There is something soul- stirring about music that comes with an honest message. It’s almost depressing, yet at the same time it’s comforting because someone else can relate to our deepest emotions. Ian Zumback explores the difficult seasons of life through a songwriting style that invites listeners into stories of hardship while exuding the reality of hope.
The opening track retells the story of the Good Samaritan from the perspective of the beaten man. A harmonica hums behind a rhythmic guitar. “Down In My Soul” is brutally authentic, even down to the vocal performance, where it sounds as if Zumback is weighed down by countless sorrows.
A muffled piano introduces the story of a vagabond who is invited to “The Table” which signifies a relationship with Christ. “You made me a seat at the table and You show Your desires for me/ You give me the life that You want me to have/ When You said “This promise I’ll keep”/ You’ll sit at the table with me” is the lyrical response to the invitation. Speaking of promises, track 2 radiates hope. “Promise is a Promise” reminds listeners with lyrics over a light- hearted guitar of the promises of God.
“Entertaining Angels” has a banjo and guitar melody that makes a simple sound to accompany a song with an important message. A steel guitar solo precedes an action spurring bridge that goes “So reach out your hand and love someone/ and serve someone today/ ‘Cause the gift He gave came freely to you/so now go and freely give it all away”.
A song in the storm, “Hope Beyond Despair” is a moment of praise despite moments of despair. The lyrics are open and hopeful: “When trouble steals the peace You left/ You are still the faithful one/ Who’s banner over me is love”. It differs from Zumback’s musical style in that there is a drum track that sounds patchy and distracts from the rest of the instrumentation.
“Murderer a Messenger” is a duet featuring Jessica Crawford, and offers up a creative telling of how grace can change “undeserving” people and transform them. “My soul’s a mausoleum/ and my life a hidden funeral” are incredibly descriptive metaphors in the track “Resurrect Me”. A cymbal marks the verses and a snare weaves through a chorus that yearns for life to be brought back to what is dead. A haunting minor interlude closes out the song.
Constructed of simple poetry sung over a deeply resonating guitar, “Song of Songs”, takes some lines from the book of the Bible with the same name. “Brother to Brother” is a very biblical track, referencing Peter and scripture. Softly sung, with a steadily strummed guitar the song speaks of loving all brothers in Christ. It speaks of a change of heart in how “we should treat one just like the other”, regardless of things that seek to divide people.
The album closes with the raw and acoustic “Manasseh”, a melodic retelling of Joseph in the Bible. Menasseh, meaning “forget,” is the name Joseph gave his firstborn son, as Zumback sings, “oh child, you help me forget/ You made me forget all the trouble I’ve seen/ oh child, you’re the proof of the promise / That’s been holding me”. An acoustic guitar and strings carry the album to an end on an optimistic note.
Zumback’s style wavers between folk and bluegrass, while maintaining a uniquely raw component to his music. The Table begins with a song about the difficulties life brings, yet ends with a song of confidence in the promises of God. The songwriting is authentic, drawing from biblical inspiration. The instrumentation is original yet familiar, and appropriately suited to the moods the music is meant to convey. Zumback’s vocal performance overall also matched the mood of his songs. All in all, Ian Zumback’s latest release is a distinctive musical message that invites people who are struggling in life to remember God’s faithful promises offered at The Table.