In ancient monasteries, a porter was someone who assisted travelers, inside and outside the gates of the church. In that spirit, Isaac and Megan Wardell, who work out of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Va., gathered a group of songwriters together in 2017 to compose songs around the concept of vocation. That gathering resulted in the album Work Songs. In January of 2019 the Wardells gathered a second group—a purposely more diverse group—to spend time studying and writing about the concept of being neighbors.
The result of that meeting is the album, Neighbor Songs. This new album is a delightful mix of styles and even languages—two songs are sung in Spanish, including the first verse and chorus of the beautiful “Let Us Be Known.” These songs were all written with an eye toward their use in worship by congregations. The opening song, “Blessed are the Merciful,” sets the tone for the whole album. No one singer or instrument is featured, but the setting presents Jesus’ teaching in a way that helps us reflect on the simple yet profound message.
It’s noteworthy that one never gets the sense that the singer is trying to outshine the song. A variety of singers and players, including some beautiful string and horn arrangements, are featured that support the message of the song without overpowering it. This album sounds like it was written and performed in community. What a great way to practice the message of what it means to be neighbors! (Integrity Music)