Ampersand is the official name that Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken give themselves when they play/sing/record together. This is the second EP they’ve released and I think it’s such a brilliant name for its meaning and symbolism.
I was given this new collection of songs on Sunday, when they played at our church with my dad, Kenny Meeks. And while I didn’t know what to expect, I was excited to listen to it.
When I put it in my discman (yes…) last night, I felt like I was suddenly in a candy store, and not for my taste buds but for my ears. Sweet sounding voices were singing thoughtful and profound lyrics; guitars (6-string, 12-string, acoustic, electric…) were strumming, some here, there and everywhere. The drums were warm and full or sparse and thin, all adding just what was necessary. And then there was a whole other batch of interesting sounds going on, keeping my mind busy so that when it was all over, I wanted to push play and hear it all again. Since I was listening on
headphones ear buds, I could hear everything that was going on, the layers of tones and sounds were coming apart and going back together again and it was a mind trip just to sit and listen to it all.
So yeah, not what I expected, but awesome nonetheless. As I listened, I felt like I was hearing a perfect combination of Aimee Mann & Jon Brion, Radiohead, Wilco, Doves and the Sundays.
At the show on Sunday, Derek pushed back on being labeled as a “christian” musician and I can see why. That label usually (but not always) means that your art is mushy and sentimental, and not very good. But the thing is that both at the show on Sunday and since then, as I’ve listened to the new disc, my soul has been refreshed, ministered to and even inspired. I come close to tears every time I listen to the track, “Last Fool Standing” as I think about the struggles we have in our own marriage. At their show, they mentioned that they celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary this year and every time I listen to the TN EP, I feel like I am listening to the journey they’ve been on. I appreciate that they included the bad with the good, the bitter with the sweet and that they didn’t shy away from sharing.
The rest of the EP is really strong. Sonically, it is solid, through and through and lyrically, it gives me so much to think about and sing along to–the marks of good music, in my opinion. There are a few surprising covers and even though the EP is seven songs long, it left me wanting more! While they don’t plan on becoming a “husband and wife duo,” the music they make together is really really good and I hope we hear more from Ampersand.