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Album Image -- Closer

Sherwin Gardner: Closer

$ 13.97

There is a saying that goes something like, "If you're looking for help getting something done, ask someone who's busy." Such an adage could certainly pertain to Sherwin Gardner who in his mid-twenties has released four albums, written and produced for numerous other artistes, and contributed tracks to numerous compilations as well. This prolific Trinidadian artiste now presents us with his latest full-length album, aptly titled "Closer". Actually, with nineteen songs (no intros or interludes) he possibly could have released it as a double album on one disc!

The follow-up to the well-received "Leaning" is Gardner's first on the Creative Soul label, in conjunction with Flow Master's Records.
Overall, the result is an excellent one with a refreshing variety of rhythms, textures and lyrics with an emphasis on Christ-directed praise and worshipful expression.

"Closer" opens with the beautiful title track- a prayerful plea to Jesus Christ to share more intimate communion with Him. Sherwin's distinctively tasteful acoustic guitar style begins with crisply picked notes and gradually builds to a reggae strum as his vocals intensify.
I love the subtle rhythmic changes of the alternating guitar parts, simple percussion and backing vocals providing just the right accompaniment for Sherwin's passionate vocal. A great song to play in the morning or anytime one feels the desire to draw closer to the Lord and (re)commit himself to Him.

"My Help" is one of several highlights with its uplifting melodies and lyrics that serve to encourage those who are afflicted. Lovely female vocal accompaniment provides the perfect ingredient to lift up the downtrodden as Sherwin expounds upon the words of the psalmist to include some teaching and testimony delivered in his unique sing jay style. Truly a gem!

Lovers of roots reggae will find a good amount of selections sure to please. "I Got A Song" contains some lovely saxophone and a solid one-drop beat with lyrics that encourage the listener to look to Christ and live righteously. At just over three minutes, it seems to drift away too quickly so you may want to rewind and play it again. "Fill My Life" is a boom track with a catchy chorus and smooth yet impassioned vocals, accented by touches of Sherwin's patented falsetto. If there can be one drawback, it's that "Fill My Life" (in addition to the others roots material) sounds rather digital or synthetic- the norm for much of what is created today but musically may not quite satisfy those who long for the organic reggae sound. Nonetheless, these tracks are thoughtfully created and utterly enjoyable, including the sunny-sounding "Gonna Be Alright" with its encouraging lyrics. See if in the first moments you aren't reminded of a certain classic reggae song. (I'll let you listen and figure it out for yourself.) You may also notice that Sherwin borrows just a few words from "I Worship You"- and it works.

"I Will Sing" is a very nice experimental track, which combines dancehall with 60's style choral vocals (think "The Turtles" or "Mamas & Papas"). This is one of those songs you can't help but sing along with. Some excellent saxophone playing is also a feature on this praise track.

"Sweet Breeze" is nice "minor key" roots reggae track framed by lovely female backing vocals and bittersweet saxophone accompaniment. Lyrically, Sherwin expounds upon the blessings of being cleansed by the blood of Christ and anointed by His Spirit, expressing how good and refreshing it feels. "Bow Down", the album's only cover, reminds me of something Kirk Franklin might create if he had been born in the Caribbean. Gorgeously done with a contemporary beat and seasoned with subtle bongos, Sherwin takes the role of worship leader as he leads a choir in refreshing musical worship.

A definite East Indian flavour permeates several tracks on "Closer", including the inventive "My God Is God" featuring Shiselon- whose robust, patois-free rapping style provides a good contrast. The song is a unique blend of praise, testimony and admonishment. "He Died For Me" continues with the banghra influence as Double Six & Light House Crew joins Sherwin in collaboration where several cultural paths seem to converge in harmony. I was taken by this song upon the first listen and found it interesting how Sherwin borrowed the chorus from the spiritual "Jesus Loves Me" and used it in a creative way.

One of several tracks that reflect the creative spirit of Sherwin Gardner is "In Your Arms"- a track that sounds like collaboration with 70's R&B/soft rock group Ambrosia. We are treated to more tender guitar picking and strumming over hybrid reggae beat with cool harmonies (the Ambrosia effect) and starkly pretty melodies. This musical bed creates just the right canvas for some of Sherwin's most poignant, reflective lyrics on the album.

One morning I woke up and I found that I was feeling a little bit drifting away
I looked outside and saw the skies...oh the clouds of a brighter day
I saw a shepherd who gathered his lambs in his arms and went on his way
Then I remembered Jesus who said He's never gonna leave me, but forever He will stay

As I sat and I ponder and then I look over yonder
You see, I saw a little baby in the arms of his mother
The child looked so safe from danger and any harm from a stranger
And so Jesus, my Father He is my guide and protector

As music and words merge, an illustration is created which beautifully conveys the image of the Father as gentle, tender and loving.

"Been There Done That" is an uplifting track in which Sherwin testifies of God's faithfulness in life's most difficult situations as he shares personal testimony. The peculiar dancehall riddim features a melody which sounds like bass and woodwinds compressed together. Sherwin has a tendency to get so intense (or "wild") with his vocals at times that it can hinder the message from hitting where it needs to. Happily, this doesn't happen here and practically nowhere else on "Closer"- a sure sign of artistic maturity. The passion and sincerity are there more than ever but he practices a degree of restraint that makes this album a very listenable experience from beginning to end.

"I Stand" is a deeply intimate expression of worship unto God Almighty, praising Him for His infinite love, wisdom, beauty and holiness.
As you listen this album and also to "Leaning", you'll realize that Sherwin likes to use a type of modulating effect on his voice at times. He chooses to use that effect on "I Stand" and while it doesn't spoil the song he may have been better off without it.

The album finishes with "My Proposal" a song that Sherwin composed for his wife Kim upon their engagement. While there is a cool, romantic vibe the message is placed within the context of a lifelong marriage based on the closest of friendships and growing together in Jesus Christ. It ends up being a nice way to end the album as Sherwin allows us to share in his commitment to his wife (they're married now!)- perhaps to encourage himself to remain committed and to bless other married and engaged couples.

"Closer" reveals an artistically more mature Sherwin Gardner who takes His love for Christ in new musical directions, unconcerned with being put into one category or another, yet desiring that his songs be accessible. The ample, yet not overwhelming acoustic guitar, saxophone and the willingness to try new things really bring Sherwin's song craft to a higher level. I believe there is much on this album that can appeal to a wide cross section of listeners and stand the test of time.

Review by Mike Roots

Track List

  1. Closer To You
  2. Fill My Life
  3. My Help
  4. Gonna Be Alright
  5. Take Ah Dip
  6. Sweet Breeze
  7. Bow Down
  8. My God Is God (feat Shiselon)
  9. In Your Arms
  10. I Will Sing
  11. Shower
  12. I Need You
  13. I Got A Song
  14. He Died For Me (Hamalhamadla) - (feat. Double Six & Light House Crew)
  15. Been There Done That
  16. Hands Up
  17. Time To Pray
  18. I Stand
  19. My Proposal (Bonus Song)

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