Thursday, February 28, 2008

Songs for Sudan: the pics

(Click either bottom corner, then "Songs for Sudan" to see larger pics)

Despite the snowy night (which most Northerners would not have noticed, but we're not in the North, are we?), we had a great night of music for a good cause at the Belcourt. There was a "real" photographer there, so I just snapped a few shots of my own without going into full art mode (not that there's all that much difference). A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Day: A Benefit

"One Day" can change a life. In this case, hopefully many. A benefit for tornado victims featuring Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Tommy Sims and Sammy Sylvester. Sunday, March 2, 6 pm. Liberty Hall in the Factory at Franklin, 230 Franklin Road, Franklin, Tennessee. Admission is a food box of non-perishable items or a gift card.

This one should be packed. That's seldom a sure thing in the Nashville area, but I'm gettin' there early just in case.

* * * * * * * * * *

The concert was great. Here are a few pics of how it looked.
MKH--posted March 6

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Larry Norman did say he was only visiting

...and now he's gone home. The artist I think of as the "grandfather" of contemporary Christian music, Larry Norman, has passed away. He was one of the most prominent voices--if not THE most prominent voice--in the so-called "Jesus Movement" of the late 60's. You could say it was a reaction to the hippie movement; the latter promised universal love, peace and happiness, but for many it seldom delivered, especially in the long-term. It was the house built on sand, as contrasted with the one built on the Solid Rock that gave Norman's label a name and a purpose.

The "Jesus People" seemed most visible in the countercultural center of the universe, namely California, but thanks to musicians like Larry Norman (and church members and leaders who were able to look past outer appearances to see the inner passion for reality and truth), the movement spread. Contemporary Christian music became its own genre, and eventually an industry. Norman had as much skepticism toward that as he had toward the unbelieving world and remained a "voice in the wilderness" to a certain extent all his life. The world can always use more of his original thinking and visionary perspective, now more than ever.

He was an example to me of why it's more important to be true to yourself (even if it causes friction at times) than to conform to what others tell you to be. I don't doubt he got plenty of advice that would've made him fit into the system better...and that would have rendered him utterly forgettable as well. I gather he was easier to admire from afar than to love up close, but then, who isn't?

Here are some articles followed by samples of his work:

Wittenburg Door interview with Larry from 1976 (A MUST-READ):
"This World Is Not My Home"

John Fischer's tribute:
"The Prophet Was Ready"

From Entertainment Weekly:
Remembering Christian rock maverick Larry Norman

From Christianity Today:
Larry Norman, 'Father of Christian Rock,' Dies at 60

Steve Camp's tribute:
"Larry Norman: Home with the Lord"


(Click arrow to play video, click screen to open new window)
"Why Don't You Look Into Jesus" (inspired when he shared a bill with Janis Joplin)

"Put Your Life In Jesus' Nail-Scarred Hands" (the coolest invitation song ever)

"Only Visiting This Planet" and "God Part II" (live w/ Mike Roe. Later in life, his energy fading but far from gone)

"The Outlaw" live

"I Wish We'd All Been Ready" (this song and the images put to it may seem cheesy, but it's hard to explain the impact it had on a generation long before the "Left Behind" series was written).

"I Love You" (his first hit song with People, from his early pre-CCM days; I had never heard this before finding it today)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mosaic: a picture of Amy

I read Amy Grant's collection of memories, thoughts, anecdotes, musings, etc. (whatever you wanna call 'em) this past week. The book is called Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far. A mosaic is a collection of bits and pieces which, when assembled by an artist, form a cohesive image. Apt title. Each chapter is tied to a lyric or poem or two that Amy has either written or made her own, and can be read in pretty much any order. But as a whole the book offers a self-portrait of not only the star-studded experiences she's had over the years, but also her inner life as a music artist, a wife, a mother, a sister and granddaughter. Not a comprehensive picture, but the details that are there are striking and memorable.

She shares some funny stories and some very touching ones, and addresses the struggles of her family life and the fallout from her divorce, along with the joy she's found along the way. She doesn't offer any new details to satisfy the persistent gossip-monger in all of us (c'mon, admit it), in defense of innocence or confession of guilt, concerning the uncomfortable details of her very public "private life." She's clearly beyond that (a good example for us all), though she recognizes the long-term impact of all her choices, some good, some not so good (as with all of us). I suppose she's realized some people will never accept her and some never rejected her, and she hasn't made it her business to maintain her image for any of them. [This is confirmed in this interview and in this one]. So I figured out pretty quickly I wouldn't be needing my gavel and robe after all. Oh well, it isn't that long until Halloween.

Given the obviously tender heart she has always had (judging from her music and from everyone I've ever spoken to who had met her), I imagine she's suffered wounds that are so deep and life-threatening it was obvious she could find healing only in the depth of heavenly grace. Even when our wounds are self-inflicted (as some of hers possibly were, like many of ours), those wounds are just as real--maybe even more painful. No doubt she's also found that the only proper response to the comments that still continue to pop up (on comments by the readers of the online Tennessean, for example) is the same grace that has sustained her.

Some might dismiss her as the "poor little rich girl" and find it hard to sympathize. As I discovered, her great-grandfather helped start Life & Casualty Insurance Co., and owned (and donated) much of the now-pricey land in Green Hills, whereas my grandfather and father both sold policies for L & C in North Georgia & East Tennessee (so we both have claim to helping build that landmark tower downtown, in a way). Other people suffer much of the same trials and still have to worry how to pay the bills. Still, suffering is suffering, and (so I hear) money doesn't help much in the midst of most problems.

The book brought up a lot of memories, some good, some not so much, from my "prime" days as a fan. Though I eventually lost that initial enthusiasm for her music over the years as I usually do with most artists, her Age To Age album was the soundtrack to my freshman year in college, and that music brings back the faces, the dreams and the idealism of a less-complicated time in my life. On the down side, witnessing someone roughly my age fondly recalling experiences I have yet to accomplish--marriage, children, career, etc.--is tough, as my choices seem fewer and time less a friend. As I read, my mood hovered in the melancholy range, from a healthy contemplative state to downright depression (she had advice for that, too: taking a brisk walk, for starters). But the core of faith that becomes evident throughout the book is something that I could relate to and I drew strength from both her faith and mine, just like in the "old days." The song that says "in a little while we'll be with the Father" has never been more true or hope-inspiring for me than it is now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Being Lincoln

I had the privilege of getting an early look at a film called Being Lincoln; Men With Hats. My high school friend Elvis Wilson, now an art director in Nashville, made the documentary with his wife about the men who make a living or at least a hobby of taking on the persona of Abraham Lincoln. The ones who are serious about it (and some are dead to speak) call themselves "presenters" as opposed to "impersonators." They not only look and dress like Honest Abe, but also tell his story and share who he was, as a political figure, a father, a husband, a man of faith. Given the pivotal role he played during a crucial time for our country and of our world, they give us an enlightening glimpse of our history and ourselves.

I couldn't resist getting my picture made with a president, never mind he's dead (this is live presenter Dennis Boggs). I did some magic to put us in a more appropriate setting. Click for more pics.

Which is not to imply the film is a history lecture; far from it. It's a fairly lighthearted glimpse into the lives of the presenters, covering several aspects of their unusual profession, why they do it, how they do it, and how people react to them (mostly favorably, but not in every case, according to several). Interviews and commentary are mixed in with footage that includes a lookalike contest, school presentation, and the preparation process. We follow one presenter in a stroll down Broadway in Nashville, stopping in to various honky tonks for a handshake, a warning about going to the "theater," and a dance. Those of us watching it in the Fort Negley Visitors Center theater laughed out loud at several places.

At the same time, the human stories played across the screen were often moving and inspiring. Their passion for history and the interest in the life of one of our most famous--and most controversial--leaders was contagious.

Also attending the preview were three local Lincoln presenters. They participated with the filmmakers in a lively question and answer period after the film, fielding inquiries about Lincoln and about their own interest in portraying him.

After a few tweaks here and there are completed, I fully expect to see this film on PBS, and not just locally. It's that good, and it's that interesting. Elvis also hopes to get distribution in theaters as an indie film. There's no such thing as too many connections, so if you know anyone that can help, let me know, or contact Elvis via the website. And I don't be surprised if he's less than impressed with any John Wilkes Booth jokes you might come up with; apparently he's heard a few already. I'm open, though; take your best shot.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Songs for Sudan Feb. 26

Guys, in case your Valentine’s Day effort (assuming you made one) doesn’t match up to her expectations (or she threatens that restraining order again), here’s a great backup plan to make it all right again:

Bring her to the Belcourt on Feb. 26 (or send her with her friends so they can really vent their frustrations about you and all men) to the "Songs for Sudan" benefit. Music has healing properties, as we all know, and it seems this is especially true for piano music, which will share more of the spotlight with the guitar than it usually does at the typical Nashville event. Sure it’s not great for sub-window serenading, but nothing sets the mood for romance like an expert tickling of the ivories. And even if that Hallmark-invented holiday that creates fear and dread for many and probably shakes up more relationships than it solidifies (not that I’m bitter) doesn’t go well, it never hurts to bank a little goodwill for the future; you may need it more than you think.

ANYWAY, whatever effect the music may have on your love life, this concert could make a long-term impact on lives in a part of the world that could use some real love. Aid Sudan will use the proceeds (minus the required buck-fifty to help keep the lights on at the host venue) to help build schools and train teachers in the troubled southern region of Sudan. And that’s the kind of gift that is worth giving all year round.

Scheduled to perform:
Suzy Bogguss is a multi-platinum recording artist whose vocal talents have won the appreciation of critics as well as commercial success in a variety of styles including country and jazz. Her versatility and musically adventurous nature is reflected on her new album, Sweet Danger.

John Barlow Jarvis is a Grammy-winning pianist/songwriter who has written hits for groups like the Judds, including “Love Can Build a Bridge.” Jarvis is one of the most prolific, prominently-featured pianists in the modern era of Nashville recording.

Will Kimbrough is a guitarist, producer, and creator of timeless songs in both pop motifs and dusty Americana. He is a sought-after sideman, playing for Jimmy Buffett (who recorded Will’s “Piece of Work” on his License to Chill album), Rodney Crowell, Todd Snider, Kim Richey, Josh Rouse, and more.

Steve Leslie is a songwriter and guitarist whose songs have been recorded by George Strait, Darryl Worley, and others.

Will Barrow, also a Grammy recipient, is a pianist and songwriter who has worked in the studio and on stage with a list of artists including Suzy Bogguss, Ronnie Laws, Rosie Flores, and Vickie Sue Robinson.

David Crossman is an award-winning composer and Christian recording artist. He has shared his music in the many places around the world where his volunteer work has taken him.

One Flew South is a recently-signed male vocal trio that is produced by Grammy-winning producer/writer Marcus Hummon.

As always, YOU CAN HELP by spreading the word:

Read the full news release:
Suzy Bogguss joins other Nashville talents to offer “Songs for Sudan”
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