WIND STORM Album Review by Jim Johnson
August 20, 2009
How do you stay faithful to God and to that "best self" God calls you to be when life gets difficult or complicated? How do we react when the pace of change threatens to overwhelm us? It’s not an easy journey, but songwriting/musician team Nori and Barbie Kelley (collectively WIND) invite us to join them on the journey.
Nori and Barbie Kelley have worked under the radar of the Christian music business for years, yet if you make a best of CD of their music for the last 10 years, it’s as strong a body of work as anyone in contemporary Christian music. Note to reader: If you haven’t heard their CDs Straight Line, Wa, and Small Town Big God, go to their website (windmusic.us) and order them all today. You won’t be disappointed.
Their new CD is called Storm. Strong playing, great singing, thoughtful songs, and avoidance of clichés make for a great listening experience. Storm is arguably their strongest work front to back. It mixes a wide range of styles; 60’s pop, solo guitar, blues, and British art rock and comes up with a mix that is pleasing, challenging and thoroughly satisfying.
The disc opens with Butterfly, the first of a series of easily accessible tunes that will appeal to the casual listener. Using a familiar metaphor of the chrysalis journey they invite us to shed our cocoons and experience all that God has to offer us. The song features a rock solid groove, and some killer guitar wrapped around Barbie Kelley’s voice. All Creation Speaks continues the killer pop direction with some wonderful Beatlesque guitar hooks. I’m on Your Side begins with a rhythm kick built on a modern beat, that is melded with a traditional pop structure. The result - pure wonder.
The second section of the record is, I think the part closest to Nori Kelley’s heart as a musician. Windstorm mines the acoustic guitar combination he has mined since he first heard Al Stewart’s "Roads to Moscow." Black Forest and Waterfall are solo acoustic pieces drawing on influences Steve Howe (Yes) and Bruce Cockburn.
This brings us to what is, to me the emotional heart of the record. Kiss You Goodbye invites us to dwell in the place where people leave our lives, whether by death or a changing season of life. Researched Heart mixes Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac with Marc Knopfler to create a brooding piece asking us to examine our thoughts and motives. Wrapped around Barbie’s amazing vocals the song really asks us if we ever truly examine ourselves. The extended guitar on the end is pure bliss. Wherever You Lead / Speak is a statement of renewed faith, strengthened by the struggle to follow God through all circumstances.
"I will follow you wherever you lead
I will reach out and embrace you
You're the answer to my every need
Jesus, oh, Jesus, I place my trust in you"
The CD’s closing brace of songs brings a blast of British Art Rock circa 1977 to the project. Heal Our Land begins as a nice acoustic number built around the (II Chronicles 7:14) idea of God healing our land. Yet it breaks into a Pink Floyd influenced instrumental with a cascade of squalling guitars that would make David Gilmour proud. Over The Horizon is an instrumental driven by the unique sound of a Rickenbacker bass with a nod to mid-70’s Yes.
New, sometimes trendy artists can be a lot of fun and cause us to listen to music with new ears. An artist with a few miles and a load of experience (WIND) can unlock deep reservoirs of passion and faith. Nori and Barbie Kelley are artists at the peak of their creative powers, unleashing torrents of sound that leave the listener stunned and lyrics that invite us to join them on a journey to unexpected places. This CD is a blinder and a must have for anyone who wants music relating to the spiritual journey but abhors the cliché that CCM has become. Buy now, essential listening.
©2009 Nori & Barbie Kelley