As the closing notes of Jeremy Casella’s new album ring out, I find myself exhaling, my body and mind having settled deeply into sounds and words that evoke comfort, peace, and that most distinct of emotions—joy born of sorrow.
Reflecting on the name of this record, my mouth involuntarily forms a string of words I’ve grown familiar with through my church’s liturgy: “Remake us and lead us by your Spirit, the comforter.” A couple dozen Sundays in a row now, I’ve spoken those words together with my congregation during the Confession of Sin. As is so often the way with liturgy, I’ve never paused to give them much thought, and yet right under my nose, they’ve become incrementally heavier with each repetition, bearing that kind, gently instructive weight of accumulated emotion. And so now, as I finally think about those words, my eyes fill with tears.
Comfort, comfort ye my people Speak ye peace, thus saith our God Comfort those who sit in darkness Mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load Speak ye to Jerusalem Of the peace that waits for them Tell her that her sins I cover And her warfare now is over “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” —Johann Olearius
This is the kind of space that Jeremy Casella’s new album, Spirit, occupies: the sense that a thick veil of fog has finally lifted, revealing a heart-breaking beauty that soothes and welcomes you home.
There are two kinds of comfort: the kind that comes at the expense of healing and the kind that arrives as a harbinger of healing. There is plenty of the former available to us—it’s cheap, convenient, and fades quickly, so must be replenished often. There’s precious little of the latter, but it will last you a lot longer. Spirit is a comforting album, and the healing that went into its making is audible from start to finish.
When the songs have been loved well, there's no doubt that the result will be lovable. Drew Miller
Whether in the lavish refrain of “Spirit (Keep On),” the earthy soulfulness of “Autumn in Kingston Springs,” the quiet intensity of “Many Waters,” or the warmth and resonance of “Last Chance // Psalm 88,” I can hear and feel the comfort in the arrangements and recordings just as much as in the lyrics. These songs possess the effortlessness of having received the utmost attention from their author, who refrained from the temptations of either under-developing or over-writing in favor of the deceivingly simple middle path: true listening.
And it’s the true listening of Ben Shive, Lucas Morton, and a host of others that has brought these honest songs to full fruition, complete with lush string arrangements, compelling performances, and altogether gorgeous sounds (those guitars on “Last Chance” make my mouth water). When the songs have been loved well, there’s no doubt that the result will be lovable. I consider myself lucky to love them.