Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Shawn McDonald Releases New Analog Album


 MUSIC REVIEW 

To judge by his pictures alone, Contemporary Christian music artist, Shawn McDonald appears to constantly re-inventing himself. Light hair, dark hair, facial hair, clean cut, piercings, sandals, ties and hats. But through them all – not very many smiles. McDonald, 35, has seen a lot and gone through a lot over the years. He had very little guidance growing up and has had his share of difficult times as an adult.

His new release, “The Analog Sessions” from Sparrow Records, is a compilation of all those years with a selection of songs from the last 10 years of recording. It’s sort of a “greatest hits” CD, but with a very different feel. The songs are the same, but the sound is like that of a personal concert with the man.

"When you release a traditional greatest hits record these days, usually people just go to iTunes to download the new songs, so the idea was to re-record everything to give the songs a fresh and different approach," says McDonald on his website. "When I was talking to my longtime producer Chris Stevens, he proposed an idea of recording at an old school studio where we'd record live to tape just like they used to do. I didn't even know if those places still existed, but we found Welcome to 1979 studio, which used to be a record pressing company back in the day. There were no computers, just tape machines, vintage amps, crazy old keyboards and I even sang on a microphone Frank Sinatra used for years."

This idea explains the artist’s most recent retro look and there is a name for this type of recording – analog. "Analog is warmer and sounds better naturally, especially the way the tape naturally absorbs vocals," continues McDonald. "But tape is a tricky thing, and if you mess up, you have to rewind it and punch in the corrections, so you just have to hope you get it. The reality is we just recorded live without stopping, trying to get all the way through without messing up. There's no stacking, overdubbing vocals or any of that studio stuff you might find on my regular records."

The result is a very full yet intimate sound. Some songs have either slower or faster tempo from the original. Fan favorites, “Gravity,” “Rise” and “Captivated” are given blue-grassy sound while “Eyes Forward” sounds like it was recorded in a jazz club complete with scat singing. Other favorites include “Closer,” “Beautiful,” “The Space between Us” and “Take My Hand.”

McDonald also shares two brand new songs, both recorded in fully-produced radio and analog versions.

The lead single "What Are You Waiting For" may be McDonald’s most insightful song. He sings about a man who is very much like himself who wants something different for his life but at the same time is content to do nothing. He sings from experience:



You have always been a runaway

Always looking for a place that’s safe
Cause you were disappointed with the world
The hand you were dealt 
And I get it why you feel that way 
Cause it doesn’t ever seem to change 
But have you tried to trust something outside yourself?

“Through It All” is also very personal explaining that no matter what he has done, he knows that God is still by his side and loves him. "I'm never a guy who thinks I've arrived because my journey is a lifelong thing," McDonald muses. "I'm always trying to better myself and grow because the instant you stop learning, you start to die. I'm in a season of growth right now, just really striving hard to be more intentional, to hone my craft and to not just give part of my heart to it, but to wholeheartedly be faithful to the gifts God has given me. I want to impact the world, be a part of change and see the kingdom of God become real and active in people's lives." 


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