Music makes things different…


It is true you know.

I was thinking about the impact of creative gentle songs, crafted and honed, sung simply and tenderly- just like those Yvonne and David Lyon treated us to last night. We are left physically, spiritually and emotionally changed.

So I am grateful.

Grateful to Yvonne, and also to all those other people whose music becomes the means that life can travel.

The turn of words and tune that wrap up memories in beautiful blankets.

Time capsules of grace.


Some days you just need to listen to some Gospel music…

… and when those days come, reach for something – anything – by Mahalia Jackson.

This extraordinary woman chose to sing Gospel all her life- she could have sung whatever she wanted, with her incredible powerful voice. She would stand there, dressed like someones grandmother complete with church-hat, and then let rip. It was a force of nature that could break hard men somewhere inside. When asked why she sang Gospel she said this;

I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free,” Jackson once said about her choice of gospel, adding, “It gives me hope. With the blues when you finish, you still have the blues.

She sang before Martin Luther King gave THAT speech (and at his funeral) and her voice has power and authority even now that successive musicians have tried to borrow from- and mostly failed.

Today I need some Gospel music. Thanks Mahalia.


Bob Fraser releases THREE albums all at once!


My old friend Bob Fraser has been remarkably productive of late. It is great to see him recording and gigging again.

I was singing Bob’s songs long before I knew him. He was the creative force behind a Christian rock group back in the 70’s called Canaan (check out this article for a retrospective.) He also wrote a number of worship songs that we sang in church- including one that became a standard called ‘You are the Rock on which I stand’.

Bob now has a new website, where you can order one of his three (yes, three!) new CD’s- including a Christmas themed one. I reckon that this means that Bob has now recorded at least 20 albums of his own, plus involvement in lots more- quite a musical legacy.

If you like easy going thoughtful country rock then check Bobs new stuff out!

Sam Hill Jr, new album…

sam hill

I am just sitting listening to Sams new Album, Cowboys and Moonbeams which arrived in the post today. Thanks Sam!

It it is sublime.

The musicianship is lovely, with all the ingredients that I love- fine guitar with understated piano and touches of dobro and steel. Much more however, the songs are saturated with a kind of broken beautiful humanity- the kind that breaks you open a little.

Sam Hill is one of the most talented musicians and songwriters I have ever heard. His back catalogue however is mostly many years old. In the interim he has been living a life blown around by tough things- and this is what these tender honest songs are about.

But when the last track is sung, life is enhanced for the listening.

The album will be available soon via Sam’s new website (online in the next few days.) Get yourself a copy, You will not regret it.

We hope that Sam (who was born in Scotland, but lives in Cornwall now, although with a Lancashire accent) will be coming up to Dunoon to do a living room gig. Watch this space…

Here is the only example of Sams work I could find on the net;

Sam Hill is recording again…

If anyone asked you to tell them what was the best live performance you ever heard – the one that sticks in your mind most – what would it be?

All that variety of music I have heard – the first stadium rock gig (U2) the first chorale (Bach’s Mass in B minor) the first time I heard Bruce Cockburn play the guitar and make a masterpiece out of words and virtuosity.

Yet the one I would select would be the performance of a man called Sam Hill, along with a band, playing at Calvary Christian Fellowship some time in the early 90s. Everything was lovely- I was there with my friends and my wife, most of us made music together, and were familiar with the sound rig, the acoustics, but what Sam was able to use them to achieve was sublime. Beautiful songs, delivered in a butter smooth Lancashire accent, soaring fiddle playing, and skillful guitar.

I played a support gig for Sam a year or so later- I still have a recording taken as a direct output of the sound desk. We sound scratchy, amateur, even though we had fun. Sam (who had turned up late, with half a band, guitars with pick ups that did not work) sounds gorgeous.

I lost touch with his music. We both moved away from Lancashire, me to Scotland, he to Cornwall. The next time I stumbled across anything he did was a lovely album of poetry and music that he did with Steve Stockman.

Flash forward ten years or so, and I was sitting with my mate Andy in the performance tent at Greenbelt Festival. Incidentally the last time Andy had been at Greenbelt (back in the 90s) he had been playing guitar in support of Sam. Someone had dropped out and so they had brought in a special guest- some bloke called Sam Hill.

The years had not been easy on him. The songs were dark and the voice had gathered some gravel. But every now and then, the music would break out of the cage and come alive.

I mention all this as Sam has been recording again it seems. Another old friend (Bob Fraser- another talented songwriter) posted this on FB. Get the album when it comes out, I will!

(No idea why this video will not load on the page- you will need to click on this link;)

Kick start some creativity…


My mate Andy Prosser has spent years writing songs, playing music and home recording. He has finally decided to put together an album in a professional studio!

He is funding this through Kick Starter, a crowd funding website. Check it out here – you can listen to some of the demos of his music too.

More importantly, you can donate to the project, pass the link on to others, blog it, Facebook it, twitter it etc etc.

Go on, he is worth it. Andy is a talented bloke who has put in the hard miles as both a musician and a man to allow these songs to be formed in him. We need people of creativity like Andy more now than ever.

Jesus is my Bloody Boyfriend…

Deliberately provocative (and not original,) but hopefully with good purpose…

I was listening to my MP3 player on ‘shuffle’ mode as I was working the other day. If I am near by and a song comes on that I do not want to listen to then I will press skip- as I rarely get round to deleting anything, and there is a random accumulation of all sorts of stuff on there. However I had hands covered in tile cement and so was stuck with whatever song emerged.

In this case it was Third Day, singing a song called ‘Anything’. I have confessed previously to a past leading worship music. I was that bloke with an acoustic guitar whipping up soft rock anthems. Third Day were an American Christian band that did a couple of worship albums that I really liked 10 years or so ago.

So much has changed since then for me however in terms of how I approach worship generally, and worship music particularly. Some of this can be summed up in this song – here are some of the lyrics;

And I want to hold You
Even though You can’t be held
Because You’re so much more
Than everything I’ve ever known
Anything, anything
I’d give anything
I would give anything to hold You

This song is one of many worship songs that are themed around intimacy with Jesus- and to the ears of the uninitiated, they seem to have lots in common with the language used in popular music to describe sexualised love.

A couple more examples that many of us will have sung many times. Both of them I have really loved singing in the past;

I sing a simple song of love
To my Savior, to my Jesus
I’m grateful for the things you’ve done
My loving Savior, my precious Jesus

My heart is glad that you’ve called me your own
There’s no place I’d rather be

In your arms of love
In your arms of love
Holding me still
Holding me near
In your arms of love

Then there is this one;

The simplest of all love songs
I want to bring to you
So I’ll let my words be few
Jesus, I am so in love with you.
Matt & Beth Redman

To be fair, Redman appears to have been thinking about this himself, although I do not really think that this is a ‘bloke’ issue alone;

Am I being unfair do you think? All these things have to be viewed within context. If our primary (even only)  expression of worship is contained within church services, then the cultural carrier of our understandings of who God is, and how we should relate to him, will be the music that we sing, and the cultural references that drive this stylistically will be all the love language that we hear in the charts.

However, I no longer primarily worship God through large gatherings, and all this erotic Jesus love language seems rather odd  from a distance.

Does Jesus require this kind of devotion in our following of him? Does he value it? Does it make us better followers, more inclined to live as Agents of the Kingdom of God? Or is it a bubble of sentimental excess that has little relevance to real life?

The ‘bloody’ bit of the title of this piece by the way is suggestive of another dynamic of all these love songs- the climactic event; the consumation of the relationship, is the death of Jesus on the cross.

Once again is there anything wrong with this ? It too has to be understood within the context of a theological monoculture of substitutionary atonement. The young man whose blood had to be spilled to save the few, the carefully selected beautiful few, who have this special individual relationship with their saviour.

Except I find myself outside this context too. The narrowness of the understanding feels wrong, feels distorted, feels like ‘God made to make me feel exclusive’. God made to be mine and not yours.

Whatever the theology, there are other songs to be sung. Songs of deliverance, songs of protest, songs of lament, songs of community and songs of hope in the presence of doubt and fear.

Songs calling us to love-in-action, not just love-in-abstract.

The best mandolin playing I have heard for ages…

TSK mentioned a free download of some of Charlie Peacock’s music via Noisetrade.  I knew the name from years ago- and old Greenbelt festival throwback, but I had never listened to much of his music. I heard that he had produced The Civil Wars album (which I love) so I hit download.

Wow. I am still digesting the songs, but the music is simply stunning.

I am a sucker for a certain kind of Americana- the edgy bluesy folky stuff. I can even enjoy a bit of country so long as the twang and yee harring is kept under some control- but the production and the musicality of this is wonderful.

Here are a couple of clips;

And I mentioned that mandolin. It is everywhere in the songs- hitting blue notes and accenting everything. As someone who has tried to play mandolin, I stand in awe.