Israel and New Breed – Feels Like Home, Vol. 1

Released: February 26, 2021

One issue with a lot of religious music is that the message is more important than the music rather than the music being part and parcel of the message itself. There is a saying that when you sing, you pray twice. If that’s true, when instrumental music is part of that offering, maybe you pray four times. And if that is so, Israel and New Breed must pray 10 times!

Bandleader Israel Houghton prays, “God if this is what you’ve called me to, show me how to worship you.” In the midst of the pandemic, God led him to this performance, livestreamed from his sister-in-law’s living room, and living up to that call is what makes this album special.

Houghton grew up, as he describes between songs, a “black kid in a white family in an Hispanic church” and that multicultural upbringing is evident across the album’s 90+ minutes. The songs are diverse and organic, like God’s people, crossing genres and cultures and breaking down man’s barriers. It’s humanness and love might even cross over beyond professed Christians. Make no mistake, this is a worship album, but it evangelizes in a language maybe we can all understand.

There is earthiness and humor in the performance that finds God among us instead off somewhere in a distant heaven. And that is the essence of Christianity: that God is among us. This music has real power that raises human craft up to the Divine. It is not sung at God, but to God and even in a sense with God! As Houghton says, “I want to be the court jester of worship that entertains the King.” Far be it from me to know the mind of God, but Houghton’s joy makes it hard to believe that God would not find this to be good.

Feels Like Home, Vol. 1 is not so much overwhelmingly good as it is simply overwhelmingly joyful. There is a unity in the music and the message and the diversity and the joy. While joy is only one product of faith, there is real worship and the real sense that God is present on this record. Believe!

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

3 thoughts on “Israel and New Breed – Feels Like Home, Vol. 1

  1. Chuck

    I’ve tried (admittedly, not very hard) to find a single video of the whole performance but I haven’t found anything yet, at least not anything free. I started listening on Spotiify but then I jumped over and started watching single videos on YouTube. The difference is striking, with the brightness of the videos casting the audio-only version into deep shadow.

    Before I went into the studio for the first time, this is what I thought recording an album would be like: a bunch of people who love each other and love what they do gathered together in a room with a shared mission to build on each others’ energy and make inspired music. Instead, I found that typically you’re completely isolated, playing along with a recording and/or click track, all in the name of getting clean recordings. It’s no wonder most records are pretty dull. So watching this, it’s really cool to see something I never got to experience. A gift of the pandemic is musicians and fans all got to experience music in new ways.

    During Israel’s storytelling moment on How Great Medley, you can hear people laughing and someone says “wow.” And that’s what it’s all about. Who cares if that “wow” bleeds into the hi-hat mic? There’s energy and emotion here.

    Shortly after I moved to Baltimore I became friends with a pastor who ministered to mostly college students, and the music was a lot like this but without the spark this has. I think you nailed it when you said it’s not that this performance is overwhelmingly good as it is overwhelmingly joyful. And while the audio captures that to some degree, the videos–that packed room with all the musicians on top of each other, barely able to move but interacting in the best possible way–capture the joy even better.

  2. bobvinyl Post author

    I need to go back and check the videos, because I only listened to the album.

    I like that you connected it to your time in the studio and the difference between how music should be and how it is. Even though I have never been in a studio, I get what you’re saying and it makes sense. I agree with the imperfection of perfection. One of my favorite live albums is Townes Van Zandt’s Live at the Old Quarter. It is nearly a perfect live record. The only thing they edited out apparently were a few technical glitches and a few breaking glasses. As much as I love that record, I kind of wished at least the breaking glasses had been preserved.

  3. Chuck

    Yeah, I totally agree. The breaking glasses were part of the show, it’d be great to hear them. That’s part of the reason I still like bootlegs.


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