Challenging Creativity

Call it a case of “put your money where your mouth is.”

Last week I blogged about The Civil Wars and their debut album, Barton Hollow (or as they pronounce it, “Barton Hawller”). This beautiful set of songs has really captured my attention. It has also forced me to stand on some of the principles I’ve stated at this blog.

Many times I have proclaimed that Christian artists should have the freedom to produce the art they feel called to make, whether it is specifically “Christian” (which is a tricky definition) or not. So many times, we pigeon-hole Christian artists to make a certain type of music, or write only uplifting, God-honoring lyrics.

As far as I know, The Civil Wars are not a “Christian” band. However, Joy Williams had a career in CCM (contemporary Christian music) prior to joining John Paul White to form The Civil Wars. As far as I know, Mr. White has not had such a career.

In the midst of their moving vocals, there are lines such as:
“Ain’t going back to Barton Hollow
Devil gonna follow me e’er I go
Won’t do me no good washing in the river
Can’t no preacher man save my soul”

or
“If I die before I wake

I know the Lord my soul won’t take”

Doesn’t sound like typical CCM fare to me. In fact, initially I stumbled on this a little. It bothered me hearing them sing this at first, because I took it as denying that the Lord can save.

Is this really what they’re saying?

Of course not! I didn’t consider the point of view of the song – from the perspective of a man who has at least robbed a large sum of money, who didn’t think he deserved redemption. It’s a typical theme in Southern music, but I fell into the trap of taking the song very superficially.

How about their first well-known song, Poison and Wine?
“Your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine”

or
“I don’t love you, but I always will”

Honestly, I was disappointed in myself for tripping up over something that wasn’t there. Listening deeper, their lyrics like from Poison and Wine talk about the dichotomy in a relationship that is so strong that sometimes you can’t stand the person, but you can’t be without them. It is honest and provocative in the presentation, but it speaks to a dynamic those of us who have been in a deep relationship can identify with, even if we can’t speak the sentiment.

I’m glad that I can realize and own up to my hypocrisy. Quality art, when it has depth, will┬áchallenge us in our preconceived ideas if we let it. If we get tangled up with a superficial glance, then we will miss out on the riches beneath.

The Civil Wars are a band that has found a niche the two artists would never have found alone. I applaud them for their music, and I applaud Joy for running in a new direction. By the way, they are produced by Charlie Peacock, head of the Art House, and a strong Christian who is a creative genius. Also, they sing a song in their live set, “Pray”, that is a strong tune for crying out to Him, without succumbing to Christianese. The surface can be deceiving – the truth lies deeper than that.

Here’s to mining the riches that Jesus our Creator, our Master Artist, has for His people!

Challenging Creativity

Call it a case of “put your money where your mouth is.”

Last week I blogged about The Civil Wars and their debut album, Barton Hollow (or as they pronounce it, “Barton Hawller”). This beautiful set of songs has really captured my attention. It has also forced me to stand on some of the principles I’ve stated at this blog.

Many times I have proclaimed that Christian artists should have the freedom to produce the art they feel called to make, whether it is specifically “Christian” (which is a tricky definition) or not. So many times, we pigeon-hole Christian artists to make a certain type of music, or write only uplifting, God-honoring lyrics.

As far as I know, The Civil Wars are not a “Christian” band. However, Joy Williams had a career in CCM (contemporary Christian music) prior to joining John Paul White to form The Civil Wars. As far as I know, Mr. White has not had such a career.

In the midst of their moving vocals, there are lines such as:
“Ain’t going back to Barton Hollow
Devil gonna follow me e’er I go
Won’t do me no good washing in the river
Can’t no preacher man save my soul”

or
“If I die before I wake

I know the Lord my soul won’t take”

Doesn’t sound like typical CCM fare to me. In fact, initially I stumbled on this a little. It bothered me hearing them sing this at first, because I took it as denying that the Lord can save.

Is this really what they’re saying?

Of course not! I didn’t consider the point of view of the song – from the perspective of a man who has at least robbed a large sum of money, who didn’t think he deserved redemption. It’s a typical theme in Southern music, but I fell into the trap of taking the song very superficially.

How about their first well-known song, Poison and Wine?
“Your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine”

or
“I don’t love you, but I always will”

Honestly, I was disappointed in myself for tripping up over something that wasn’t there. Listening deeper, their lyrics like from Poison and Wine talk about the dichotomy in a relationship that is so strong that sometimes you can’t stand the person, but you can’t be without them. It is honest and provocative in the presentation, but it speaks to a dynamic those of us who have been in a deep relationship can identify with, even if we can’t speak the sentiment.

I’m glad that I can realize and own up to my hypocrisy. Quality art, when it has depth, will challenge us in our preconceived ideas if we let it. If we get tangled up with a superficial glance, then we will miss out on the riches beneath.

The Civil Wars are a band that has found a niche the two artists would never have found alone. I applaud them for their music, and I applaud Joy for running in a new direction. By the way, they are produced by Charlie Peacock, head of the Art House, and a strong Christian who is a creative genius. Also, they sing a song in their live set, “Pray”, that is a strong tune for crying out to Him, without succumbing to Christianese. The surface can be deceiving – the truth lies deeper than that.

Here’s to mining the riches that Jesus our Creator, our Master Artist, has for His people!

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

I love it when artists can challenge us.
Hopefully you have heard about The Civil Wars by now. The duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White have made a big splash in the last few weeks with their debut album, Barton Hollow, releasing on Feb. 1. I’d say appearing on The Tonight Show and having their album be #1 on iTunes for its first week as a pretty good start.

Their music is haunting and beautiful, stripped down to the basics: White’s guitar, some occasional piano by Williams, the scattered accordian or percussion, and the intertwining harmonies of the two singers. In this day of auto-tuned, electronic noise being blared on iThingies and the random Super Bowl halftime show (brought to you by Lite-Brites), the organic, simple nature of these songs works into your soul. As opposed to bashing us over the head.

Their style would be best described as folk or Americana, although it resists easy labeling. They hail from Nashville and are getting airplay on CMT, but I wouldn’t call them country (especially to those who know me – I’m not a country music fan). The point is that they make lovely music together. A majority of the songs are slow paced with a melancholy feel, longing for love. The title track is a foot-stomper with soaring vocal gymnastics, while “Poison and Wine,” featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy speaks in a raw, honest way about the dichotomies of love.

The two singers are refreshingly real in a day of pre-packaged artists fed to top 40 radio. I was intrigued when I found they were produced by Charlie Peacock, one of my favorite artists himself. They aren’t the typical music I would listen to, but I’m all for quality, and their musicianship and chemistry makes Barton Hollow my first album purchase of 2011, and one of my favorites in a long time.

In my next point, I want to discuss how they are not only easy on the ears, but challenging to some of my convictions as well. Keep your eyes peeled for that, if you will.

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

I love it when artists can challenge us.
Hopefully you have heard about The Civil Wars by now. The duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White have made a big splash in the last few weeks with their debut album, Barton Hollow, releasing on Feb. 1. I’d say appearing on The Tonight Show and having their album be #1 on iTunes for its first week as a pretty good start.

Their music is haunting and beautiful, stripped down to the basics: White’s guitar, some occasional piano by Williams, the scattered accordian or percussion, and the intertwining harmonies of the two singers. In this day of auto-tuned, electronic noise being blared on iThingies and the random Super Bowl halftime show (brought to you by Lite-Brites), the organic, simple nature of these songs works into your soul. As opposed to bashing us over the head.

Their style would be best described as folk or Americana, although it resists easy labeling. They hail from Nashville and are getting airplay on CMT, but I wouldn’t call them country (especially to those who know me – I’m not a country music fan). The point is that they make lovely music together. A majority of the songs are slow paced with a melancholy feel, longing for love. The title track is a foot-stomper with soaring vocal gymnastics, while “Poison and Wine,” featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy speaks in a raw, honest way about the dichotomies of love.

The two singers are refreshingly real in a day of pre-packaged artists fed to top 40 radio. I was intrigued when I found they were produced by Charlie Peacock, one of my favorite artists himself. They aren’t the typical music I would listen to, but I’m all for quality, and their musicianship and chemistry makes Barton Hollow my first album purchase of 2011, and one of my favorites in a long time.

In my next point, I want to discuss how they are not only easy on the ears, but challenging to some of my convictions as well. Keep your eyes peeled for that, if you will.