I hope all you faithful Blah Blah readers had a great Labor Day weekend!
Enough small talk. 🙂 Let’s get back to the music. Welcome to Day 2 of The Top 10 in Christian Blues week. Thanks for all you who have given me your thoughts on what I should have included on the list. Keep ’em coming!
And in case any of you were interested, Dale Thompson (mentioned in a comment to this post) is starting a new project called Monster of the Americas. Dale Thompson was the mastermind behind 80’s Christian heavy metal band Bride and bluesy bands The Kentucky Cadillacs and The Religious Overtones, and this new project aims to blend both sounds. Keep an eye out. It could be really fun.
In other news, I just read on Wikipedia here that Dale Thompson had been seeking the Presidential nomination of the Constitution Party. He dropped out in March but will perhaps pursue it again. What? You don’t think the image of America we should present to the world is an 80’s heavy metal band? Terrorists, beware! We will rock you into submission.
Too many rabbit trails… Anyway, let’s get on with the list!
The Top 10 in Christian Blues:
10. The Psalters – Home for Refugees
9. Glass Harp – Whatever Life Demands
8. Bob Dylan – Slow Train
7. Waterdeep – Gospel Train
6. John Davis – I Should Have Known
5. Doug Burr – Ain’t Got no Chains
4. Larry Norman – Feeling so Bad
3. Skip James – Jesus is a Mighty Good Leader
2. Son House – John the Revelator
1. Blind Willie Johnson – Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time
Like I mentioned last post, my two main questions I asked myself in selecting songs for the list were “How well does this song demonstrate the blues?” And, “How well does this song demonstrate Christianity?” The two new songs I chose, Dylan’s “Slow Train” and Waterdeep’s “Gospel Train” ranked well on both counts.
Let’s look at the song by Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan has always tried to undermine everything that his fans thought about him. When he was elevated as the prophetic voice of a generation, he hid out and stopped recording for a while. When he was seen as an antiwar protester, he told people he didn’t know what his lyrics meant, he was just writing songs. When he was hailed as an acoustic folk music icon, he went electric at Newport in 1965 with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. When he was seen as a symbol of the counterculture, he gave his life to Jesus and sang some of the most radical Christian songs ever sung in secular arenas.
Bob Dylan is hard to define.
But this song, “Slow Train,” is an excellent example of the 70’s blues rock sound and also just a great Christian song, from his first born again album Slow Train Coming released in 1979. Shortly after becoming born again, Dylan refused to play any of his old songs but instead played only the new, radical, confrontational Christian songs he had written. Despite boos, threats, and drops in the charts, Dylan kept on singing the new songs. Even today, he still plays a lot of his Christian songs for concerts, compilation albums, etc. so I think he probably still loves God, even if he’s not as radical about evangelism as he once was. Check out the book Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan for a pretty objective look at Dylan’s spiritual quest. It’s a quick, entertaining read, so go buy it now.
It’s at this time that you readers are probably asking yourselves, “Why is Bob Dylan, rock icon that he is, located so far back on the list at Number 8?” Well, I had 7 songs that I thought were better examples of Christian blues than anything Dylan’s done. Good enough answer for ya?
Moving along with the train theme, the next song on the list is a live recording by Waterdeep of their song “Gospel Train.” This is an excellent bluesy song that shows off Don Chaffer’s guitar like none other. He’s simply amazing. Besides, you hear that old organ in the background? I love it. Throw an old bluesy, funky organ on any song and I’ll probably love it. This song had to be on my list. The only way it could be better is if Lori sang along a little. She’s got a very interesting, strong voice that you’ll probably either love or hate.
Though Waterdeep is relatively unknown in the Christian world, you really ought to give them a look. Husband-wife team of Don and Lori Chaffer have produced 11 Waterdeep albums as well as a number of solo albums and side projects through the years, yet they’ve remained very indie. They encourage fans to record their live performances and don’t care too much about making money through the music. As a band, they’ve produced anything from hippie folk to worship to acoustic to folk pop to crazy disco-funk-blues stuff. They’ll probably never be on a big label, but they don’t care. It’s about the music and the God they make it for, not about the money.
Give me your feedback. What songs would you put up for your Top 10 in Christian Blues? And come back tomorrow for two of my all-time favorite musicians, John Davis and Doug Burr.
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