Album Review: The Vespers – “The Fourth Wall” (Black Suit)
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT judge a book by its cover. The fresh-faced young musicians who comprise the Nashville band known as The Vespers play and sing way beyond their years. There is, however, an experienced professional element present here, as lead singers (and sisters) Callie and Phoebe Cryar (21 and 19 respectively), cut their musical teeth singing background vocals on Music Row.
The Cryar sisters’ vocals are as hair-raisingly sibling-close as the Louvin Brothers, the Avett Brothers, and the Secret Sisters (Laura and Lydia Rogers), but it wasn’t until they met brothers Bruno and Taylor Jones at a campfire jam that The Vespers became fully formed.
“We all grew up listening to a little bit of everything, but roots music didn’t come in until more recently,” says Bruno. “Folk and roots music tend to draw from spiritual themes. We don’t run away from our faith when writing, because that’s where our hearts are planted.” On “Lawdy,” the song starts out sounding like a swampy old mountain tune before growing into a full-bodied Sunday morning spiritual. “We were originally playing it really fast with drums,” says Callie, “but we slowed it down to be more bluesy. I wanted to hear that sound of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.’”
The album’s title references the invisible wall between performers and audiences, mirroring the band’s experience on the road as they honed their collective songwriting chops before live audiences. “Our music reflects that,” says Callie. “We decided to go on tour shortly after we joined forces and we really learned what our band was all about while playing to the people at our early shows. It shaped us and that’s how we really became ‘The Vespers.’ It’s all about connecting with people and breaking down that invisible wall.”
The Vespers make no attempt to hide their Christian faith, but it is certainly not an in-your-face attitude. The opener, “Better Now,” is a modern take on the New Testament parable of the blind man made to see by Jesus, a miracle no one believes. A stronger metaphor for faith there never was.
“Flower Flower” is pure pop nectar with a very grown-up message. The song is an absolute delight.
“Got No Friends” is an infectious and wholly original song about the path to salvation. In the hands of The Vespers, the path flows from the mailbox to the sidewalk to the arms of Jesus himself. It is a gorgeous tribute to faith and God (and faith in God). Jesus is well represented on this album. There is also a valiant attempt at a Son House cover, “Grinnin’ In Your Face” that puts a new face on the old blues classic.
The miracle of The Vespers is their ability to meld youthful energy with a spiritual background that can be traced to gospel tunes of The Carter Family. In fact, they have as much in common with that famous family as they do with the Louvin Brothers, as well as contemporaries like the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons — the Vespers are just that good.
The only dud on the album is the importunate “Footprints In The Snow,” a number that, at its genesis, begins as a pulsating and insistent instrumental, but steadily descends into pop music territory with a repetitiveness that eventually becomes tiresome.
An absolute gem, however, is Callie Cryar’s “Winter,” an emotionally wrought portrait of obsessive love and a heartbreakingly beautifully ode that tells the tale of a passenger on a train who is haunted by a lost lover’s icy grip which she is desperate to escape.
On the whole, The Fourth Wall features the glistening vocals and expert instrumentals of a very mature band. The sound is clear and precise without sounding too highly produced.
I highly recommend you check out The Fourth Wall. If you’re up for a live show, the band is currently on an extensive North American tour.
Apr 04 Music City Roots Nashville, TN
Apr 05 Grimey’s Nashville, TN
Apr 11 Barking Legs Theater Chattanooga, TN
Apr 12 WorkPlay Theatre Birmingham, AL
Apr 13 Red Clay Theatre Duluth, GA
Apr 15 The Altamont Theatre Asheville, NC
Apr 18 East TN State University Johnson City, TN
Apr 20 Down Home Johnson City, TNP
Apr 21 Jefferson Street Loft Lynchburg, VA
Apr 22 EarthDay@Loudoun Festival Ashburn, VA
Apr 24 Kirk Avenue Music Hall Roanoke, VA
Apr 25 Hope Cafe Raleigh, NC
Apr 26 TW Boons Greenwood, SC
May 25 The Union Naperville, IL
Jun 01 Albert S George Center Barnesville, OH
Jun 02 Appalachian Uprising Scottown, OH
Jun 14 OK Mozart Festival Bartlesville, OK
Jun 20 Uncle Slayton’s Louisville, KY
Jun 28 The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge Fort Worth, TX
Jul 01 Dosey Doe Acoustic Cafe Conroe, TX
Jul 13 The Shed Maryville, TN
Sep 15 Uprise Festival Shippensburg, PA