ALBUM: Posters ARTIST: Strahan
Album release date: January 25, 2013
Little-known New Zealand folk artist Strahan Coleman is interested in the truth. “Truth is always the muse on the horizon,” he writes on his webpage, “[and] the volatile partner at the end of each verse.” This intimate wrestling with truth has obviously found expression in his music, which is characterized by reverence, simplicity, and vigor.
Released in 2013, Posters is Strahan’s first full-length album (he released an EP, entitled Water & Fire, in 2012). Its eleven songs are an honest look at the nature (and relationship) of hopefulness and lamentation, and have been carefully arranged and delivered. Listening to the album from start to finish hit the same place in me that is stirred when praying through the psalms. It tugged at me, soothed me, invited me to be still and listen, reminded me of my neediness, and ultimately filled me with a sense of the great Thou in whom and through whom the tenuous I finds meaning.
Fans of Noah Gundersen, the Oh Hellos, and City and Colour take heed. Strahan is not afraid of tasteful asceticism: Posters is a quiet, unadorned album that finds it substance mainly in Strahan’s gentle, clear voice and simple acoustic chord arrangements. A number of songs are particularly prayerful, with nothing more than the human voice and a quietly picked guitar – Your Kingdom Come and Not Alone are examples – and this subdued approach makes the tension between heaven and earth, as expressed through the transparent lyrics, that much more palpable. A few become more celebratory, with numerous voices crowding in on refrains, percussive guitar-playing, foot stomping, and drums – Hey New Wine! and Deliverance come to mind. Appalachian-folk influences color these varied canvases and breath a cohesiveness into the project, with reverent harmonies swelling throughout.
A Rare Breed
Perhaps the thing that makes Strahan Coleman stand out most is that he is one of those rare souls who gets the connection between Christianity and artistry. There is no sense of duplicity, sentimentalism, or pandering in this music, effects often borne out of a grasping after a talent or calling one hasn’t actually been graced with. Instead, what you hear is the strong cry of a man responding to the divine invitation to be a craftsman under the tutelage of the hand that plucked the first cosmic string: the cry of an artist brave enough and humble enough to participate in the creative power of God and to work with the materials He has offered. In this case, the materials Strahan builds up from are solid: Scripture and the psalms, inspired in their essence just as they are, brighten and bleed under his touch, taking on a form more tangible and edible, if you will; and his voice and guitar-work, buoyed by a sense of harmony and arrangement, are a hefty and honest cut above most other folk-christian artists I’ve heard (or, to be more honest, endured). The experience of witnessing a genuinely gifted artist using his or her gift is like an ephemeral glance into the eternal ecstasy ahead: a foretaste of the most creative embrace we’ll ever know.
One is reminded of the humility of the Word, which took on human flesh and spoke our simple tongue. God wants to collaborate with us, to wrestle with us, to be with us. “Take everything I have. Let it be multiplied as it’s broken in Your hands,” this poet sings to his enduring Muse in the song Daily Bread.