Have you ever thought about what makes a good album?
Is it fluidity when listening through the entire record? Or, is it because it is recorded well? Are there songs on it that impact you emotionally? And do they run through your head even after the song is over? After listening to Quails' record on the long drive from Ohio to Texas this past Christmas, I've discovered that Before the Bright Lights, touches on all of these.
Based out of the Chattanooga area, Quails blend of Americana coalesces skillful guitar, drumming and violin, and brings a feeling of “old-time” reminiscence with the use of engaging songwriting. Almost like opening up a collection of short stories, each song has its own special way of communicating a tale that could either be fictitious or veritable, but nonetheless honest in its expression. With songs about a millionaire who spent all his money trying to tunnel through a mountain to build a railway line, or the tale of John Harvey Walker, which sets the stage for his revealing of Christ’s great work on the cross, his music allows you to enter into the story. Admittedly, I feel that it takes great imaginative effort to weave your own faith belief and storytelling into your music while remaining impactful. This is where Quails seems to really shine.
Before the Bright Lights opens up with In the Name of the Lord, which discusses what I believe is the first conquest of the Holy Land (Siege of Jerusalem) by the Latin church. This track comes across as an almost dire admonition for all of us to not only refrain from repeating such an atrocity, but solidifying the reality that it was indeed a fallacy. It was an unostentatious way to open up a record, but certainly admirable, because I felt that his album just gets more superlative as it unfolds.
In his song Acres of Faith, which has my favorite guitar solo on the record, it appears that Quails has taken an allegorical approach with songwriting that bears the tale of a community that was in dire straits due to a lack of rain for their crops. Out of great concern, the townspeople show up at the local church to petition God for help.
You gotta have hope for the harvest, acres of faith,
when you go to the father and ask in Jesus’ name.
Expect that he’ll deliver when you bow your head to pray.
He is faithful to answer when you got acres of faith.
In the song, one of the men outlandishly shows up in a rain suit (even though no rain had fallen for some time), demonstrating the importance of having faith for such things. But more than that, Acres of Faith seems to be a call to action, by encouraging us to step out in faith and believe God for our own miracles.
Another one of my favorites on the album is When Love Comes, which also allows me to imaginatively wander and conceive my own idea of what Quails might be saying in his lyrics.
When love comes, love runs
to free the slave that war had almost won.
When love comes, love runs
to rescue the captive one.
Even though this may be a story about an imprisoned refugee, I imagine the people of this world being in that prison cell. But when Jesus comes, He truly frees us. In fact, the book of Isaiah tells us that, Jesus came to set the captives free. This song gives hope that Jesus can truly deliver us, and wants to.
He finishes Before the Bright Lights with the reflective Some Birds. Carrying the same emotional feelingness for me as Karla Adolphe’s Autumn Parade, this song took me into a place of somber contemplation as I deliberated over my own life direction. “Some birds, some birds were never meant to stay. Some birds, some birds were never meant to cage” rang through my mind as I wondered where God wanted me at this point in my life.
Truly, this is a superb album and one that has impacted me in such a way, that I find myself hearing his tales of faith, struggle and hope well after the player has turned off and the cares of the day have extinguished any sound of it. Quails’ music elevates your outlook on life… your perspective… your style; it makes it more artful... more enriching.
Indeed, in the quiet of the day, I can sometimes still hear the sounds of Quails stories going through my mind…
“When love comes, love runs to rescue the captive one.”
I believe Jesus is that love that Quails writes about.
Reviewer: Cory Enderby 2/2017