Over and Underneath (Bonus Video Version)
Typically, Christian praise bands strive for grandeur — and often achieve overkill. Tenth Avenue North takes a refreshingly intimate approach in their expressions of reverence on their 2008 debut Over and Underneath. There’s a rainy-day mood of contemplation running through most of the songs here, reinforced by Mike Doheney’s plaintive, slightly choked vocals. True, the acoustic-centered, string-accented sound of the album is reminiscent of early Jars of Clay and numerous other groups, but what personalizes Tenth Avenue North’s music is its hint of fragility. Behind the tightly-crafted veneers of tunes like “Lift Us Up to Fall,” “Let it Go,” and “Love is Here” lies a sense of human weakness which is most evident in “Hold My Heart” and “Times,” both poignant confessions of spiritual need. When they choose to, the band can paint majestic pictures of God’s creation (“Satisfy,” “You Are”) or capture the sheer delight of accepting Jesus (“Break Me Down”). Jason Ingram’s austere production — emphasizing cleanly-wrought guitar and piano lines — adds polish without obscuring the band’s essential simplicity. Over and Underneath is a work of sonic modesty and well-tempered fervor.