The Franciscan Friar of the Renewal continues to produce beautiful, contemplative Catholic music.
Brother Isaiah is back with a new album, Shade, his first new release since 2018. His new collection of faith inspired songs was performed solely by the Franciscan friar, who provided guitar and piano work, as well as vocals, beatboxing, and even some harmonica.
What struck us the most about the album is the intimacy in which each tune is immersed. As there is only one musician at work, the songs feel like they give a glimpse of a monk in the midst of solitary prayer. That he sourced so many of the lyrics from the Catholic prayerbook only adds to this impression, which is most present in his “Anima Christi,” which was drawn from the Catholic prayer, with some lines repeated for emphasis.
We did miss the arrangements that he made when accompanied by his fellow Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in his earlier works, but as this album was released in April (at the height of the pandemic lockdown) it seems fitting that Brother Isaiah completed the album on his own. Despite the limited capacity for arrangement, Brother Isaiah keeps each song interesting with unique stop-start rhythms on the guitar, which are often countered by syncopated vocal lines.
Our favorite track was “La Luz” (The Light), which tells a faith story through the use of rapid lyrics that may require multiple listenings to fully absorb. The chorus is catchy and the style is very trendy, calling to mind popular secular acts like Jason Mraz or Ed Sheeran. We really hope that he expands on this tune, as it almost begs for a drum beat and some backup vocals.
“The Story” is also a fun track because he uses a looper pedal to add some beatboxing over a simple piano chord progression. He also uses the looper in “The Vine,” which enables him to layer guitar lines for a beautiful accompaniment with subtle flares that really make the piece. “Finest Wheat” is also worth a mention, as it would make for an interesting Communion hymn, especially if it were converted for a Gospel choir.
The album is accompanied by a video series that shows Brother Isaiah hard at work recording each of his new songs. The complete playlist of Brother Isaiah’s Shade sessions can be viewed at the Francsiscan Friars of the Renewal YouTube channel. In one of the videos, Brother Isaiah gives a brief explanation of the album. He said:
“One of my favorite lines of the Psalms is ‘The Lord is your guard and your shade. At your right side He stands.’ Everyday is a journey and we find moments along the way where we can catch our breath, to rest, to pray, to find the strength we need to keep going. So these holy-hooks, these little meditations are pretty raw and uncut; just prayers from the heart, but I offer them to you for your own journey.”
With just over 45 minutes of music, Shade offers a contemplative Catholic experience that is as suited to meditation as it as a soundtrack for a long car ride. Catholic music lovers are bound to appreciate the fervent faith and rich talent displayed by this devoted friar. Click here to visit the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal website and learn more.