Do you want more of the Scriptures in your hearing? Do you enjoy melodic folk music?
The Corner Room does a fabulous job of providing songs to help us meditate on God’s word.
2015 saw Adam Wright, singer songwriter of The Corner Room, try his hand at the Psalms with the release of Psalm Songs Volume 1. The album’s high point is Psalm 19 with its stunning chorus: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” I listen to this song frequently at my desk and it encourages me to devote my efforts to the Lord throughout the day’s work.
2018 saw a riskier project, with some less well-known psalms in their second volume. But last year saw the release of easily their bravest album yet. Psalm Songs Volume 3 ventures into many less-known psalms, even devoting a fifth of the album to Psalm 88, the saddest psalm of all 150.
This eclectic album begins with an upbeat rendition of “Psalm 146”, the first of the five consecutive “Hallelujah” psalms that close out the final book of the Psalter. The arrangement features great rhythm—always helpful in a song designed to lift our souls and voices—and reminded me of the theme song of The Chosen series.
“Psalm 4”, where David cries out for God to “Be gracious to me and hear my prayer”, is up next. Appropriately understated, the track features a beautiful female vocal accompanied by a simple piano and haunting cello. The final phrase is particularly moving in its quiet confidence: “You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
The album picks up pace again with “Psalm 11” as verse 4 is repeated in a triumphant refrain:
The LORD is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
The rhythmic, percussive drumbeat takes the listener on what feels like a steamtrain journey through Alabama countryside. The addition of slide guitar works perfectly, and if the solo section doesn’t get ya head bopping, feet tapping or fingers clicking, then go read Ezekiel 37, coz you ain’t got no life in ya bones!
if the solo section doesn’t get ya head bopping, feet tapping or fingers clicking, then go read Ezekiel 37, coz you ain’t got no life in ya bones!
“Psalm 15” is like a campfire singalong that exudes deep confidence in the LORD: “He who does these things shall never be moved.” I can almost hear the fire crackling while the earth beneath me remains unshaken.
“Psalm 53” with its damning indictment of the godless, opens with haunting a cappella harmonies. “The fool says in his heart there is no God” is the song’s refrain and is probably the catchiest riff on the entire album—a strange fact given its content; still, it is God breathed and therefore profitable for us to meditate on (2 Tim 3:16).
In “Psalm 88” (tracks 6 and 7) the music beautifully complements the words. Though later verses might sacrifice melody to lyrics (all the Psalms are taken verbatim from the ESV translation), The Corner Room deserve full marks for putting the saddest psalm to modern, evocative music, cleverly conveying a sense of the flood in verse 17: “They surround me like a flood all day long.”
“Psalm 43” is a slightly incongruous track. Its orchestral arrangement could be straight out of a Hollywood romcom soundtrack—imagine a happy couple skipping down a bustling New York street at Christmas time. But the lyrics are a crying-out to God: “Why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning?”
Things work better with “Psalm 150” (the last of the 5 “Hallelujah” psalms). This is well-loved and has been put to music a thousand times over. Here, The Corner Room have opted for another toe-tapper with honky-tonk piano and a gospel choir belting out “let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” It’s quite pleasing to hear them putting their money where their mouth is—when they sing “praise him with the trumpet sound,” behold, we hear a trumpet! When singing “praise him with lute and harp,” lo, we hear a lute and a harp! It’s simple but effective.
The Corner Room have opted for another toe-tapper with honky-tonk piano and a gospel choir belting out “let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”
“Psalm 119” (don’t worry, they don’t do all 176 verses) is very catchy and is probably the high point of the album. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of The Corner Room’s other Psalms volumes, but it’s a fitting closing song and testimony to The Corner Room’s dedication to providing resources which “help God’s people know and treasure his Word more deeply.”
The Corner Room or Sons of Korah?
At its best Psalm Songs Volume 3 brings us beautiful music with glorious vocal harmonies to accompany Scripture.
But, as a friend critiquing some of my own songs recently observed, when Bible passages are put almost verbatim to music, they tend to lose a certain lyricism.
I think that difficulty is evident here. The Corner Room seem to struggle to sustain a musical mood that complements the lyrical mood of each psalm.
Australia’s own Sons of Korah—opting for a freer approach to the words of the Psalms—have set the bar incredibly high. If you’re after the best experience of Psalm-music written in English, with melodies and lyrics that aide Scripture memorisation and meditation, I would still recommend their albums over this one.
But if you’re a fan of the ESV and would like to try some music that might help reinforce your knowledge of that translation; if you would like to try an eclectic compilation of psalms sung to fresh, folky (and sometimes meditative) music with remarkable harmonies—The Corner Room won’t disappoint.
To listen, visit their website or your preferred streaming service.