Music you should know (secular edition)
“I believe every worship leader/musician should listen to secular music.
We need to figure out ways to experience God in creative ways”
– Brian Johnson
If you have been following my blog, you already know my stance on Secular music in church. However, what might surprise you is that I agree with this statement. Probably not in the same exact way that Brian Johnson meant it, but let me explain. I believe worship music is in serious danger of getting stale. Since U2 released “Joshua Tree” on March 9th, 1987 (which I might add is a mere 2 weeks after I was born) The Edge’s tone and the over all U2 sound has made its way into the church and has become the staple of Modern Worship. This is in big part thanks to groups like Hillsong, and Delirious who were among the first to bring the U2 tone into the worship world.
I am not intending on bashing U2, quite the contrary, I think they are amazing and love their work, but I say this to remind you that their “definitive” work is about to be 25 years old this March. In the last 25 years there has been tons of other musicians who for whatever reason have not held the appeal of the fans like U2 has.
However as worshipers we should be a diverse growing community of musicians. Our song should not remain the same. (again a Led Zepplin reference, as well as alluding to a former post) You see if we are simply doing the same thing over and over again, it is bound to become stale. There have been some great songs written the past 25 years in the worship community. But there are many new songs waiting to be written.
For me, one of the biggest things to crank the creative juices is exposure to new environments. In this case new music. If I keep drawing from the same well, I am going to drink the same water, and eventually that water will dry up. This is why we need multiple wells to draw from. There is so much impressive music in the world, and yet we keep going back to the same stuff over and over. With that in mind, (super long introduction I know) I want to present you with “Music You Should Know: Secular Edition” Here are some of the things that are really hitting my creative bones right now and each of these is a secular artist.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator (2011)
The Tedeschi Trucks band is the offspring of Derek Trucks (The Derek Trucks Band, The Allman Brothers Band ) and his lovely wife Susan Tedeschi. These two amazing world renown musicians decided it was time for the two of them to work on a project together. The band is an 11 piece ensemble that mixes Delta blues, Memphis soul, Sixties rock and Seventies funk, and some of their own original sounds to create a masterpiece. This is an album that is been hitting me in all the right places. It does not fit anywhere near the mold of modern music, but at the same time is so excellent that it makes many of its contemporaries take notice. This is something that will hold a place on my iPod for time to come, despite the fact that most people have never heard of it.
The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow (2011)
The Civil Wars is a blending of Joy Williams who is well known for her previous work as a Christian artist, and John Paul White who is a long time veteran of the Folk Music world. Their music is a unique blend of alternative, folk and progressive bluegrass. It is primarily acoustic in nature and relies heavily on the unique dynamic between the voices of John and Joy. The duo has three Albums; two live and one studio. Their debut album “Live at Eddie’s Attic” is available for free on Noisetrade. If you want to experience their unique blend, grab this. It really inspires me because its outside the usual box and gives me inspiration for arranging songs in my acoustic setting at church. Sometimes its great to take a song that you know and re-arrange it in a different style to put some new life into it. This of course requires creativity, but I am assuming you are a creative type.
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Rising Sand (2007)
assuming you are still listening to my opinion at this point, I want to give you one last suggestion. Chances are you have at least heard of this album, or the people involved. Robert Plant is the legendary voice behind Led Zepplin, and Alison Krauss is the creative genius behind country & bluegrass mainstays “Alison Krauss & Union Station” The two come together for an album of cover music. They draw from a wide variety of sources, from The Everly Brothers, to Gene Clark, to Mel Tillis, and even one originally by Robert Plant. This album swept the music world by storm. It was #24 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 best albums of 2007, which was followed receiving 5 Grammy nominations all of which the album went on to win. This is an album I keep coming back to.
Well, there are three albums that each showcase a slightly different sound. While all three are similar, they each have distinctiveness that makes them unique. Some of you who are worship leaders might have trouble thinking in these styles, but if you stretch yourself, I know you can really produce something refreshing. I hope you take the time to check out each of these artists and really just sit back and listen. Experience what they are doing musically.
I am not telling you that you need to make your next worship album a Christian version of Rising Sand, or Revelator. What I am encouraging is that you step outside the box that modern worship is packing itself into. There are creatives out there who are writing outside the box, and they are really begining to shine. Some examples of this are Gungor, John Mark McMillan, Benjamin Dunn & Friends, and Andrew Ehrenzeller. I would imagine you have heard of the first two, but the second two you might not have. If you haven’t thats’ a shame. You should definitely check them all out. I am known as the music man. Most of my friends look to me when it comes to finding new music worth listening to, and hopefully as you are reading this you might share the same opinion. I hope you enjoy the music.