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Album Review: Luke Spehar’s new release, ‘The Pilgrim’

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Spehar's folk style takes us beyond praise music.

Luke Spehar is a gifted Catholic artist who – with the release of his fourth album – is about to become very familiar to you.

Possessing a gift for infectious melody-making, and a style reminiscent of Elliot Smith, Spehar is a very talented guy. His guitar stylings seem both complex yet effortless, and his voice is like warm molasses. Combined with his adept songwriting skills, which he’s been developing since he was 16 years old, Spehar is the whole package.

His latest release, The Pilgrim, is nothing like the sort of praise music which is so prevalent in Catholic popular music. Spehar’s work is full of pleasantly catchy earworms and future classics in the folk genre, and his songs could easily speak to people who are not especially faith-focused.

From the downbeat of the first track, “The Farmer,” it is clear that Luke chooses every note and lyric with great deliberation in order to convey his thoughts in a way that elevates and engages. His heartfelt lyrics are interspersed with virtuoso level guitar work that puts us in mind of Jim Croce. It’s the kind of playing that makes everyone want to pick up that instrument and give it a try, but defeats most of us.

“America and Me” is a fun, lively tune that traces his family’s journey to America and what this country means to him. The banjo is a nice addition to the back track, but in our opinion the spoon-playing – unique and homey – is what make it great.

Our personal favorite from The Pilgrim is “Time With You,” a charming love song about commitment and faithfulness. The lilting guitar behind the soothing vocals creates a comforting atmosphere and the tune will be playing through your head all day.

As with his previous work, and in keeping with his folk roots, Spehar uses no electric instruments and that somehow makes everything feel very authentic and near. “The Farmer” sounds like it could be perfectly at home on a Ricky Scaggs album, and while religious themes permeate the album, Spehar’s lyric vocabulary is fluid and capable to speak to a broad audience. Indeed, we would be completely unsurprised to see The Pilgrim to cross over into mainstream success.

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