Sticky Sweet Christian Music
by Paul Landkamer
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'Comma lessah gloie', 'Hugh ammah ngod', 'theathe only gwathe,' 'jay-yeah-yeah', and the list goes on. I'm tired of breathy, slurred, thick-tongued, hissy –almost lisping, unisex or effeminate male, or overly melismatic female vocals. I'm tired of high, jangly guitars, watery chimes and keyboardy strings in the instrumentals. I'm tired of ballady, theatrically-pouty and emotional, puppies, kitties and butterflies, campfire kum-bah-ya, chick-flicky music (I'll quit here). A local DJ said it when he introduced a song, 'These guys are normally known as a rock band, but every now and then, Kutless will put out a pretty song, and here it is…' But it seems in many areas, if one wants to listen to Christian music radio, one will have to put up with stuff like that.
Christianity Today's 2007 four-part article, "What's Up With Radio?" summed up my problem with Christian music most-effectively. For the most part, Christian radio's target audience is the soccer-mom. We're NOT all soccer-moms! My calling is to expose folks to music, which breaks out of that easy-listening soccer-mom rut that far too many Christian radio stations fall into. Sure, easy-listening, or adult contemporary or soccer-mom music ministers to lots of people, but like I once did, too many other people turn off at just the mention of "Christian music" because easy-listening mush is the first thing that comes to mind.
There really is good Christian music out there. There's lots of it, too, but it may take some hunting and lots of us don't want to take the time for that hunt. Instead, we'll continue listening to worldly music that all too frequently numbs us to pop culture ungodliness. The hunt for good Christian music needn't be difficult. Right here, I want to help you find your music (at MySpace and Facebook, too). On-line radio like Tri-Rock Radio can help. XM radio has Christian stations in several genres. Another idea will take a little asking around, but once you've tapped into your local Christian coffeehouses, your musical experience will likely explode.
Last night, I "discovered" yet another favorite band at my favorite local coffeehouse. OK, I'll admit, "local", for me, involves about an hour's drive to suburban Kansas City. In Lee's Summit, there's a Christian nightclub called Club D-Mask-Us. Its sponsor is the musically-based Az-U-R church. I "discovered" Club D-Mask-Us through a Kansas City music festival called Nehemiah Festival. Nehemiah Fest features local bands and national independent artists. I've discovered quite a few new favorite bands at Nehemiah Fest. But back on track here, and back to Club D-Mask-Us.
Last night, I was going to hear my favorite Christian blues rock band, Mission Blues , but there was apparently some sort of schedule mix-up. I found that out at Sunday school where one woman in the class said, after I announced for everyone to come out and hear Mission Blues, that she and her husband were going to a Christian nightclub in Lee's Summit, too, to hear a band that one of their friends is in. She described the place, and it sounded like Club D-Mask-Us, but the band she was describing sounded similar in style, but wasn't Mission Blues. I got home from church and went to the Internet to discover that Mission Blues was no longer listed on the Club's schedule. Well, shoot! I'd had it marked on my calendar for months, and Matt and the Testifiers replaced them. To go or not to go? There'd be friends from Sunday school, and Matt and the Testifiers was out of Sedalia and called themselves a blues band. I figured, why not?
My wife and I had heard Mission Blues several times, and loved 'em every time. We hadn't been out to Club D-Mask-Us for a while, so we decided to give Matt and the Testifiers a chance. We got there later than we'd have liked –part way into opening artist, AshleyReynolds' set. I told my wife I'd heard Ashley a few times before, and that I thought she'd like her (see August '06 "One Way and Then Some").
For starters, my wife said, 'I could listen to Ashley Reynolds all night!' Ashley was just about finished and our friends from Sunday school walked in. We exchanged greetings and the MC/pastor of Az-U-R drew some names for door prizes, and gave the intro for Matt and the Testifiers. I didn't win anything, but again, my wife won a shirt. On earlier visits, she'd won shirts and CDs, while my son and his wife also won stuff, and even a friend I'd invited from one of the libraries where I make deliveries won a CD. It's fun anyway. The MC accused us of being greedy stingy Christians. My wife suggested it was just good stewardship.
Matt and the Testifiers came up on stage. They looked smaller than Mission Blues. Matt and the Testifiers had a drummer, lead guitar, bass, and Matt on vocals and rhythm guitar. Mission Blues has two lead guitars, bass, organ, harmonica, sax, trumpet and drummer and rhythm. Then Matt and the Testifiers started to make their music. WOW! I was impressed.
Lots of their music was original, and with solid lyrics, natural and excellent-fitting vocals and polished instrumentals. Lots of blues bands feature a vocalist whose voice sounds too forced or faked into a gravelly blues style. Matt sounded great! Another thing that made the band good was that they really looked like they enjoyed making their music, and singing a godly message through blues rock. They did a few covers, too. I liked their versions of Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" and Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky." And I wasn't the only one listening for the lyrical adjustment for theological accuracy. Norman sings that he never sins, but my Bible says anyone who says that is only fooling himself. Matt made the alteration just fine. We had a great evening, and found another favorite band.
Matt and the Testifiers has a CD coming out soon. Keep up with its progress at their MySpace site. I plan to be the first on my block to own a copy, and y'all oughtta do the same. Then you'll have tangible proof that there really IS some good Christian music out there. Hopefully it'll make you hungrier for more.
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