68 Comments
Mar 13, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

I’m not religious but there is something about Gospel music that just moves your soul and forces you to feel all those feelings you shoved down deep in your soul. Thanks for sharing!

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This is great stuff. It reminds me of one of the great U2 moments, when they collaborated with a Harlem Gospel choir. (U2, of course, has been Christian the whole time, but undercover about it. Bono has given some very charming interviews about Jesus.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8Wt3dhF4fU

I also grew up Southern Baptist and hated most of what I heard on CCM radio (the only radio we listened to), but I had the benefit of growing up at a time when the internet could pipe in excellent alternative CCM--which does exist. The Rich Mullins songs on the airwaves were the boring stuff - Awesome God - but off to the side he was doing an adaptation of the Apostles' Creed on hammered dulcimer or lyrical Americana ballads. (Rich was a lovable weirdo, of course, who'd turn up to churches in the 90s, cigarette-scratchy voice, brown as a nut, long-haired, and sans shoes, and would ramble out these touching and unpredictable openers to his songs.)

"Well the moon moved past Nebraska

And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills

And angels danced on Jacob's stairs

Yeah they danced on Jacob's stairs

There is this silence in the Badlands

And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled"

Michael Card was too prosey in his lyrics to be a great poet, but he also did a lengthy suite of songs about the book of Job, another song about how Jesus must have seemed insane ("God's Own Fool"), a song about Hosea from Gomer's perspective, and was constantly weaving threads of the new and old Testaments into his music in such a way that I feel I learned most of my theology from him (he did an excellent lecture on why lament is a lost art in modern Christian music--though, as I think he noted, that's not true of the black American church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr3mNGtxd-I)

"Oh the fiery suns above us

In the vast veil of the sky

Are your servant flames of fire

Are your silent holy guides"

Anyway, thanks for indulging a long comment. I plan to look up most of the songs in the excellent piece above.

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All roads lead back to The Band. I love those guys. Manuel looked like he just wasn’t going to last long in this world when you watched him in the Last Waltz. Danko is my favorite. He just seems like a kid having a good time. Always brings great energy to their performances. He is so freaking high in that video clip!

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You dug into the archives, great job!

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Ah, the bumblebee metal of Stryper...crazy times, those '80s. When I was a very little boy, church groups tried burning piles of Iron Maiden's classic album "The Number of the Beast," until they found that burning them brought forth toxic smoke. They just piled them up and smashed them with hammers instead.

And it's funny, because since then, a number of prominent metal musicians have converted--or returned to--Christianity: Alice Cooper, the two founders of Megadeth, Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden, Blackie Lawless, to name a few.

I love that you posted an old piece Matt. It's a great read. And congrats on your son heading into ministry. I got a seminary degree a number of years ago, and while I'm not in full-time ministry (why do that when I can torture myself in academia?), I still do use it quite a bit with some teaching and a little bit of preaching on the side too. Good for him.

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Thanks!

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Aargh! I had my (digital) wallet out and was ready to buy: Physical sets out of stock.

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founding
Mar 7, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

I heard an unusual Gospel song in 1956 by the talented “Soul Stirrers”on WAMO in Pittsburgh. This was singer was a member of the group who had an unusual voice singing style.The song was “Wonderful”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjtcOh4hmyE I loved this guy’s voice and no one has matched it since then as far as I am concerned. Sometime later I heard him singing a popular hit song on another radio station. That beautiful voice was none other than Sam Cooke. He had move to popular music to sing “You Send Me.” released in 19597 and sold a million copies. He wasn’t the first gospel singer who moved to the main stream pop music.

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Mar 7, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

Another oldie but goodie (hopefully not already covered in the comments and replies):

Q-How do you keep your Baptist friend from drinking all your beer on a fishing trip?

A- Invite a second Baptist friend.

My wife and I were both raised SB, although she had extra rank by also being the daughter of a Gideon. She has often remarked on the disconnect between the unrelenting focus on the dangers of the devil's water, while gluttony got a pass, so as not to interfere with the ice cream buffet that was the headliner for the Sunday night fellowship meeting.

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By golly, you never let me down! This was a real education (raised Catholic, ran away a long, long time ago). Thank you for this real treat.

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Mar 7, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

I read and listened yesterday am, then spent three hours kayaking through creeks and marshes by the Folly River. Felt of a piece.

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"As I mentioned in a piece a while back, my oldest son, Luke, is studying to join the ministry – not typically the most lucrative vocation... But at least he didn’t become an intersectional dance major, exploring the liminal space between movement and gender oppression."

So not studying for Episcopal ministry, then?

Confession: My misspent youth involved liturgical dance. Not much, and not liminal, so far as I know. Also, our current church is Episcopal, and it is glorious, both in weirdness and in music. I grew up on Purcell's "Hear my prayer" and Howells' "Like as the hart" thanks to a choir director at a community church who'd been steeped in the Anglican choral tradition:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyieyUw3GXk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwV_LLTn9HY

But Matt's selection reminds me of the many variations on the spiritual "Satan, your kingdom must come down"/"Satan, we're gonna tear your kingdom down". You can find recordings of it by Frank Proffitt, Sister Fleeta Mitchell and Rev Willie Mae Eberhard, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, Uncle Tupelo, and others on YouTube, but my two favorite so far are by Shirley Caesar and by the Montreal band "Beast":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5MeA68YSK0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHiMogZErCA

About 2/3 through, Shirley begins reminiscing about the clay hills of Carolina and a little church there that didn't even have a piano, just drums, and incidentally, she'd like "to remind Satan one more time his time is just about out."

Beast's album apparently belongs to the genre of trip hop, something I wouldn't have suspected I could like if I hadn't heard it first. ("Trip hop? Could you play some Anton Bruckner instead?") I'm still not sure if I like have a quacky contralto with a French accent shout rapid-fire rhymes at me in the midst of a song, but the rhymes (so far as I can make out the words) are somewhat witty, the instrumentation is engagingly weird, and I find the James-Bond-y ending surprisingly uplifting.

Lastly, this rendition of "Nothing but the blood of Jesus" isn't famous or polished, but still my favorite:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfcZQhvijcA

(OK, lastly for real this time, someone shared this rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem with me, with subtitles in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=einTXaSeGAI )

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founding
Mar 7, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

My Catholic hymns were frequently in Latin. They never made it to anyone's Top Ten. Unless you count 'Kyrie' by Mister Mister. Meh

Kyrie https://g.co/kgs/bgcrg2

My favorite hymn:

If you smile at me I will understand

'Cause that is something

Everybody everywhere does in the same language

I can see by your coat, my friend you're from the other side

There's just one thing I got to know

Can you tell me please who won?

Say can I have some of your purple berries?

Yes, I've been eating them

For six or seven weeks now haven't got sick once

Probably keep us both alive

Horror grips us as we watch you die.

All we can do is echo your anguished cries.

Stare as all human feeling dies.

We are leaving. You don't need us.

Holy and hurting and angry. I guess that's a conversation with Someone at a higher level.

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Mar 6, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

I grew up southern Baptist.....you are right on. I remember all those songs ❤

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Thanks for giving me a bunch of music to dig into.

Your prefatory on SB life hits very close to home. Contemporary Christian music gives me hives, so I found a unicorn SBC church in metro ATL that has hymn books.

An Episcopalian friend jabbed at me once by saying, “Methodists are Baptists who can read.”

“No,” I said. “The difference between Baptists & Methodists is that Methodists will greet each other in the liquor store.”

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OK. I believe you've referred to yourself as a Lukewarm Christian. Fair enough. I see myself in much the same way. But I didn't sense a single drop of tepidness in your homage to what sounds like a marvelous tribute in its own right to the men and women "who left the next best part of themselves on scratchy vinyl". You noted that it was "a documentation of their struggles". So, I guess it's of no real surprise to me that you'd stand them up in well-deserved praise here. After all, I seem to recall your words from a certain Slack Tide from near the jump on your new enterprise: "Maybe we're never done with struggle. We are, after all, human. But, that's okay. The human strugglers are welcome here."

Thanks again for the welcome. Nice to know you're a man of your word.

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