Lion and the Lamb is the third solo album from Florida Wayne. Based on the early mixes, the finished album should be a real treat. The forty-four-year-old Wayne has been making music for over two decades as both a solo performer and as the leader of the now defunct Lost in Rotation, a band he fronted when he was based in Virginia. Now working from his new in-home studio in Pennsylvania, Wayne is back with thirteen fresh acoustic tracks.
This outing is a stripped-down affair, built around Wayne’s guitar and vocals and the bass and percussion of Trevor Karden. Additional vocals and instrumentation are added here and there, but the focus here is squarely on the songs. Wayne has wisely chosen to spotlight the lyrics and center the songs in their own gravity. The whole thing has a simple, organic quality to it, while remaining emotionally honest.
Lyrically, the songs are a mix of real life observation and experience combined with scriptural phrases, but not in a sing-along fashion. These are not trite little stories, but rather snapshots that capture moments of fear and doubt, as well as triumph and joy. Where Wayne writes about people, he stays away from broad strokes, offering the little details that keep his characters from being cast as an “everyman” type.
Chief among the failings of much of Christian song writing is the need to create a composite character to prove a moral point. Another is the need to wrap up every dilemma in three-and-a-half minutes. Both examples show disrespect to personal struggle and cheapen the message of grace. The fact that Florida Wayne avoids that is a testament to his maturity as a writer and his willingness to be honest that he doesn’t have life wrapped up in a neat little bow.
The album begins with “Walking,” a number about dealing with fear. Wayne declines to name the particular cause of fear, leaving it for the listener to personalize. Faith and trust are the supports he leans on as a means of enduring, but he does not fully resolve the problem within the song. The vocal and the lyrics keep the tension in place, in much the same way that real life trials do not often resolve themselves quickly.
Wayne’s voice has enough edge to keep it real and retain the weight of the lyrics, avoiding the trap of sounding pretty and disengaged. The words in the chorus straddle the line between experience and an ideal view of faith when he sings
I will not be afraid
I put my trust in You
When I’m afraid
I put my trust in You
In the chorus Wayne acknowledges that, despite his desire to face his trial courageously, he still struggles with fear. It is that grounding in reality that honors the faith that seeks to rise above. Here we see a man who is holding on to a promise that has not yet been fulfilled.
The title track seeks to paint a portrait of the personas of Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and as the sacrificial lamb. In the process Wayne depicts his dependence on both aspects of the Divine Personhood of Christ, and details how those aspects meet his needs.
“Wings of the Morning” combines nature imagery with a melody that seems at once familiar yet new. Overall it feels like it has a touch of Celtic folk influence; it will be interesting to see what the final mix sounds like. Sam Dibernardo contributes on bass and Ellie Dibernardo provides harmony vocals.
“Small Piece of Me” is a tribute to relationship and legacy. Lauralee Harding provides backing vocals and Lee Creasey kicks in some banjo picking to flesh out the tune. Overall, the five tracks I received as a preview of sorts point to a fine release by a singer songwriter grappling with real issues within a context of faith. It is a boots on the ground journey, one I’m sure you’ll want to take.