catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 5 :: 2007.03.09 — 2007.03.23


Hidden treasure

You probably have never heard of Matthew Perryman Jones, a Nashville-based musician and songwriter. He is an independent, Christian artist flying very much under the radar of the Contemporary Christian Music scene. Despite this lack of mainstream recognition, Jones is building an impressive body of work that deserves a wider audience.

Throwing Punches in the Dark, Jones’s second self-released album, is a considerable leap forward. Throwing Punches is a masterwork of stunning melodies, impressionistic images, and earnest meditations on brokenness, mystery, fear and faith. Though released by Jones without a label, it has the fully-formed, defined sound of a major label studio album. Its chiming guitars ring out and cut through a complexly layered atmosphere, variously composed of drums, effects, strings and keyboards. Jones’s knack for writing attractive, enduring melodies is on full display throughout; these are extraordinary songs of unrelenting quality. Jones’s voice merits special mention. As he has demonstrated on his essential contributions to the Indelible Grace project (the on-going album series by artists associated with Reformed University Fellowship at Belmont University featuring old hymns and psalms set to new music and arrangements), he commands a tenor of remarkably rich, evocative tone. When strolling through the quiet strum of acoustic guitar, as on his reinterpretation of Stephen Collins Foster’s 150-year-old “Hard Times”, climbing to a ghostly falsetto on “Beneath the Silver Moon”, or soaring over the swirling electric guitar storm in “Echoes of Eden”, this voice is refracted like light in a faceted stone.

Jones’s lyrics find him exposing his fears and brokenness, while celebrating a fearless grace.  “Breaking Out the Windows” acknowledges the enemy within: “Rage won’t lie that far beneath/ Something sinister that runs through your veins.” Later he finds reassurance in unflinching love: “How did we get so far?/ Running to hide these scars/ Love’s not afraid of what it finds in the dark.” This theme reappears on “Waiting On the Light to Change” where Jones extends the same grace he received: “No matter what’s inside/ There is nothing you can say to cause me to hide/ You know I’m broken too/ I’ve fallen far, I lost my faith, been found and made new.” God’s sovereign and gracious condescension lets him urge surrender: “Love won’t let you go/ It bends and reaches low/ Just let go.”

Jones’s father, to whom the record is dedicated, embodied a Chestertonian openness to the wonder and mystery of existence. Jones longs to inherit this posture, singing in a lullaby to his wife: “Let’s go far away/ See this world that God has made/ And our hearts are in his hand/ This lovely One who counts the sand.” On the epic “Echoes of Eden” he recalls his father’s advice and determines to follow it: “My father told me as I grew older/ To keep on finding faces in the clouds/ In a dance with mystery/ And as you hold her/ She may whisper her secrets though the shroud/ And I am listening now.” He connects this wonder at the mysterious with the experience of hearing the gospel story, detecting in these moments echoes of a paradise lost that will “lead us to that city glorified”, a place where “mystery can dance with truth.”

For many, this album is undiscovered treasure. Hearing it reveal itself is like finding faces in the clouds or catching a whispered secret. And I, for one, am listening now.

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