The Collection’s Listen to the River was Worth the Wait

The first time I heard The Collection’s music, I thought my heart was going to explode. I’m always listening for lyrics, but it wasn’t David Wimbish’s earnest songwriting that resonated with me, it was the image of him turning his group of talented musician-friends into an orchestra.

When The Collection toured their first full-length album, Ars Moriendi, the then thirteen-piece band wedged their van and trailer full of instruments into a DC parking space and covered every inch of the first floor of my house with sleeping bags. I don’t know how we had enough sheets and blankets for all of them. We have hosted many memorable shows in that house, but if I could go back in time to experience one of them again, it would be that night.

That time I found myself in The Collection’s band photo and then on the cover of a Greensboro, NC arts magazine.

In a world in which it is more common to communicate via technology than face-to-face, Wimbish brings friends together to create music with him and spend weeks at a time in the confined space of a tour van. It’s really everyone’s fantasy at 23: “let’s all quit our jobs and tour the country together as band!” From what I observed while hosting The Collection, they did it with grace and great enjoyment, like a group of kids on a mission trip but without the need for chaperones. When asked how they were able to get along so well, it was clear that they shared deep love for each other. This made their music feel all the more real—the passion exuded in the music continued into their visibly grace-filled behavior toward each other.

While The Collection’s first EP drew primarily on biblical themes with poetic honesty and earnest hope, Ars Moriendi reflected on the untimely deaths of friends and carried heavy questions about salvation. Listen to the River was recorded after Wimbish “found his faith and courage left at the bottom of a spiritual well.” The album’s liner notes explain:

Listen To The River is the story of the rope that he used to climb out, one that’s strands were made of great spiritual writers, from Rumi and Kahlil Gibran to Herman Hesse and Lao Tse. The process that followed was a re-examination and reorientation of both his spirituality, and his marriage to member Mira Joy after mutually deciding to divorce last year, ultimately leading to an album created together, hoping to honor the past while accepting the present.

I can’t imagine the tension of going through a co-creation process with an ex-spouse. But The Collection’s music has always embraced tension, just listen to the introduction to Fever

“I was singing by the river, waiting for my troubles to be gone
and you were coming through the speakers, sliding down my ears and played their drums”

or The Art of Dying

“Death sits inside his office as we wait for the verdict
he speaks our fate with a nervous tick; do we get the cure or the sickness?
and when we die, what will it be – a graveyard grave, or a golden fleece?
And will we fight or will we flee?
Will you still have faith in me?”

And this, perhaps, is what tugs at my heart so strongly: to end a relationship and still be attached, be plagued with trouble yet feel close to God, to wonder about the afterlife after watching peers die. Wimbish writes challenging questions into his songs and chews on them with strings and woodwinds and perfectly timed percussion.

Listen to the River holds this tension too, but there’s evidence of some settling in. And the thirteen-piece band has been stripped down to seven, resulting in a meeker sound.

“There are so many people
They float like the lashes that fall from my eyes
I know between them, they believe everything
So I don’t have to be right” – So Many People

Now contending with the complexities of his mid-twenties and asking big questions about faith and existence, Wimbish continues to turn harsh realities and lack of certainty into honest, reflective songs. And he continues to involve a wide circle of musician-friends, resulting in a co-creation process that speaks more volumes of hope than lyrics ever can.