There are times when I hear a song and it sums up absolutely the musical sounds that most tickles my soul at that given moment in time. It is so utterly beautiful to my ears that it seems to be part of me. It soothes, it heals, it inspires, it pushes me on to deeper things. It touches my heart in what in ordinary terms might be called a sorbet, a cleansing between that busy hard chapter of life, and what the next vocational challenge is. In spiritual terms it is a sabbath, time to take out of the hand to the plough strain and just rest the soul in God, via a melody and some words.
Romantica is that sound for me. As soon as I press play on Shadowlands, and Let The Light Go Through You begins, I sink into something like a hot soul bath and my entire being relaxes into refreshment. Ben Kyle’s voice has a sacred connection. With the rest of his Romantica mates on board, there are these sweet harmonies and the gentlest instrumentation. The pedal steel - oh my! It is like heading off into a Minnesota forest and retreat with God.
Of course it helps that Kyle’s lyrics are acutely aware of my need for sorbet and sabbath. The album title Shadowlands is a nod to his fellow Belfast spiritual writer CS Lewis. Kyle shows Lewis-esque spiritual insight and wisdom that makes him like a sage for the 21st Century soul that gets cluttered up with stuff. He never preaches and rarely prophesies about specific events but my goodness few songwriters have the innate ability to convey the struggles of those of us seeking to find God in the madness of culture and religion.
Take Harder to Hear my song of the first half of 2016: -
Its getting harder to hear my heart these days
Harder to hear my heart these days
There’s so much culture in the way
Oh somebody save me
Somebody save me
I don’t want to be cool
Somebody shine a light
somebody shine a light on this soul tonight
I don’t wanna be right
It’s getting harder to hear from God these days
Harder to hear from God
There’s so much religion in the way
So much superstition in the way
What a song… and the next song Give Your Heart a Shelter just continues the soul soak…
Sometimes the night and the darkness know better
In the heartache is when we find the heart breaks through
It is a pastoral gem.
Not all the songs are as spiritually weighty but all shine a light in songs of touring, family, life in St Pauls and childhood in Belfast. The last song gives a smile in the heart for that childhood. A follow up to the utterly wonderful National Side, from their America album, it has him cycling to the sweetie store for bon bons and a Shandy Bass! Remember it well!
All in all this one is chasing everything else released this year to the top of the Albums of 2016 lists. Ryan Adams meets Head and The Heart. Ben Kyle is a secret gem. Romantica give his songs the fuller or just full enough sound to make that soul soak sweet, sweet, sweet!