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Album Review – Cardiphonia: Daughter Zion’s Woe


Daughter Zion’s Woe is a joint release by Cardiphonia and The Liturgy Fellowship, with Rachel Wilhelm as producer. There are several remarkable albums of lament that have been released during this remarkable year of sorrow and suffering (see previous review from David Bjorlin and Adam Perez), but this album stands apart as a collection of songs written, arranged, and performed by women. The story behind this album is a beautiful illustration of the body of Christ working together to give these songs a voice – many men and women in positions of influence or with access to studio equipment donated time and resources to empower the voices of the women gathered here.



Thirteen various female artists wrote and/or performed the songs on this album. Among them are Advent Birmingham and Urban Doxology —no strangers to this album review blog, and frequent collaborators with Cardiphonia. The contributing artists are from various ethnic backgrounds, which appropriately expands the scope of lament to reflect voices from around the world.

Because all 13 tracks are attributed to different writers/teams, it is difficult to briefly summarize the content. There are some strong lyrical and musical themes that are consistent across the songs, however. Lyrically, this album contextualizes biblical lament in our contemporary experience with the particular power that only women’s voices can produce. Many of the songs draw from the Psalms explicitly, and all of the songs echo the plaintive cry of the psalms of lament. For a church seeking to enrich their canon of congregational songs with lament, this album creatively combines biblical and contemporary contextual language. There is an undercurrent of fervent hope that carries these songs along and lyrically connects them despite their various genres of music.

Musically, instrumentation ranges from folk to spiritual to pop, all in minor keys, with strings playing an important sonic role on many songs. Although the songs may include more instruments than a local church may have available, the melodies are strong and clear. Songs are also pitched very well for congregational participation. Voices are layered in rich harmonies as appropriate, and songs with swelling dynamics are balanced with songs that use sparing instrumental support.

Notable songs for congregational singing include Shelly Moore’s reimagining of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” which keeps the chorus as remembered while adding a triplet feel to refresh the verses, and “The Glory Shall be Thine,” with its shape-note sensibility and hymn meter that invite the listener to sing.


This album is released at a time when it is necessary to equip the Church to express biblical lament. Although some of these songs may be more intricate than what a smaller church could accomplish, a church may be served by simply reflecting on the song as a soloist gives voice on behalf of the congregation. Every song on this album draws from the Scripture and enables the listener/singer to participate in lament, even if they are not personally experiencing the sufferings of their neighbor. Accordingly, one of this album’s strengths is as an aid to personal worship and private lament, even as it connects us to one another.


The album is currently available only via Bandcamp:


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.


The Context

Cardiphonia is a collaboration of artists and musicians who give their first fruits to the church.  Bruce Benedict, Chaplain of Worship and Arts at Hope College is the founder and director for Cardiphonia, and thus responsible for curating the artists who participate on each record. “Hollow Square Hymnal” was released in 2016 and is one of 9 full-length albums released by Cardiphonia. This particular album consists of hymns that have their origin in shape-note singing. For those unfamiliar, shape-note singing was developed in the 18th century in order to help “un-lettered” folks in congregations to sing. The “hollow square” refers to the standing arrangement of singers—the song leader stands in the middle with the four parts set up in a square. Newcomers were encouraged to stand in the middle of the hollow square to experience the richness of voices raised in song. All of the re-arranged hymns included on “Hollow Square Hymnal” are inspired by this era, but they have been reinterpreted in indie/folk fashion for this collection.


The Content

This album contains 22 different tracks from a diverse selection of artists including Bruce Benedict, Wen & Casey Reagan, Daniel Justice Snoke, Pillar Church, Wendell Kimbrough, and a dozen more. Musically, each song captures the Sacred Harp hymnal tradition in melodic movement, often evoking a haunting quality. Instrumentation is very Americana or rootsy, with jangly banjoes, guitars, fiddle, and upright bass playing prominently. Piano and organ appear a few times as well. Vocals rightly take the place of prominence in these songs, with alternating soft harmonies, cries of praise, and soulful laments (with several songs in a minor key). Each vocalist brings their own timbre to their respective song, but there is unity in the diversity such that the album feels very cohesive. Lyrically, the hymn texts stand the test of time by both connecting to centuries-old articulation of faith and giving voice to current struggles and sufferings. Shape-note singing has experienced a revival in recent years because of the songs’ ability to anchor singers in lived experiences of the Christian life, which include suffering and longing.

Notable songs include “Praise the Savior” by The Green Carpet Players, which is mixed in such a way that the listener may feel as if they are indeed in the center of the hollow square. “Wonderous Love” and “Come Ye Sinners” are recognizable hymns that have been given fresh and vivid interpretations. Each artist gives respect to the melody while framing and ornamenting the hymn in their own creative way.


The Conclusion

The ministry of Cardiphonia is a valuable resource for singing in the local church, and this particular album gives voice to an important genre of congregational song in relatively recent church history. Whether aware of it or not, many of us sing songs from the shape-note tradition, and this album illustrates that there are many more gems to be mined from the Sacred Harp hymnal and shape-note sources. For any churches who already sing some of these songs, this album will give fresh interpretation to the tried-and-true melodies.




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.