Tuesday, October 17, 2006

one remedy for terrible christian music

there were more comments than i had expected from my last post on "in christ alone", so i figured i would risk one more post about a song that impacts me each time i hear it.

"rock of ages" was written by sandra mccracken, a singer/songwriter whose talents are so under known and under appreciated, it is indeed a shame. she has been writing for many years, but gained a bit more publicity when she married former caedmon's call singer/songwriter derek webb in january of 2001.
simply stated, her music is intelligent, beautiful, sometimes hauntingly so, and always enjoyable. she has a warm voice that conveys every ounce of emotion that must have come upon initially penning the lyrics. says one secular magazine music critic:

"sandra mccracken's cloud-splitting voice
will be my undoing. and it doesn't hurt that
her writing marries the pop acumen off
lennon/mccartney to the lyrical heft of
julie miller. if i wrote down all the superlatives
i'm tempted to write down, you'd question
my credibility."
-jason killingsworth music editor,
paste magazine

i hesitate to compare her to anyone, for two reasons.

first, she is unique in her own way, and is unlike anyone else i have ever heard, although some comparisons and similarities will inevitably occur. second, i never want to present her as a watered down "christian" version of what is popular.

sandra is a christian, and a very outspoken one at that, but i hesitate to classify her as a "christian artist" because that could possibly imply many negative things. even some of my favorite musicians that are on christian labels, would never live up to the "quality standards" (whatever that means) of popular music. i don't just mean from a standpoint of talent, but also production, arrangement, originality.

the sad reality is, if religious or faith content were not an issue, secular radio would still never play 90% of what we hear on christian radio, because it is sub par when compared with popular music on secular radio. the lyrics are often cheesy and contrived, forced to rhyme, and the music is usually about three years behind whatever the current trend is. its a sad reality, but a true one.
however, that doesn't mean people don't like it and aren't affected by it.
there are hundreds of thousands of people who love christian music, and that is perfectly fine. people listen to what they enjoy. but if the mainstream d.j.'s of america's top secular stations were presented with music from some of today's top christian albums, i would almost guarantee they would never play it.

how did i get here??

the point is, sandra mccracken would not fall into this category. so, saying that, i would say that if you enjoy the music of sarah mclachlan, patty griffin, sheryl crow (the less pop variety), or emmy lou harris, you, by default, will love sandra. even if you aren't fans of the above mentioned artists ( and remember, i said sandra is not really like them, she is unique), give her music a chance.

here are the words to a song she wrote on the album "the builder and the architect" called rock of ages. read them and prepare to be pierced by the stunning honesty in her words. just reading the words is, unfortunately, to be told what colors van gogh used in "sunflowers", but to never see the painting. to fully appreciate this song, you have to hear the haunting melody sung by sandra's strong, yet vulnerable voice as it echoes over the spine tingling piano accompaniment.
even so, read on...

rock of ages, when the day seems long
from this labor and this heartache I have come
the skies will wear out but you remain the same
rock of ages, I praise your name

rock of ages, you have brought me near
you have poured out your life blood, your love, and your tears
to make this stone heart come alive again
rock of ages, forgive my sin

rock of ages, bind your children until the kingdom comes
rock of ages, your will be done

rock of ages, when in want or rest
my desperate need for such a savior I confess
and pry these idols out from my hearts embrace
rock of ages, I need your grace

rock of ages, broken, scorned for me
who am I that you would die to make me free?
to give me glory you took the death and the pain
rock of ages, my offering

rock of ages bind your children until the kingdom comes
rock of ages your will be done

rock of ages, it is done you cried
the curtains torn and I see justice satisfied
now write your mercy here on my heart and hands
rock of ages, in faith I stand

rock of ages, my great hope secure
your promise holds just like an anchor to my soul
bind your children with cords of love and grace
rock of ages, we give you praise

rock of ages bind your children until the kingdom comes
rock of ages, your will be done

for more info on sandra, visit her website here , or her myspace site, where you can listen to her music here

-stephen

2 comments:

Andrew never said...

I remember this band that was composed of Christians, they had this rocking lyric that went something like this..."
blah blah blah you did this to me
And it made me want to HIT YOU IN THE FACE!!!
but Jesus said love one another
love one another
love one another
so I won't"
What I liked about it was it was spontaneous, cutting edge, didn't necessarily rhyme, had emotion, was full of energy, but still met the WayFM Jesus quota. Wow. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

jason sessoms said...

Well said. I would agree completely with your opinion with Sandra, as well as the quality of a majority of "Christian" music. I am not even sure how one would begin to define "christian music", but that is another topic.

I have long been a fan of Sandra and Derek.

Her music has been so much a part of my family's life that two years ago my daughter, who was 4 at the time, named our new dog Sandra McCracken. We talked her into letting us call her Sandy for short.