The record seeks to give a current voice to an ancient, never-ending dialogue between humanity and deity. The sounds find a handful of friends in a room, sonically grappling with their lives and relationships, and finding a place of relief amidst music and fellowship.
The Powerful Hand's first collection of songs, rather than carrying a message to the listener, shares an honest, vulnerable address to a God that is always present, but doesn't always seem to be. The record, like many ancient texts, poems, and spiritual writings, moves through certain motions of the soul in a sort of psalmic prayer. Track-by-track, this record acknowledges who God is, asks for intervention in trauma and strife, calls upon his grace in our lowly state, comes to rest in his presence, and finally looks forward with hope to a time when present conflicts and strife cease and peace becomes consummate.
The primary contributors to The Powerful Hand came home to a community in Midtown, Kansas City, MO over the course of several years. An old brick-and-mortar cold-storage warehouse called the Monarch has served as an incubator for our friendship and music. Many of us (Derek, Reavis, Jake, Corey, and Beau, specifically) lived in the Monarch for a time, with a community called the Boiler Room. Now only Beau's humble recording studio still makes its residence here, growing into the name Monarch Records. Yet the walls echo with our converging stories, and we think this comes through in the music - a fellowship comprised of characters as divergent as the lives we've led - we're travelers, learners, teachers, coffee- beer- and smoke-lovers. We're ascetically-minded, but philosophically and theologically diverse, representing streams of faith from Eastern Orthodox, to Anglican, to Pentecostal, with a generous mix of weathered fervor and uncertainty between us. In one sense, our music exists as an exploration of unity in diversity and vicissitude. But really, we're just buddies who find time to make music between the hilarious ebb and flow of life and family. Early on, music - a natural obsession and practice for us all - became an effortless overflow of our time together. We spent thousands of cumulative hours playing together. And as our lives grow and change it is music and the shared faith it explores that continue to bind us together.
The Powerful Hand is a music project created over the course of two years or so. All the material came out of songs written for Sunday mornings at a church community called the Kansas City Boiler Room. While the music was written for the purpose of congregational worship, we wanted to make something a bit more authentic in expression than traditional formulas of contemporary worship music. At the same time, we wanted it to be worship in spirit and in truth.
So thematically, the vast majority of the album is taken from scripture or hymns. The form of the album very loosely follows a liturgical structure. There is ascent, repentance, thanksgiving, and resurrection, of course. I came under the impression at some point in the process of writing worship songs that a lot of people in the past have “said it better," through psalms, ancient hymns, prayers, et cetera. Writing a 'new song unto the Lord' is often best done through echoing ancient words through the filter of your own honest, musical expression.
So the album is grittier both in sound and style. During the live recording and the mixing process, we tried to stay true to the sound of folks 'in a room.' This mirrored the aim of the content: congregational, exposed, and at times, unresolved.
The name for the project came from one of those candles with a religious picture and theme that you might find in the Hispanic foods section of a grocery store. La Mano Poderosa, or The Powerful Hand, shows a giant, open hand with a wound in the middle of the palm. We had one of these candles burning in the studio space the first night of tracking.
This image of Christ's suffering and his glory is something I began to resonate with for the project. In one way the wounds of the cross indicate a weakness akin to our human condition. But through the resurrection, Christ's scarred hand is the very thing that pulls us out of our condition and plants us in Him, to share in his glory unto ages of ages. This paradox of pain and suffering alongside the glorious resurrection is what we tried to explore with the project. Of course, we also had a lot of fun doing it.
released 07 December 2012
Musicians of The Powerful Hand, in alphabetical order, are
Chris Bohatyritz - guitars
Beau M. Davidson - guitars, backing vocals
Ian Davidson - omnichord, lap steel
Corey Evans - drums
Jessica Kroh - accordion
Jake Myszka - bass guitar
Derek Van Neufeld - vocals, guitars
Christina Reavis - cello
Jonathan Reavis - banjo
Produced, mixed, and mastered by Beau M. Davidson for Monarch Records
Co-produced by Derek Van Neufeld
Cover art by Chris Bohatyritz
All songs written or arranged by Derek Van Neufeld