Named after a book that begins and ends with the beginning and end of time, The Bible unfolds in a seductively undocked way. The normal structure of verses and choruses that tell us where we are in a song is replaced by a looser, more improvisational staging through which Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner carefully weaves his way into a vocal sing-speak. low. What could be a recipe for confusion or fuzziness is brought to life by consistently loud music.
Wagner’s Nashville-based group has always had an open feel. Accompanied by a changing cast of collaborators, he’s been the only consistent member since their debut in 1994. Now in his 60s, he’s one of those rare songwriters to become more exploratory in his outlook as he ages. For The Bible he decamped to Minneapolis to work with a pair of young independent musicians as co-writers and producers, Ryan Olson of the band Poliça and Andrew Broder of Fog.
The appearance of a steel guitar in “Dylan at the Mouse Trap” triggers memories of Lambchop’s American roots, though the album is set in an unclassifiable musical space. Reverb-laden piano chords hang in the air as if unwilling to fade into the silence. The horns occasionally erupt in upbeat fanfares and the basslines provide a supple groove feel. A gospel choir adds vigorous backing vocals to Wagner’s slow-motion phrasing.
“Little Black Boxes” takes a left turn to funk with computer-processed vocals, then another left turn to electronic music. “A Major Minor Drag” shimmers and shimmers with bells, bass, harp and trumpet solos. Wagner’s enigmatic lyrics compel us to submit to the flow of his thoughts rather than trying to fit them together chronologically. The opening and ending themes return (“His Song Is Sung”, “Every Child Begins the World Again”), set in songs that make every passing moment seem worth lingering over.
‘The Bible‘ is published by City Slang