Shawl was like nothing ever heard before when it came out. That’s as far as Christian music went, and The Prayer Chain had certainly been listening to the shifting soundscape of rock ‘n’ roll in the early ’90s and bands such as Nirvana, although Kurt Cobain and his band weren’t the first play punked-up grunge.
And Shawl was an alternative rock gem from a band that was really, really good and had made leaps and bounds from its debut, the Whirlpool EP. Everything came together for The Prayer Chain on Shawl. The first side is absolutely brilliant. Crawl is a great anthemic opener (“to shine is dead!”), while Dig Dug, Fifty-Eight and Like I Was are equally great. Then the band shows an amazing versatility on The Hollow, a haunting number with sparse instrumentation highlighted by superb percussion. The record doesn’t lag halfway through either. Never Enough ramps things up to a fever pitch, a spectacular soaring song about the blood of Jesus. The follow-up Wrounde is oh so good, kind of reminiscent of the direction the band took on Mercury. Pure is another can’t miss gem, and the closer Psycho Flange is superbly constructed, a moody rocker that doesn’t relent.
Repeated listens are necessary with Shawl, not because it takes the music a while to grow on you, but because it’s that good. This CD was one of the ones I played to death back in ’93 and for years after that. You really can’t go wrong with the Prayer Chain, and Shawl is ’90s Christian rock at its best.