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Tomayto Tomahto
by Paul Landkamer
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What musical style is it? Does it glorify God? Does a Christian artist necessarily have to make “Christian” music? Should music be labeled at all? So many questions abound, many of which can only be answered with opinion. If it feels wrong, don’t do it! Now in saying that, I’m by no means saying, "If it feels right it must be a good thing." That’s a satanic twist, and it’s how the Mormons, for example, can lead so many astray into their cult –but that’s another topic altogether! Sincerity doesn't matter if you're sincerely wrong. Back to music: If the music makes you think ungodly things or keeps you from a relationship with Jesus, avoid it.

This article’s two artists are Christians, but their music usually doesn’t slap you in the face with Christianity, or even spirituality. Suffice it to say, any artist I present to you is one with whom I would not be embarrassed if Jesus tapped me on the shoulder while I was listening and asked, “Who’s this, and why are you listening?”

One evening, while cruising MySpace, I happened upon Kelsey Waldon’s page. Her picture had a neat, sepia, retro look, so I clicked on it. Her music started playing, and I liked what I heard. I ordered her Dirty Hands, Dirty Feet EP.

I got a warm, homey feeling as I listened. Her website describes her as “alternative, folk rock, Americana”. While I’d disagree with the alternative and folk rock descriptors, I’ll go along with Americana. I like the music, so I flinch a bit as I call it country. There’s such a fine line between Americana, folk, blues, jazz, and country the call is strictly opinion. And, I guess, it’s subjective when I say it really isn’t rock. That’s not the point. The point is that she produces a good product. What you’ll hear is a non-gimmicky vocalist with a very traditional acoustic country band, but without the whiney steel guitar.

Kelsey Waldon had a sound I really couldn’t pinpoint, but thought sounded very much like the work of one of the early country classics like Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn or Patsy Cline. I didn’t know enough about country music to make the call, so I let some friends listen. Most could understand my dilemma, but thought the voice to be like a blend, or even generic young country vocalist. Then my father-in-law got a stab at it. He listened for a bit. His eyes lit up. He started – “Oh. Oh! YEAH! Alison Krauss and Union Station!” He went on to explain it’s not an exact match, but really close in overall style. I didn’t know, so when I got home, I Amazoned “Alison Krauss” to listen to some sound clips, and the resemblance jumped right out at me. (Hey, we can “Google” something, so why not “Amazon” it, too?)

A few days later as I was getting a soda at my favorite re-fill establishment, a lady was singing on the speakers, and I thought she sounded just like Kelsey! I got up to the register as the next song started, and I asked the cashier who that girl was who sang the last song. She said, “Sheryl Crow”. Well, it’s opinion, so take it for what it’s worth. I don’t know Ms. Crow.

If you like an Alison Krauss to Sheryl Crow sound, check out Kelsey Waldon. Though she doesn’t claim her songs to be classifiable as “Christian music”, it’s there if you’re listening for it. The next artist’s sounds don’t come across as obviously Christian, but printed material with the CD was more obvious than with Kelsey’s.

Maria Kizirian’s MySpace site describes her music as “rock, pop, blues” and I’ll have to go along with that. Maria’s got a powerful alto (maybe contra-alto?) voice with a touch of sandiness. If you know Charity Von, you’ll be pretty close to the voice. Sometimes I caught even a hint at Abba-style vocals.

Maria Kizirian’s CD, On the Rocks, is a family project. Her husband is executive producer, and her dad is producer and does almost all the instrumentals. (You did a fine job in all that arranging and mixing!) On reading her website, I had to ask her about the CD versus concert sound. Her touring band has learned the numerous parts her dad plays so it sounds just like on the CD. I’d love to see their creative process in action.

I heard sounds ranging from hard funk-rock to ballad to hard power-pop. Song topics ranged from giving advice on life, several relationship songs, and even a sort of I-love-the-city sort of song reminiscent of Petula Clark’s early ‘60s song, “Downtown”. Maria Kizirian’s On the Rocks is pure rock with lots of classic/retro influences.

This sounds odd, but my musical taste has broadened quite a bit since I began my quest for decent sounding Christian music. When I set out on the journey, I couldn’t stomach country, rap, punk, disco, or extreme metal. I thought I liked only classic hard rock, and some of the early ‘90s alternative style music. I read somewhere that as one ages, one’s musical taste doesn’t change so much as it widens. I’ve gotta say I enjoy the country-style music of Kelsey Waldon and Maria Kizirian’s music that would have fit squarely into my target sound. Some folks might say getting old is difficult. It’s got its advantages. I’m glad my taste has broadened.

To both Kelsey and Maria: Keep on blessing people on both sides of the Christian label fence.

Read more articles by Paul Landkamer or search for other articles by topic below.

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