A few years ago Rend Collective launched their Campfire series of albums, tackling a series of originals and covers in a raw acoustic atmosphere and it was awesome. A year or so later they applied the same treatment to Christmas favorites and it too was great. Now, with the release of Campfire II: Simplicity, the band is back at it again and the results are predictably great, leaving one wondering why the Collective would even bother with conventional studio recording again.
What makes these recordings, and this one in particular, so inviting is not only the stellar musicianship the band brings to the party, continuing to work the Mumford-esque acoustic mines deeply, but the unrestrained joy that echoes throughout each and every song. The live recording feel allows for this deep feeling to permeate these songs, both covers and originals, and the passion and energy of the band is palpable on each and every note.
Opening with a lightly plucked and sung “This Little Light of Mine” that segues into “Free As a Bird” and sets the energy free, the organic percussion and lead singer Chris Llewellyn’s vocals shining through while “Live Alive” follows strong after, building on that foundation. A cover follows of Hillsong UNITED’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” and is given a more upbeat treatment that just oozes with joy, Ali Gilkeson’s harmony vocals melting into the mix beautifully as “Every Giant Will Fall” incorporates some bagpipes and an energetic crowd who join raucously into the sing-along.
Gilkeson takes the lead on “My Lighthouse,” a stripped down arrangement built around warm piano and plenty of organic handclaps and boot stomps whose energy ebbs into the smooth worshipful tones of “Whatever Comes,” a song that one could easily imagine being rendered around a crackling campfire, the stars sparkling down over the vertical lyrics. “Joy of the Lord” is quick to regain the bright energy of the previous tracks, a cacophony of instruments providing a celebratory vibe on another clear album highlight that captures the band’s heart front and center.
A bluesy note colors in the lines of “Your Royal Blood,” the chorus of voices strong and proud with a gospel sway while “Simplicity” draws in some emotive strings and banjo to undergird the praise-filled lyric. “More Than Conquerors” is the sort of track that you can’t listen to without smiling and tapping your toe, the driving beat and racing mandolin infusing an infectious sense of joy before the album comes to a close with the full-on musical onslaught of “You Will Never Run,” leaving listeners on their feet and clapping for more.
Rend Collective simply needs to bring a campfire with them wherever they go and all will be well. The acoustic setting is perfectly tailored to their brand of energetic, joyous praise and here on Campfire II: Simplicity, they continue to show why.