Christian folkster Shawn McDonald had a hard time defining the scope of his craft with his first few albums, but Roots, his third full-length, more than rectified that. None of those several early releases — a prolific mix of studio, live, and ancillary EPs — quite captured his essence. They were too somber, too eager, too slow, or just plain too simplistic to sustain interest for an entire album's duration. Roots brings all of those elements together with far more focus and balance, adding a healthy dose of his trippy folk-pop approach and a dash of organic soul to create McDonald's most accomplished album to date. His ruminations are still psalm-like and worshipful, but the sonic palette is much more varied, as evidenced in the title track, a near-tribal mood piece that seems like a stripped-down b-side from Radiohead's Hail to the Thief sessions. That's as progressive as things get, but McDonald is by no means complacent with everything else. Pre-Roots, an acoustic-only number from the singer/songwriter could easily devolve into an overlong coffeehouse piece, but here those fingerpicked moments, like the quirky "Slow Down," are never boring or routine. If anything, it seems like McDonald has learned that less is more shouldn't mean tedious, but an opportunity to let nuance, not numbness, do the trick. He still entertains a certain rhythmic sensibility in the way he incorporates loops and blips into the more uptempo tracks — kind of like more trip-hoppish Jack Johnson — but now there's a certain jazziness running throughout, enlivened by wistful strings and miscellaneous aural tricks by producer Christopher Stevens. Roots is a bohemian alt pop disc through and through — so atypical of the Christian singer/songwriter tradition that it could easily appeal to those not normally attuned to mainline CCM.