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The State of Christian Music
by Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock

A nice place to visit

Every once in awhile the President of the United States will address the nation and let us know how the country is running overall. Every once in awhile we need to look at the music that we love and see how we are doing. The summer festival season has drawn to a close and for the most part it was a very good year. First let me give a definition, at least for this article to Christian music. Christian music is very simply music created by artists who hold to a Christian world view, no matter what the lyrical content. Christianity covers the entire spectrum of a believer's life and the music should also deal with that entire life spectrum. In order to be an honest portrait it must cover the lean times as well as the times of plenty, it need to cover the areas of grief as well as those of joy. This year has been a fantastic time for new releases of every category. Chris Hillman, the former bass player for such groups as The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Bros. and The Desert Rose Band has released an album called Way Out West with his current songwriting partner, Herb Pedersen.  It is a collection of bluegrass tinged country tunes that is absolutely fantastic with those trademark vocals that these two guys have become legendary for. Oh, those vocals are as smooth as butter milk.

Although one of the most expected, and rightly so awaited albums of the year has been the new release by Over The Rhine let me draw your attention to the new one by Tickle Penny Corner. Noah Reimer, Beth Spransy and company have treated us to another collection of heart moving, thought provoking tunes that just beg to be listened to over and over again. Between Noah's songwriting ability and Beth's vocal prowess, that voice is a delight to listen to any time any where, these kids have a band that is definitely worth a road trip to see. Don't let them slip by you unnoticed. Another release that is worth your immediate attention is an instrumental project by Trip Wamsley called _It's Better This Way_.  It is available on Frank Hart's new label, "Fever Dream Records". If you appreciate really good bass playing than this is the one for you. Trip is an phenomenal on the bass and is usually accompanied by percussionist Garett Buell. Trip's use of the bass guitar as lead instrument is a joy to listen to.

Brian Healy and Jeff Elbel the masterminds behind Dead Artist Syndrome have once again returned to let us know that the world is at certain times a very dark and foreboding place to live in. The newest addition to the DAS catalogue is entitled Saving Grace and it gives us a collection of  tunes about a fallen world that is invaded by glimpses of light. If you like songs that might not put a smile on your face but will make you consider the life you live then check this out by all means. Jeff Elbel and his group Ping have released a  live album that was released at Cornerstone '02. It shows beyond a shadow of a doubt why this band is a Cornerstone favorite. Another new release that you need to take notice of is called Full Gospel Rockabilly by The Found Cats. It is available on Golly Gee Records, based out of Delaware, and is a treasure for the ears. If you don't know what rockabilly is, just think very early Elvis or Johnny Cash's efforts with Sun Records.

The album that I have been waiting for with most expectation is the newest endeavor from Ark Records mastermind, Jeff Johnson along with his long time partner, Brian Dunning. It is a musical companion to the Stephen Lawhead novel of earlier this year entitled Patrick. Don't pass up either the book or the album, they are both magnificent doses of food for the imagination. Coming up soon also is a double disc set called Testimony by former Spock's Beard" leader, Neal Morse which features contributions by Kerry Livgren and Rick Altizer, check it out. 

All in all, so far it has been a good year for the state of Christian music. It is a nice place to hang out and spend some time in. 


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