After meeting in the late ‘90s at Central Baptist Church in College Station, TX, Shane & Shane went on to deliver one of the better albums of 2002 with the release of Psalms. That album captured the heart of the artists, delivering stunning vocal harmonies, great and soulful acoustic arrangements, and lyrics deeply rooted in theological truths. Since then, record upon record has followed and, along the way, the duo has seemed to maintain that same formula while pressing into more radio-friendly territory. It’s a formula that’s drawn some fans and alienated others.
The group’s latest effort, Bring Your Nothing, is bound to do more of the same as it’s loaded with plenty of radio-ready hits, more great vocals, and slick production.
The genesis for the album comes out of the Shanes’ weekly songwriting class, where they teach students songwriting techniques alongside theology. Barnard explains, “Songwriting has been a special thing, because it’s not just about me. When I’m writing songs, instead of thinking of myself, I’m thinking of John, Heather, Jacob … I’m thinking of these students, [thinking] ‘Lord, what do you want to say to my students? I want them to know You, and I want them to see You in a way that makes a platform and a song stupid. You crush those things. Those things pale in comparison to You.”
That template heavily colors these songs as they come across as not simplistic but definitely very approachable in terms of lyricism. These aren’t necessarily corporate worship tracks, ala Chris Tomlin, but they’re theologically centered and accessible, clear in their purpose and direction. That direction points strongly to elements of grace as shown in the soulful strains of “You Loved My Heart to Death,” detailing the life, death, and resurrection while “That’s How You Forgive” is even more direct, it’s acoustic pop backdrop letting the lyrics stand firm. Listeners are reminded of the Author of that grace on “Without Jesus,” as “Though You Slay Me” finds the artists’ embracing that grace and holding it above all else in this world over against a sonic palette that lets their vocals shine.
From a musical standpoint, the Shanes’ adopted a different approach this time out. Enlisting the aid of some musical friends, Jason Hoard (Third Day), Tyler Chester (Fiction Family), Josh Moore (Caedmon’s Call) and longtime drummer, Joey Parish, and spent seven days at the band’s Wellspring Studios, sharing meals, engaging in conversation, and, most importantly, playing music together. Producing the album themselves, the duo opted to record the album live in the round, with the artist’s playing together live to capture the most invigorating and true sound.
Those sounds find the Shanes’ adopting a range of musical styles, from the Mumford and Sons vibes felt on “The One You’ll Find,” choice banjo strings and a building chorus making this one of the better tracks on the album, to the Jason Mraz meets Maroon 5 feel of the title track, smooth and silky R&B tones accented by a killer horn section and organ fills. “I Came Alive” is given the acoustic treatment, more organ providing some depth while “In A Little While” maintains the acoustic drive but surrounds it with eclectic percussion and keyboards as Barnard and Everett sing their hearts out.
Taken as a whole, Shane & Shane’s Bring Your Nothing is a good but not great album, finding the talented duo check off on all the usual boxes as they offer up great vocals, meaningful lyrics, and acoustic-based backdrops. And while they do offer up some changes, adopting some different sonic templates, the overall feel is still very familiar and almost safe, a result that will please some listeners and frustrate others who long to see the Shanes’ stretch themselves.