Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review - Slugs & Bugs Under Where?

We were Kickstarter sponsors for the latest Slugs & Bugs project.

The original Slugs & Bugs arrived as a gift from some close friends.  I'd been an Andrew Peterson fan for a long time but Slugs & Bugs slipped by me.  Essentially, it is a collection of songs that Randall Goodgame and Andrew Peterson (both superb songwriters) had written for their kids; plus a few.  At first listen I laughed.  Not just a giggle but belly laughed at some if these songs.  And then I wept like a wee child.  "Beautiful Girl" made me feel like a pinata.  It hit me, hard & often until I broke.

The latest edition nearly gave me the same treatment.

I laughed greatly (The Wagon Song).  I was more prepared for the pinata treatment.  Plus, I'm a more experienced father (more kids and more mature, I think) so I've developed a tougher shell.

Slugs & Bugs has grown in the songwriting.  The Mexican Rhapsody is a great display of musicianship.  Songs like "I Want To Help" just strike such a common chord for adult and child.  I can simply say "Cause I..." and my 3 y/o comes running and singing I want to help.

Slugs & Bugs Under Where?  is a great album.  These are songs that keep the kids giggling, listening and laughing.  And yet my brain is not melting.  I am giggling also.  I am listening and laughing.

Not all the songs are a laugh fest. 
"I'm Adopted" touches on the wonder of belonging to a family and that everyone of us is adopted into God's family. 
"Tell it to Jesus" - there is no feelings that he can't handle. 
"God Made You Special" - this song is difficult to put words to.  It is beautiful lyrically and musically.  This is the song I want my kids to sing and remember.  "you reveal the master's touch".  I hope and pray that the simple message gets from their ears to their hearts.

These are great songs that keep the kids hanging around the kitchen CD player just to hear more.  Check it out if you haven't already (available here also the song Mexican Rhapsody).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Eric Peters - for the record...

It's weird to call them albums when they are digital or CD's and very different from the vinyl albums.  Any-who Eric Peters is Kickstarter fundraising for his album Birds of Relocation.

I'm excited for this.  Eric writes from the head and the heart and pours them into his work.  I first became familiar with his work with "Chrome".  Awesome and kind of dark.  That got me hooked and I've backfilled in the rest of his recorded material.

Eric is wrapping up a house concert tour sponsored by Under the Radar.  As a stop in the swing through Grove City he played at our church for the second time. 
From him playing at our church twice I've been able to hear a few that will be on the new album.  Eric still amazes me that he can weave such heavy topics into such light tunes.  Not light in a way the music isn't developed, it just doesn't feel bogged down.  Who knew a song about being a daydreamer and letting your spouse down can be so catchy.  Yippee! 

This is Eric from his recent trip through Grove City "
"Don't Hold Your Breath" will be on Birds of Relocation (official video here).  This has grown to be one of my favorite songs.  The reality of seeing the hope for situations comes from beyond yourself.  I'm anxious to hear more stories poured out.

So check out the project and support if you can.  It's not a bad way to pre-order also.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: "In This Hour" by Jill Phillips

The street release of "In This Hour" is November 8th. Becky & I were kickstarter supporters and received an advanced download.
The Rabbitroom covered this today, plus you can listen to a great song off of the album.
Jill's music has had a ninja approach into my playlist. I am a big Andy Gullahorn fan and they are a hubby/wife combo. We got their "Christmas" album despite ignoring my suggestion for calling it "Gullahorn of Plenty" and it has great music (I mentioned it here).
I few years ago I managed to get her hymn album "Kingdom Come" out of a clearance rack (score!!). Jill has a wonderful voice. I've heard "haunting" used to describe some sounds and it fits here. Not in a creepy or scary way. Just that her voice stays with you and makes your mind think of other places.
"In This Hour" is full of songs great songs. I've had it on background at work and the deep lyrics are still sinking in. I think Jill has taken a step to be more vulnerable. These songs give the listener some inside glimpse into her life; into her heart.
I won't do a song by song breakdown. There are a few that jump out to me.
"Next Big Thing" (which is on-play at the rabbitroom link above). A catchy tune about tunes not being catchy enough to make it "big".
I've seen the rise and fall of shooting stars a thousand times
I've seen them burning out re-entering the atmosphere
So if it's a choice between that glory and the mundane life
I think that I'd prefer what you and I are sharing here
"If You Were Here" - This one has lingered with me. It has such vulnerability. Written with Randall Goodgame about the loss of her father, Jill reflects on how things would be different if he were around. She sang this at Hutchmoot. It hit me then and it still does. It captures so much of how much our lives are woven together and that's a good thing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Greatly Horrible Story

So my mind was slightly put at ease by thinking of F.O'Connor stories as "horror stories" rather than "normal" tale telling.  I'm half a book in so I am speaking from a naive point of view.

Jonathan Rogers called me out on this; horror story not being naive.  How is my approach different?

For me one of the differences is removal.  I keep up my mental/emotional guards for horror stories.  The original "Friday The 13th" had suspense and an element of mystery.  After a few of these they were a joke of themselves and moved more into a shock/action/comedy realm.  The first one had you mildly interested in the folks.  There was also tension of "who is doing this and why?"  That was out the door after the first.
I find a difference between horror stories (unsettle you) rather than shock stories which merely disgust you by affronting your normal sense of taste, decency, or morality.  I'm secure enough to withstand shock stories or just turn them off for the insults that they are.

Horror stories lure me into the story.  If my guards are not up then I get unsettled.  I know this defeats the point of the horror story.  They are aiming to make me think about them or feel something for some time afterwards.  I can only enjoy them once I try to not get sucked in.

My biggest (and most effective) disconnect is I won't identify with any of the characters. I don't fall into seeing the story from their eyes, or imagining what I would do.  Horror stories burn me when I've connected to someone and they end up being the bad guy.  I simply don't need the reminder of my brokenness.  Not being pollyanna about life.  I am aware of my need for grace and the grace that has been given.

I thought F.O'Connor was an excellent story teller for creating such believable situations and people.  At various points through the stories I identified with the ignorance of the character; or the desire to make someone pay for some slight that they imparted on me.  My results have never been so tragic as these stories have gone. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

OoooO'Connor - Where the Dark Goes Sweeping Across the Page

I'm partway through "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor.  It is a collection of 9 of her short stories.  She gets recommended for reading amongst some portions of Christian literature and is maligned by many who start reading and quickly discard the books.

From wiki:
Mary Flannery O'Connor
(March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964) was an American novelist, short-story writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, O'Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. O'Connor's writing also reflected her own Roman Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics

This is my first stab into FO and might be last.  The stories unsettled me.  My initial thinking was that it reminded me of seeing a dog hobbling along with a cast on its leg.  I also thought of a dilapidated building torn down and left in a broken heap; the rubble never moved and nothing built there.

She is certainly an excellent writer giving voice to characters and a great grasp of understanding people and places.  The characters and story was just dark.  Terribly dark.  For the few I've been through I wanted one more chapter for the nice ending.  It wasn't there.

Last night I had a great epiphany which let me deal with the stories better.  These aren't regular stories, these are horror stories.  They are meant to unsettle.  They expose something that is dark, evil, or sinful.  It is unsettling due to the frame it's put in.  Something (person or aspect) should be good and isn't.  Or it is virtue that is twisted and displayed (often blindly) for an evil.  Having pity on someone isn't necessarily bad; giving pity to that poor little child because he's black IS.

Without a doubt the world is fallen and sin, pain and brokenness is all around.  Effective stories can appeal directly to a higher good, a deeper truth.  They can also examine the rubble all around us and by the vacuum of good, leave you longing for the sacred.  It works, it's just painful.

I'll finish the rest of these stories, probably at a slow pace.  I can only endure so much.  Your worst day is only the "worst" because the days after it were better.  It may also have been a marker for a large change, or a hammer blow in the forging process of life.

"Sorrow and pessimism are indeed, in a sense, opposite things, since sorrow is founded on the value of something and pessimism upon the value of nothing.  And in practice we find that those poets or political leaders who come from the people, and whose experiences have really been searching and cruel, are the most sanguine people in the world.  These men out of the old agony are always optimists; they are sometimes offensive optimists." -GK Chesterton