Album Review: Potomac by Tim Coons

Potomac by Tim Coons

Track list:

1. Twenty Three/Trouble So Hard

2. Two Rivers

3. Jaw/God’s Gonna Cut You Down

4. Sing Your Song Over Me/Do Lord Remember

5. Keep Being Found/Down By the River Side/Wade in the Water

6. Not Scared Here/Swing Low

7. Everything Is New/Battle Hymn of the Republic

8. Let Us Break Bread Together

Tim Coon’s Potomac album functions on multiple levels. At a basic level is an album of medleys that flow between original material, material from other artists, and American spirituals. The album derives its name from the Potomac River, which Coons feels is the “River Jordan” of America.

Politically this is an interesting choice for album content. In a time where Christianity has been so politically divisive, and a number of people are challenging America’s philosophical view of itself and its role in the world, this album goes back to a time when people sang their grief and their pain and their hope. Coons breathes new life into material that encapsulated the voice of whole people groups in generations past. This grounds the album historically by demonstrating the important role music has played in self understanding in the past. This may be a prophetic question to other forms of music: What identity are we shaping or reinforcing with the music that is being written now?

The arrangements and musicality of the album itself is touted as a collection of “mash-ups” a term more akin to the pop stylings of the Glee, but these mash ups are far removed from any glee club performance. Coons employs diverse instrumentation: bells, guitars, multiple melodies, drums, clarinet, and trumpet (to name a few) which make the tracks compelling. Coons uses the instruments that are traditionally used to perform the spirituals in the album, but then reinterprets them. These choices both do justice to the old tunes, but also open up room for them to grow and seem new again.

Potomac is an album that is quite aware of itself. It makes mention of the historical traditions that inform modern song writing, particularly folk music, and then weaves old songs with new choruses and melodies, which to me, highlights that the original music in this album sees itself as being written in the same vain as the music of old.

My personal experience of the album was multi-faceted. My first response was nostalgia and loss. Much of the politicking that I’ve seen in my life time, not to mention the dinner table conversations that were held around my house were about how things used to be. This created a sense in me that I had some how missed out on the days when it was good to be an American. That America used to be the land of milk and honey. It used to be a place where music and movies were clean, front doors were unlocked, everybody knew everybody and so on.

As I wondered about these feelings further, I realized they were less about longing for a time in history that I missed out on, but rather about a time in my life that I miss. A time when I was kid and the world was safe. It was a time where the world was mine to explore and at church I would attend Sunday school and sing songs about the God who had the whole world in his hands, and I actually believed that. What the album made me long for was that time of security. A feeling that seems more and more fleeting as I experience more life.

What I find powerful about this album is that it invites me to a bigger story. A story wider and deeper than any present circumstances. It’s an album about God’s faithfulness in history, and it’s an album that imagines how historians will see our time. How will we see God’s faithfulness when we look back in 50 years, 100 years? It’s also an album that I felt challenged me to trust again that my singing, praying, and thinking are heard and valued by a heavenly Father that loves all of his children deeply.

Buy Tim’s Album Here: http://timcoons.bandcamp.com/

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