The Lost Dogs
The Phantom Tollbooth April 2003
by Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock
This album takes on a good time country feel which is a natural progression from Gift Horse and Real Men Cry. Vocally the group has never sounded better, The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Bros. would be proud of these guys. This album contains some of the best singing separately and together that I have ever heard from these guys. When they do their trademark trade off vocals it is great but when they are harmonizing such as on tunes like "Home Again" or "Darkest Night" it is sheer magic.
The lyrics have a down to earth feel to them that is a perfect blend with the tunes that we are experiencing here." In through the dark, into His heart, deep into deep we go under. The only Beloved, the loved of the loved, how can we speak of the wonder." "Darkest Night" is possibly the prettiest song that Terry Taylor has ever written. Or this from "Come Down Here," "I am a lonely sinning soul, come down here, won't you come down here. Sipping my supper from an empty bowel, if you come down here, you can fill me full." Even though this is a short project coming in at just under thirty five minutes, there is not a second of wasted space. This is the Dogs at their very best!!! Check out their web site at www.thelostdogs.com
The Phantom Tollbooth May 2003
by Brian A. Smith
Awesome in its simplicity, this album offers a blueprint of how Americana style music should be done. The instrumentation is complimentary, rather than overpowering. The singers do just that, sing, without straining, without imitating today's styles and trends, without studio tricks. Taylor, Roe, and Daughtery all contribute songs, sing, and play well, adding up a combination not unlike the Traveling Wilburys, or Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
"Moses in the Desert" faces the personal struggles of sin and confrontation. "There You Are" depicts God waiting for us to stop running from Him:
I've been told You're known to say a word
A thing or two about love that never doubts
I'm just know-it-all
Still I blow it all
Need to give in to the love I've lived without.
"Be My Hiding Place" is a modern hymn about God's help and shelter. "Cry Out Lord" points out that God is the only way to navigate through life's storms. "Crushing Hand" contrasts God's power with His gentleness. "Home Again" offers hope to those who have wandered.
Interestingly, none of these songs say anything new, other than the occasional turn of phrase. They simply and clearly shows humans as they are, inevitably failing without the grace and mercy of God. Nazarene Crying Towel points out the truths that we all know, not in an overbearing or holier-than-thou way, but with a kind, loving spirit that characterizes the God we all hope to see one day. Along with Derek Webb's She Can and Must Go Free, two of my Top Ten spots for 2003 are now spoken for.
The Phantom Tollbooth May 2003
by Bert Gangl
Perhaps as a tribute to an improbably long career, which began with the Scenic Routes disc in 1992, the Lost Dogs play host to a wide assortment of musical styles on their latest offering. Songs like "There You Are" and the lead-off cut, "Moses in the Desert," hark back to the at-the-time surprisingly countrified textures of the debut record. Others, like "Come Down Here" fall in line with the sparkling country-meets-rock hybrid mined to such fine effect on 1999's Green Room Serenade. Elsewhere, the group turns its attention to blues ("Cry Out Loud"), meditative modern pop ("Darkest Night") and acoustically-based contemporary worship (the City-on-a-Hill-inclined "Crushing Hand"), with equally stellar results throughout.
Where such a wide-reaching palette might spell doom for lesser groups, Towel's disparity of styles winds up, in Sgt. Pepperlike fashion, being perhaps its greatest strength. And Roe, Taylor and Daugherty's uncanny ability to take that which has been crafted with such heartfelt passion and attention to detail and have it come across so convincingly off-the-cuff spontaneous remains one of the trio's most endearingly distinctive assets. Those already ensconced within the Lost Dogs camp will likely need little prodding to go out and pick up the new album. For the uninitiated and skeptical, though, the Crying Towel project serves as undeniable proof that the all of the hype surrounding the Dogs cooperative is, indeed, very much deserved.
by John J Thompson
With production and recording assistance by veteran Americana ace Phil Madeira, the Dogs have taken one more giant leap towards rustic authenticity. Smoother, gentler and entirely devoid of sarcasm, Towel is a deeply consoling and profoundly spiritual experience. From the lilting layers of perfectly voiced harmonies (at this point the Beach Boys and The Byrds have nothing on The Dogs,) to the delicately arranged guitars, each song resembles a hefty arm on the shoulder, expressing encouragement, support or just presence to a hurting friend. The mournful and joyous story from which the album's title is derived adds a wonderful thematic thread and spiritual touchstone to the batch of twelve songs.
Though the playful side of The Dogs is certainly welcomed, this outing's more serious and warm tone is a refreshing addition to their impressive catalog. There are a few moments of upbeat reveling, including the classic Dogs jangle of "Deeper In The Heart," (somewhat reminiscent of a gentler Rockpile,) and Roe's bluesy rocker "Cry Out Loud," but for the most part the band settles into a subdued, confident country-rock vein ala Gram Parsons, early Eagles or The Band.
Certainly the 77s, The Choir and Daniel Amos should continue on, and there's no reason they wouldn't, but at this point The Lost Dogs are far too important an artistic, spiritual and cultural element of the faith-music community to be considered a side-project.
Christianity Today 2003
by Russ Breimeier
At a Glance … the latest from Lost Dogs is quiet, contemplative, maudlin, confessional, and ultimately very inspiring and satisfying.
The Lost Dogs are one of Christian music's enduring super groups, combining the veteran talents of Terry Scott Taylor (Daniel Amos), Derri Daugherty (The Choir), and Mike Roe (The 77s), as well as Gene Eugene (Adam Again) before his passing in 2000. It's easy and common to view the band as Christian music's answer to the Traveling Wilburys (which featured George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne). In reality, Lost Dogs have proved more creative, more country, and more enduring, releasing their first album together back in 1992. They bear more resemblance to the timeless country sound of legends like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, combined with the sweet vocal blend of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.
Nazarene Crying Towel marks the Dogs' sixth studio album, and the first one to confidently move beyond the loss of Gene. The album's title is explained beautifully in the liner notes, and I don't want to take away from Terry Scott Taylor's words. The album is a tribute to his late grandmother, and is a comfort for anyone wrestling with sadness, shame, or despair. It's a reminder that from those same emotions, we can find forgiveness, hope, and joy through Christ's death and resurrection.
These are some of the Lost Dogs' most straightforward songs to date, inspired by the similar peaks and valleys found in the Psalms. Were it not for their uniquely classic country sound, the album would pass for southern gospel or inspirational adult contemporary. "Moses in the Desert" exemplifies this sound, likening our daily struggles to that of the great biblical leader who fled the comfort of his home in Egypt only to be called back by God: "'But dear Lord I just can't do it. I am just a man.'/He said 'I will see you through it, I Am that I Am.'" A similar classic country pop sound born from the '60s and '70s is found on "Deeper in the Heart" and "Home Again," which is carried by a simple melody and a chorus of whistles.
Many of the songs combine phrases and ideas from several Psalms. The old-time country of "There You Are," for example, combines the despair of Psalm 13 with the comfort of Psalm 139: "Where to run when you're running?/Where to go when you hide?/No matter where You go, still there You are/We can run but God's love won't be denied." "Come Down Here" is a quiet little country ballad that builds on Psalm 51: "There lies inside of me a heart that's dark/Come down here, won't you come down here?/Can't take the fire, but I'll take the spark/If you come down here we can chase that dark."
A similar sound is found in the Psalm 32-inspired "Be My Hiding Place": "Unto Thee I cry my Savior/Don't be silent long, oh my Lord/Hear the voice of my troubled heart, when I lift my hands to Thee/Be my hiding place in times of trouble/Compass me about with songs of deliverance." Either Psalm 27 or 60 could have been the inspiration behind "Mercy Again," which is characterized by Terry's Brian Wilson-styled sighing. Likewise, Mike Roe brings his penchant for raw country blues to the outstanding "Cry Out Loud," which stands out as a grittier and more electric sounding track. It's equaled by the drowsy and dreamy "Darkest Night," which blends together images of Christ's crucifixion and our redemption. "The Yearning" is unremarkable musically, but still speaks volumes lyrically.
This album is not even 35 minutes long, but because there are 12 tracks, the length feels just right. Though most all of the songs were written by Terry, Nazarene Crying Towel stands as one of Lost Dogs most cohesive and strongest works. There's a charm to Lost Dogs reminiscent of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, not a direct comparison to style, but rather an observation to the broader appeal of the band's sound to those who normally wouldn't appreciate country music. It's charming and nostalgic without sounding twangy or clichéd, incorporating gospel, blues, country, folk, and pop styles without committing to any of them. All three members are skilled guitarists, backed by a strong team of studio musicians, and their vocals blend beautifully while trading lead vocals from track to track. Their world-weary sound is a perfect match to the Psalm-inspired lyrics, providing musical balm that is more soothing than typical inspirational pop albums.
CCM Magazine 2003
by David Mackie
Inspired by the life of member Terry Taylor's grandmother, the songs on Nazarene Crying Towel are as hopeful as a psalm and as calming as a prayer.
Initially, the album's pace is set to that of a trotting horse on "Like Moses" and "Your Big Love" before moving on to "Lonely Broken Heart." Influences from the old country sound of Hank Williams Sr., Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash are evident throughout the album; while other elements -- the gritty blues of "Look Up Baby," the falsetto vocals of "Show Me Your Mercy Again," and the gospel thrust of "Jesus on the Shore" -- help extend its musical scope as well.
The Lost Dogs' desire to preserve traditional musical genres is, ironically, what makes Nazarene Crying Towel so creative; but it's ultimately the serene rhythms and soothing lyrics of the album that give it so much charm.
by Greg Adkins
When I lift my hands to thee
Be my hiding place in times of trouble
Compass me about with songs of deliverance"
The Lost Dogs are getting older. On Nazarene Crying Towel, their sixth album, one gets the feeling that time is slowly running out and the Dogs are weary for home. This album could almost be considered a concept album on the theme of desperation. Most if not all of the songs deal with this theme in some way. Songs like "Come Down Here" which begs God to show himself to humanity, "Crushing Hand" which echoes the same sentiment but asks God to make sure he lowers "crushing hand, Your mighty hand on me gently", "Mercy Again" which is asking God to show just that, and "Cry out Loud"; a Mike Roe blues-rocker that reminds us (like numerous psalms) that it is okay to cry out to God sometimes.
If you are a Lost Dogs fan, you will enjoy this album. A warning though, the Dogs' trademark humor and wit is glaringly missing from this recording. That can be a detraction if you're looking for that, but it really makes for a stronger album. A throwaway gag song would have been terribly out of place in this collection of songs. Also gone on this record are the big rock numbers, at least for the most part. On "Deeper in the Heart", Terry Taylor literally channels Tom Petty for one of the best songs the Dogs have ever done. This song rocks as hard as anything the Dogs have ever done. After this though, it is a strictly acoustic affair. That is probably the only complaint to be made about this record... after awhile, some of the songs kind of start to sound alike.
Lyrically, the Dogs have never been better. Terry Taylor handles most of the songwriting once again but that is for the best. The story of the "Nazarene Crying Towel" found in the liner notes, explains where Terry was coming from as he wrote the lyrics to these songs. They are for the most part, poetic and gutwrenching at the same time. Great stuff.
This isn't the best Lost Dogs CD ever. I still don't know if the Dogs will ever recover from losing Gene. But, on their second disc without him, the Dogs just may be finding a new stride.