Thinking Out Loud

June 19, 2011

Music Review: Crystal Lewis – Plain and Simple

It’s hard to believe it’s been thirty years since Christian rockabilly band Wild Blue Yonder hit the scene fronted by a young teenage Crystal Lewis on vocals.  It’s even harder to believe that Crystal’s dad, a Nazarene pastor, allowed his 15-year old daughter to tour with a rock band.  But Crystal survived and went on to a solo career for which, I’m fairly certain my wife owns every album on one format or another.   So because we have some history here,  it seemed fitting to give you the 411 on Crystal’s first album in a long time, Plain and Simple.  (Okay, first not counting the recent Christmas themed Home for the Holidays.)

Crystal’s distinctive vocal style and perfect pitch is still there; but this is also a bit of a family project.  While husband/manager Brian Ray has been part of her music for a long time, daughter Izzy and son Solomon who play and get pick up a few writing credits, with Solomon also getting the producer credit for Plain and Simple.

The album’s title song is taken from I Cor. 2:1-2 in The Message:

1-2You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

Many of the songs — such as Revelation and Even the Rocks Cry Out and I Am — represent direct borrowing from scripture, or allusions to powerful Biblical texts. The lyrics also connect to everyday Christian living; most of us can relate to a line like, “I don’t wanna fall again,” or the lines in “All Day Long” which contrast the tendency and temptation to sin with the overarching abiding hope in the Lord.

Musically the sound is fresh, though you could also give this album to someone who has a “Whatever happened to…?” CD collection of the “Jesus Music” artists from the 1970s.  This will work with either audience. Solomon’s keyboard programming is better appreciated when you play it loud, which has the added blessing of enhancing the impact of Crystal’s vocals, which have been mixed upfront and, for lack of a better description, have a black gospel quality.  (All that’s missing is the mass choir; which, if anyone who counts is reading this, is definitely the album Crystal should do next!) 

With honest songwriting and passionate performance, consider this one for yourself or someone who could use a spiritual lift.

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