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Sarah McMillan. Wife to John Mark. Soon mother to Jude Williams. Master potter. Musician.
Ever since I started listening to Sarah’s music, I’ve found myself referring to her inadvertantly as “Sarah Mark McMillan,” but her music is nothing like her husband’s. Where John Mark’s music hearkens back to 90s alternative rock, Sarah’s goes a little further back… more toward the 1890s than the 1990s. Drawing on folk, roots, and country, with some bluegrass twang thrown in, Sarah’s songs put you solidly in a slightly modernized Pentecostal camp meeting from the early 20th century. It’s equal parts Enter the Worship Circle and O Brother Where Art Thou?
Finally, I’m back blogging, and here is another of my posts that is way late in the coming, but I hope it helps point a few of you in the direction of an artist well worth it.
Joe Garner is one of my favorite artists I downloaded from NoiseTrade a while back. With a subtle, earthy folk sound and songs that bring to mind a slightly more modern and way more indie version of classic Johnny Cash ballads, Joe Garner’s songs tell stories of broken, desperate people in need of a Savior.
I’m not even sure what I can possibly say about Josh Garrels, other than the fact that he brings some of the most authentic and unique music to the Christian indie scene. He writes songs that would be considered overtly Christian, but most likely so Christian that you would never hear them on any contemporary Christian station or like avenues.
The music is a mixture of classic beats with a modern folk twist. I saw him for the first time when I was at a conference in California, and I honestly think people didn’t know what to do with him. He was using some old school beats, like from the 40’s and 50’s, mixed with his masterful guitar playing and amazing voice. I left that night at that coffeehouse greatly encouraged, and very surprised that someone this good has been under the radar for so long.
The sad things is that Josh Garrels most likely will never rise to Christian stardom, but he is more talented than most Christian rock stars. He sounds like Jack Johnson meeting classic Simon and Garfunkel, but even better! He has a few albums, at this point, and just released his latest full-length titled Jacaranda.
Josh is an Indianapolis/Muncie Indiana native and now currently resides in North Carolina. I am not sure what else to really say about him, other than the fact that he is one gifted individual, and he uses his talent not for his glory, but to be an authentic and real voice in a Christian world that thrives on the exterior. He brings deep insight and challenges the listener with his call to be real.
Check out his website. I’m pretty sure there are a few downloads on there, but here are some songs that he wanted me to pass along:
Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week
If you read my post on Anadara over here, you know I’m picky about female vocalists. I’ve got nothing against women – I just am getting tired of the over-populated female singer-songwriter market, especially within Christian music, and I think it’s time we start to be more willing to critique music that is good (or just OK) but not great.
In this world of female vocalists that all sound the same, Joy Ike is doing things differently enough to be really refreshing.
She’s not way out there and weird in her musical style. In fact, it’s a pretty “normal” sounding style. And while her sound can definitely be polished a little more in some areas, listening to her album Good Morning has been an overall really good experience for me.
I’m not entirely sure why, but I really like Joy Ike, and I think you will too.
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.
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.
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).
If you’ve been around a while in the Christian music scene, you’ve probably heard a lot of Aaron Sprinkle without realizing it. The man’s got quite a history. Check out allmusic.com for a complete list of his credits, but just to give you a taste, Aaron Sprinkle was a member of Poor Old Lu, sang a song with MXPX, did everything for some solo albums, produced an Anberlin album, mixed a Starflyer 59 album, and engineered an Eisley album, and that’s just a start. He’s sang lead and backup, strummed guitar, banged on keyboards, picked the bass, wailed on a drumset, shaken a shaker, tapped a tambourine, and played an old organ. Oh, and he’s worked with Jeremy Camp, KJ-52, Hawk Nelson, Demon Hunter, Dead Poetic, Mainstay, Ruth, The Send, Kutless, Blenderhead, Stavesacre, Pedro the Lion, Telecast, Joy Electric… the list never ends!
So, yeah, you’ve run into him somewhere. Trust me.
I heard about Aaron Strumpel when I was checking up on Enter the Worship Circle to see if they had anything new out. In 2006, they began the Chair and Microphone series, in their own words, a series “full of raw conversations with God, shot from the Psalms, but with only a solo voice and one guitar…one take…one time to record it.” There are currently two volumes. You should buy 100 copies of each and send them throughout the world.
Anyway, Aaron Strumpel took on the second volume, and he’s really great. His style reminds me of Damien Rice, and these recordings are such real, raw, un-polished cries to God that you can’t help but feel the passion. It’s like being inside someone’s head for an album.