Monthly Archives: April 2009

Let You Know – Chris Sligh

It is hard to believe but I have to admit that my favorite album I have listened to in 2009 comes from an American Idol alumnus from Season 6.

Chris Sligh is a genuine original, blessed with a golden voice, a style of songwriting that communicates even as it defies the commercial “rules,” and a world view that encompasses edgy humor, rebelliousness, and rocksolid faith.

All these elements breathe life into every moment of his new album, Running Back to You.  From the soaring resonance of “In a Moment” to the sly rhyming of “Love is Raining Down,” his music is rich in character; his character overflows with music.

From the beginning, Chris Sligh’s story didn’t conform to the norm.  He was born into a musical but conservative family. His father was a gifted guitarist, singer, and songwriter who nonetheless banned non-classical music from his household.  At night he would play recordings of works by Mozart or Beethoven as bedtime music; Chris, at age four or five, would listen, picking out and singing along with individual parts of the composition – maybe the second violin or lead viola – until finally falling asleep.  Growing up in Germany, where his father worked as a chaplain among American troops, Chris was in his own words a “typical jock.”  His enthusiasm for sports mirrored that of millions of guys his age back in the States – yet being far from home, he also developed a complex way of looking at life, in which elements of skepticism and worldliness tempered his church-based upbringing.

Beginning his college study in pre-law at Pensacola Christian College in Florida, Sligh transferred in his sophomore year to Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, an equally fundamentalist institution but one that also offered more advanced opportunities for achieving his goals. “I wanted to major in music,” he says. “This freaked my parents out, because music is the most unmarketable degree there is. But I told them, ‘I don’t need jobs. I’m going to be a singer!’ And of course, that freaked them out royally.”

All these efforts came to a sudden end in December of his senior year, when Sligh was expelled for attending a Christian rock (4HIM) concert, apparently as great a transgression at Bob Jones as joining a coven.  Looking back, though, he believes now that it was the best thing that could have happened to him: “Probably a year before that, I’d realized that I’d wanted to leave,” Sligh says. “So getting kicked out was a blessing in disguise.  And four months later, I recorded my first album.”  That debut, Vessel, was a solo acoustic project, self-produced and self-released.  Touring at first on his own, building a following through coffeehouse gigs and word of mouth, he stretched his musical and lyrical range.

In 2006, Sligh auditioned for American Idol, more or less on a whim.  To his surprise, his performance swept him onto a fast track to the final rounds.  His willingness to take chances, his ironic wit, and his startlingly powerful vocals embedded him into the popular imagination.  And his distinctive blend of talent, humor, confidence, and unpredictability led to an exchange with Simon Cowell that astonished and delighted the other judges, host Ryan Seacrest, and much of America.

Though he didn’t win, Sligh did captivate and stir discussion among the millions of American Idol viewers.  He also demonstrated that he knew how to do whatever needed to be done to turn a performance, whether through singing or spoken words, into a home run.  “With a song, you have three minutes to cram in as much information as possible,” he observes.  Sligh’s willingness to challenge convention and to take creative risks is evident throughout Running Back to You.  Produced by Brown Bannister (Amy Grant, MercyMe, Steven Curtis Chapman, The Afters), with guest coproduction from renowned musicians Will Owsley and Stephen Leiweke the project will evoke other artists of passion and commitment, from Switchfoot to the Killers.  In the end, though, the lesson is reaffirmed – namely, that Chris Sligh simultaneously touches the heart and rocks the house.

And so it is…another great artist and song …”For those who have ears to hear”

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You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice – Lovin Spoonfull

The Lovin’ Spoonful is an American pop rock band of the 1960s, named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” is the second single released by The Lovin’ Spoonful, released in 1965.   The song was featured on their 1966 album Daydream.   It reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1966.

The band had its roots in the folk music scene based in the Greenwich Village section of lower Manhattan during the early 1960s.   John Sebastian, who grew up in contact with music and musicians, was the son of a much-recorded and highly technically accomplished classical harmonica player.   He had reached maturity toward the end of the American folk music revival that spanned from the 1950s to the early ’60s.   Sebastian was joined in the Spoonful by guitarist Zal Yanovsky from a bohemian folk group called The Mugwumps, playing local coffee houses and small clubs.  The rest is history.   The band’s name was inspired by some lines in a song of Mississippi John Hurt called the “Coffee Blues.”

Unlike many pop groups of the day (the early Beatles being a notable and influential exception), The Lovin’ Spoonful played all the instruments on their records, and aside from a few covers, mostly on their first album, wrote all their own material.

So I present this song as another throwback to the good feeling times of 1960’s music and more importantly…it is for “those who have ears to hear.”

Enjoy.

Someone Like You – SAFETYSUIT

SafetySuit

My new addition for “those who have ears to hear” is a wonderful band I had the privilege to see in concert a few weeks ago.  The song featured here is “Someone Like You”.   It is a strong representation of their talent, but by no means should they be considered a one-hit-wonder.  I bought their latest CD and I feel that 3 or 4 tracks are as strong as this song.

Anything—and everything—about SAFETYSUIT can be summed up by the band’s name.

“I think the key word is ‘safety,’” explains lead singer/guitarist Doug Brown. “The four of us in the band have been friends forever. We feel comfortable around each other. We’re in a safe environment…and that makes us feel free to be who we are. And, if we can inspire that moment or that feeling in our fans, we’ve succeeded.”

Which begins the story of SAFETYSUIT, an extraordinarily talented, musically confident young band that does, in fact, inspire. Their songs capture the grandeur and depth of U2, with an imaginative pop sensibility at its core and a dizzying wall of guitars as its backdrop. “It’s not rocket science,” says Brown. “Quintessential good melody and good lyrics, that’s what makes a song.”

Oddly, the band’s influences share very little with the group’s final sound. “Hey, I like Rob Thomas – the way he twists a melody has always caught my ear. I grew up on the Allman Brothers and the Beatles. I like a lot of modern rock. And the Eagles – you won’t hear that in our music, but there’s a band that really showed me what a group of people can accomplish musically.”

It’s a feeling you’ll hopefully discover with  SAFETYSUIT.  As Doug Brown promises, anyone who comes to their show should feel better afterwards than before they came in. As is with their music, it’s an inspiring thought.

Happy Together – The Turtles

With this new posting, we take a trip back to the 60’s.  A great time of music and culture awareness.  Enjoy this throw-back to 1967.  One of the first songs that I learned word-for -word.

Classic and one of my favorites from the sounds of the 60’s.

The Turtles are an American pop and folk rock band led by vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, who became notable for numerous Top 40 hits beginning with their cover version of Bob Dylan‘s “It Ain’t Me Babe” (1965), and “Happy Together” (1967).

The band, originally a surf-rock group called the Crossfires from the Planet Mars, was formed in 1965 in Westchester, California (a neighborhood of Los Angeles’ west side) by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. With the help of DJ and club owner Reb Foster, the Crossfires signed to White Whale Records and, adhering to the prevailing musical trend, re-branded themselves as a folk rock group called “The Tyrtles”, the intentional misspelling inspired by The Byrds. However, the trendy spelling did not survive long.  As with the Byrds, the Turtles achieved breakthrough success with a Bob Dylan cover. “It Ain’t Me Babe” reached the Billboard Top Ten in the late summer of 1965, and was the title track to the band’s first album. Their second single, “Let Me Be” reached the top 30. Their third hit, “You Baby”, charted in the top 20 in early 1966. Their second album You Baby never entered Billboard‘s Top LPs chart, and of several singles released in 1966, “Grim Reaper of Love” and “Can I Get to Know You Better” entered the Billboard Hot 100.

At the start of 1967 drummer Don Murray and then bassist Chuck Portz quit the group. They were replaced by Joel Larson and then John Barbata on drums, and by Chip Douglas on bass. The first of several key Turtles singles co-written by Garry Bonner and Alan GordonHappy Together seemed almost a parody of itself, and had already been rejected by countless performers. “Happy Together”, both their biggest hit and their signature song, signaled a turning point for the Turtles and for Chip Douglas, who provided the arrangement.  The single replaced the Beatles‘ “Penny Lane” at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1967. The Turtles’ only number one, it remained at the top for three weeks. An album of the same name followed and peaked at number 25.

A wonderful song and fitting to be placed among the songs that are “for those who have ears to hear”…


Come on Get Higher – Matt Nathanson

Another excellent addition from Matt Nathanson,  for the files for   “For those who have Ears to Hear”

At the core of Nathanson’s music are his lyrics — deft turns of phrase that can alternately cut deep into the heart or heal it.  That’s evident throughout his writing,  he chronicles the search for a genuine connection, touching on the sensually electric moments as well as the darker frustrations of sifting through the wreckage — in hopes of finding redemption at the end of the day.

“I definitely think of writing as capturing the arc of a relationship,” says the Boston native. “It starts out on a positive note and it goes to some really dark places. But after touching bottom, there’s a sense of optimism in the end. Maybe coming from a realization that two people can be a team, not just two individuals who happen to be together.”

COME ON GET HIGHER

I miss the sound of your voice
And I miss the rush of your skin
And I miss the still of the silence
As you breathe out and I breathe in

If I could walk on water
If I could tell you what’s next
I’d make you believe
I’d make you forget

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire and the swing of your hips
Just pull me down hard
And drown me in love
So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire and the swing of your hips
Just pull me down hard
And drown me in love

I miss the sound of your voice
Loudest thing in my head
And I ache to remember
All the violent, sweet
Perfect words that you said

If I could walk on water
If I could tell you what’s next
I’d make you believe
I’d make you forget

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire and the swing of your hips
Just pull me down hard
And drown me in love
So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire and the swing of your hips
Just pull me down hard
And drown me in love

I miss the pull of your heart
I taste the sparks on your tongue
I see angels and devils
And God, when you come on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on

Sing sha la la la
Sing sha la la la la

Ooo Ooo Ooo…
So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire and the swing of your hips
Just pull me down hard
And drown me in love
So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire and the swing of your hips
Just pull me down hard
And drown me, drown me in love

It’s all wrong, it’s all wrong
It’s all wrong, it’s so right
So come on, get higher
So come on and get higher
‘Cause everything works, love
Everything works in your arms.

Easter Song – Keith Green

I had the wonderful privileged to see Keith Green just a few months before he was tragically killed in a plane crash.  As I sat in his concert, I was amazed at the fact that he “preached” as much as he sang.  He shared the message that God gave him and then would sing to share that message through song.  Keith Green was not shy about talking about his passion for Christ.

We do not see this in many of  today’s Christian Artists… my experience with this  is that most times they sing for and hour or so and if you get past the lights and special effects…you may be able to tell that they are singing about Jesus Christ.  Most times, I can apply the lyrics of the song to my wife.  Meaning…the song could be about the love I have for my wife not just about the love Jesus Christ has for me or me for Him.  However, as with all songs written and recorded by Keith Green, there is no doubt about the message he is trying to get across to each of us.

In that concert, in early 1982, Keith started talking about the coming Easter Celebration.

He shared the experience of Christ on the Cross.

He shared the Death of Christ…

As this man of God spoke, he held all of us in the grasp of his powerful words.  He  made me see the  Crucifixion in a whole new way.  It was not as I had imagined it at all.  He painted a picture so clear and so vivid that it was if I was standing there in the presence of Jesus Christ at the foot of the Cross.

In my mind, I was there at the Cross and stood there as they took Him down from that Cross and laid Him in a tomb. The shame, I felt was heavy on my heart.

He then shared the Resurrection of Christ…

As his words pierced through my heart and my mind, he started playing the Easter Song.  A  song  he wrote to put into words the hope and joy of Christ Resurrected.  He sang this wonderful song and for the first time since the day of my salvation, I cried tears of joy.

To this very day, when I hear this beautiful song I cry tears of joy.

As you celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, my prayer is that maybe this song may help you experience the Joy, the Hope and Salvation that comes with Christ Resurrected.


Empty Me – Chris Sligh

May this be your prayer as you celebrate the Easter Season.

Charles Christopher Sligh (born July 20, 1978) is an American singer/songwriter who was a finalist on the sixth season of American Idol. He was eliminated from the competition on March 28, 2007 finishing in tenth place.

Chris Sligh is the son of Chuck  and Susan Sligh, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist missionaries to American military servicemen in Europe.   Chuck Sligh is an accomplished guitarist and passed his love of music to his three sons, of whom Chris is the eldest. Chris Sligh was born in Madison, Tennessee and moved to Durham, North Carolina with his family when he was three years old. Chris Sligh spent ten years with his family in Wiesbaden, Germany; despite this, he does not speak German. Although Sligh has been singing since high school, as Adam Fisher, the lead guitarist of Chris’ band noted, he “grew up listening only to classical music in a regimented upbringing.”

Sligh attended Bob Jones University for seven semesters but was expelled before graduation after he broke school rules by attending a 4Him concert.   Sligh said, ‘It was actually good, because I had been trying to figure out how to leave.   My parents had given me the option of going to two colleges, and I chose the less-crazy one, believe it or not….I don’t want to throw them underneath the bus.   I respect what they do–it’s just that their sect of Christianity is not really what I want to be associated with.'”

In April of 2008, Sligh co-wrote a song called “Here Comes Goodbye” with Clint Lagerberg (also the cowriter of Chris’ first single “Empty Me”). This song was released by the country music group Rascal Flatts as a single in January 2009.