We’ve teamed up with our friends over at One Man In The Middle to bring you regular, unbiased and honest reviews of music albums aimed at the Christian marketplace. This week we have Ghost Of A King by The Gray Havens with a whopping overall review score of 10 out of 10.
Three words. That’s how it started. Three words that teased the start of a story, a story that became a song and a title track for an album that was originally only supposed to be an EP. Three words that hint at a bit of mystery: “Met a ghost….” There’s already a touch of mystery in the name of Dave and Licia Radford’s band, The Gray Havens. It provides a moment of recognition and camaraderie for Tolkien fans who know the reference to the mythical seaport where ships sail away to a far country.
Beyond the reference, the name helps the listener learn what to expect: this is music meant to take us somewhere.
As I sit down and write this I don’t know what to say – at the same time there is so much to talk about with this brand new album from The Gray Havens. I have started this review about four times!
So let’s start simply! The Gray Havens are a husband and wife duo David and Licia Radford. If the name David Radford is familiar then it could be because he was one of the stars of American Idol series 5, he got knocked out from the top 20. Initially performing in his audition Paula Abdul described his voice as “One Dimensional” – 10 years later that label definitely cannot be applied to this album! As a parting comment as he left the audition Simon Cowell, who loved the performance, told him to be true to himself – and I think this is advice that he has applied!
In 2012 David married Licia, and although she knew about his singing they didn’t meet through music, in fact something that united them was a love of literature. This is also where the name The Gray Havens originated, for those familiar with Lord Of The Rings it is from a harbour called Gray Havens that the heroes leave for the elves version of heaven at the end of the story. In 2013 they recorded their first EP and then in 2015 “Fire and Stone” was released after a Kickstarter campaign. Now in 2016 they have developed a slightly new sound, but have stayed true to everything that made “Fire and Stone” such a revelation.
Far away from the ‘fame’ of American Idol and the character that was portrayed through that series David is all about the music and communicating God through the interweaving of musical storytelling. He explained to Chris Fabry on Moody radio that “We exist to awaken wonder and joy for the Lord and His glory through song, and we exist to do that to more than our inner circle of friends.”
All that serves to introduce this fabulous new album which still has it’s pop-folk styling, but the sound is a little bigger and more encompassing. Once again they bring the elements of storytelling to their songs as they combine their writing and vocal skills together to create something that is really accessible for anyone, Christian or not.
Despite the lack of Jesus or God being directly mentioned there is plenty on this album about faith. The main trilogy of songs on this album deal with the core story of mankind. “This My Soul” talks about the creation, fall and redemption of man. This is a beautiful song in it’s verses with a simple picked guitar guitar and some haunting background tones , this is counterpointed with a haunting but punchy chorus. This has a great reminder of the Romans 5 passage but told in an amazingly beautiful way. “A Living Hope” is really a simple musical interlude that connects up “This My Soul” and “At Last, The King”. When we arrive at “At Last, The King” this takes a different slant on the fall of man and the redemption, looking at the interaction within the spiritual realm. This deals with God and Satan, the temptation of Jesus and the celebration of the angels.
There is so much depth in every track that I could bring out. I cannot think of a track on this album that I wouldn’t want to listen to again and again. To pick my very favourites on this album I would have to go for “Band Of Gold”, “Diamonds and Gold”, “This My Soul” and “At Last, The King”.
When the larger Christian labels have a focus on upbeat electro-pop throughout the whole scene from worship to contemporary “Ghost of a King” is such a breath of fresh air. If you love something new and fresh with a big sound that will draw you in to some fantastic musical storytelling then click the links above to buy this album – you will not be disappointed!
For track listing, ranking breakdown and more check out onemaninthemiddle.com