Note – this is the first time the Album Review blog has reviewed a “single” release. As music releases continue to shift from albums to singles and EPs, more reviews of shorter formats may follow.
“Never Shakes Never Will” is the first single by The Wood Drake Sessions, an artist collaboration born out of the creative potential that COVID quarantine provided in 2020 (and continuing). Paul Ranheim and Kirk Sauers, separated by several states even without social distancing, paired their songwriting to help the church sing hope into this season with the first of many songs to come. Their artist name is developed from Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things,” in which peace is found where the wood drake rests.
The lyrics of ‘Never Shakes Never Will’ are a rootsy blend of several Psalms (46, 121, and 125 specifically) and a colloquial tone which makes it immediately graspable by a congregation of any age. When seeking to lament and praise in the same breath, the Psalms are certainly the best resource. Musically, the song fuses elements of folk rock, gospel, blues, and americana. To their credit, the song sounds like a live take with a band all in the same room; the realities of COVID, however, mean that they tracked in separate locations at separate times and yet captured a consistent energy. Notably, Latifah Alattas of Page CXVI provided BGVs. The melody is clear and pitched well for a congregation, and even though there is a key change and some blues/gospel textures that would require skilled musicians, the song is reproduceable in many congregations.
The blend of musical styles in this song are a key strength – with slight tweaks, this song could be sung in a variety of contexts and congregations. Alternatively, one could play up the gospel, blues, or folk strengths of the song and help it fit one of those respective contexts. The Wood Drake Sessions demonstrate that they aim to fulfill their vision of providing songs of hope amidst the frustrations and depression of COVID.
The single is currently available on all streaming outlets, or through their website: thewooddrakesessions.com
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.