Thoughtful, well-considered confrontations of pain, disappointment and disillusionment from NC’s John Sierra
Release Date: 5th November 2021
Label: Self Release
Formats: Download, Streaming
John Sierra is a new name to me – and he may very well be to you. That is, unless, like John, you’ve spent any time in or around the environs of Raleigh, North Carolina. It was in Raleigh that John first came into public view, as a guitarist and vocalist with Christian/alt/rock band Attalus, with whom he was a member between 2010 and 2015 as they released a couple of EPs and an album, Into The Sea, which crept into the US Christian Albums Chart in mid 2015.
Ultimately disillusioned with band life and, possibly, the musical style on offer, John left Attalus to embark on a voyage of self-rediscovery – a mission he accomplished after a difficult period in which, with the help of therapy and a lot of thinking, he began to find the life he had always longed for.
And now he’s back, with The Wonder – a short collection of songs in which, as the album’s press release so eloquently suggests – John invites listeners on a thoughtful journey into the emotional landscape of the heart. And yes, that’s an excellent summary of the flavour of The Wonder – six thoughtful, well-considered songs that confront pain, disappointment and disillusionment and offer optimistic remedies to overcome those crippling emotions. From a short perusal of John’s Bio, it’s easy and tempting to conclude that the subject matter of the songs has an autobiographical basis, and that’s a realization that sharpens the rawness of the fare on offer.
The songs themselves are characterised by John’s intimate, often soaring tenor vocals, an acoustic guitar style that alternates between picking and strumming and which manages to retain just the right level of discretion that the songs deserve, and the wonderful harmonies that John’s wife, Jess, contributes throughout. He describes his key influences as The Killers, Mumford & Sons, C.S.Lewis and Puccini but, really, the style of The Wonder is John Sierra’s, and his alone.
The EP kicks off with second single, A Dream Worth Keeping and, straight away, listeners know what they’re in for. All the signature vocals, harmonies and guitar work are in place for a song that describes how dreams are shattered by the routines of daily life and how, with determination and belief, those dreams can be recovered and realised. The EP’s title track follows a similar theme, as does the contemplative Maybe We’re All and the substantial Good In The Pain, a song that effectively conveys the message that determination, openness and a willingness to confront fears and anguish is the best way to make those fears and that anguish disappear.
Perhaps my favourite of the songs on the Wonder is current single The Tide. It’s a song that follows a more ‘conventional’ theme than the rest of the songs in the collection – the subject of lost love – and is unique amongst these songs, in that it doesn’t leave the listener with the feeling that everything is going to be OK. Sad, desolate and yet quite heartwarming, it’s a song that is attracting impressive levels of deserved attention – as evidenced by its selection as a highlight in Ditty TV’s “Ditty Dozen” Spotify playlist of 12 Artists You Need To Know.
In contract, closing track On The Other Side Of Grief is perhaps the album’s most intimately personal song. John’s lyrics recall loneliness and, most unsettlingly, the loss of his father, before recounting how he allowed the grief he felt to wash over him so he could start to rebuild his life. It’s a stark, raw, yet – ultimately – hopeful ending to a collection of stark, raw, and, ultimately hopeful, songs.
Listen to The Tide – the EP’s current single – here:
John Sierra Online: Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ Spotify
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John, I know it’s been awhile since you wrote this, but reading back over this review moves me. Thank you for your kind words.
Hi John – Many thanks for your feedback – it’s greatly appreciated. And I genuinely loved the EP! Best Wishes John Barlass