Saturday, March 19, 2016

Remix: Tori Kelley

Watching NBC's The Voice this week, there was a segment where Adam had asked Tori Kelly to help mentor his team in the Battle Rounds. Natalie Yacovazzi and Nate Butler performed Kelly's "Hollow" during their battle.

So hold me
Wrap me in love, fill up my cup
Empty and only your love can fill up my cup
Cause I'm hollow

While watching her coach these two on the song, four words she said jumped out to me -- "since it's about God". Now, that may not be news to everyone, but as much as I love to discover new music and artists and was aware of some of Kelly's story, I hadn't listened to much of her music. Takes me a little longer for me to get there with the 'pop' sound. Now with the realization that she is a woman of faith, I had a new desire to give her album a listen and dig deeper.

While running today I listened to the album. Some lyrics from some of the songs jumped out (click on the links to hear the songs as well) -

City Dove:

All I know is I'm holdin' on

I haven't figured anything out
I haven't figured anything anything anything out

City dove, fly between the buildings and fences
Soft inside but rough on the edges
Waiting here for something to come just holdin' on

Try to get to the heart of it
Fly low but lookin' for Heaven
I know, I know I'm holding on

Something Beautiful:

Breathe in and let it go, oh
Your tears are not for nothing
Let them fall off
In every tear drop there is something beautiful, oh
You are stronger than you know, oh
Oh you're something beautiful

Falling Slow:

But here I am, just a lot of broken pieces
I don't plan to leave and break your heart

What if I messed up? Would you give up on us?
Would you tear the page out like it never ever happened?
What if I told you you're doing fine? Stay cool
Swear I'll make it worthwhile, baby
You should know I'm always falling slow in love
Slow in love
Falling slow in love

Unbreakable Smile:

The way you live your life, depends on you
That’s when I realized I wanna make a difference
Use my name for good and change the game I could

Sure there is a bit of flirtation on the record too, that comes from being young and trying to find love - but the overwhelming themes are about love, commitment, loyalty, hope ... and just goes to prove that a Christian can make music anywhere, not just on a Christian label. Maybe this is part of what it really takes too to bring change to this world.

Here's a clip of Tori singing John Mark McMillan's How He Loves and another of Kari Jobe's Revelation Song - both from 2011.

Makes so much sense that I like her. She grew up listening to one of my favorite Christian artists from the 80's, Crystal Lewis.

If you're not a fan - hopefully you'll give Tori a first listen or at least a re-mix.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Slow Trauma

Bill Mallonee himself may even have lost count as "it's getting close to something like 80 for me" but Slow Trauma is at least his 73rd album released. Slow Trauma became available a few days ago in a very limited run. The project contains 10 tracks where you'll hear a seasoned voice that has clearly traversed through many experiences of just plain living. You can hear it in the rasp, the grit, as well as in the poignant and sometimes weary lyrics. Mallonee sings "only time will tell" from a longing heart that is clearly still holding on to hope while "waiting for the stone to be rolled away". Slow Trauma is born out of life, just like all blues and Americana - sounds that take root first in the soul. As a huge Bruce Cockburn fan, I've been a fan of Mallonee since the early days with his group Vigilantes of Love because I can hear many of the same qualities that made me a fan of both. Vigilantes of Love was an indie band Bill formed back in 1990 while a student at the University of Georgia. And, it can't go without saying that the truly great and sadly late Mark Heard, another of my favorites in this musical genre, had a hand in the production of their recordings. I need to clarify that Cockburn has not influenced Mallonee. In fact, this week, Mallonee told me he is not really a fan. Though he was early on and likes some of the first Cockburn projects, he commented that he found him "not really edgy enough or immediate enough for my tastes".

Now a couple decades removed the Vigilantes days, Bill and his wife Muriah have lived in the rural, high desert of New Mexico for the last 6 years. On his digital liner notes found on his web site, he says he is happy to have a home studio in which he feels increasingly comfortable... to the point that he has hit a creative output unlike anything he's ever done previously. "It's been a journey lyrically & musically. I saw David Bowie in the Elephant Man. And a line he delivered will always move me to tears: "There are so many ideas in my head that sometimes I feel like it will explode." I had to find out how he can be so creative, so prolific and keep it fresh. He clearly had some thoughts:

"...that's a lot of writing over 22 years, but it stills feels as fresh as the first song i ever wrote. the songs keep coming, so i record quick demo ideas and get to work on lyrics. I'm releasing something like 3-5 albums a year, and I stand by them all. That's the best thing about bidding the "industry" adieu in 2000. There's no one to answer. I tell younger artists all the time that you really don't need someone in a superstructure to give you "permission" to be artist. BUT, I also tell them that they better be willing to find their own voice, (not someone else's) and strive for originality.... and lastly, to make peace with the poverty and deprivation that will go with such a decision..."

Among all of his recordings, Mallonee considers "Slow Trauma" to be one of his 4 landmark recordings. It's that good! If you are interested, you can sample it at his website You need to hurry though, while digital downloads and streaming will remain available, Bill is only doing a limited run of 500 CDs.

Grace is so important in our life and a consistent message in Mallonee's music, so I want to close with some profound words he penned in the liner notes, especially as we approach Easter and Resurrection Sunday:

"Still, the visible Church (it seems to me) often spends much of her time putting boundaries on just how far and to whom the Cross of Christ reaches; boundaries on just how far His Mercy reaches and how efficacious His Grace is.
No wonder eyes roll and hearts despair.

I must tell the whole truth, however:
On my “better days,” I have no doubts.
Well, fewer.
Love Wins,
Grace Triumphs
And that we’re all made Whole.
And I do mean “ALL.”
Every. One.
"He Is Risen," goes the Easter liturgy.
And you & I, the stumbling, wayward congregation of the spiritually poor, blind, sin-sick and lame respond:
"He Is Risen, Indeed!"
I'm there."

What keeps Mallonee writing, even if its to relatively small audiences compared to what others who have remained in the "industry" might have? ...the idea behind writing, he says, is to portray an honest human; one struggling with his own brokenness and wrestling to define what the million little daily manifestations of Life & Death may look like or be about.

So please ... get your copy of Slow Trauma ... join the journey.

Grace and Peace.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Being Served

Since jury service is the patriotic and legal duty of every American, and is a civil service to the community, I will share with you my service experience of today. It began a couple months ago when I received notice my name had been randomly chose and if I qualified, I would be on-call for jury service in Federal Court for a six-month period into July. I was recently summoned to report today for a trial expected to last 3 days. After a quick walk from the parking garage to the court in the rain, stood in line to have my possessions screened and to pass through the metal detector. Then, check-in with the clerk's office presenting photo ID - all by 8:15am - and not able to bring coffee, phone, a book... just me and about 40 other people I didn't know. Actually I saw 2 people wearing jeans which were specifically prohibited on the brochure, and a few had coffee (not mentioned in the mailer but assumed wouldn't be able to bring) and one had a book! I envied him! In our holding room, we waited ... and waited ... and waited, while randomly taking turns to use the restroom - it seemed to help with the increasing restlessness. Some were lucky to know others and struck up easy conversations. Otherwise, no windows, no visitors to give us a status report. It started to feel as though this may be a unique occurrence but being my first time in this court, really didn't know what to expect. The watched clock moved quite slowly... 8:30a, 8:45a, 9:00a, 9:15a, 9:30a... when finally we were told the delay was due to some discussions in the courtroom. We'd re-organize ourselves alphabetically with the help of the US Marshall and wait again until the judge was ready for us. Being a "D", I was 6th in line. This meant that once called, the first 16 would be seated in the jury box and the rest would remain in order using the courtroom seats. We were told 14 of us would be selected to serve and the rest would be excused. It was now about 10:00a when we got the word that the judge was ready. The courtroom was 4 floors above our holding room so it took several elevator trips to get us all up to the courtroom. Remember, I was 6th and the jury box holds 16, so I was seated in the front row. Figured that could be good - or bad - depending on one's perspective. The courtroom was stoically quiet. Once we were all in position, the Judge thanked us for our attendance and patience this morning - almost apologized, but instead said he regretted that we needed to come out this morning for though there had been a planned 3-day trial, the defendant pleaded guilty and the matter was settled. Being no further need for our presence or participation, we were excused. The judge explained that this was very unusual - in fact he said he doesn't remember it ever happening before during his 18 years on the bench. Normally a plea takes place well ahead of a jury physically being present and ready for a case. He said, however, some people do try to game the system. This particular defendant had made a plea earlier, then retracted it asking for a jury trial, and had really struggled with her decisions. So, when she was ready to again make a plea this morning, the judge explained he could not have us leave until the case status had been secured for fear that once we left there would have been another attempt to change her mind, which would have required the case to be again scheduled 3 or 4 months out. So we all had some time given back to us today and looks like we potentially saved the tax-payers some money by this case concluding and not being stretched out. So what was the case? Apparently today's defendant was accused (along with 2 others whose dispositions were/will be separately decided) of defrauding insurance companies and the federal student loan program. News stories on the web state "investigators say between 2011 and 2014, all three women submitted financial aid forms in order to get credit refunds while enrolled at Liberty University. The charges include mail, wire and student loan fraud. If convicted, all three women could go to prison for a long time. Some of these charges carry 20 years in prison each and several fines." No word yet on the sentence or the plea agreement, or whether that has even been decided yet. Since its only February - and I'm on-call for another four months... maybe my next time will be more routine and more exciting - or as a friend warned, just very "tedious" and "long" days.