Album Review: From the River to the Ends of the Earth by Mr. & Mrs. Garrett Soucy

Garrett Soucy is a pastor, writer, and musician living on the coast of Maine with his wife, Siiri, and ten children. He and Siiri make up the indie-folk music duo Mr. & Mrs. Garrett Soucy; he writes the songs, sings lead, and plays guitar, and she backs him with vocal harmonies. From the River to the Ends of the Earth, released this month, is their fifth LP, after Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Soucy (2012), Procession of the Ram (2014), Wayword (2016), and According Lines (2020). An album of self-examination, of spiritual wandering and homecoming, From the River gives voice to the desire for meaning and rest, ultimately locating it in the person of Christ, whose welcome is wide and whose Way is life.

From the River to the Ends of the Earth

Lyrically subtle and complex, these songs express, for the most part, a restlessness of soul. The speaker sustains various dependencies and even the illusion of independence. But he also admits to weakness. “I lifted my Petrine eyes [i.e., eyes like Peter] and almost drowned.” He seems to want more faith, to want holiness. Without moralizing, the songs poke at idolatries, “broken crutch[es],” recognizing them to be just that and moving toward confession of the One who alone is worth leaning on.

The title of the album comes from Psalm 72:8:

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The opening track, “One Big Bruise,” is a breakup song, but it can also function allegorically. It seems to me to be inspired by Hosea 2 and the wider-spread metaphor of ancient Israel as God’s unfaithful (KJV “whoring”) wife, hooking up with other gods.

“1, 2, 3, 4” is a celebration of the four seasons.

“No American Savior” is a renunciation of hope in salvation through politics, on the one hand, and on the other, an admonishment against apathy or deferred responsibility when it comes to the welfare of the nation. Just because the Christian’s primary citizenship is in heaven doesn’t mean we ought not to care about the flourishing of others here and now, and just because our preferred party is not in office or we detest certain policies doesn’t mean we should dissociate ourselves from our country. However, lest we overestimate the ability of law to transform society, this song reminds us that a perfect, roomy kingdom with a perfect, loving head will one day come. Until then, let’s not stand passively by; let’s allow our primary allegiance to Christ to work itself out in our neighborhoods and cities. At least that’s what I hear in the song.

Next, “What’s Hiding in Thee” is a meditation on Matthew 12:33–37 (“out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks . . .”). Our speech often reveals what’s inside us.

“No Longer Egypt” is about not settling for anything less than what God has for us. It references the Israelites’ desire, upon encountering the hardships of their desert journey to the promised land, to return to Egypt (Exod. 16:2–3; Num. 14:1–4), the land of their enslavement, where at least things were familiar and predictable. In a similar way, we are sometimes drawn back to our former life of bondage to sin, which carried with it at least some form of stability, however savage. The song could also be interpreted as nudging us out of our bondage to play-it-safe normalcy. God is in the business of calling us out of our bubbles into unknown territory and uncomfortable, even risky, situations. How do we respond?

(Related post: “Album Review: Full Moon in June by Ears to the Ground Family”)

The most jubilant song on the album is “Love Like the World’s Never Known,” which uses the tune of the African American spiritual “I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land.” But instead of a home “way beyond the blue,” as the nineteenth-century lyric goes, Soucy sings about a home “that’s coming in slowly,” glory breaking in right here, right now. He sees it in the love and goodness of his wife, in his children at play, in the experience of forgiveness, and in the wisdom of God’s word lived out.

He relishes the process of sanctification, of being conformed more and more to the image of God’s Son. “I’m on a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 storey mountain. I’ve gotta keep on drinking from an eternal fountain.” (The seven-story mountain refers to the mountain of purgatory from Dante’s Purgatorio.) He seeks to build a home of hospitality that reflects the hospitality of God, where anyone can come and sit at the table, know love, and be filled.

The poetic quality of Soucy’s lyrics is a hallmark of the album. I can’t say I grasp the meaning of all of them, but here is just a sampling of lines that stood out to me:

  • “Be it that the eyes of all of us should recognize Thee, being that true being is the essence of your Name. . . . Be it that the wills of all of us will follow rather than quench the One whose power is to keep us on the Way.” (“Two Sisters”)
  • “Part of us conquers. Part of us falls. Part of us feigns to be crushed ’neath it all. Atlas is grunting but sincere and still. Nobody’s told him that yoke has been filled.” (“Restless Heart”)
  • “Every love isn’t love. True enough, true enough. Sometimes what you think is a hand is a glove.” (“What’s That”)

You can stream or buy From the River to the Ends of the Earth from your preferred outlet; see https://mrandmrsgarrettsoucy.hearnow.com/from-the-river-to-the-ends-of-the-earth. Read the lyrics here.

Hear Mr. & Mrs. Garrett Soucy perform live with Bernie Nye at the Camden Opera House in Camden, Maine, in 2020, starting at 4:08 of the video below. Eight of the ten songs they sing at this concert appear on From the River.

Also, Soucy is enthusiastic about helping to foster the development of thoughtful art among Christians and to that end is a founding member, with Christopher Finn, of the Christian Artists Guild of New England (CAGNE), which had its inaugural gathering this month. Check them out if you’re in the Northeastern US!

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