Music

Review: Featuring 'American Idol' alum, The Gray Havens inspire on new album

Crystal Lake native David Radford duos with wife Licia

Emotion is probably one of the most important components of any formula used to create good music. Emotion and music exist in this almost symbiotic relationship. As important as emotion is to the artist who is spilling an incredibly personal life record across a track, it is arguably more important to the listener processing that emotion. The Gray Haven’s latest album, “Ghost of a King,” has emotion oozing out of the corners of every song.

David Radford, a Top 20 “American Idol” finalist in Season 5, and his wife, Licia, have grown as artists since the release of their first album, “Where Eyes Don’t Go,” and it’s apparent they are pushing themselves to try new things. Listening to the Gray Havens’ library will paint a clearer picture of the musical transcendence that has brought them to “Ghost of a King.”

There have been many folk rock/pop groups flooding the music industry for the past decade, and some of them fall flat or end up producing the same sound over and over, sometimes continuously on the same album. The Gray Havens do not stick to a formula, which is what makes them unique. Each song on this album holds something new to discover.

The Radfords’ voices fortify each track on “Ghost of a King,” but work hauntingly well together on the title track, “This My Soul,” and “Go.”

The opening track, “Shadows of the Dawn,” perfectly sets the tone for the entire album. There’s lightness to the song, but you can hear a harsh determination as the beat persists, especially through the chorus. The song closes with a reverb of voices, giving a drifting end to this uplifting first track.

The title track is the second song on the album, which, although still sounding epically inspirational, has a much darker tone to it than the previous track. “Ghost of a King” swells, rises and falls perfectly. I see images of a person crawling and clawing, determined to reach a goal. The Gray Haven’s ability to tell stories through their songs is enhanced by the piano reprise at the end of the track.

The album’s tone shifts a bit with “Band of Gold” and “Take This Slowly.” “Band of Gold” features a bit more of the traditional folksy elements of guitar picking and tambourine shaking, while “Take This Slowly” sounds almost like it could have been a Joe Cocker song.

“Diamonds and Gold” pulls the album in yet another direction, giving a poppy, synth-heavy detour to break up the rest of the album just before moving back into heavier subject matter with “This My Soul,” a song that sounds a bit sad until the chorus kicks in and gives you the feeling of a warrior rising.  

“A Living Hope” ushers us into the final two tracks with an almost fully instrumental interlude. It starts off slow with only piano, swells and finally crescendos shortly before the song fades out, trailing into the next track.

“At Last a King” provides a head-on view of how the Radfords’ faith is a driving force behind their music. “At Last a King” and “Go” are both fantastic ways to bring this album to a close. They are both triumphant songs from the same vein as the title track. The tone seems to be something along the lines of, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Immersing myself in this album has been an uplifting experience, and I honestly can say I never thought I’d feel this kind of power from a folk pop album. All nine songs on “Ghost of a King” cast forth an intense amount of inspiration.

If I were ever to leave my home, fashion a raft to carry me away from the troubles of society and into an endless adventure, I would want my soundtrack to be “Ghost of a King.”

• Jason Pfrommer is a videographer for Shaw Media who graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in journalism. Pfrommer is a longtime vinyl collector and lover of music. He often can be heard quoting TV and movies and making pop culture references. He can be reached at jpfrommer@shawmedia.com.

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