Monday, July 14, 2014

The Pastor's Kid by Barnabas Piper, Review by Kirk



The Pastor’s Kid.
Author: Barnabas Piper.
Genre: Non-Fiction (but not story) Spiritual Advice

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: David C. Cook (July 1, 2014)
  • Language: English





Quick Spin. Barnabas Piper, son of pastor and author John Piper, shares some of the strains, pains, and pitfalls common to the children of Pastors, even as he shares living advice on how to handle certain burdens of birth. While geared directly to the children of Pastors and those who know them, the Pastor’s kid is a good read for any who would learn how to relate to persons whose identity is tied to someone else. Beyond that, this “kid” has a pretty deep understanding of the human condition. 


Some years ago I read the book “Crazy for God” by Frank Shaeffer, son pastor/theologian Francis Shaeffer in which Frank sought to explain -- with full literary flourish, what it was like to grow up under the roof of an Evangelical legend. As is, Frank has arrived at MUCH different place than his Dad, and now seeks in many ways to distance himself from both the theology and impact of his parents. “Crazy” is at once literary, passionate, angry, introspective, detailed, bitter, sensual, and jarring. It may make for a good read, but is also (for those of us who loved Francis) disorienting and ugly.


The book, the Pastors Kid, by Barnabas Piper is none of those things. It does not even attempt to be.


Barnabas would be the first to tell you. This is not literature. This is not an expose.

Barnabas does share personal anecdotes, and we even get a whiff of dysfunction, but the spirit of his book is to engender understanding, not to tear down.


Indeed, Barnabas is not just telling his story. Over the years Barnabas has established a network of relationships with hundreds of PK’s. So think of Barnabas as a “representative” speaking to the needs and concerns of a community.

The writing is straightforward and descriptive, neither highbrow nor sappy. Barnabas has a certain phlegmatic charm,  a dry wit, and writes in a clear and compelling fashion. He has written at a level appropriate to teens, but with wisdom worthy of a larger audience.

--


There is a certain irony in the very way I came to read this book and write this review. For sundry reasons I am well acquainted with the father of this author. I say acquainted, because I don’t know John Piper on any personal level. I have read at least a dozen of his books. I watch him on Youtube and sometimes reply to his Facebook posts. (He doesn’t reply)


My own interests in John are as multihued as the man. His book “Desiring God, Confessions of a Christian Hedonist” simply transformed the way I think about life. For the unacquainted, John pushes the idea that Christians should be given to the pursuit of unbridled pleasure and that to be found first and foremost in the Lover of our Souls. It’s a pretty big idea. Beyond that John Piper is most peculiar mix of sensibilities: part poet, part theologian, part zany arm waver… part lover of sanctified rap (really). He is a Baptist who talks about race and reconciliation and loving your homosexual neighbor and keeping sexually pure… and…. being knocked out drunk on the glory of God. (Those may be my words)



All of which is to say…I am much aware of the world of John Piper.


So…When traversing about the internet, I stumble across a blog, and later the social media presence of a certain Barnabas Piper I am intrigued. I deduce….This must be the son of Pastor John!

I cannot now remember what in particular tipped me off…But my first thought was… Hmm. This kid doesn’t come across so much like his dad. 


Barnabas doesn't seem to have the same gravitas… He doesn't speak like Jonathan Edwards … or his Dad. He is given to sports and movies -- he likes to joke and seems pretty relaxed. He is far less serious and isn't beyond posting a link to a silly You-tube video. As is, Barnabas runs a blog, and routinely features links to videos he finds entertaining. I have yet to see him post anything outright rank… but a few of his posts lean earthy. I remember after watching one such video and thinking…. Hmmmm. I don’t think John would have posted that video.


Which is precisely the point of this book. Barnabas IS NOT JOHN.


Without even thinking about it, I have fallen into some of the very thought patterns that Barnabas works to address. You see, I had expectations of who Barnabas should be…then, raised a brow when he did not fit that mold. And that is exactly why Barnabas wrote this book… Just for me. (Fast writing bud!)

Now take my expectations, multiply that by the many me’s out there, by every day of your life…and there you have it. A recipe for frustration or failure.

Barnabas’s first task is to let us just what it is like to be a Pastor’s kid. He speaks to living in the world of high expectations, and living in a fishbowl in which every body watches every your every move. Barnabas related how he was routinely called out for the kind of behavior that might have been overlooked in another kid.


This little anecdote made me laugh:


I was seventeen years old and rolling in my parents’ blue 1991 Chevy Lumina and pushing the factory-made stereo to its tinny max with
Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory. Windows down, seat reclined, I cruised
into the church parking lot closely behind two friends in their cars
blaring tunes equally as loud, each of us competing for the title of
“most obnoxious punk listening to music he will later realize is rubbish.”
Boys will be boys, right?
Wrong. Not this boy. As soon as I sauntered into the church, I
was pulled aside and roundly chastised for my choice of both band
and decibel level. Those friends likely don’t recall this incident at all.
That’s because they weren’t chastised at all. They were just boys being
boys, while I was the PK being an idiot. Pg 27


Beyond the world of moral expectations, Barnabas reports that a PK is often expected to toe the specific theological commitments of his Pastor Dad --- as well as the specific commitments of the church community of which he is apart. Not only must a PK live right, he or she must “drive in the same lane.”


For whatever reasons, this part of the book most resonated with me. While I am not the son of a Pastor, my mom, while she was living, was a woman of fierce spiritual temperament. She was something of an itinerant evangelist, with strong opinions about everything. Mom had a very hard time when I rejected her particular school of “Left Behind” end-times theology -- And God have mercy if you ever drank wine or quoted a democrat. As is, mom tempered as she aged; She tolerated but did not accept my differing theological commitments. Which has nothing to do with this book, but… be it ever so little, I identified with the pressure that many PK’s must face. Tow the party line… or disappoint not only your parents, but possibly the local church.

I must confess then when I read maybe half way through the book, I thought… Okay, this clicks. I can really see how this speaks to the demographic, and I have been made to think about the particular plight of the PK. I even know two or three PK’s and will keep the things I have learned in mind.


And if that is all Barnabas had for us, he probably could have thrown out half the words, written a magazine article and been done with it. But about midway, we find ourselves walking with Barnabas… out of the shallows into the deep end. We plunge from the groundwork and practical advice… down into the very depths of grace and the human condition.


There is something funny about Barnabas. From his blog and other offerings a person might casually assume that Barnabas is more about fun than head-banging theology. (Wrong words?) but suddenly I am running into keen understanding of human nature.


First, Barnabas understands just how ridiculous … How challenging, and humanly impossible the task of any pastor is…



In the Western church the role of pastor has taken on responsibilities
and definitions it ought not. The pastor is seen as the spiritual
burden bearer for an entire congregation. He is the prophetic voice of
authority, the nearly infallible voice of God. He is the answer man for
questions on topics ranging from sex to stewardship to sanctification.
He is the figurehead of a religious institution, and often this means he
is a political pundit too. He must be an expert accountant, theologian,
psychologist, marketer, strategist, and orator. In short, he must exhibit
every spiritual gift God intended to be dispersed throughout the entire
church. The cultural expectations on pastors are mostly unbiblical,
entirely impractical, and generally downright stupid. We each expect
the pastor to meet our particular need with expediency and wisdom. It
is an untenable situation, a burden no man can bear.

Beyond that, Barnabas gets sin…. In himself, in the PK, in pastors and congregants.

Most Christians will accept that “mankind is sinful.” But sometimes sin shows up where we cannot smell it.  Sin can be found in raw rebellion… Or it can manifest itself in a loss of integrity as the PK puts on an act to satisfy the expectations of those around him. He can take on form without substance or follow rules without transformation. A sinful PK might look like a good kid, but not have deep relationship with Christ. Or.. a sinful PK might look like a sinful kid.  In short... PKs are kids of every stripe, born into conditions they did not choose.



On the other hand, sinful congregants can fail to extend to the PK the same grace they claim for themselves or those they love…


I bet Barnabas would agree with this quote from a musician friend of mine, Mo Leverett.

It is mystifying to observe that those who embrace brokenness and total depravity as the universal human condition - and thus grace as the only ontological hope - also appear surprised and condescendingly disappointed with other's failure - casting the proverbial first stone or shunning with hypocritical disgust. Thankfully God is neither surprised nor overwhelmed. Ironically - without brokenness and failure - we will never encounter God - or for that matter, our true selves.


And lest we let Dad off the hook, Barnabas knows that sin is a part of every Pastor’s life.

(While Barnabas works to honor his folks and family, there are some places where personal pain seeps through.  This could be some other pastor-dad but maybe not.  We see:  A dad much given to the needs of others… a Dad who has a hard time coming off his pastoral or theological high horse.. a Dad in need of a hobby…etc. 


Indeed, Barnabas points out…Pastors will readily acknowledge they are sinful – but rarely do they share their specific sins.!


What Barnabas gets more than anything else… is that the grace of God is far more than the forgiveness of sins… Grace is the very atmosphere by which we enter into communion with God and man.. It is freeing, it is empowering… the very means by which we are enabled to live honestly, authentically, and without living for others expectations.




But grace also knows that it is only God who can form the PK into anything at all, so it does not harangue, harass, or manipulate the PK. Grace will seek to assist and encourage rather than direct and command. It will point out strengths and possibilities rather than command actions and expect results. This is especially applicable as the PK grows older—through the adolescent years and beyond—and begins to seek independence. This is what I missed out on most growing up and even through college. I came away with no ideas of what God made me to be, what He gifted me with. I knew I wasn't dumb and that I was capable of lots of things, but what things? PKs need gracious guidance and freedom from manipulation in order to become the persons we are uniquely designed to be as reflections of God.  p93


I might write more here, but then… that is why you should read this book. That you too, will understand just how great the grace of God is, toward those who will find their identity in Him.


Final Thought. I started out this essay speaking to a form of Irony. I was made aware of Barnabas Piper because of his Dad, which in turn led me to read a book in which Barnabas Piper is seeking the right (for both himself and others) not to be defined in total by the household of their birth.


And now I add irony to irony.

I have heard nothing from Barnabas that indicates he has any desire whatsoever to be connected to the pastorate. He has crafted an independent identity and is responding to his own sense of personal responsibility before God. That said, I hope he will not find it contrary to his mission to say… I see in Barnabas a Pastor’s heart. It may not be the call of pulpit preaching, but when it comes to communicating vital truths that add grace to the church -- and minister in particular to wounded or disoriented hearts, Barnabas shows that he shares a pastor’s concerns. My bet: He has picked up more from home -- or even the pulpit than he lets on.



.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Home: Kim Walker Smith and Skyler Smith: an album review by Kirk

Artists:  Kim Walker-Smith and Skyler Smith  (wife and husband)
Album: Home (2013) Jesus Culture Music.


Genre:  Adult-contemporary with a neo-folk edge.    Home is rightly described as a Christian worship album, but if you listened without hearing the words, you might first hear it as a series of passionate love songs...And it indeed it is......aimed straight out of this world into the next.




My recent discovery of the music of Kim Walker Smith is a bit like Columbus discovering America.   I thought I had made a big discovery… but a whole lot of folks living on the continent already knew she was there.   ((And now... a couple of weeks later, I am simply shaking my head... How could I NOT have known about KWS..  Now, this review sounds kind of ignorant.:))

I confess, when I picked up the album “Home” by the married couple,  Kim Walker Smith and her husband Skyler Smith, I had never heard of either person (nor of  Jesus Culture Music)    All I knew is that the cover art said “This could be music you"ll like”  --  and it was on sale.

There is this adage, never judge a book by its cover. I thoroughly reject said advice, as I find the cover is part of what makes a book enjoyable.  Same goes for music.   Great music in a bad package is less good in total, and average music with a great cover is a tad bit better, as the package frames the experience.   But that is a different idea.

I bought Home, because the cover, featuring a couple on the porch of a country home… looked kind of arty and smart, minimalistic and rootsy.  I saw a subliminal nod to the painting “American Gothic.”   I liked the guy’s glasses… (they are kind of like mine.)   Beyond that,  I thought the female looked ever so lovely with her straight blond hair, minimal makeup  and Laura Ashley dress…  Her pensive look suggested this music might be thoughtful and restrained, while her dark roots under the blonde, suggested the possibility of an indie vibe :)

I was about 69 percent right. 

Smart, yes.   Restrained.  Sort of.    Rootsy. Just a touch.

Some folks might call this folk, but that would be a stretch.   The  instrumentation highlights strong piano throughout and includes dallies with instruments like the banjo and cello… but  the sound is just too big for folk and too "rockless” for pop.  All in all, the sound is what I call “Adult contemporary with a real-music underbelly.”  Or something like that.

And though the music throughout is excellent, that is not what drives Home over the top.
    
First, there is that voice.

Hers.  And His.   Of the two, hers is the knockout punch  but there is chemistry when these two twine other that is simply magic.

(I am not sure if this is good form, but if you want to hear Kim and Skyler sample this Youtube upload: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-thXGxaCN8


When I think of couples who stand out in duet I think of Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright (With You I am Born Again), or… in more current terms… the music of Joy Williams and John Paul White (The Civil Wars) or Glen Hassard and Marketa Irglova (from the movie Once.)   These couples tap something primeval in the human soul. 

As, is, I think Skyler sounds a little like the lead singer of Cold Play, or maybe Glen Hassard, (soft, earthy, heartfelt.)  however,  Kim does not sound like Merrketa.   Not a difference in beauty or skill, but a difference in volume and vibe.  Kim belts power and tenderness and passion.  I might even call hers a “Diva” voice, but it is without the saccharine silliness or sensual vibrato of many of our current sirens.   Perhaps it is the message, but her voice just sounds powerful and pure.  Like a river, out of the city of God….

All of which is a set up for the greatest strength of Home.

Home is a worship album.  It it not so much intended to be listened to, but to be listened with. Home reaches deepest when we (whatever our vocal skills) jump in the seat and drive with Kim and Skyler as fellow worshipers.   It took a few listened to have these tunes soak into my being, but it time, I was there with them, before the throne.

(Thoughts on the major themes: to be developed.)

Thank you.

I noted at the beginning that Kim is already known by a lot of folks. I had no idea just how many, but a quick survey on Youtube shows that Kim has been a vital leader in live, dynamic church worship for some time.and affiliated with a group called Jesus Culture*   In fact, if we looked at the number of videos in which KWS is  a part, then multiplied those videos by the number of folks who have watched them, we may find is that Kim is one of the most loved Jesus singers ever.   So what do I know.

You can hear a body of her work here:   (As is, I seldom listen to Christian radio, as I find much of it intolerable.   So I miss some things.  Vital things.  (but not much?)

I am also surprised that the Kim I hear on Youtube and the Kim I hear on Home, are slightly different women.   Kim on Youtube is sheer tidal wave of energy and passion.   Home shows Kim in somewhat quieter mode. Still powerful, but restrained.    There is even the hint of majesty.  (Note: Syler and Kim are much aware of how this music differs from Kim's larger body of work.  See their thoughts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_br5RS5O07U#t=91

I suspect, given the compound name (Walker Smith) and the dominance of the Kim Walker name on Youtube, that "Smith" may be a more recent addition to Kim’s world.   But that union seems to have infused a maturity and beauty to what was already a passionate world.

--

There is one more thing I wanted to write about this album that I may regret later for its candor.  I hope it is not unseemly, but it is just what came to mind when I heard the song the Relentless Pursuit...

There is probably no more humbling and sublime words that a groom might hear from his beloved than “Do with me as you will.”   These are not words of licentiousness… but surrender in a climate of absolute trust (the groom will only ask that which is good. ) There are moments in this album that suggest that level of intimacy between us, the bride,  and Christ our eternal groom.  This is an invitation to be ravaged by the lover of our souls, with full confidence that our undoing will be our greatest gain.


Ps.  I heartily recommend this album.


---

Addendum:

In searching around the internet, I came across one group (Appraising Ministries) that is critical of the Jesus Culture (as a ministry) and the larger church community in which Kim Walker Smith and her husband operate.  I questioned whether I should even note the criticism, but I want to be rigorous, honest with self, and careful of what I put into my heart.   (The Critics of Kim Walker Smith work from a Reformed perspective, and  take issue with the strong Charismatic foundations of Jesus Culture and the Smith's  supporting church.)  As is, I am neither equipped, nor eager to get into that debate, but I will confess that I too am wary of things I have seen in the signs and wonders circles.    But here is the rub.   At what point, or upon what issues should I,  as a "patron of the arts" or as a consumer of gospel music, break ranks with others over very real differences in doctrine or ethos?  I suspect each person will have to make up his mind on where he draws his boundary lines.   I know for instance,  that I thoroughly enjoy and am deeply ministered to, by the works of Roman Catholic troubadour, John Michael Talbot.   I also know that I am critical of Roman Catholic theology at foundational points.  As for content, I do sometimes hear things in the music of JMT with which I might differ, but by an large his music is such that I, as a son of the Reformation, find deep nurture and common ground.  The same would apply to this music.   I simply do not hear anything in the music as presented that should cause me to pause.  Indeed, I hear things in this music that should be common ground for all who seek to love God with heart and mind.    So, while I will keep the concerns of Appraising Ministries before my eyes, I stand firmly behind my initial recommendation.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Arthur Wachnick and Let Us Run (before God in our Linen Ephod) review by Kirk

Album: Let Us Run
released 4/11/2014


Mano Mano… another Noisetrade home run.

I love the happiness my ears feel when they discover something new,  and (given the dynamics of a marketplace without center)  might not ever encounter-- Then (given the magnetic super talent collecting arms of Noisetrade)  I am floored by artistry that is just part of another planet.

This week’s hyper-delicious  serendipitus astonistastic release belongs to Arthur Wachnik  -- and like I said, I've never heard of the guy.

But I will now.   A lots.



In as much as you can listen to the samples just like I did, and determine if this feeds your ear and heart, I won't wax extravagant except to say… Let us Run is an audio playland and a living Psalm.

For just a quick sample check out "Selah" on the Noisetrade link.

As it is, I keep thinking... Hmm.  I have heard this voice.   Sounds like something my daughter owns.  Then I read another review, and they intimated "Ben Folds" and I thought, yup.  Getting close.   Same kind of zinninesss and vocal dexterity.   (and if it looks like I cannot spell, or that I am making up  words, I am, because this work just has that kind of flexiness.

I am hearing Broadway, Gypsy, zydeco, grunge, 80s titan-voice punk  jazz, swing, Klezmer, and Gospel themes all rolled into one swagwanimous-phantom opperatus volley of praise.   There are times when Arthur's voice sounds modern (ie, kind of nervy),  then other times smooth as glass, yet other times like a Vaudeville singalong.



I don’t know how Arthur is making this music (how much is synthesized, how much of it is session players, how much is talented friends, or  how much he plays himself  but I am hearing loads of instruments, and all kinds of audio experimentation with nods to eastern Europe.   (Third listen in ... man, the strings are so smooth and shadowy like rainbow colored smoke... or something like that.)

But most of all, I am hearing creative abandon as Arthur – like David – dances in his *underwear before the Ark  (Back then it was called a linen ephod.)

So, give this a listen, and see if you too are not blown away by the sheer fun of lifting hands, swaying, or jigging it up before the throne of God.

Thank you Arthur!


Ps.  You can parts of Arthur’s first album here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Josh Garrels Sampler 2014 download

I always feel a little odd using the language of “greatness” to describe music which I find meaningful, revolutionary, and full of startling artistry. (Not that I have not been guilty of calling many artists or albums the “greatest” in the past) – It’s just that there is something kind of Oxymoronic about describing any product of the sanctified imagination as the greatest.

Isn't part of the Christian message that we, as wretched beings, are given to celebration of the Most Great, the Most Terrible, the Most Excellent, the Most Giving, the most Holy, the Most Central of all Beings?   Then there is that stuff of sideways humility.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.  (Romans 12)



So, now I am struggling to find the right words to describe a body of music that is of superior character and quality, and given to world (I fully believe) as an act of grace.

I am speaking of the Music of Josh Garrels.

In as much as I was born in 1960, I find a disproportionate body of the music to which I listen was forged in the 70s and 80s.    But now, my ear is undergoing something of a revolution as I am discovering dozens of artists who remind me that this is a decade of unparalleled exploration, artistry… and sometimes spiritual aptitude.    And among that group, I find the music of Josh Garrels ministers to me through every channel:  my senses, my mind, and that interior space where God makes home  in me.

If you are not yet familiar with the music of Josh Garrels let me introduce you.  Freely.

That is, you can find a free sample of Josh Garrels music right now through Noise Trade.  (And while Josh routinely gives music away and performs for free, may I also suggest a hearty tip.  See Noise Trade for details.)  Beyond that, you can find plenty of Josh Garrels music for sampling on Youtube.
--

Ps. For any locals who read this as I post.  I understand that Josh is coming to Fayetteville, Arkansas April 26, 2014.  Now to convince my wife that this would make a great way to spend her birthday weekend.





Wednesday, April 9, 2014



New discovery of the day -- (I cannot pronounce their name, and the translation is a little dark  (Hammers of the Underworld)

Genre: Acid Klezmer (sp)  Thoroughly diggin this.  Gonna have to find out more about this band.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Portraits to break your heart, from the inside out...Rwanda 20 years later,

http://nyti.ms/1lvdX2Z

Water-Sky album review and Winter-Sky tour announcement featuring Phil Keaggy and Jeff Johnson

Water Sky Album Review (Jeff Johnson and Phil Keaggy)
Winter Sky Tour announcement  

Artists:   Jeff Johnson and Phil Keaggy
Album: Water-Sky
Genre:  New-Coustic  (New Age, experimental jazz, instrumental)
(late summer 2012)

Quick Spin:  a simply extraordinary  sonic treat from two of our planet’s premier instrumentalists (when they are not singing) who, together have crafted an intimate -- somewhat brooding and minor --  sometimes  quiet and colorful, shimmering and bold, audio diary of a “Place.”   

WaterSky is something of a follow-up to the duo’s first collaborative work, Frio Suite, and draws on the same recipe and place.   (You can read my review of that work here.)



Before I get on with my album review I want to interrupt with a commercial

Kirk Jordan’s Bucket list (abridged)

1) Take a tornado/selfie combo picture, presumably with the cone over my shoulder.
2) Eat Thai food in Thailand.
3) Figure out how to map biblical predestination and free-will.
4) Give a grandkid a shoulder ride.   (First things first,  a daughter or two to be wed etc.)
5) Hear Jeff Johnson and Phil Keaggy together in concert.

--






Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Songbird at Midnight: The Legacy of Fanny Crosby; Amanda Noel

Album: Songbird at Midnight  (The Legacy of Fanny Crosby; Vol 1)
Artist:  Amanda Noel (vocalist)  with husband Jonathan and friends.
Song Craft: Fanny J. Crosby 1820-1915

Genre:  Christian Hymns as written by Fanny Crosby, recast with modern country and adult contemporary production.  (Compares with similar re-hymn efforts by the Indelible Grace Group.)


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jacob Montague: All Creatures V 1 - review by Kirk

Artist: Jacob Montague
Album: All Creatures (V1)
Genre:  Indie, instrumental, psychedelic, improvisational city of God space folke rock - or something like that.   Whatever this is, it is simply fantastical.   (Shares traits in common with Sufjan Stevens and Josh Garrels.)

Noise Trade: Free Download, fully worthy of a major tip.

Something is amiss - or a stir in the Cosmos.  This will be the second album of chilling Psalmadic beauty that I have discovered in a couple of days through Noise Trade.  This is the second album where I want to run out into the streets, grab folks by the collar and yell: 'Listen to This NOW."  A couple of days ago I discovered the gorgeous voice of Liz Vice, today I discover the otherworldly harmonies, soaring textures, and audio imagination of Jacob Montague.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Liz Vice: There's a Light, album review by Kirk

Do you ever hear a recording that makes you want to run out into the streets, start shouting or grabbing folks by the collar and say... MAN, WOMAN, you gotta hear this.

WELL!!!





Artist: Liz Vice
Album: There is a Light
Genre: Gospel, Old School R&B with just a touch of hipster...


I am only in my very first listen, and I can already hear a gospel masterpiece, the kind of recording I want to live in, love in, and delight in God in.

Now here is the trick.  I cannot really tell you that much about Liz.  I never heard of the women before twenty minutes ago...

Nor am I gonna spend a whole lot of time describing the music.  Because, well - it is perfect, AND
You can hear the whole album and even download it from Noise Trade absolutely free.

http://noisetrade.com/lizvice/theres-a-light

As for me.  I recommend the free Listen, then the Tip Jar.  and a big tip at that.

So, what grabs me.

1) approach to the music.  Motown vibe. Opening strains are structurally like something by Al Green. Simply beautiful musical "restraint" throughout.  Love the lean trippy organ.

2) Voice.   Raspy, real.   I would  use the term '"sultry" but I don't want any of those connotations.  Make that Smoky... and well SOULful....(I am not gonna embarrass myself with any direct comparisons, cause well,  I don't know my female black Gospel singers like I should, though I did hear one song that had a very ..... Roberta Flack melodic line.  Oh, and Pink.  I actually heard Pink.

3) Content.   Its part of the terrain.  Anyone can sing gospel.  Even folks who aren't really given to the GOSPEL persay.   But this album rings true.  I hear a woman deeply in love with the Lord.  It is is written all over it.  Affection, Humility, desperation, Love.

4)  Augustine.   I think the woman has read Augustine.  "How can I contain you - when you contain all things.."

Ps.   Liz is with an Artistic Collective "Deeper Well."  Find out more here. 


I will probably polish this up latter, but I wanted to get this in your ear.

Check out the Video: 

http://deeper-well.com/videos/empty-me-out/

or this, a single track on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7wVLtt9mpk

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kirk Jordan's 117 Greatest Songs in the History of the Universe

Started out to be 100, but I just couldn't stop

Just in case anyone doesn't get it... I am not really making the case that this is the best music in the history of our shared Universe, just my little section.  These are songs that have deeply impacted my life along the journey; many remain fixed parts of my being.  (If you are one of the artists on this list I want to thank you ever so much.)

It will be readily apparent that I am given to music anchored in a life of devotion.  I believe that at the center of reality is a great love story between God and man. Many of these songs (but not all) are written by persons who share my deep awareness of God, through Jesus.  On a different note:  I think I could have made a good pagan.

As for gospel themes,  not much of this is of the variety that gets played in the sound-alike world of Christian radio.  You will find my tastes tend to the edges  --  pastoral suites, folk-a-billy,  even gospel themed punk... just not much from the high production middle.   My hope --Even if you do not like (or do not think you like) music of religious sensibilities -- that you will give some of these tracks a whirl. Christian music is not unlike the broader music field, the best music rarely makes the radio... you have to search for it.

My original goal was to choose no more than one song by any one artist.  I failed.  There are a few people who have had such a commanding presence in my life and ear that they get more than one selection.

So, How many of these tunes do you know?  

How many do you also love?

Do any of these songs surprise you?

What would be your top 100 choices? (or perhaps top three)?


Saturday, February 1, 2014

the Hopeless Romantic

Background:

I am creating a list of the top 100 songs in the history of the universe.  (which of course, means... the most important songs to me.)   One of my subcategories is love songs.  These are my current selections.

So, what would be yours?



the Hopeless Romantic


I just want to Waltz with You:  Jan Krist.

Tonight: From the West Side Story (first heard performed by Booker T Washington Rep theater)

In the Garden of of Ein Gedi: Andrew Rose Gregor and the Color Red Band.

Canticle for the Bride: John Michael Talbot: For the Bride

No One But You: Mark Heard; Eye of the Storm

Georgia Moon: Pierce Pettis

With you I am Born Again:  Billy Preston and Syretta Wright

On the Street Where You Live:  From the Musical, My Fair Lady.

Without You: Crash Dog  (I suspect this may be an acquired taste.)

It's Me: Sara Groves:  Fireflies and Songs.  (cause its not all peaches and cream.)

Married to You: Mo Leverett  (I could not find my favorite Mo Leverett Love song, but this runs close second.)

Still in Love with You;  Al Green

Song of Songs: Pierce Pettis (See if this song doesn't make you seep into the Earth like a puddle.)

Mercy of the Flame:  Pat Terry (Mark Heard)  Orphans of God.    And what a mercy it is.


.
.
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And for those over 50....


Our Night to Howl - Lets go Dancing.    (Daniel Amos)


OOps.  ONE MORE.   A song we borrowed and applied to our wedding.  Only we didn't call it Thigpen's Wedding.  Cause we weren't the Thigpens.  By Kemper Crabb.   One of the greatest love songs ever written or recorded:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/profile/Kemper+Crabb/22535334

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Switchfoot Switches Feet: Fading West, album review

Artist/Band: Switchfoot (w. Jon Foreman frontman)
Album: Fading West
Genre: techno, singing pirate, effervescent power-pop , indie rock – or something like that.
Release: Jan 14, 2014




Authors Note:  There is small part of me that does not want to be associated with Switchfoot anything.  As a man of advancing age, who has yet to surf and who thinks Jon Denver represents the pinnacle of pop music,  I am afraid I may loose curmudgeonly credibility if I sometimes listen to music that might be played on the radio.  This is not my music.  Except.   Well, Saturdays when I need music to overpower the vacuum or shake the cobwebs from the corners.  (Nothin like being found with  air guitar in one hand, dust rag in the other!)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Charlie Peacock: Lemonade

Album: Lemonade.  (Digital Only)  Itunes and Amazon.
release: Jan 2.2014



Genre:  Solo Piano, improvisational jazz

Quick Spin: Charlie Peacock, sans Charlie Peacock.

Beautiful, surprising, and somewhat plaintive piano dallies (though not always)  --  from ever the ever-altering  singer-songwriter, producer, and performer --  Charlie Peacock.




In my house, Charlie Peacock is a household word.

For those already familiar with Charlie Peacock’s jazz hands, this stripped down piano offering is no surprise.  We have heard Charlie go voiceless in his 2005 release Love Ex-Curio  featuring a small riotous ensemble, followed by Arc of the Circle (2009) an improvisational “dialogue” with Jazz sax-man Jeff Coffin.

And now here’s Charlie, stripped of  sax, budget, interplay,  and  electric gizmos. While I did hear one hummy-thing that might not have been a broken piano string, this is about as immediate as it gets.

I count among my instrumental piano library, music by these key-bangers: Duke Ellington,  Liz Story, George Winston, Douglas Trowbridge (aka:   Richard Souther ) Phillip Aabegg, Tom Howard, Jeff Johnson,  David Arkenstone, Ken Medema,  and others.  This is probably the Jazziest of the lot  (excluding Duke -- but  that is jazz of a different timbre) and  shares in common traits with at least two of my faves, Liz Story and Ken Medema   In short, I hear the complex melancholy tones of Liz, delivered with the improvisational flourish of Ken Medema.

(Charlie points to some of his own influences here.)

Forgive me as a non-musician for trying to describe something in layman’s terms, but the thing that makes this recording stand out:  Timing.

Intricate,  tripping and balanced….cascading feather-flourish to slow, turning on a dime….poly rhythmic…  or single finger  --- I am looking for words.  In short,  I have the sense that time-signatures are flying all over the place, but Charlie never falls down.

Ps.
I cannot hope to explain what you can readily hear for yourself (ie, the short clips provided by I-tunes or Amazon – except to say, Please listen.


This is authentic, creative, skilled and emotive music, most worthy of a larger audience.   And how do we grow that audience.  One ear at a time.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Give Love on Christmas

Artists:   Collaboration, featuring Jars of Clay, Charlie Peacock, Sandra McCracken and others.
Genre:  Christmas, folk, folk-rock, chamber-coustic, and assorted indie sounds.

In the next few days I hope to put out a list of my favorite Christmas albums, and sure to make the list is this little gem… I just discovered – one hour ago.  That is, I am now on my second listen, and I fully expect this little download will get plenty of ear-play.


I must confess, as a CD man, I am not quite used to the idea that you can just get music for free (though you will certainly want to throw in a tip… or more, on this one.)

The offering…”Give Love on Christmas” is just that.   A way to give love, by donating to the Blood:Water Mission, even as the represented artists have given of themselves in this collaboration.

Like all things offered on NoiseTrade, the download itself is free, but I make it a habit to tip artists, sometimes on the spot, or sometimes later after sampling works and agreeing that I will be listening multiple times.

As is, I figure not all these songs were penned for Christmas.  In fact, I know several were not… but are given to the project in the spirit of the same.    For example, it would be hard to call the song Mystic, by Charlie Peacock a Christmas song, except it involves going home.

So what makes this a Christmas gem?  Ten of the eleven tunes are "unkowns" -- while the final song, Oh Come Emanuel, simply happens to be my favorite Christmas hymn.  Add to that, the spirit of the thing. Intelligent, lean production as the norm, the absence of smarmy gloss and fru-fru, and strongly vertical connection.  (At least half the songs highlight the love of God as expressed to his creation through his Son, while the others tend to focus on our call to love one another.

Since you can sample the whole of the album on Noisetrade I won’t go on about the sounds of the various artists, except to say… Dan Hasteltine of Jars of Clay just keeps sounding better and better. 

(I had just started to list my favorite tracks, but that list included ¾ of the offering, I figured I will just let you decide which you like best…. But happy surprise showing by Phil Keaggy, and someone called Sleeping at Last.  (Loved that song)   Oh, and the vocal of Jeannette Isabella and Joy Williams (Civil Wars) and… Rhett, Sandra,  and….I better quit.

thank you to all those who put this little treasure of an "album" in my hands.

Kirk


Ps.  Now I find that this is not the first Blood-Water Mission collaboration.  Here is an earlier release, - Give Hope this Christmas.  It looks mighty interesting, though also less Christmas focused.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Warren Barfield: Redbird; Album review by Kirk

Artist: Warren Barfield
Album: Redbird
Release Date:  Oct 12, 2012
Genre: Neo-folk, southern fried country without the twang.

Quick spin: Lone guy on a guitar or with small ensemble -- muscled baritone, singing gospel-colored story songs about growing up southern fried. No direct voice comparison, but his delivery shares qualities in common with to James Taylor, Pierce Pettis, Tim O'brien, Marc Cohn, maybe even John Mayer.


--

I have a theory about bargain bins. They hold the worst… and the very best the music that the world has to offer. Actually found this on Ebay for a buck. Never heard of the guy. Liked the art and the description, took the gamble. Won big time.

Turns out Warren is not a new kid on the block, this would be his fourth album. Also turns out, after reading some reviews, this album represents a turning point for Warren, one that may loosen some of his fan base, even as it adds new followers.

In short, Warren started out with a denser sound, sort of a countrified adult contemporary Nashville fare.  I read that his first album scored strong air play, even as he teamed with a contemporary Christian group Need to Breath, and (or then) recorded a song that was used in the indie/Christian film “Fireproof.”  (Sample)

Since purchasing Redbird, I have started listening  to Warren’s older work. For me, it's a mixed bag… Songs range from: "Oh my, how did I miss this"… to …"that was for someone else."

As it is, there are bucket loads of extremely talented people associated with CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) industry of Nashville, but the place readily suffers from an insular sound. I have come to view the CCM label as the kind of thing you don’t want to be saddled with, even if you are extremely talented – and a Christian singing in a contemporary context!  With Redbird, Warren leaves any vestiges of CCM formula music behind. (good luck getting most of this heard on the radio:)  This album represents a dynamic shift toward the kind of music I thoroughly enjoy: stripped down singer-songwriter artistry of the highest order.

The character of his voice is different, but I would readily compare the “new” warren with another southern Folk-master, Pierce Pettis.


Songs.

Redbird opens with a song that seems at once ancient… and modern.  They lyrics to The Time is Now are chiseled and direct, the voice like rugged oak.    The chorus (make that choral groups calls to mind cotton fields, chain gangs or the black church...with old women in white hats (or something like that.)





I cut my teeth, on the back of an old church pew
I learned to walk in the ways of light and truth
And I was told not to speak til I was spoken to
I heard it preached, what I should and I should not do
And the choir sang
Woh oh oh oh oh oh oh Woh oh oh oh oh oh oh



Listen between the lines and see if you don’t hear…Martin Luther King, Atticus Finch, or  thousand others who have stood their ground in the face of the boot.



The remaining songs trace a small body of heart-felt themes: Some bright and sing-along, some darker hued, even Faulkneresque.

If I were to choose a theme for Redbird it would be this.  Sticking it out.

Sticking it out in the face of injustice, sticking it out in a climate of short term love, even sticking it out when the world might crush our delight in the indwelling God.   (This albums themes  run horizontal, but that last one is strongly implied.  It is the indwelling God who grants us the power to endure.


My favorites:

The bold opener – The Time is Now, followed by the genuinely lovely Red Bird, the darker-toned Love Does -- the concrete, detailed, heart-teaching ballad anchored in the life and enduring spirit of Warren’s Grandparents, They Don't Make'em Like They Used To -- and the outrageously gorgeous duet “Once You Find Love.” Truth is, you can read a much better description of each song and probably the whole album here (but then it wouldn't be my review.)




Short form: God working through Ebay… led me tto this treasure, and I wanted you to know about. My ear is open.   Thanks Warren for taking this risk.  I deeply appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Trace Adkins: The King's Gift - Review by Kirk

Trace Adkins: The King’s Gift.
Genre:  Christmas; Celtic Country fusion.
Release Date: 10/29/2013

Quick Spin.  A true jewel of an album, featuring Celtic-colored Christmas carols -- and that continent of a voice that is Trace McAdkins.  This will likely be my Advent Fave for the year 2013.  What a great surprise.
   
----

I will be honest.  I bought this for the cover, and the very idea of it all. 

Now that CD's appear to be going the way of the dinosaur you can sometimes find good deals in the dwindling Walmart audio section.   So there I am, flipping through the new releases when I see what appears to be a Celtic-based Christmas album with all that braided tapestry stuff -- that, and back cover with the big long haired dude looking like a member of the cavalry.

I was pretty sure I knew the name Trace Adkins, but really I didn't know any of his music, nor could I have described his voice.   My country ear is pretty much limited to the likes of Johnny Cash and  Allison Krauss -- though, in the last years I have purchased music by Merle Haggard and Billy Joe Shaver.  Suffice it to say, I just don’t do much main-street Nashville. 
 
My mistake.

Turns out I have may have missed more than my folkster-ears have bargained for.


As I said, I was drawn by the design and even the song selection.   My Celtic music collection runs a little deeper than my country, and I can truthfully say I have at least a dozen Celtic-colored Christmas CDs.  So I was intrigued by the idea of cowboys and penny whistles.

And the verdict is…

Thoroughly delighted, utterly pleased, fan of a “new” singer… and brimming with Christmas Joy.

First.  I do not know anything about Trace or his spiritual proclivities.   But I do know, that as an album that would celebrate the birth of the King -- This album rings true.   A lot of folks sing religiously themed music during Christmas time and this could be just that.  But I kind of doubt it.  The title, the focus, the opening words, and the audio conviction that runs through this album firmly suggest that this is an act of worship.


Then there is that voice.  Forgive me Trace (should you read this review) for simply never having heard your voice.   Should anyone else be unfamiliar think….kitten paws and Thunder, or Caverns and Cathedrals.  This a mighty voice, but utterly tender.   In a day when the airwaves are populated by thin voiced adolescents scrubbed clean with auto-tune, it's almost startling to hear a deep, unpolished baritone. And it’s not like he is just lowering his voice to sing low…    Trace comes off totally un-strained when rocking those low decibels.   In fact, there is one time where Trace almost sounds like one of those huge aboriginal pipes called the didgeridoo.  (Often used in Celtic fair.)  Add to that, muscled… low guitar, and the whole things just radiates gentle machismo. Like a Mountain.

Add to that voice, the talents of the Chieftains, multiple skilled instrumentalists, a trove of real Celtic instruments… and the voice of angel vocalist Alyth McCormack (recorded in Ireland) and you have a simply magical brew.   This is one talent-packed ensemble.

As for the twining of Celtic and Western vibe: A marriage made in heaven.

Jazz, as I understand it is the child of European classical and African tribal music.   Two strands, once joined, create this whole new dynamic in music.  While I hardly expect to see a whole *new genre spring out of the fusion of American Country and Irish Country, this marriage is powerful, and living.   It makes perfect sense.  This fusion just feels right. No gimmick.  Perfectly realized. And both genres like the fiddle!

* Ps.  In one sense we already do have such a genre. The mountain music of Appalachia and the Ozarks IS a true child of Ireland and the New World… but this sound reaches just a little farther west. 

Should I have any quibble with this offering, it might be this:  A few of the tunes just played it safe.   It is almost as if, having pressed some boundaries and not wanting to push the existing fan base too far, Trace settled for tradition rather than upset.    Makes good sense to me…  It’s just I was wishing for a little more adventure in a few of the tunes.  (*** See addendum)

Trace, should you ever read this review, may I recommend the Christmas album by Canadian Bruce Cockburn.  He pretty much pushes multiple boundaries, and his violinist does some things that just astonish my ear, but which may alienate a more traditional audience.)   That said, I could not ask for any more from an artist with a well established sound.   At least one review I read on Amazon faulted this work for NOT sounding like the Trace they knew. (Dear Ed, get your ears checked., this disk in not Horrible, it is downright honoring, festive, and utterly refreshing!)   Thank you Trace for your willingness to push into this new territory.    You have gained a new fan….And I will be spreading the joy.



*** Trace, I kinda wanna rescind the playing-it-too-safe comment.  I listened to the CD at home again this weekend, and it just fit -- with family, with activity etc.  Should you have upped the kind artsy-fartsy dissonance my ears sometimes crave,  you might also have ended up with a product that wouldn't play as well in a community setting -- This is a novel offering, AND it plays well with others... 

Note:  Unless he changes his website, you can listen to the tracks at the bottom of his Christmas Tour Page.
(Ps.  Trace, you have the wrong song in the Three Kings slot;)

For those who would sample a single Tune, may I recommend "Three Ships."  Then chase that with Three Kings  (Man I love that last note!)

--

In closing: This album just leaves me warm in the soul.  Satisfied.   Even glowing.

This is more than a gift of sound or even talent.    It is pure recognition.  God gives us many gifts and the ultimate gift in his Son.   We in turn give gifts… or use even use his gifts, because we have been gifted.  By the King.









Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Hawk In Paris, Music Review by Kirk

Band.  The Hawk in Paris.  (Dan Haseltine and friends Jeremy Bose and Matt Bronleewe)
Album: Freaks

Genre:   Modern/Retro synth Pop (of the highest caliber)
Release Date: October 29, 2013
More Info and Orders: Pledge Music



Quick Spin:  For a old guy who doesn't listen to much pop-anything (even indie-art pop) I may have reformat my ear.  I have now listened to this offering a couple dozen times in just three days... It's cutting grooves.   Deep, melodic, infectious...it sounds at times like a soundtrack to young love... (or old love, for a man still caught in the mystery)  There are some darker moments here, including (for me) a sense of disquietude.  But that will take a bit to explain.

---


I find there are two ways I can listen to Freaks. 1) Like any other offering I might hear on indie-pop radio (if such a thing exists), or 2) As part of the ongoing sound evolution and spiritual odyssey of Dan Haseltine (frontman for the band Jars of Clay, and now Hawk in Paris.) 

At this point I do not know if The Hawk in Paris is just a side project, or the future for Dan and band. (Band:  please forgive me for speaking of the song-craft and writing of the songs as Dan's, when the source may be shared... or yours.)

Way of Hearing # 1)

Utterly delicious ear candy, Freaks… by The Hawk In Paris, blends the sound sensibilities of a band like Depeche Mode, or David Bowie, or Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics  (I am limited to using the folks I know) with folks I know even less…. Like modern robo-singers Owl City or Moby.  There might be better examples, but I am an old man with an ear for Americana, so modern synth pop is a little out of my expertise.  What I do know is that this is a very forward-looking, backward-glance.  To get the idea, think of a classic building (like the Empire State building, forged in the 1920’s -- Then think of a modern building fashioned in the old art deco style, but with all the new technologies and materials.   In that same sense, Freaks takes the sonic landscape of the 1980’s then updates it with all kinds of modern sound wizardry.   We get the big spaces, the sweeping synthesizer,  the Orwellian harmony,  even the desire to dance like a robot…. And all with Dan Haseltine's liquid vocals.  Beyond that, The sound is sophisticated, cool, then dark.   

As a pop product, Freaks is simply stellar.   The melodies shimmer with all the energy of young love.  I hear magic.  And chrome, and cleanness, and all these ambient colors of the prism.  I hear too, a gifted singer using auto tune, not to correct his imperfections, but to lean into machine.   If there is anything freaky about Freaks, it is the very idea of the voice of man and the voice of machine twining like the twin rails of a double helix.  Dan at once sounds believably human… .and perfect. And sorry band mates to focus on Dan, I know your talents are there in abundance… but Dan's voice:   Ambrosia.



As for content, Freaks is given to themes common to teens,  pop music and humankind.   Ie. rejection, Love found.  Love lapping through our dreams,. Love teetering and strained.  Love in the ditch …  Stars in the eyes. etc.   But this is where the pop sensibilities end.   The caliber of the writing is such that it may confuse us to call this “Pop” anything.


On a personal note.    I find this alum is written backwards.  That is, I like all the first songs least, then find my delight grows as we venture in.  (Bad for first impressions, good for glow at the end of the voyage.)   Least favorite song:   Freaks.  Though I very much like the spaghetti western whistle, I still associate the word Freaks with deviants, hermaphrodites, and two-headed dogs.  (Mercy for the middle.)  I can hear the word “outcast, maverick, or nerd” in a positive light, but I do not want to be found alone in the Forest of the Freaks.  (Then I am afraid it is a way of sanctioning moral disobedience.)

Favorite Song, which surprised me, the breakup song, Cannons.  If this song is about the immediate hemorrhaging of a very real marriage, then I am oh so very sorry.   I guess the lyric which hooked my soul was this simple confession…. If you leave me now, you leave me better than I was before.   Kind of nice to hear a confession of love, even in the midst of unravel.

Actually there is one more favorite song.  But it is not on this album.   Turns out that Freaks is a composite offering, with seven selections that appeared in some form on two earlier EPs.  I am trying to find the very rare first EP (Boys and Girls), but the second - Freaks and Outcasts -  is available for everyone by way of Noisetrade.  (Find it here.)  I simply LOVE LOVE LOVE, the song “Dancing in the Rain” (Outcast Mix).  Dancing just brims with all the emotions of first love; I hear a fusion of Vector’s Dance, with all the exuberance of the original dancing in the Rain song, --- My Fair Lady.



Ps. For those who might buy just one song…  Start with 10) Birds on a Wire.  then peck around it.  (Oh, and the tune, Put your Arms around me....If I were a young pup in love, I might, listening to this melt right into the ground.



Final Note:

Name.  Hawk in Paris.   When doing Google search I found the name Hawk in Paris linked to an image… actually an album cover for a work by jazz legend Coleman Hawkins.  (I hate to admit it, but I was not familiar with the original Hawk, Coleman Hawkins, so now I am getting my fix on both Hawks.  Listen to some from the original Hawk in Paris on YouTube here.

or even do a download here:

or read more on the name, the band and its development with Dan H. and the Noise Trade Interview:


So.  Final word..  

Beautiful, elegant. Pulsing.  Dreamy, evocative, fresh. cinematic... (actually that was seven) tempered with a sense of dystopia.





Way of Hearing, Part 2.

I mentioned earlier that there are two ways I can hear Freaks, first as an offering of modern pop (For which is I give it my full star count)  AND as part of the unfolding sound-scape and spiritual pilgrimage of frontman Dan Haseltine.   Here I am hearing on different level, as a fellow traveler with Dan to the Celestial City… and wondering, if perhaps, Freaks may well represent a side track… into the heart of the Vanity Fair.

 (I think Dan will catch the allusion)

There is no way to write this next part without sounding preachy or overreaching, and I am afraid that someone will  say, who are you to second guess, or critique anyone’s spiritual pilgrimage?   (And of course, I am not qualified.)  But I do know that part of what it means to be part of living spiritual body… the body of Christ, is to encourage our fellow pilgrims and brothers, to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.   


When I hear Freaks, I am not sure if I am hearing just good pop, or … something which is kind of like a grand diversion from something ever so much more central, the love relationship at the center of reality.  And if human relationships can ebb and flow, or even break down and wither on the vine, so too can our relationship with the eternal groom.


It is hard not to hear the “dystopian” vibe  inside the shimmer of Freaks.   Yes there is an intoxicating celebration of love.  And yes, there is the angst that goes with parting (in whatever context), but I am also NOT hearing something I might have heard in the earlier works of Dan, through the mouth of his twenty year old band Jars of Clay; namely that desperate dependence on the God who walks with us, through the brilliance and the storm.

There is nothing here that directly proclaims a war with God.  On the other hand, the sound, the glitter, the big city slickness, even the sexual energy….in combination with the absence of anything that references the larger romance in which we live, hints hard at spiritual malaise.  I know this may not sound fair.   Should the same absence be found in the offerings of any other artist, I wouldn't think a thing about it.   (In fact, I would praise them for being extra dimensional and exploring the full range of romance.)  When I find that absence here where I one heard a "voice in the garden" It causes me to pause.  


Am I hearing things?



*the cover graphics too,  characterized by the loss of face, or a mask of sky and earth, only reinforce the idea.  Something is missing.   Something is hid.  Something is out of order in the universe.


Addendum.  For a slightly different take... on the process, purpose ... even lack of agenda, see Dan's Personal Blog.  The Hawk In Paris, a Primer.