Songs for the Lenten Journey

By Joshua Witchger 03-22-2012

Music to aide contemplation as we head into the fifth week of Lent and Holy Week…

I discovered Songs for Lent last year on Noise Trade – the site that trades music for promotion, and maybe a small donation — and I think it’s one of the most spiritually moving and challenging albums of the “Christian music” genre, at least that I’ve encountered. 

There’s something earthy and beautiful about Songs for Lent that elicits a response I believe is lost in contemporary Christian music. It’s raw, simple, transcendent.

There’s an honest quality in the way it carves a path of solace and contemplation through the Lenten season. These songs aren’t out for radio play or coated in sugary production; instead, it seems, they exist for the simplicity of expression. Like a good folk song that begs to be heard, there's something authentic about this music’s ability to convey something – maybe it’s truth or healing, an image, a mood, a memory. Or maybe it’s nothing more a damn good group of songs. But what strikes me most about the album is its honesty. These songs aren’t about the omnipotence or omnipresence of God that dominate most Christian music; rather, these are faith-full songs about struggle, despair, and fear, about embracing uncertainty and pain, about the realistic  nature of journey.

The album centers around the darkness of Jesus’ final hours as accounted in the Stations of the Cross, setting a tone of darkness and trial. The collective artists that make up New York Hymns borrow lyrics almost entirely from orthodox voices of the faith, and set them to the tune of strings and guitars that follow a chord structure common to folk/roots music. With over 20 musicians and 23 songs, Brooklyn’s collective provides a glimpse into something beautiful and haunting.

Some songs move me more than others, but the overarching beauty is found in the way it conveys the authenticity of the Lenten experience.

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Joshua Witchger is an online assistant at Sojourners.

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