I had my ticket for the Cardinal game, but I’m glad I didn’t go.
Yes, you read that right.
My wife and daughters were at the evening session of the trade convention I was attending in St. Louis—including worship with Max Lucado, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Laura Story, followed by a new artist showcase, featuring Danny Gokey and several others. My girls were excited to see a band that I hadn’t heard of—the Vespers.
I was skipping out to watch the Cardinals play the Texas Rangers.
Priorities, you know?
By game time, though, it was pouring. Looking at the radar on my phone, I didn’t think there was any way they could play that night. So I took the metro back over to the convention center and found my family.
Nothing against Lucado et al, but what made the entire evening for me was an energetic, mesmerizing three song set by this promising young band called the Vespers.
In fact, I liked the Vespers so much that a month later I took my family to Cincinnati to hear them play on my daughter’s eighteenth birthday.
Call it Americana. Southern roots. Indie folk. I don’t know—I’m neither a music historian nor a critic. But I do know musical excellence when I hear it.
And the Vespers know what they’re doing.
The band is composed of two sets of siblings who met around a Tennessee campfire a few years back and have been making music together ever since: Callie and Phoebe Cryar and Bruno and Taylor Jones.
Callie and Phoebe offer hauntingly beautiful melodies and sister harmonies, while mastering an astonishing array of acoustic stringed instruments. Bruno and Taylor lay the rhythmic foundation on the guitar, upright bass, drums, and other percussive instruments. Their musical style is a unique fusion of blues, bluegrass, gospel, folk, and southern rock. Part of the fun is that, between the four of them, you never know who is going to pick up a mandolin, ukelele, banjo, or some other instrument when the next song begins.
The Vespers’ have released two independently produced recordings—Tell Your Mama (2010) and The Fourth Wall (2012). Both contain several truly memorable tracks, the great majority of which these talented artists wrote themselves. And I’ve been listening to them pretty constantly since Cincinnati. I keep finding myself hitting repeat on tracks like “Close My Eyes,” “Got No Friends,” “Lawdy,” and “Tell Your Mama.” And really, there’s not a single song that I skip over.
Their music is compelling, inventive, and filled with subtle spiritual undercurrents and allusions, as well as several more overt references to Jesus. Their lyrics are deceptively simple; or to say it another way, they have surprising depth. They neither shy away from the darkness nor the light.
Along with their moodier, more intense music, they also mix in a lot of fun, which undoubtedly makes some of the critics cranky. But I love songs like “Jolly Robber” and “Flower, Flower,” if for no other reason than that they show this group knows how to have fun, and they don’t take themselves too seriously.
As much as I like the Vespers’ recordings, the only way to to fully appreciate their artistry—like most genuinely talented musicians/bands—is to see them perform live onstage.
That’s when you’ll experience the raw passion and power of Callie’s and Phoebe’s vocals.
The inventive, captivating rhythms Bruno and Taylor create to draw you in and move you along.
The crisp, clean, technical excellence of all four band members even as they rapidly switch between a variety of acoustic instruments.
And the pure creative joy they obviously experience in making music together.
The band’s publicity promises “a roller coaster of sight, sound, and emotion,” and that’s exactly the right metaphor for what the Vespers deliver on stage.
In other words, you haven’t really heard the Vespers until you’ve seen Taylor’s headband fly off in mid-song.
After the show in Cincinnati, the Vespers were kind enough to let me and my daughters hang out with them for a few minutes to chat and take some pictures. Their non-jaded approach to relating with their young fans (not to mention this slightly older but newer fan) made a huge impression on this dad. The fact that they combine genuine approachability with the ability to make real music together makes it easy for me to recommend their music to you.
But don’t take my word for it. Take a look at what a real music critic, who included the Vespers in his “Best of 2012″ list, has to say here.
I’m looking forward to seeing what’s ahead for this incredibly talented band. You can learn more at www.thevespersband.com.
Oh and by the way, after a three-hour delay, the Cardinals took the field not long after the Vespers took the stage. Three hours later, the Rangers won 2-1. All the Cardinals could muster was a Matt Carpenter solo home run. So, yeah, I’m satisfied that I heard the Vespers perform instead.
I want to give you a taste of the Vespers music, but Debbie and I couldn’t agree on which song to share (there are so many good ones to choose from), so we each chose one. I’ll let you decide who chose which one.
First, here are the Vespers singing, “Close My Eyes.”
And on this one, you’ll have to excuse the intro and outro music, but here are the Vespers singing “Daughter.”