at First Things:
“Christian pop is unrelentingly cheerful.” That was Leah Libresco’s conclusion when she analyzed the frequency of positive and negative terms (“grace” vs. “sin,” for example, or “love” vs. “fear”) in Billboard‘s Christian pop top-50. Grace and love and life and light are all great things. But if your soul needs a smoke break from the endless Christian pep rally, a lay-me-down instead of yet another pick-me-up, Harrison Lemke’s beautiful new album Fertile Crescent Blues is what you’re looking for.
Fertile is an album of nine songs inspired by the Book of Genesis. Lemke, an independent musician in Austin, TX, recorded the album in his duplex, and he plays all the instruments. It’s an intimate recording, heavily influenced by artists like Sufjan Stevens and John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. (Lemke’s voice, a reedy instrument made for anger and surrender, takes about as much getting used to as Stevens’s and Darnielle’s.) Lemke’s characters serve God—most of the time, anyway—even when they really don’t know what it would mean to trust Him.