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Album Review – Liturgical Folk, “Crumbs”

Ryan Flanigan, Center for Congregational Song

The Context

Liturgical Folk was born in the collaboration of songwriter Ryan Flanigan and poet Nelson Koscheski. “Crumbs” is the third album released in 2 years, with most songs written on this album attributed to Flanigan. Flanigan serves at All Saints Dallas, an Anglican church in the Dallas, Texas area. The Anglican Mission in America has come alongside Liturgical Folk to help produce these intentionally folk-inspired songs for the local church, and Isaac Wardell of Bifrost Arts has produced each album. The band/collective’s name is an indication of what you’ll get—language rooted in liturgy and folk musical styles, or as they self-describe, “historic church language and modern folk sounds.”

 

The Content

“Crumbs” is the most produced album in the Liturgical Folk discography, boasting a large string ensemble and horn players, yet it maintains much of the intimacy and raw simplicity of the previous albums. Songs are still built upon rich piano and strummed or finger-picked acoustic guitars. Occasionally, a Hammond B3 undergirds a song and evokes a more soulful version of the folk genre in which these songs reside. Melodies are unique without being overly complex, and harmonies are layered well in order to demonstrate the intentionally collaborative work of singing the liturgy together. Worshipers familiar with the language of the Book of Common Prayer will recognize much of what is sung. Of particular note on this album are the songs that draw directly from the language of the Book of Common Prayer, like “Agnus Dei,” “Lord, Lord, Lord,” and “May the Peace.” The album continues themes from the previous release, “Table Settings,” considering the implications of worshipers’ response to the Table. This anthem is expressed in the bridge of “Hardwood of the Cross,” in which they sing, “For the honor of Your name, we’re reaching out” because of the “arms of love” who reached for us.

 

The Conclusion

The production of this record makes it clear that Flanigan is a leader of congregational singing. There is no pretense or musical choice that distracts from the clear singing of the lyrical content. There are only a few moments of unique instrumentation or ambient sounds that may not be replicable by smaller churches. The songs are pitched well and the melodies are easy to follow, so if the folk genre would fit in a local church context, then “Crumbs” contains ready-made songs to help the church sing biblical truth.

 

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Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

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