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If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know I’m picky when it comes to women vocalists.  There just are very few that I will listen to and even fewer that I actually enjoy.  Lori Chaffer of Waterdeep, Sarah MacIntosh, St. Vincent, and Rosie Thomas are some of the few that I will go out of my way to listen to because I enjoy their voices.  I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but my point is that too many women artists have a very similar way of singing, a style that doesn’t grab me in particular.

So whenever I get an album featuring a female vocalist, I have mixed emotions.  Part of me is excited about the possibility of discovering another Lori Chaffer… or a Rosie Thomas perhaps.  But the other part of me is tired of all the women who sound the same, and that part doesn’t even want to give the album a chance.

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In an interview with Lenny Smith over here, I mentioned that I would post Lenny’s response to the question “What do you think of modern worship music?”  Here is a brief description he sent along to the 2009 Festival of Faith and Music organizers about a workshop he’ll be doing entitled “Worshiping Worship and Self.”  It challenged my attitude toward worship, so rather than just pulling out a few quotes, I wanted to put the whole thing up.  Enjoy.

Somehow we have slipped away from worshiping God, in many of our worship services.  We now often are worshiping worship and,thus, are worshiping ourselves.

The idea that God is an Audience of One (or Three, for that matter) exemplifies pretty well the problem.  If God is the Audience, watching us as we sing, dance, shout, and celebrate before Him, then that puts God is a passive role, sitting on His throne, I suppose, responding to us and the intentions of our hearts and the activities that reflect those intentions.  It looks o.k. at first glance, but upon further consideration, I find that it is exactly the opposite of the truth. God is not the audience, He is the Actor… WE are the audience.  God is on stage and we are in the audience, listening and watching Him perform His works.   He is always doing his stuff, day and night (“My father works and I work,” is what Jesus said).  He causes the four seasons to come and go, the stars by the billions to shine, the sun and moon to turn, nations to rise and fall, babies to be conceived and be born, the rain to fall and clean the air, the birds to sing such lovely melodies, the young man to find his lady, the whales to find their way to the mating places, the geese to fly in V’s, the bear to hybernate, the dolphins to be able to dive so deep and hold their breath so long.  HE is the DOER.   Our hearts are not beating automatically….God is keeping them beating.   Of course, HE is the BE-er (I AM), but we can not learn anything about His Being except by observing His Doings.  HE is the one on stage!  WE are the audience!

If we get to see His works and hear of His genius, power, and loveliness, we will rise to our feet like any audience and spontaneously applaud and shout our approval and appreciation.  It will not be self-conscious and rehearsed, but spontaneous and real and authentic.  We will be beside ourselves (or outside of ourselves) and in awe of what we are seeing and hearing.  We won’t even be aware of ourselves, but pre-occupied with His works and His genius and His wonders.

Many people, driving home after church, talk about the worship service and evaluate it and the leader and pastor.  An audience doesn’t go home after  seeing a great play or movie or game and talk all about the way they applauded and shouted and how well or poorly the cheerleaders did!  No!  They talk about the teams, the actors, the ones on the stage!

We often are trying to worship and at the same time watching ourselves worship and evaluating our worship while we are doing it. We are seldom “taken away” by the object of our worship, because we have not been drawn away from looking at ourselves to looking at the Other.  A young man, totally head-over-heels in love with a young lady, is hardly aware of himself.  He only has eyes for her!  He doesn’t even know or care that his mouth is open and that he is starring at her.  He is just beside himself.

Solutions?  Yes, there are some.

1. Song Selection: Songs to God about God.  Not songs to God about us.  Not songs to us about God.  Not songs to us about us.  AND not some of each!  To turn a ship around one has to turn it hard.

2. Introductory prayers should be to God about God.  The leader must set the direction for the minds of the people.  In order to do that, the leader has to have his/her own mind on God and not on leading the people.  He/she needs to address God and mentally stay on God and not be concerned if anyone else is having their mind on God.  Leaders don’t lead, they just do it right… followers follow, if they want to.

I suppose I could write-out all my thoughts on this, but this should give you enough…

To go along with his thoughts on worship, I thought you’d enjoy a few of Lenny’s original worship songs:

My Heart Beats At Your Command – Download – Stream
You Are The River – Download – Stream

MySpace: www.myspace.com/lennyesmith

Download free MP3s
Buy CDs at Sounds Familyre Records

Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week

I’d like to take a quick moment to thank Matt Modrich of True Tunes for this, his first “official” contribution to The Blah Blah, though he has for some time been supplying me personally with music tips and suggestions behind-the-scenes, thereby making me look cooler than I really am.

Starflyer 59 continues to break new ground with a cult following
despite always eluding the attention of the mainstream. Starflyer is Jason Martin’s solo project with a revolving cast of band members.

With 15 years in the books Martin continues to rock despite the “kids who want a faster beat”.

Dial M is Martin’s latest annual project and it fires on all
cylinders. With a sound reminiscent of the Brothers Martin album released last year, Martin picks up where My Island left off. Demos of Dial M were released last year as the vinyl box set Ghosts of the
Future
.

The Dial M versions of the Ghosts material are fresher and more produced. Songs like “The Brightest of the Head” and “I Love You Like the Little Bird” have received a bit of a makeover. As with any makeover there will be those that approve and those that prefer the old versions.

Lyrically, Martin exhibits growth whereas in some of his earlier albums he said the lyrics were “just there”. The theme of his father’s death is the topic of “Mr. Martin” and the bonus track “Magic”. The subject of personal struggle is evident when Martin quotes the Apostle Paul: “‘To live is Christ; to die is gain’ I try and I try, I try and I try.”

Dial M is an excellent collection of tried and true songs, which proves Martin still has what it takes after all these years. But it seems as though the story is not yet complete because Martin still has more left in the tank. Let’s hope he keeps his taxi on the road.

Here are some sample tracks off the album, but please go and buy the whole thing:

Minor Keys – Download – Stream
Mr. Martin – Download – Stream

Website: www.sf59.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/starflyer59

Download MP3s on Amazon.com
Buy CDs on Amazon.com

Last week (back here), I posted about musician / worship leader Lenny Smith.  Today, I’d like to let you hear from him yourself, with an interview he was kind enough to give over e-mail.

The Blah Blah: Who are you, in as many words and descriptives as you’d like to use?

Lenny Smith: I AM the object of my Father’s love.  I AM the light of the world.  I AM the salt of the earth.  I AM fulfilling all my destiny.  I AM the king’s delight.  (I could go on and on!)

TBB: Describe your music, for those who’ve never heard it?

LS: I do folk, soft rock, and the like.  I try to write melodies, those things they had back in the 50’s.  I like lyrics about things, like swaying trees, singing birds, and running streams.  I don’t like to write about “Christian” concepts like:  salvation, judgement, punishment, redemption.  Concepts should be in theology books, not songs.  Poetry should be in songs.

TBB: So you’re the father of the Danielson Famile.  Explain yourself.  No, really, you must have some interesting stories about the kids growing up.  Any memories in particular come to mind?

LS: I remember once Daniel, as a very young boy, getting off the bus in front of our house and coming in the front door with his eyes popping out of his head.  He looked terrified and was pointing to his throat.  He had swallowed a gob-stopper!  We all thought it was stuck in his throat and we took him to the emergency room.  It turned out that it had passed on down his throat during the ride there.  We were much relieved.

Not too long ago, my three sons, Daniel, David, and Andrew, and I went kayaking down the Mullica River in the Pine Barrens in South Jersey.  We had a blast!  We had dinner at a restaurant right on the river (I had trout).  We got back in the river and had to negotiate under a fallen tree.  Andrew said he would go first, being courageous, as he is.  The flow of the water was fast, so he had to be careful.  His kayak shot under the tree, but a branch caught his jacket and pulled him right out of the kayak and dropped him in the stream, with the kayak flying down the river.  Andrew’s face turned red, but it could have happened to anyone.  I bought him a coffee later.

TBB: About your kids… which one is your favorite?  Just kidding.  What I meant was, what do you like about each of them?

LS: My wife and I feel we accomplished being even-handed with our kids.  I’ve never felt that they think one or the other is our favorite.  I like Daniel’s creativity, Rachel’s boldness of expressing herself, Megan’s gracefulness, David’s courage, and Andrew’s wisdom.  I also like that they visit us and seem to enjoy us and don’t hate us.

TBB: As a father of 2 (and soon 3) myself, I’m always looking for wise advice from parents who’ve been through it all already.  What piece of wisdom would you give to a young father?

LS: The job of husband and father is an impossible job but we have some hope of doing it right.  My advice:  EVERY morning, get up early and read your scriptures for 30 mins. and play your guitar and sing songs to the Lord.  Do it even on Sunday, because it might not happen well at church.  Your wife and kids will do well under the branches of that tree.

TBB: In an e-mail, when I asked if you wouldn’t mind doing an interview, you mentioned that you were getting a reputation for being “somewhere out there.”  What’s that all about?

LS: Since I was about 14 I have studied the Bible and spiritual matters.  God, over the years, has shown me some things.  Some of these things people (leaders) do not want to hear.  Rather than engage in discussion and debate, church leaders often become threatened and go on the attack.  I have strong opinions about the “christian” music industry, about the “rapture,” about the “second coming,” about worshiping the Father, rather than worshiping Jesus, about many traditional interpretations of Scriptures, and about the fact the Jesus was not even a Christian, but a Jew.  Often, discussions and considerations can advance our understanding of things.  Jesus said the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth.  I think He will.

TBB: How did you start doing music?

LS: At about 10 years old, I had a period of depression.  I had a stack of about 10 singles and I used to play them on the record player, over and over.  That was the beginning of my love of music and songs.  During high school in the late 50’s I went to dances twice a week.  Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Dion And the Belmonts, Connie Francis and others fired us up and, really, I would have to say we were smitten by these records.  In 1960, I entered the seminary to study for the priesthood.  I left my girlfriend behind and went off.  I was so lonely I picked up a guitar and a fellow seminarian taught me to play.  We used to play through a 12″ stack of sheet music from the 50’s almost every night after dinner.  Later, I wrote my first folk-mass song:  “The New Jerusalem.”  Then I wrote another 40 songs before God gave me “Our God Reigns.”  I’ve written another 100 since then.

TBB: Are you still leading worship at churches?

LS: No.  I sing in coffee houses and clubs.  Churches don’t call on me to sing.

TBB: To be honest, I’m pretty bored with most modern worship music.  As a guy who’s written a zillion worship songs, what’s your opinion?  What’s good?  What needs to be changed?

LS: See the attached for this one.  (Editor’s Note: we’ll post this later this week.  It was too good to chop out a few phrases.)

TBB: Describe your process of writing songs.  Where do most of your lyrics come from?

LS: For most of my songs I was inspired by some phrase in Scripture and I would then expand from there.  But, lately, I AM starting from nuggets of ideas and phrases I just hear.

TBB: Which one of your songs is your favorite?  Why?

LS: Whichever song I AM writing is my favorite, for some reason.  My current favorite is “Welcome To The End Of The World.”

TBB: I assume you consider yourself to be a Christian.  Can you describe the process God used to bring you to Himself?

LS: I had a real spiritual experience of some kind at about 10, sitting in a Sunday school class with about 20 kids.  The teacher was talking about Jesus and the Father’s love for us and I just had this thing where my heart got all full and I was crying and was just so happy.  Later, in 1969, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit.  I couldn’t walk for about an hour.  I saw a bright light for about 15 minutes and later that night I got woken-up by the sound of a choir of millions, which I heard for about 5 minutes, until I asked it to go away. (Ed: OK, I want that.  My own experience wasn’t quite as dynamic.)

TBB: If you could have any one of your songs heard throughout the world, which would you pick?

LS: Right now I would say:  “Welcome To The End Of The World.”

TBB: I’m not sure exactly what to think of the whole “Christian music” thing.  As a man who’s been around the scene in one form or another for years, what do you make of the whole thing?

LS: I don’t believe there is such a thing as a Christian music scene.  There probably are musicians who are Christians, but, for sure, they are earthlings first.  I think they should stop huddling together for support and get out into the marketplace, the coffee houses and the clubs.  They should stop being so afraid of the sinners.  They are sinners too.  Stop being so afraid of hearing cursing and seeing people drink beer.  They should stop singing about Jesus and just try to become more like him.  Even Jesus was not about Jesus.

TBB: You probably run into a lot of new Christian artists, between New Jerusalem Music and your kids – who are some we should check out?

LS: I  would say to check out :  I Was A King, Cryptacize, Dan Zimmerman, Serena-Manish, Wovenhand, Espers, Canadian Invasion, John Francis,  My Brightest Diamond, to name a few.

TBB: Any final thoughts?

LS: I would love to see the young musicians study literature and poetry to help them learn how to write inspired lyrics.  I would love to see them learn how to write melodies with one finger on the piano and THEN go after the chords, rather than press melodies into chord patterns.  I would love to see the young artists go forth… into the coffee houses and bookstores and clubs and get into the action.  Sure they are going to get hurt and disappointed and have some rejection and some fans and some bad experiences and some good ones.  Join the club!  We are not here to huddle together and wait for someone to come and save us.  We are here to get in the game, the real game, not make our own game that just imitates the real game.  The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it!  The people who told us that Adam gave Satan the world are dead wrong.  We are supposed to go and take back what is God’s… and it’s all His:  the fashion world, the dance world, the music world, the financial world, the world of creative writing, politics, energy, you name it.  How did we become such cowards?  We should be afraid of nothing!  With what we have in us we can do anything at all!  Well, I have tired of my own voice.

… All I have to say is: Preach it, Lenny Smith!  Thank you for the awesome interview.  I love hearing people with some fire in their bones, and I couldn’t agree more with what he said.  Enough playing for Christian audiences who already know God – we’ve gotta get out there and bring light to the darkness!

MySpace: www.myspace.com/lennyesmith

Download free MP3s
Buy CDs at Sounds Familyre Records

So I noticed a few weeks ago Jake did a piece of Phil Wickham, and rightfully so.  However most people don’t realize what a talented family he has.  His dad John is a worship pastor at Marantha Chapel in California.  Phil’s brother Evan, is a worship pastor at Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego.  All Wickhams have that amazing ability to lead us to the throne of God through their music, and Evan is no different.

He offers a much deeper, jazzy sound than Phil, but still has that trademark style. I have been blessed to have seen these two guys lead worship with their dad a few times while in California.  One thing that I love about those times of worship is that I feel an amazing sense of authenticity.  It isn’t about glorifying anyone other than Jesus Christ.  It is simple, yet intricate.  Powerful and purposeful.  The songs aren’t hard to sing along with – instead they invite everyone to sing unto the Lord, the way I believe worship should be.

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If you’ve ever listened to The Danielson Famile or Daniel Smith and thought to yourself, “Surely this music must have sprung up from the earth itself,” you would be wrong.  There are two people who can claim more credit than any others on earth for creating The Danielson Famile – Lenny and Marian Smith, their parents.

Yes it’s true.  Despite what you may have thought, they’re humans like the rest of us.

Danielson is one of my favorite bands.  If you don’t know why, rent or buy Danielson: a Family Movie.  The short of it is that, in the midst of a zillion copycat bands, they’re doing things completely differently.  Their music is totally weird and faithful to the artsy, indie side of things.  But they also are very open and up-front about being Christians who love God.  I love it.  I wish more bands would be so bold to experiment with the music and talk about their beliefs (Christian or otherwise).

Read the rest of this entry »

WARNING: This is a rant.  Rules of fairness and objectivity no longer apply.

I hate Paste Magazine.  Well, hate’s a strong word, but I’ve decided I don’t like it.

I paid $1 for a 1-year subscription to it, thinking, “Well, what’s to lose for just a single buck?”  I’m glad I didn’t pay much more because after almost a year I’ve decided I don’t care for it.  Sure, there are good parts to it, but I’ll put those in my “I Love Paste Magazine” post when I get around to it.

What’s not to like in a magazine touting iteslf as finding “signs of life in music, film, and culture”?  Well, it’s thin, pathetically thin.  The articles are mostly boring.  Many of the reviews are unintelligent, overly-snobbish, and miniscule (not that my little line there wasn’t).

What finally forced me to give in and realize I can’t stand the magazine was a recent review of Joe Pug’s EP Nation of Heat.  Not only does the review tell you nothing about the EP other than the fact that “it sounds like there’s something in Joe Pug’s mouth,” it’s pathetically short – a mere 62 words.

First, I’d like a little more about the music than a scant Junior High essay answer, and second, I don’t care that much about Joe Pug’s lisp.  Sure, I want to know he’s got a lisp, but surely there’s something more interesting about the album than that.

Too many of the reviews are written like a roomful of music (or film) snobs constantly snickering at how they can throw random words in to sound smarter than they are.  What the heck does “out-of-vogue unkempt mops of hair” mean?  Who knows what “chaw” is?  And why might it be in Joe Pug’s mouth?  What, exactly, are the “ubiquitous string arrangements” and “thick gloss of reverbed guitars” that Copeland employs on their latest album?

How about some reviews that people can understand?

I paid $1 for an annual subscription to the magazine plus a monthly CD with “the best” new music, according to Paste editors.  I read the magazine and usually get either 1) bored or 2) annoyed at the obsessive use of “I’m smarter than you” adjectives.  I listened to the CDs for a while, but there hasn’t been much good really so I usually just pop ’em on the shelf and ignore ’em.

For a magazine that should be insanely cool, it’s really lame.

Ask me tomorrow and I may have better stuff to say, but for right now, I’m tired of the ubiquitousness of it all.

Note: on further review, Joe Pug’s lisp is pretty strong.

For a while now, I’ve been a fan of the techno / electronica / worship group the Prodigal Sons.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I’ve been a fan in theory.  You see, the problem was that they hadn’t made a new album in about 8 years, which made it hard to find anything.

Well, all that will soon be over.  I just found out that, after 8 years off, they’re working on a fifth album which will hopefully be released soon.

Head on over to www.myspace.com/prodigalsons to listen to streaming samples.  The stuff is awesome.  It’s more than good techno – it’s worship music without words.  I think you’ll love it.

I can’t wait till the album is released.  I’ve been waiting for stuff like this for a while.

This is a great day for The Blah Blah – not only is my laptop wi-fi working, thereby making it so I can write this from my couch instead of in my office, but we welcome our first contributor who is neither my twin brother nor my wife: the soon-to-be legendary Matthew Hawkins

So this is my innagural post, and I hope to bring a nice mix of indie rock bands that have impressed me.  I am the booking manager of a Christian coffee house/venue called HeBrews Fort Wayne.  I hope to bring to the table a mix and collection of indie bands that have impressed me.  

Not too often is there a band that will simply just blow me out of the water.  And that is exactly what The Fabulous does.  They hail from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and have been local favorites for a while now.  They released an EP just a few months ago, and it was produced by James Paul Walker (Underoath, Paramore, Dashboard Confessional, The Academy is).  It is a mix of Coldplay and the Killers meets classic Elton John with catchy beats throughout.  

In a post-hardcore Christian music scene, these guys really up the anti and bring an amazing sound to what good music should sound like.  It isn’t the traditional power chords with a simple drum beat, but rather an intricate mix filled with amazing melodies.  It’s catchy, clever, and well worth the listen.  They’re a group of really amazing and talented young guys, and promise to rock your face off.  

You can check out their EP on their myspace page, or for $4.95 you can pick it up on iTunes.  

Check em out…

Sound it Out – DownloadStream

MySpace: www.myspace.com/thefabulousband

Purchase MP3s on iTunes

Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week

I love finding albums by indie artists that few people have heard.  What I hate, though, is finding these artists years after their music has been recorded, gone unnoticed, and been abandoned.

Jordan Boston is one of the latter.  I found him recently on e-music, and I liked his album Awakening enough to download the whole thing.  Unfortunately, it came out way back in 2005 and, to my knowledge, he hasn’t released anything else since then.

My knowledge of music (Christian, indie, neither, or both) is not encyclopedic, so it could be that he’s huge and you all know about him already, but from what I can tell, all he’s got out there is the one album from 3 years ago, and no plans to do anything else. Read the rest of this entry »

Important Note

These MP3s are here for sampling purposes and to help spread the news about some sweet bands you may not otherwise know about. Support the artists by buying their MP3s and CDs and attending their shows. If you're a musician and don't want your MP3s on here, let us know and we'll take them down. In the interests of promotion and not robbery, all MP3s are taken down after a week or two, so if you wanna hear stuff, either come around often or pay for songs.

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