IAN ZUMBACK
THE TABLE
©2017 Old Bear Records

Ian Zumback – The Table

Ian Zumback – The Table 960 960 Ian Zumback

Ian Zumback

The Table

© 2018 Old Bear Records
10 Tracks / 43 Minutes

There’s a reason why this review is several days late. Several days after the official album release. Several days after the first crop of reviews came to harvest. Several days of staring at a blank screen, wrought with fear of not finding the right words to write or images to convey. Several days fully absorbing the weight of repeated listens. The Table, Ian Zumback’s first LP, is an unconventional record.

Likewise, this is an unconventional review.

I typically write ‘Pitchfork’-style reviews — dense, impersonal, reference-filled music analyses for ‘you’, ‘the listener’. I rarely refer to myself. It feels cheap and wrong.

But, for me, The Table is personal. So, I’m scrapping everything.

Let me tell you a story:

I met Ian Zumback in the fall of 2015 at a small Baptist church in Lewisburg, TN. I had traveled some 600 miles to host an ALTARWORK Artist Night — the first and only of its kind — and Ian had graciously accepted an invitation to perform, and had

driven down from Nashville to open the event. It was an intimate crowd, to put it kindly. More people showed for an event I hosted at my house a year later. Ian, along with the other artists, didn’t get paid for the gig. Ian played a few songs – acoustic, solo – from his debut EP, Father’s Son, including “Jesus, Lover Of My Soul”, which I had requested. Father’s Son is an excellent short play in its own right – it’s a brief collection of slickly produced alt-country praise songs worthy of outdoor sing-alongs – and it was exhilarating to hear live.

Before the show, Ian spoke candidly with me. He chatted with my parents, who made the trip from Florida. He was as genuine of a human being as I have ever met. I felt like I had known him my whole life.

Save from exchanging information about this album, we haven’t spoken since.

Ian’s genuine nature – his honesty, his realness, his humility, his love for Jesus – shines on The Table. Stylistically, it’s a departure from Father’s Son, but it’s a perfect fit for him.

And it wrecks me.

The Table is a self-professed labor of love that is over two years in the making. It is a fully-realized creative light. Everything works to perfection. It’s an aural feast. It has immeasurable depth.

It’s as beautiful a record as I’ve ever heard.

The Table begins with an actual voicemail from Ian’s father, who confesses that he is struggling with a bevy of challenges that have wracked his life. It’s a plea for help, and it’s a brutally intimate way to start a record. It leads into acoustic guitar and Ian’s lamenting, “I’ve been down down in my soul, and I’ve been lost on the side of the road waiting for someone to lend a hand to help me out of the this state I’m in.” There’s a weight to Ian’s breathy vocals. A quiet desperation. A personal longing. Most Christian songs would have Jesus swoop down in a grand-chorus happy ending. But not “Down In My Soul”.

Nothing on The Table even slightly resembles most Christian songs.

Instead, Ian segues into “Promise Is A Promise”, an echo of Jesus holding up His end of the bargain of life.

There is such remarkable songwriting here. Ian sings from his own perspective, but also from the perspectives of Jesus and Peter. He weaves stories of servanthood, love, and praise under the guise of feeling unworthy of God’s affection. Considerable attention is paid to God’s redemptive power over those who are feeling lost, hopeless, and guilty. Instead of bombast, though, Ian takes a far more subdued approach. There is a tenderness to all of these tracks — an underlying sense of wisdom and understanding of the human condition — that is truly mesmerizing. “Murderer A Messenger” chronicles Paul’s journey from persecuting Christians to preaching the Gospel to Gentiles in ways that are identifiable to all of us. It features an angelic,  soul-crushing duet from Jessica Crawford where they ask Jesus, “Who am I? Who am I that you would love me? Who am I? Who am I that you would meet me at my worst?” Similar heartbreaking sentiments are shared in “Hope Beyond Despair”, whose chorus is a testament of faith and exposes the bones of the record: “You are strong, and I am weak. You hold my heart in perfect peace. So I will lift my praise to you because of what you brought me through.” “Brother To Brother” and “The Table” tell interconnecting tales of how God’s love extends to everyone, and of how it is our duty as Christians to destroy our prejudices and bring everyone to the Lord’s table — just like Jesus did. “Song Of Songs” celebrates the sanctity of love. “Manasseh” challenges us to be all who we can be in Christ.

I want to call out two specific tracks:

The first, “Entertaining Angels”, hits home with me on a number of levels. It should hit home with everyone who is servant-minded. Often the things we do in ministry go unnoticed. There’s no way to know how we have affected people, or to what degree. It can be a debilitating, hollow feeling. Ian’s message here is profound and prophetic: “When you help someone in need – the lowest of the low – you could be entertaining angels and not know, until you get up to heaven and hear the Savior say of how you entertained the angels you met along the way.” It’s a striking visual — one that plants my feet on the ground and convinces me to keep pressing on.

The second, “Resurrect Me”, shakes me every time I listen to it. It’s a melancholic and visually haunting plea for those struggling with faith. It makes my world stop. Consider these words:

I may look alive from the outside, but inside I’m full of dead man’s bones.
My soul is a mausoleum and my life a hidden funeral.
I remember stories from Sundays about a Man who raises the dead…
Roll, roll, roll the stone away. Lift me out from the grave.
Because only You have the power to save.
Lord, resurrect me.

I couldn’t tell you how I got here. I only know it was a steady decline.
I tell me I’m a victim of murder, but I know it’s really suicide.
I recall the words of the preacher that said Jesus can give you new life.

Awaken in me faith to believe that You can bring life to the dead.
I am in need of your victory. Lord, resurrect me.

Ian cites Luke 6:45 as inspiration for his lyrics:

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

The Table is an honest representation of the Christian journey. It is produced by Chris Hoisington of Brothers McClurg, and features guest vocals from Chris, his brother Anthony, Weston Skaggs, Keri Cardinale, and Jessica Crawford. Musically, it relies on sparse indie-folk arrangements with a jaw-dropping amount of detail. There are acoustic guitars, vintage synthesizers, organs, strings, vinyl album scratches arranged in rhythmic patterns, and even drums played on metal trash can tops. The result is a cohesive, stirring, and exciting sound that has never been attempted in Christian music.

Ian has said this about The Table: “I pray that this album reminds you that there is grace for every failing, hope beyond despair, freedom from every chain, rest from every burden, and a place at the Table of God for you.”

This is the kind of soul that Ian Zumback is. I can see him saying this with kind, steady eyes and a warm smile. Every compliment about Ian and this record is well-earned and deserved. I am a better person for knowing him and for listening to his ministry.

The Table is a crowning achievement. It is sheer brilliance from beginning to end.

May it impact you the way that it has impacted me.

 

Review by Jason Ramsey


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Ian Zumback

At the heart of Ian’s ministry through music is a desire to refresh and comfort others (Acts 3:19, 2 Cor. 1:3-4); to build community through relationships (Acts 2:46); to point others to Jesus (John 3:30); to touch lives (Isaiah 61:4); and to be used to reconcile others to God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Ian has kept up a consistent live ministry schedule throughout the northeast as both a featured artist and worship leader; as well as supporting other bands and artists such as Josh Wilson and Unspoken as an opening act; as well as being billed on festival events that included bands and artists like Aaron Shust, and Mikeschair.

All posts by Ian Zumback

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