Friday, April 1, 2011

Shawn McDonald: Closer

A few days ago, I mentioned that my friend Holly Starr was opening for Shawn McDonald and I was going to watch. This was exceptionally exciting because the only thing that could make me more excited to watch Holly do her thing is to watch Shawn McDonald right afterwards.

The first time I heard Shawn I thought, "Sweet! It's like, if Jack Johnson loved Jesus more than he loved surfing. And weed." And then I felt guilty because, really, I don't know if Jack Johnson smokes weed. I realized that it was just that, when you listen to Jack Johnson, it feels like you're smoking weed. But really, that's not fair either because I've never smoked weed (-5 from my "street" factor).

Anyway, that was back in '05. Six years, three studio albums, and a lot of God & growning later, Shawn gave me Closer.


Happily, I can now offer a much better description of Shawn's sound: "Jack Johnson/John Mayer/Mat Kearny/Ben Harper w/ Jason Mraz vocal riffs."

Alright, honestly, I'm not very good at describing or comparing music. Shocking, I know. I can do a better job telling you how a particular musician or song makes me feel. Last night, Shawn made me feel like dancing, chilling, and worshipping Jesus. I admit, I was totally charmed off my feet and giggled like the cell-phone waving crowd of tween girls three rows ahead of me when he started playing the trumpet solo on Greed without a trumpet.

I can't help it, its just so chill. It really doesn't matter if you play music or not, when you listen to Shawn McDonald, you feel like you're sitting in a beanbag chair with a djembe. As one of my friends commented, "That was one of the most laid back concerts I've ever been to!"

As much as I love to use the word "chill," when describing it, there's so much depth and truth to his music. Like many of the best songwriters out there, Shawn is more comfortable talking to an audience through his music rather than by speaking, but he makes sure that no one is going to miss his message: God is the only thing that can pull you out of the mess of your life and you can never go too far for God to give up on you.

I've only listened to the album twice about six times but, offhand, I can tell you that Eyes Forward is winning the race for my favorite track. It was probably my favorite performance of the concert: jammy and full of that fun, mouth-trumpet playing Shawn that I've loved for 6 years.

Offhand, I can also tell you that I'm pretty sure that the title track, Closer, is going to move into first place soon. Because, fun, jammy sound notwithstanding, you can't beat an honest, born-out-of-the-fire-my-life, lyric.

Here's a taste:

"Trying to find a change from the old mundane, but everything I do just feels the same. Spending my life out in the desert, been gone so long feels like forever, I just want to be closer to you."
If you read Shawn's bio on his website it will bring a greater level of meaning to this song and the entire album. Shawn's had an incredibly rough time, especially over the past few years, and this song distills all the pain, frustration, anger, disappointment, shame, and doubt into one line: "I just want to be closer to you." It's painful and beautiful and true. Go download the song, you'll be glad you'll did, and then you'll kick yourself for not just downloading the whole album and saving yourself $.30 a track.

And that's not the only one; Don't Give Up, Storms, Rise, The Space Between Us, pretty much every track on this album continues that tone of hope in the midst of pain. It's not like you're hearing Shawn sing to you, it's like you're sitting in his living room listening to him pour out every hurt, fear, frustration, and hope in his heart.

And your heart says, "Yeah, I know."

Have you listened to Shawn McDonald or the album? How would you describe his "sound?"

You can find Shawn McDonald on Amazon, iTunes or the official online store.

**If you live in Eastern, WA, Shawn is playing (with the lovely Holly Starr) in Moscow, ID TONIGHT**

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