4 Dec 2013

Review: Old Paths, New Feet

Last evening I was privileged to talk by phone with Chris Reno, who, along with Jordan Brownlee and others, is part of the group Brother Down. Chris teaches English at a christian secondary school and is a member of Trinity Covenant Church in Aptos, California. This congregation is part of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches. According to Reno, the group's name was taken from Genesis 43:7:

They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”
A decade ago the group produced another album called To the Black Land.

This most recent album is called Old Paths, New Feet, a reference to a new generation rediscovering ancient liturgical resources. The texts are from Cantus Christi, a psalter and hymnal widely used within the CREC.

In response to my question as to the style of their music, Reno said he is hard-pressed to come up with a single description, but admits the influence of Ghoostly Psalms, Celtic music and Mumford and Sons. The project was spearheaded by Douglas Wilson as part of a Psalm-Off contest two years ago.

Having listened to the album, I am most favourably impressed with what I've heard. The quality of the recordings is most professional, and the instrumentation is very good indeed. Reno spoke highly of Brownlee's musical gifts, especially his ability to pick up new instruments such as the banjo on short notice. Perhaps Celtic folk rock would characterize the group's unique style. The album is produced by Canon Press's Bultitude Records and is available for download from amazon.com. As I mentioned earlier, eight of the psalms are Genevan in origin (Psalm 100 is set to the tune for Psalm 134, a match that goes back to the 1650 Scottish Psalter), one is from Thomas Tallis and the other by Johann Graumann and Hans Kugelmann.

I strongly recommend this wonderful blending of 16th-century tunes and 21st-century musical styles, which comes in time for the Christmas gift-giving season.


Anonymous said...

Mumford and Sons? Brother Down's first album was around long before M&S.

I would describe their style as "progressive folk," analogous to progressive rock ("prog"), but with a folkier, acoustic base.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for recommending them, I have enjoyed what I have heard so far!