Last November, Harrison Lemke - a lo-fi singer-songwriter a friend had introduced me to - played a small house show in Steubenville. My first exposure to his music had been through Fertile Crescent Blues, his album of songs about the book of Genesis. That is a good place to start with his mucic because the album examines familiar stories from a more personal perspective.
That concert, though, felt a little different. Harrison played a mix of songs from various releases, many that shared his own life and experience. I would describe the performance as almost intimidatingly intimate.
That also goes for his brand new album, Thy Tender Care.
In this new collection of songs, rather than looking at Biblical stories alongside the artist, we are getting little glimpses into his own life. And it really works.
I have loved Harrison’s style since I first heard it - sparse, honest songs that feel like they were recorded at home (which they were). These new songs bring you right into that intimate space - not just sonically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.
Moments like the end of the opening track, “Principalities and Powers,” show up again and again:
from the deck, crawling up from the water
we see technicolor shapes
magic treasure, signs & wonders:
a dragon rising from the lake;
the virgin mother with stars all around her;
a unicorn; a candy cane; santa and his reindeer;
a castle with turrets jeweled and gold
towering up through the dark
with a wounded king and lance-and-cup procession,
waiting for someone pure of heart —
but someone —
“Windstorm Blackout” describes praying for something for the wrong reasons and then regretting it when that prayer is answered. “Tired, Waiting” captures the feeling of waiting on God while also realizing that He may be waiting on us to change.
The whole thing is a quiet, meditative - something perfect for Advent.
This isn’t “church music” in the sense that it is not for the liturgy; rather, one member of the Church is opening himself up in a beautiful way.