The sophomore EP “From Canyons to Plains” from Oklahoma-based singer/songwriter Kevin Skillern—the breath and life behind Ezekiel Songs—marks a new chapter in his career. Saturated with rest and quiet reassurance, Skillern sings the prayers collected over the last year with a newfound strength.
“Lord, you’ve been by my side,” he sings in the opening song Canyons Deep, “ever since you called my name.” A gentle breeze and chirping birds set the scene for two acoustic guitars, soft and steady, playing to the soft patter of a snare drum. From the first note of the first song, Skillern is introducing the presence of a friend and companion. “We feel like we are walking through a narrow rocky canyon right now, and we pray God will bring us into a level wide open space, but he is strengthening us where we’re at.”
There’s no depth, no place where Your love can’t reach. Canyons deep and dark, but Your river carries me.
Three years ago, Skillern’s life came to a halt when his newborn daughter suffered brain damage from a lack of oxygen. “Life as we knew it stopped, and we found ourselves living in a hospital,” he recounts. It was in the midst of adjusting to the change in pace and learning to care for his child, that he felt God speak to his heart. “I was filled with faith and hope like never before, and from that point forward I never again spent time doubting or agonizing over the future.“
From Canyons to Plains, released exactly a year after his debut album Quiet, Strong Heart, picks up right where he left us. His voice in a way, is more calm and his arrangements more simple. A new distinct echoey room-reverb (reminiscent of Rivers & Robots production) alludes to the “open space” Skillern has been brought into, and quite possibly resembles the acoustics of the local venues he’s been performing in around Oklahoma. It’s a step towards a more intimate, folk sound—something you would hear on a Zach Winter’s album—without betraying the country style and instrumentation that Skillern has taken on as his own.
The greatest example of this might be To the Plains, a song that dances between indie folk and a bluegrass ballad. It’s the smell of a freshly plowed field and the feeling you get when you arrive at the end of a long journey, in which Skillern declares the promises of restoration he’s been given: “I will fill the canyons with My goodness, I will bring the lofty places low. Shaking the foundations of the mountains, Clearing level paths for you to go.”
Skillern’s new EP evokes a homely, assuring presence (undoubtedly the one that led him through the canyons) that stills the soul and awakens dreams. Like a breath fully exhaled, From Canyons to Plains is a memoir to the trials Skillern has overcome. We can sense Ezekiel Songs about to take in a new life that releases the strengthening of a father; a settling in the spirit that is a seed now firmly planted in the ground.
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