III by The Lumineers

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His old man waved his hands with tears in his eyes
But Jimmy's son just sped up and remembered daddy's advice
No, you don't ever give a hitcher a ride 'cause it's us or them
'Cause it's me or him
—Jimmy Sparks

The Lumineers tell the story of the Sparks family on their third studio album titled III. The album is presented in three chapters, each focusing on one character and spanning three generations.  Chapter One looks at the alcoholism of grandmother Gloria Sparks. Chapter Two explores grandson Junior Sparks and his broken romance along with his struggles to deal with his parents’ divorce. And finally, Chapter Three looks at Jimmy Sparks, son of Gloria and father to Junior. He experiences the pain of having an alcoholic mother and a wife who left him for another man. We soon discover that pain becomes too much for Jimmy and he turns to gambling and alcohol himself.

The Lumineers do an excellent job of weaving together the stories of each member of the family, highlighting the brokenness that travels from generation to generation. The climax of the album occurs in the song Jimmy Sparks, as the father is robbed by those trying to collect gambling debts and left to walk home barefoot in the snow at 3 a.m. Junior happens to drive by his dad walking home but keeps on driving. Unlike previous albums by the Lumineers, III is much darker and leaves the listener feeling despair for the Sparks family.

Musically, this album takes the listener back to a time 10 years ago when bands such as Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers led a world-wide folk revival. Since then, popular music has turned toward hip hop, trap, and other electronica, leaving III sounding like an album from another time. This musical nostalgia plays well to the album’s darker theme.

III highlights how music can help Christians empathize with those who are broken and hurting. While articles like John Van Sloten’s “Gambling With Your Faith” can help us understand truth, we need songs like Jimmy Sparks to feel the impact of sin, pain, and brokenness. And though III leaves the listener with little hope for the Sparks, we can be mobilized to find and love those we know are struggling in real life. (Dualtone, USA) (Decca, UK)

About the Author

Micah van Dijk is a popular music expert who speaks and writes to help audiences understand the impact popular music has on their faith and identity. www.micahvandijk.com