed any time of the year. It is also applicable to this particular time characterized in part by exhaustion. As Episcopal priest Noah Van Niel writes in Plough Quarterly (Autumn 2020), “We long for heaven while we are on earth. We long for peace in a world of war. We long for justice in a world that continually frustrates those aims. We long for God yet meet him only sparingly.… And Saint Augustine once wrote, ‘The whole life of a good Christian is an holy desire,’ because ‘by longing, you are made capable…. God by deferring our hope, stretches our desire; by the desiring, stretches the mind; by stretching, makes it more capacious. Let us desire therefore, brethren, for we shall be filled.’” Holy desire permeates this recording. Prepare to be enlarged!

Some songs express lament in the suffering of waiting, while others offer glimpses of joy in the anticipation of God’s coming. It can be cathartic in this time of grief.

The last three songs bring this full circle. “Lift Up Your Head, Be on the Lookout” is a gentle exhortation to be ready in anticipation of Christ’s coming again, to finish the work he has given us to do. “O Righteous Branch” includes gorgeous steel guitar work. It’s plea, “Come soon.” “There Will Be a Day (Isaiah 2)” is built around simple, repeated piano notes that serve as the foundation for a song about the future millennial kingdom.

The styles are simple but rich musically and spiritually, making this one of the finest offerings of the year.

This is Cobb’s third recording following the Blood + the Breath (2013) and A Home & A Hunger (2017). Like this release they both take a deep dive into Scripture unearthing treasures to remind fellow sojourners of their heritage and calling.

Michael Dalton