I’ve had the weekend to listen to and absorb the new Judah and the Lion album Revival. I’m not even going to lie, I had a little bit of anxiety as the release day approached. I had no doubt that it would be quality content. Glimpses of that had already come through with the singles released ahead of the full album. But a lot has happened since their last full length album Pep Talks was released three years ago. Even more so since my journey with the band began 10 years ago. Those first fruits have grown into a wide array of offerings of every emotion possible. While I knew they would deliver yet again, knowing Nate wouldn’t be a part of it directly weighed on me. I think each first without him will be weird to me until it passes. We’ve gotten a few singles, now we have an album, and I know the first meet and greet/show is the next weird to get through.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about my feelings about The music. Ever since I was introduced to their music, I’ve been impressed with each album’s change in tone that came as a result of their growth both as individuals and as a band. I remember being challenged by the songs from “First Fruits” that pointed to obvious devotion, the fight and depth that was in the album “Sweet Tennessee,” the fun and first signs of changes happening in their first full album “Kids These Days,” and then them blowing the sides off of any box of expectations anyone could have them in with “Folk, Hop, and Roll.”
I remember in the summer of 2018, I caught up with Judah in a coffee shop ahead of a show that they were on in Tulsa. He started telling me about Pep Talks and how excited he was about how they finally felt like they had the time to put everything they wanted too into an album. He wasn’t lying when he told me that I was going to love the songs from what turned out to be “Pep Talks” in 2019. Each single they released up to the eventual full release hit me harder and harder. Each show I was able to go to on that tour was a spiritual experience. I remember being the only one in a crowd of about 20 there to see them when they opened for Drew Holcomb in Norman to raging with 10k people at Red Rocks.
“Revival is such an important record to us. It was written during times of personal change for both of us as individuals. We hope the music creates space for grief and reflection, while opening the door to hope, amidst a time that has been uncertain for the world.”
These words were attached to the release on Friday June 10th. It is apparent through the album that these aren’t just merely words. Judah and Brian and by extension the rest of the band like the rest of us have dealt with so much since the end of 2019. Early singles released reflected that. I don’t need to know the full story behind “HAPPY LIFE” to be able to relate it to things I’ve walked through and conversations I’ve had with people in my own life. “Blue Eyes” nearly ripped my heart out the first time I listened to it. I lost my grandfather early this year and this song brought out all of those emotions all over again. There’s a great cover of “Landslide” here. It’s nice to hear their take on the song, and I feel that it fits narratively with the album. These words from the title track hit me hard each time.
“Someone, could you help me find the wisdom to learn
When I need to get up and fight and when to relent?
‘Cause lately I’ve been really trying hard not to get hit
But if dying means a revival, then I will submit”
These guys have a knack for writing through the tough stuff and pointing over and over again to the hope on the other side. So when life gets heavy and lonely, sometimes we just need to “Scream!”
The album ends on “Things Are Looking Up.” These lyrics point back to that open door to hope that this band is great about bringing us back to.
“I hope love and peace you’ll find
After all your painful times
And life feels lighter than you could ever know”
Over ten years these guys have been a part of my therapy. I don’t ever want them to go through the hard stuff, but I’m thankful that they are willing to be open when they do to let us know that we aren’t alone when we struggle and there’s always hope and revival waiting for us. I hope that they feel the same from me.
Thank you to Judah, Brian, and the rest of the guys who poured themselves into this album.
Follow one of the links below to listen to the new album