Daniel Amos, Dig Here said the angelPoetry hasn't died. It just comes wrapped up in vivid punky psychedelia like this.

Label: Stunt Productions
Time: 11 Tracks / 55 minutes

There's a lot to be said for having years in the business. Over their four decades Daniel Amos have worked free of the need for labels and have accumulated enough passionate fans to have this disc Kickstarter-funded and with fan-submitted artwork gracing its packaging*. Their longevity also means that they can afford a twelve-year break – long enough to have collected a strong set of songs (although I suspect that these are only a few of many options available to them).

Across their years, DA have shown themselves to be close cousins to The Choir and that bond is easy to see here. Choir lynchpin Steve Hindalong guests on percussion and one of this collection's strongest features is Choir-member Tim Chandler's distinctive bass (or, as the liner notes have it, “bass, noise and infernal racket, background vocals.”) But it's not just the mechanics; the two bands seem to have traveled a similar journey, both becoming more reflective, more introspective and more aware of grace and the nuances of belief that develop over time.

Never averse to picking out a theme for their albums, DA have assembled several songs that touch on the proximity of death. There's a clue in the album's dedication to the late Tom Howard (also recently mourned on record by the Choir), but Terry Scott Taylor's vivid lyrics make the point more forcefully. “Now that I've Died” is a message from beyond the grave. “We'll All Know Soon Enough” and “Ruthless Hum of Dread” ponder heaven, hell and fear. “Waking Up Underwater” reminds us that, whatever our dreams, we will all die. “Jesus Wept” and the title track both lament physical decline and do so both from the gut and with some black humour.    

    “I pound against the wall of my ageing skin...
    Another bad guy wins, more good friends die.
    They mounted up like eagles, now they're dropping like flies.
    I cry, 'Let me out!' You're saying, 'No, not yet'.
    Before he danced, Jesus wept."  (from Jesus Wept)  

    “'Dig here,” said the angel. I asked, 'My heart or my grave?'
    'Maybe both,' said the angel, 'Things can go either way.
    There'll come a time,' said the angel, 'You'll lose that suit of wrinkled skin
    and when you walk up to the big door, you can go right in.
    'Here's the catch,' said the angel:'You're gonna suffer for a while.
    I'll tell you straight,' said the angel: 'Don't plan to go out in style.'” (from Dig Here...)

Remaining tracks cover mercy (the ominous-but-poppy “New Testament Best” and obvious “Love, Grace and Mercy”); God's limitless grace (the anthemic “The Sun Shines on Everyone”) and, as its title says, “The Uses of Adversity.”  

The sound for this collection opens windows on various stages of their past, sometimes all inside one song. The intro to the title track:features Chandler's bass at its most thick, fuzzy, groovy and prominent, but it also has a Steve Taylor-like chorus, all of it wrapped up in some dreamy synth-and-guitar sonics. At times those Eagles-like harmonies from the Shotgun Angel days echo in the album's background and there are several psychedelic moments.

Fan-funding has not meant any short-cuts. Quite the contrary: this is another career highlight and possibly their best-ever sound. If they were all like this, we would all be cheering on the resurrection of concept albums.


Derek Walker

* including some from fellow Tollbooth writer Matt Croslin.

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