Madison Cunningham continues to impress. Her proper debut, 2019’s Who Are You Now, had many in the music industry standing up to take notice. She had me excited about the future of “Christ-haunted music.” That is, music that belongs squarely in the music-as-art category, eschewing the often arbitrary rules of my predominate genre CCM, in favor of honesty, excellence, and boundary-pushing. This honesty for Cunningham includes an evolving faith, more comfortable with uncertainty than many within Christianity are comfortable with. Therefore, she exists out on the fringe where many of my current favorites reside. After re-releasing her exceptional Wednesday covers EP earlier this year, she is now ready to “reveal” the proper full-length follow-up, titled Revealer.

Perhaps it’s a cliche to talk about expectations at this point but suffice it to say, mine were incredibly high for this record. Unfortunately, many of my most-anticipated 2022 albums have largely disappointed, but I’m elated to report that Revealer delivers. This is a must-listen AOTY contender featuring eleven striking tracks. Especially if you like her patented guitar tones, nifty riffs, and storytelling prowess that only continues to get better with time. This is music for fans of Joni Mitchell, alternate guitar tunings, jazz-infusions and a sprinkling of Sheryl Crow.

Each of Revealer’s singles accomplished what a single should: whet the appetite for the main course. Additionally, they fit snugly among their brethren, contributing to the overall piece of work cohesively. “Hospital” quickly zoomed to the top of my favorite songs of the year with its nimble guitar riffs and replayability factor. “In From Japan” grabbed my attention with relatable lyrics like “no one’s holding you back now,” as that has been a lifelong self-imposed excuse for me to overcome in my own life. Finally, the emotional center of the record is the touching “Life According to Rachael,” which gently pushed on my heart and memories of regret during my grandmother’s passing. The smoky tune is dripping with emotion, and bookended by the words, “Once your girl / I’m always your girl.” It’s tender, sweet, and moving.

Beyond the singles, other highlights litter the tracklist, making this a rare and laudable full-album experience rather than something you’d cherry-pick for individual songs. There’s no filler among the bunch, but I’d also like to spotlight the angst of trying to be perfect in “Sunshine Over The Counter”: “Dealing with the torture / Of living high / To not feel low / Spending more to not feel broke / I’m the middle child / Of fear and democracy / I’m making my religion proud.” Ouch.

Speaking of emotional angst, the viscerally titled “Your Hate Could Power a Train” also lands that punch and is worthy of deeper examination. There is dissonance, tension, and propulsive percussion that mirror the movements and sound of a train to get her point across effectively. Lastly, the arrestingly titled closer “Sara And The Silent Crowd” gently lopes along but packs a lyrical wallop as it examines the life of getting what you want alongside the cost of getting it. The album ends with the lyrics, “You remind me of myself in so many ways / In so many ways / Too nervous to move / But too stubborn to stay.” I think those who find themselves disillusioned with life yet remain hopeful will resonate with these words as I did.

All in all, Revealer is an artful triumph from a young artist pushing the boundaries of music that is too often defined exclusively by its overt messaging. Cunningham walks the line expertly, and her revelations of herself through these stories leave just enough digging for those willing to search deeper for the meaning. As far as 2022 goes, Revealer is a must, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the album, and Madison Cunningham herself, continue to make engaging noise for years to come.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Street Date: September 9, 2022

Genre: Singer-Songwriter/Americana/Folk

Album Credits: Revealer was produced by Tyler Chester, Mike Elizondo and Tucker Martine, recorded by Chester, Martine, David Boucher, Justin Francis and Madison Cunningham, mixed by Francis, Boucher and Martine and mastered by Chris Gehringer.All songs were written by Cunningahm, with co-writes going to Chester, Elizondo, Dan Wilson and Mikki Ekko.

Listen in Here: Madison Cunningham – Revealer