Cageless Birds Album Review

Willie Hamilton reviews Cageless Birds’ latest album ‘Live at Home’.

Artist: Cageless Birds
Album: Live at Home
Genre: Americana worship

As the title says, this is a live recording at the home of Jonathan and Melissa Helser, leaders in a ministry called “A Place for the Heart” which is based in North Carolina. They describe themselves as “a community of folks who love Jesus and each other”. Cageless Birds is a collective of artists that has developed from the alumni of “Eighteen Inch Journey” (from the head to the heart), a sixty-day creative school held at “A Place for the Heart”.

From start to finish, this album is more a worship experience than a set of songs. That’s not to say that the songs don’t stand up for themselves however, as they are all well-written and performed. The first track, Mt Zion is a call to worship and sets the tone with soaring acapella harmonies, plaintive lap-steel and tasteful acoustic and electric guitars. What really hits home though, is that these folks are bringing their time and talents as a worship offering.

One of their aims was that band members should bring their songs to the project. This means that there is much light and shade with different voices on display. Harmony is a major feature of the album and Jonathan explains that this reflects the harmony of what the Lord is doing amongst them.

Another of the aims was that there should be no overdubs, so that what you hear, or in the case of the DVD see, is the truth of the performance.

The songs are all in authentic Americana style, with guitars including lap-steel, bass, banjo, and piano/keyboards being the staple and ukulele and accordion on show here and there. Drums are there also and never jar. Indeed, nothing is forced and the songs have a flow that allows the listener to relax into the worship experience.

Come Close by Melissa Helser is very intimate and atmospheric, with a lovely reverb guitar intro and the longing lap-steel reflecting the simple yet heartfelt lyrics.

In the Morning by Chris and Jessie Miller sounds a bit Crosby, Stills and Nash and washes over you in waves.

To be honest, I could easily eulogise so much in this album, very good songs, accomplished musicianship, and excellent solo vocals with exquisite harmonies. I chose Melissa Helser’s take on an earlier project as a summary for this album “An invitation to experience something beyond the song”.

Do yourself a favour and check this out on CD/DVD if you can get it! If not, download it and/or watch the live performances on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed.

Willie Hamilton has been leading worship for many years. An experienced guitarists and singer he has been attending the Church of Scotland since finding faith in his 30’s. He is now finding the time to write more worship songs and has even managed to squeeze in writing an album review for us!