My first memory of Shaun Groves was receiving a demo version of his album Invitation to Eavesdrop (circa 2000). I don’t recall if it was for a project we were doing with Lighthouse 21 or for Powerline 89.9… but I do recall us giving a number of the tracks a fairly good rotation during our Saturday night radio program in Waco.
It was a great album to introduce us all to Shaun.
A few years later (2003/2004?) he gave a concert at UMHB and I remember thinking afterwards as he took the time to talk with those in attendance, that he wasn’t like most of the “christian artists” I had worked with over the previous few years at UMHB.
Fast forward a few years, and his record company was gone and Shaun was left without a recording contract.
But it wasn’t long before he found a new voice through his blog (which I discovered through Kevin Hendrick’s recommendation). And then after months (if not years ) of trying, we finally connected earlier this year and I was able to interview him and share his story on our podcast.
As part of the interview, Shaun told us about his latest project – Third World Symphony – an album that was crowd-sourced through Kickstarter.
Fast forward to today and now the album is complete and the countdown has begun until it officially releases August 30.
(You can pre-order the album now on Shaun’s website for only $10!)
But Shaun, being as gracious as he is, has published the final mastered versions of the album online so we can all wet our whistle and get a first listen.
And so… I’ve listened. And I really enjoyed it.
In all honesty, I was a little leery of hearing some of the songs again after hearing their original raw version. I can think of numerous songs I loved when a band or artist performed them live – only to have them “ruined” by a Nashville producer after the band gets their first big record deal.
Luckily this wasn’t the case for Third World Symphony.
So without further ado…
Third World Symphony (my first listen)
All is Grace – A haunting flute intro leads to a classic acoustic guitar sound with simple but profound lyrics. I love the banjo picking that comes in on the second verse — adds another interesting layer. To be fair, I listened to this song a week or so ago when Shaun first released the mastered version and blogged briefly about it over at the podcast. But I love the song and the message — we love, we make peace, we give — because of what we’ve been given.
You have loved us
You have loved us all
You have loved us all so
We love all
Thank you for Christ and cross
Through us still wandering
Thank you for making peace
Through us love our enemies
Come by Here – Woah! “Whores” in the first stanza. The song starts off a bit edgier with a simple guitar pick and hard bass drum. As it builds I’m expecting a really driving electric guitar on the chorus. Here’s the chorus… well not quite what I was expecting — but not bad. It’s a good crescendo to the build but not as driving as I had in mind. Probably a little more CCM radio friendly (well except for that “whores” line in the first stanza). I can easily see a number of bands covering this song and really rocking out to it.
Come and meet us here
Come and touch our tears
That we may weep no more
Kingdom Coming – I’ve loved this song from the first time I heard it, played on nothing more than a grand piano. a number of times on our podcast since then. And truth be told, this was one I was really leery of hearing fully produced – but it works. This final version is definitely more produced and layered than that first raw version. And the flute and banjo from All is Grace return in this song as well. I’m starting to hear Steve Mason and Matt Odmark’s (Jars of Clay) influence for sure.
Sing – Something about this song reminds me of listening to a great country song driving down a back road in my pickup truck with the windows down. The classic, clean, electric guitar gives the song a nice twist.
I’d love to hear a choral group really belt the bridge of this song out in a live version.
Hallelujah sing, sing
Hallelujah sing, sing
Hallelujah sing, sing, sing
We will sing
In this brawl between the empires
Of our good Lord and the liar
Will you stand
Please stand with me
And we’ll stand and pray
‘Till the push the dark away
And on that Day we will sing, sing, sing
We will sing, sing, sing
We will sing, sing, sing, sing, sing
Awake My Soul – This song takes me back in several ways to earlier albums by Shaun Groves. Not sure what it is exactly. It’s not a particularly driving song – and not quite the slower ballad of Abba Father and Last Notes but I feel like it could fit right in with the rest of Invitation to Eavesdrop.
One of the themes this song and the others seem to really pick up on is “God is here.” Despite your situation, despite your circumstances, despite your reaction to him… God is here. A great reminder.
I’ve Got You – Piano and acoustic guitar. A beautiful love song.
I’ve got nothing in my hands to part these waves
I’ve got nothing in my bank account that saves
I’ve got no more might to muscle through
But – I’ve got you
The song was inspired after Shaun met young Kiran in India.
What could make a girl living in twenty-four square feet so happy? What could make an eleven year-old without a closet, a car, a television or a cell phone so happy? What could make a girl who walks past beggars and through so much filth every day so very happy?
“I have God and my sponsor,” she said.
What else could you need?
Enough – Now here’s something different. Closest thing I can think to compare it to musically is Mumford and Sons’ Winter Winds or Little Lion Man (incidentally Mumford and Sons has a track called Awake My Soul as well). I really like this change up after I’ve Got You. I love the pounding piano. And the banjos are back again! .
This song makes me want to dance.
Woah — and a brass section as well! Musically this may be my favorite song on the album so far. I’m going back to listen to it again… maybe to listen to the lyrics this time around…
Please don’t give to me wealth or poverty
God I ask only — for enough…
Bring more than this day’s bread
And I may say I’m God instead
Take all my crumbs away
And I may rob and ruin your name
The song is an obvious prayer – but far from most slow, dreary songs of prayer we’re familiar with. It’s a prayer in find that middle ground between our First and Third World Problems. Love it!
(listening to it for a third time)
No Better – I enjoyed the raw version of this song – but I really like the full mastered and mixed version. The song was written after Shaun was asked to give a public response to a friend’s moral failure and it appropriately reminds us of our own failings…
The song almost have a carnival feel to it. Perhaps (intentionally?) mocking the idea that we have any place to cast the first stone or judgment.
When you sling your stone
Aim it at her heart
Where every crime comes from
Where every stumble starts
And save the next for me
Muster all your skill
‘Cause sin in secrecy
Is the hardest kind to kill
Lay me down with the liars
The brawlers, thieves and backbiters
Lay me down with the others
‘Cause I’m no better
Down Here – a slower departure from the previous two tracks. Lyrically it wrestles with the need to find balance between a Jesus who simply came to save us from hell (afterlife) and a Jesus who came to save us from hell on earth. Hope in death. Help in life.
One side pitches God’s salvation as hope for the soul, something that begins someday when we die. Come to Jesus, this side says, be forgiven and live with God forever someday.
The other side depicts God as humanitarian, repairing the physical world, ending injustice, filling empty bellies, educating the poor, housing the homeless. Come to Jesus, this side says, and you’ll have what you need today.
Both sides are often at odds with each other. But they don’t need to be.
You’re just sending healthy happy people to hell, one side shouts. Well, you don’t care that some people live in hell on earth, the other side says.
One side focussed on up there. The other on down here. Both sides lacking without the other.
What in my heart ain’t twisted
I’ve kissed for less than thirty pieces
Oh, God, can heaven even reach me
So far down here
The prayers of generations split the clouds
The groans of all creation turn to shouts
The One who has no start and no goodbye
The One who mourns our fall, hears our cry
And comes to live with us and die for us and live through us down here
(Emmanuel, God with us
Our king has come to bring salvation
Emmanuel, God with us
Our king has come for us
Our king has come)
I only wish the backing vocals (above) played a more prominent part in the song at some point.
Just As I Am – Shaun recalled his own “salvation experience” during my interview with him for our podcast and he’s mentioned elsewhere how Just As I Am played a role in his own salvation experience. The song itself reminds me of the time I spent at an Independent Baptist Church myself and the song was sung at the end of nearly every service. And if I’m not mistaken, it was the song that being sung when I walked down the aisle at 18 to be re-baptized.
Shaun gives the song a fresh pick-me-up on this album and its a great closer as well.
After wrestling with the differences between the First World and the Third World and the differences between two often competing views of the Good News – Shaun says – “I come.”
We may not be perfect, we may still have doubts, we may still have hurts and we may still wrestle with it all (hopefully) but Jesus says – “Just as you are – come.”
The song also serves as a great return to the album’s beginning… All is Grace – so come, just as you are. May we live that kind of faith.
Don’t forget you can pre-order the album now on Shaun’s website for only $10!