“Bloodshot” by The Choir Deeply Satisfies

It’s difficult to envision veteran Christian alt rockers The Choir being in the company of country artists back when it was barely out of its teens, a time finding artists such as The Carter Family, Bob Willis, and Bill Monroe routinely crisscrossing the country planting seeds of a genre they created. Also, it’s not that Bloodshot, The Choir’s new album, is in any sense a country album. However, there is a common thread; more on this in a bit.

Throughout its career The Choir has with graceful ease traversed between atmospheric and near avant-garde, musically built around Derri Daugherty’s sometimes dreamy and at other moments razor slice guitar while Steve Hindalong’s lyrics have purposefully plumbed relationships, life fragments, and faith through a poet’s eyes. In this respect Bloodshot is no different than its predecessors. The Choir have for decades made extremely even albums, never failing to deliver something solid wrapped within textural diversity. Bloodshot, however, has some twists revealing Messrs. Daugherty and Hindalong, plus Tim Chandler on bass and Dan Michaels on assorted reed instruments, are still more than capable of bringing something new to the turntable.

Bloodshot is in many ways the most straightforward album The Choir has ever recorded. Not that the music is an exercise in formulaic commercial ear candy; rather, the songs are simpler without being simplistic: more direct, more immediately accessible. Daugherty frequently employs strummed chords as a foundation upon which to bounce his effects-rich electric work, using it to create far more guitar interplay than is present in most Choir efforts. Even when there is but one guitar present, Daugherty accomplishes the rare feat of creating multiple sound swirls dancing around each other, always perfectly meshed within the song in lieu of drawing attention to themselves alone.

The album also differs lyrically from the majority of prior albums in that it is far more heavily relationship-focused. Not that faith is being dismissed, but on Bloodshot Hindalong is at his most playful and celebratory of love between two people. This is the album you play for those who deride Christian music as bereft of romance.

Where the album harkens back to country’s emerging years is in its songs at their core. They are solid, uncomplicated, and tuneful; the essence of country long before it went cosmopolitan. It is not difficult to hear the compositions and picture them coming out of a dome-shaped AM radio, performed by a small acoustic ensemble in some station’s studio designed for live music. Whether this is intentional or unplanned is something only The Choir can answer, but regardless it is there.

It’s easy, and sadly all too common, for an established band to trot out the same ol’ same ol’ album after album, knowing this will satisfy the vast majority of their audience. The Choir think and act differently. Bloodshot isn’t a radical departure, but rather a superb exploration of songs and sounds fused together, creating a record that’s memorable for all the right reasons.

The album is available for preorder on iTunes.

“The Warbler” by Steve Hindalong quietly succeeds

As rock‘n’roll approaches its sixties, with many of its leading creators doing the same if not having long since passed said mark, the question in a music landscape presently inundated by dreary autotuned virtual instrument laden mojo-less pop garbage is how to maintain relevance to a new generation unaware of what actual music created by human beings sounds like. Today’s audience is perfectly acceptant of lip synced pseudo-concerts during which empty on-stage bombast is eagerly lapped up in lieu of genuine expression. In response, some veteran artists content themselves with endlessly recycling aging hits for aging fans. Thankfully, there are exceptions; artists with a solid résumé yet unwilling to rest on their past work, instead pushing on to find new expressions. Such is the case with Steve Hindalong’s new solo release The Warbler.

Hindalong, known in Christian alt rock circles as the drummer and lyricist for The Choir and among the church at large as the cowriter of “God Of Wonders,” has assembled a mature yet fresh collection of quiet, textured rock in the vein heavily mined by Death Cab For Cutie without copying the “I Will Possess Your Heart” purveyors and variations thereof. There are natural traces of The Choir’s dreamy musical musings without coming across as a Choir record with Hindalong instead of Derri Daugherty on lead vocal. The collection is even throughout, but two songs do stand out: “Unparalyzed” — cowritten with Hindalong’s “God of Wonders” collaborator Marc Byrd — with its gentle but consuming throb, and “For a Lifetime,” a straightforward love song combining the triple scoop sweetness of a strong hook, singalong melody, and the sublime lyric ‘I fell in love with you in a moment / For a lifetime.’

Those hoping for “God Of Wonders Part II” will be disappointed by this album’s introspective, thankfully minus excessive shoe-gazing, nature. The album itself is anything but a disappointment. In nature, the warbler is a rather indistinct bird, but in Hindalong’s case The Warbler is a welcome product from an autumn lion producing, in lieu of a roar, a pleasant modern purr.

The album will be available starting July first at The Choir’s website.

Hopeless, Etc.

I’m hopeless
Hopeless and tired
Will you give me the sign I’m looking for?
I am mired with the earnest and sight-inspired
Hopeless

A Kickstarter campaign is currently underway; successfully reaching its initial goal in a few days. Objective? Remaster, and for the first time release on vinyl as well as a remastered CD, the 1992 album Dig by Christian alternative rock band Adam Again.

Adam Again was Gene Andrusco’s brainchild. In the days of his youth, Andrusco was an actor, playing Darrin Stephens on Bewitched among other roles. As an adult, Andrusco chose to go by the name Gene Eugene and focused his artistic side on music, be it as an artist (in addition to Adam Again he was also a founding member of The Lost Dogs), producer, or for a time record label owner. He died in 2000 at age 38 from a brain aneurysm.

One of Andrusco’s brothers in musical arms described him as a genius artist and amateur human being. Take from that what you will. Despite his stubborn addiction to being the aforementioned human, Andrusco was universally loved by those he worked alongside no matter how exasperating he could be, which from all reports was substantial. He was far more adept at musical and lyrical expression than personal, hardly a unique trait among artists throughout the centuries.

I’m helpless
Helpless and silent
Can you return my voice?
You left me mute and defiant
But I can’t get my hands untied
I’m helpless

It is well worth noting how uncomfortably parallel the world in which Dig was released, namely the contemporary Christian music world of the early 1990s, and today’s conservative new media world align. At the time Dig first saw the light of day, contemporary Christian music (CCM for short) was populated by a few heavy hitter record labels and artist managers who dictated which artists and musical genres would receive the lion’s share of promotion, with all others left to fend for themselves via word of mouth among a handful of rabid enthusiasts. This is why at a time when alternative rock and grunge ruled the mainstream music world both in attention drawn and records/concert tickets sold, the handful of Christian artists working in this field were privately praised but publicly ignored by CCM’s business side in favor of übersoft praise schmaltz or syrupy Top 40 pseudo dance pop. Adam Again, along with other bands and artists – Daniel Amos, The Choir, 77s, Undercover, Altar Boys, Steve Taylor, Veil of Ashes – who should have been heralded were instead literally and figuratively shoved to the back of the bus, left to fend for themselves. Substitute Salem Media and National Review for record labels and artist managers, and Trump Derangement Syndrome for the music promoted during that time … you get the picture.

I’m useless
Useless without you
It’s my fault
I am withered, I am weak
And about to find out why I’m so into
Being useless

Gene Eugene was a spiritual descendant of Solomon who wearily described all as vanity; of the Psalmists who cried out:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

His was a faith and life of reality, one in which you reached out to people where they were, not where you demanded they be. It is a lesson sadly lost on all fronts in today’s world, especially the one founded on citizen journalism but now choked with the very elitism it once set out to destroy.

(This was originally published at Da Tech Guy Blog.)

We All Know

Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’

Luke 7:31-32

Referring back to the last post, Trump Derangement Syndrome rampages on, barely checked by the presently rampaging horrors of newspeople murdered on live television, the ongoing massacres by ISIS, and the looming threat of the Iran nuclear surrender. It is one thing to state that Trump is not the answer; hurling incessant insults at those who support him and clogging social media’s arteries with three hundred and eighty-five variations a day of “TRUMP IS A POOPYHEAD AND SO ARE HIS MINIONS!” seemingly never gets old for those who choose blithe ignorance or endless excuses for Congress’ either caving or being inactive in regard to most every major issue conservatives hold dear – the economy, national debt, illegal immigration, governmental invasion of privacy and violation of rights motivated by political opposition, defunding Planned Parenthood, the aforementioned ISIS and Iran nuclear surrender, etc.

It would be productive if Trump bashers were one-tenth of one percent as proactive in detailing solutions to problems as they are, well, bashing. There is no problem with detailing why Trump is a less than ideal candidate, or should not hold the highest office in the land. Make your case; agree to disagree if need be. That said, at some point in the process it becomes necessary to state what, and who, you are for if your words are to carry any weight. Opposition alone is not a strategy any more than hope and change is a policy platform. What do you suggest in lieu of Trump? What do you propose to handle a Congress ostensibly in conservative hands yet routinely either giving in to Obama’s demands or proposing the exact opposite of what they promised in order to ensure conservative support? If we, the unwashed uneducated ill-informed banana slug brained masses own Trump, does the GOP Smart Set own Mitch McConnell and John Boehner?

Where is the shared humanity in the GOP’s desperate effort to purge itself of all things and people Tea Party? Where is the common bond, other than trampled underfoot, between those who wish to be conservative new media leaders and the people they openly deride and despise for having the temerity to support one not approved by the echo chamber’s high rollers? Instead, we see insults, cheap shots, and cries of “if you support Trump unfriend me right now!” Really now.

It is impossible to see the present kerfuffle without flashing back four years to when the conservative new media high rollers mercilessly derided and taunted Sarah Palin supporters when she decided against running. The opposition was pointed and personal against her and her posse. It was also utterly ineffective in accomplishing anything except revealing how many CNMers had zero problem showing their ass in public when it came time to throwing a poorly disguised temper tantrum over how Palin’s popularity revealed their complete impotence in moving public opinion. Now we are seeing the same phenomenon in Trump rolling from strength to strength even as the voices crying against him grow ever more shrill.

The time has come to give this a rest. Conservative new media is in great peril of becoming contemporary political Pharisees. No, I am not comparing Trump to Jesus. I am comparing the reaction to him with the Pharisees’ reaction to Christ when He called them out for demanding of others strict adherence to the letter of the law, namely Mosaic Law, while themselves lapping up adulation and praise for outwardly being living puritanical lights yet inwardly consumed with pride and greed. If there is no respect for others, no acknowledgment of that which binds us together, how can there be leadership when the ones who purport to lead openly despise those they wish to lead?

We have far too much in common to let our opinion of Trump irrevocably divide us. On this truth we must act.

(This was originally published at Da Tech Guy Blog.)

Kerosene Halo shines a gentle light

Mike Roe and Derri Daugherty, individually known as the leaders of legendary Christian alternative rock bands the 77s and the Choir who together form half of Americana roots rock band the Lost Dogs, have released a eponymous record together under the moniker Kerosene Halo. It’s well worth a listen.

Musically, Kerosene Halo is firmly rooted in the Lost Dogs’ acoustic side, if anything more gentle and folk-oriented. The music and vocals are dreamy and introspective without slipping into mush, with songs carefully chosen to maintain the mood including two by Roe and Daugherty’s Lost Dogs compatriot Terry Taylor. Long time fans of Christian rock will be heartened by an affectionate cover of Larry Norman’s “The Outlaw,” while the musically aware will note an effective rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.”

Kerosene Halo doesn’t yield its treasures all at once. It requires several listens, each unveiling a new layer in the music’s deceptive simplicity. The record hearkens back to traditional country, music of straightforward grace and beauty minus slick embellishment.

In short, Kerosene Halo is a terrific record. Listen to it and find some peace.

The record is available on CD from the band’s website, and as a download from the band’s website as well as iTunes and Amazon.