The Juggling Act
by Paul Landkamer
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I'm lousy juggler of time, but tonight it was too wet to mow, so I decided not to get side-tracked this time, like I'd done so many times over the past couple months.
Around five years ago, I first heard Donna Biram. It was at a local Christian bookstore's parking lot concert in August, '03. Then I got to hear her again in a couple local coffeehouses, and I lost track of her. I'd done some Internet searches, hunted MySpace and Facebook, but to no avail. I knew she was going to be married and figured her name changed and I'd be disconnected from her music altogether. I heard she moved to the St. Louis area, but beyond that, I knew nothing.
Recently, an e-mail appeared in my in-box from a Donna Stephens. I thought, "Could it be…?" And yes, it was "my" Donna, and she's got new music. It was good to hear she's still making music. I liked her way-back-when, and I still like her work.
Donna's musical style is still the same acoustic guitar work to crisp, clear, beautiful vocals. It's refreshing to not have to read along with the lyrics in order to make out the message. Her original songs are lyrically well-constructed, and are far from what I call Iowa-lyrics (cliché, perfect-rhymes and predictable –in other words, quite corny).
One word of warning when listening to Donna Stephens' new Step Inside" CD: Don't operate heavy machinery! The music is very relaxing.
Step Inside features 10 tracks. An overall brooding mood covers most of the CD. The first track, "I Choose You", is about keeping one's focus on Jesus despite the World. "Crossing Over Jordan" sings of how we're never the same people as we truly cross over to the Promised Land, or into eternal life with Jesus. Track three is about overcoming hard times in life. "Step Inside" is a prayerful song asking that when we step out in faith that Jesus please step inside. "Seasons" is about how we change through our lives and how, if we watch, we can see God's hand in those changes or seasons. Touches of percussion on her guitar face show through on "Seasons". I like that effect. The fifth track, "Deep Water Deliverance" reminds us that we often focus on our rough waters and forget that Jesus always has His eye on us.
"It Will All Wash Away" says Jesus dies for ALL our sins. They'll all wash away. We shouldn't dwell on what the Accuser might try to dig up. Track seven, "More Than Watchmen," is of how we should wait for Jesus more eagerly than a watchman waits for morning. "Someday (Holy Are You, Lord)" is a praise song of God's holiness and how we must persevere 'til the end. Track nine, "I Adore You", is another praise song stressing that our lives should tell a story of how we adore Jesus. The last track has an up-beat traditional countryish gospel sound to it. "Ticket to Ride (yee-haw!)" isn't a re-make of the Beatles' song by the same title. It's a song about the train-ride analogy to salvation.
Learn more about Donna Stephens at www.indieheaven.com/artists/donnastephens.
The next artists are ones I stumbled across on the Internet. Not too long ago, I e-mailed the music editor of Christianity Today, and asked where he draws the line between a dated sound and a good retro or classic rock sound. He quickly said a good band doesn't sound like they're trying to copy anyone, and that their music needs to be original. I was sort of expecting a little more complicated way of drawing that line, but it's really simple. He then went on to highly recommend Newworldson. On his recommendation, and without hearing them, I bought, not one, but two copies of their Salvation Station CD. I figured with his description, my daughter'd like it, too. If you like a retro-funk/soul and blues-rock sound, almost reminiscent of Sly and the Family Stone (almost reminiscent --they're not copycats!), Newworldson is a great band to check out. I was happy I made that addition to my collection! I smile just thinking about that album.
While hunting for more traditional music with even a country flavor, I stumbled across Eryn Eubanks and the Family Fold. My discovery of Eryn and her family project was quite timely, since my daughter is stationed, with the U.S. Army, near August, Georgia, where Eryn calls home. My daughter doesn't like "country," which describes the musical sound of most Southern Gospel, however, she recognizes the difference between country, bluegrass and mountain music. It's a discinction I never really made until fairly recently. I'd call Eryn Eubanks Christian classic bluegrass and mountain music. She offers a neat energetic blend of original and traditional songs, featuring traditional acoustic instrumentation –mandolins, banjos, guitars, upright bass, and even home-made percussion instruments. It's fun stuff to listen to. Eryn and her family also lead worship at an Augusta church each Sunday. Check 'em out some time!
Both Newworldson and Eryn Eubanks and the Family Fold are on MySpace, which has become my favorite music-hunting spot on-line.
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