My last concert before the whole shut down in March 2020 was Colorado-based musician Joel Van Horne. Performing with his band as Covenhoven, the artist’s show was an intimate affair at Denver’s Mercury Cafe where we all found ourselves a bit unsure whether we were supposed to be enjoying, well, anything, especially in a group setting. Thanks to Van Horne and his bandmates that evening, it ended up being a beautiful memory before several months of bleakness. However, it turns out that Van Horne kept quite busy during the ensuing 15 months, writing new songs and collaborating with a sizable bunch of Colorado’s best players. The result is Covenhoven’s latest album, IV, a record that pushes Van Horne’s sound to bigger, bolder places.
Colorado’s music scene has a very DYI feel (I’ve lived in the state for nine years), and Van Horne has embraced that approach over three albums and two EPs – he even chose to name “Covenhoven” after a cabin his grandfather built, which has since become a retreat for him to write and record. And, if there is such a thing as a modern-day “Colorado sound,” Covenhoven embodies it – guitars, keys, a few strings and a little synth, all layered over introspective lyrics and an overall feel worthy of a mountain vista. The lead track (and second single), “Everything I Said Yesterday,” is a reminder that words can’t be pulled back and lost time can’t be retrieved – “Everything I said yesterday/Is sh!t I would never say/To you now” – backed by a lovely piano line. “Everything In Between,” the first single released, is one of several tracks in which Van Horne examines his relationship with religion – “The second son of a preacher’s daughter/I was raised on holy hymns/But I never tasted the holy water/Or felt it wash away my sins” – and finds more solace in the presence of nature than the promise of heaven. Many tracks on IV feature Van Horne’s layered vocals, but here, he goes with a full chorus of Julie Davis, Kramer Kelling, Hunter Burnette and Sydney Clapp, and the resulting powerful harmonies bolster the religious twist in the song.
One of the most well-known Colorado artists working today, Gregory Alan Isakov, also appears on IV. The South African-born, Boulder-based singer contributes vocals to “The Last One Click” and “Nothing Left to Be.” The latter also features Denver’s Megan Burtt and once again places Earthly existence over the after-life – “It’s a long way from here to Heaven/And there’s a garden here that still needs tendin’.” “I Was Salt, You Were The Sea” is a song of perceived longing – “And right beside you/There’s a me-shaped hole/That’s been pulling you sideways.” However, it’s the narrator who comes around to what he’s missing, as he goes from “Say you want to stay/I could use the company” to “I need you next to me.” “Monterey ” is the rarest of treats, a downbeat (but not without hope) driving song – slowly building tension before cresting and fading away with a plaintive organ part. The album, as a whole, recalls another line from “Nothing Left to Be.” Over strings and his small chorus of friends, Van Horne sings, “There’s nothing left to be but beautiful.” In making subtly, but undeniably, beautiful music, Van Horne and Covenhoven are doing their part.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Monterey” – something about a road trip in hopes of setting things right always gets me.
IV was produced by Joel Van Horne and Ben Wysocki, mixed by Andrew Berlin and mastered by Jim Wilson. All songs were written by Van Horne. Additional musicians include Wysocki (drums, percussion, piano), Carl Sorensen (drums, percussion), Kramer Kelling (bass, vocals), Jeb Bows (violin), Adrienne Short (violin), Emily Lewis (viola), Graham Olson (cello), Luke Mossman (guitar) and Julie Davis, Hunter Burnette, Sydney Clapp, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jesse Van Horne, Corrie Van Horne and Megan Burtt (vocals).
Go here to order IV (out October 15): https://www.covenhoven.com/store
Check out tour dates here: https://www.covenhoven.com/tour-news