I’m not a practicing Christian. I wouldn’t call myself an Atheist, either. I fall somewhere between belief and non-belief without leaning decisively towards any camp. David Shawn Cook’s “In the Spirit” is a tune I can get behind despite my aversion to swearing loyalty to any particular side. The reason I can throw my haphazard faith behind this tune is because Cook means every word he’s singing. It’s obvious that he’s placed the full weight of his life behind his faith in God and he isn’t bashful about conveying that to listeners.
It’s born from his acceptance of Christ into his life as his Savior. Cook began his professional music life in the 1980s as a member of Boston’s The Puppet Rulers and seemed destined for stardom before drugs and other forms of excess derailed his journey to fame. Like so many others, Cook turned at his lowest point to God and found acceptance and renewal. His musical voyage since then has been about expressing his thankfulness for the influence it has exerted on his life and turning him in a different direction.
“In the Spirit” is a full-on pop/rock gem. He doesn’t weigh it down with a turgid tempo but, instead, gives the arrangement a necessary physical push that helps it stick in the listener’s memory. It isn’t a tune that ever gets away with itself, however, and the perfect pacing that Cook develops for the song is present from the first. The changes come in predictable, yet satisfying ways and the joy comes in hearing Cook and his collaborators check off all of the boxes we expect for a good tune.
His singing is robust and embodies the gratitude of the song’s lyrics. He plays it cool and confidently for the entirety of the song rather than allowing his enthusiasm to carry him off in overwrought directions. His phrasing harbors just the right amount of buoyancy. It helps that he has outstanding lyrics to work with. He chronicles Jesus’ power in a well-written catalog rife with Biblical references but manages to keep the lyrics accessible to listeners of every persuasion. It’s an artful balancing act that listeners should appreciate.
Cook’s devotion to his faith makes this a winner. He doesn’t sound false in any way. More than that, however, is the vim and vigor he imparts to every line and the obvious attentiveness he showers on the musical arrangement. He knows when to hit his marks and never fails to find them. There’s a light amount of backing vocals reinforcing his own, but Cook’s voice is more than enough to carry the day for listeners.
It’s also enough to bring us back for more. David Shawn Cook has appeal that transcends even the weighty business of religious faith and my first exposure to his musical art encourages me to return for more. “In the Spirit”, in the end, is a song attesting to how one man’s life can be turned around by placing his faith in something bigger than himself and that’s a timeless message, however, it is portrayed.