Category Archives: Songs

Joseph Habedank Drops New Single

Take a listen to the first single from Joseph Habedank’s upcoming solo album! It’s called “Never, No Never.” I’m very tough on new songs, but I can say confidently that if this is representative of the rest of Joseph’s record, I need to get me a copy!

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Borrowing: “Preacher,” by OneRepublic

Every now and then, I peek through the fingers covering my eyes long enough to see if there’s any music the kids like today that isn’t completely awful. Recently, I was moderately surprised and pleased to discover the band OneRepublic, and even more interested to learn that front-man and producer Ryan Tedder professes Christianity. Granted, it’s a “Bono Christianity” that gives him no qualms about also producing work for other pop artists who are decidedly opposed to all Christian morality. Still, it’s not every day you see an Oral Roberts grad, raised by Pentecostal missionaries, making mainstream pop music. There’s enough interesting material in Tedder’s career choices and philosophy for his very own Christians in Entertainment post, but that’s for another time.

At any rate, it’s clear that gospel music has influenced OneRepublic’s music. Explaining one of his signature production motifs, Tedder says, “Handclaps, always. Why? Church.” Maddy Easter told me that he and his wife are even thinking of covering one of the band’s recent hits for an upcoming project. Today, I’d like to present their most heavily gospel-infused tune as a “borrowing” candidate for another one of our own more progressive artists. While I don’t care for a whole lot of the band’s work, darned if I can’t stop hitting “replay” on this one. It’s titled “Preacher,” and it’s dedicated to Tedder’s grandfather, whose tough love and wisdom inspired him through his youth. Continue reading

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Questions and Answers, Father’s Day Edition: “My Son, My Son”

In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a special entry in my too-long-neglected “Questions and Answers” series, where we examine two songs that address the human condition from two perspectives—the one without, the other with hope. Today’s topic is fatherhood. To those whose earthly fathers have brought them only pain and fear, what do we as Christians have to offer? What can we say to the person who says “Everyone I ever trusted has let me down”? The answer is that we have a heavenly Father whose word is sure and whose faithfulness endures to all generations. Continue reading

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International Songwriting Contest, 2013: My Picks

I enjoy browsing the winners of large songwriting contests. It’s always fun to discover  brand new talent, and it reveals something about my own musical tastes when a large selection of completely new music is put in front of me. Most recently, I took a listen to some of the musicians who placed in the 2013 International Songwriting Contest. There are certain genres I just avoid altogether (electronica, hip-hop, etc.) and others where the genre isn’t what it used to be (Top 40, adult contemporary). And then, happily, there are the genres where good music is still being made. This year, I kept coming back to the Americana, folk/singer-songwriter, blues and country selections. I guess I prefer music that says something to “music” that exists merely to put a worm in your ear.

The wealth of untapped talent out there is incredible. I laughed and cried over several of the songs that placed in these categories. In several cases, I actually preferred the 2nd or 3rd place finishers to the category winner. Below are some of my favorites. Think of this sampler as a little slice of “coffeehouse cake,” or alternatively, “songs that are too good for radio.”

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Sing it Again: “Taking My God At His Word”

In 2005, Brian Free took a break from quartet singing and put out what is still one of my favorite solo efforts in southern gospel. Although I’ve never quite wrapped my brain around that other-worldly voice, his ear for a good song was as canny then as it is now. My personal favorite is the fresh, vigorous country rocker “Dare to Be a Daniel” (written by fellow Gold City alumnus Steve Lacey). Other highlights include “Anthem of the Ages,” which BFA could record today like new, and the tune I’m highlighting today, “Taking My God At His Word.” I could hear a number of artists doing this today, including the Perrys, Barry Rowland & Deliverance, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and Greater Vision.

I think I would be most excited to hear Chris Allman take a stab at it, but for Ernie to have a go would be great fun too. What do y’all think?

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Anatomy of a Song: “Come Back to Me”

It’s been a really long time since I did an entry in this series, formerly known as “Poetry in Song,” and I’m not even sure that the folks who seemed interested when I first began it a few years ago are still hanging around. But in case they are, and in case anyone else enjoys reading my rambling about songwriting and would like to explore what makes a song work lyrically with me, here is another installment! Today, we’re picking a song from the world of pop/rock country music: “Come Back to Me” (Artist: Keith Urban, Album: Fuse). This is a heart-wrenching song from the perspective of a man whose love is leaving to chase after things that he knows can’t satisfy her.

Before we dive in, mention must be made of Urban’s ravishing guitar work and the way it just melts into that synth backdrop. True musicianship dat. But I’ll save the full-on Keith fan-girling for another day. Now, on to the lyrics of the song, which was written by Shane McAnnally, Brandy Lynn Clark, and Trevor Joseph Rosen (three members of what I like to call “The Nashville Machine,” aka that faceless throng of writers whom nobody recognizes by name and without whom good and bad pop music alike would grind to a halt). I tucked away three main tips from them.

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Matt Fouch and Scott Inman on Writing for Legacy Five

Here are two neat videos I just found and enjoyed, where Matt Fouch and Scotty Inman take fans behind the scenes for two new songs on Legacy Five’s new album.

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SG vs. CCM Smackdown: “Who Am I” vs. “Because of Whose I Am”

We haven’t had a southern gospel versus CCM song smackdown in a while, so now seems as good a time as any. The two songs featured today are very similar lyrically, but they come from completely different generations stylistically. Representing the contemporary worship genre is Casting Crowns with their ballad “Who Am I?” When I first heard it I remember thinking it was one of the better worship ballads I’d heard in a while. I still think it’s a cut above average for this genre. Here is a newer, acoustic version featuring their female vocalist instead of Mark Hall:

And representing inspirational gospel, here is the Gaither Vocal Band song “Because of Whose I Am.”

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Borrowing: Brian Dunphy, “God Be With Those Days”

You might recall a post I wrote some time back comparing an Irish pop/folk band called The High Kings with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. (And if perchance you haven’t read it, do take a look an it please you, I’m partial to it and you might discover some good new music. Also, my favorite High King found and liked it, so there’s that.) Anyway, while the High Kings mostly stick to folk as a group, their solo tastes vary widely. Today I’m pulling a song from baritone Brian Dunphy’s solo project and offering it as a “borrowing” candidate for a southern gospel soloist. In my head, I think this would suit Devin McGlamery particularly well. Stylistically, I would compare it with his recent solo single “While I Still Can.” It’s a sweet tune, written by Dunphy himself together with band-mate Darren Holden, and I believe it’s dedicated to his parents. (I was also reminded of the tune “Ellsworth,” which I consider to be a compliment, but I know some readers don’t share my sentiments there. Perhaps they’ll be glad to know this one isn’t as transparently tear-jerking. ;-) ) Ronnie Booth is another singer who comes to mind.

They’d talk about forever

Hold each other close

Dream about the family they would raise

They were young and innocent

In their old-fashioned ways

God be with those days

This may not be the last High Kings solo entry in the “Borrowing” series. Darren Holden also has one or two country tunes that could translate over quite well.

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The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, Day 12: Haven of Rest Quartet’s “As With Gladness”

First, my inner Anglican has to apologize—technically this final track is not a Christmas song but an Epiphany song. However, I’ve attempted to appease my Anglican spirit by pushing this to the very end of my series, looking forward to Epiphany as we say goodbye to Christmas.

Many of you are probably unfamiliar with this hymn, but you’re no doubt quite familiar with another carol written by the same author, William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898). It was he who gave us the classic “What Child Is This?” Interestingly, I read that he wrote many of his hymns confined to his bed as a young man with a near-fatal illness. “What Child Is This” came from that period. This song came from an even earlier period of illness, when he was only 22. Strange to think that we could have been brother and sister. It certainly goes to show how the quality of writing in the younger generation has declined down through the years. Just take a look at the last verse:

Holy Jesus, every day

Keep us in the narrow way.

And when earthly things are past,

Bring our ransomed souls at last

Where they need no star to guide,

Where no clouds thy glory hide.

You might recognize the melody. It was written a few decades before Dix by Konrad Kocher and is better known as the tune to “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

This recording by the Haven of Rest Quartet is the only professional “artist cut” of the hymn that I know of (i.e., besides faceless chorale singers). It’s very hard to find, so I put it onto my Youtube channel. The quality could be better, but the arrangement shines through despite the graininess. The album it comes from (Sounds of Christmas) is one of my all-time favorite Christmas records, and I think you’ll see why I consider this track essential. Trivia tidbit: Long-time member and arranger Walt Harrah sings the tenor solo. Harrah is the writer of the David Phelps sugar stick “No More Night.”

Enjoy, and thanks for coming along on this series with me!

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