FoxFaith is a new movie distribution company that was recently launched by Fox for those whose who want movies that reflect their worldview: “Whatever is trite, whatever paints a false picture of life, whatever ignores evil, etc., think only on these things”. They offer “movies you can believe in”, like Strawberry Shortcake: Adventures On Ice Cream and Garfield: The Movie.

I plan on writing more about it later, but for now I’ll point you to Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog post here.

He starts his post by saying this:

Why my faith is not “FoxFaith,” and great art is not necessarily “Christian art”

When I saw a promotional video for the arrival of FoxFaith, a special library of movies that “Christians and families can enjoy,” I had a flashback.

As I perused the titles of films being included in that label, I felt the walls closing in, trapping me in a familiar world of art that consisted of:
A) Nice, gentle, comfortable entertainment
B) American nostalgia
C) Bible stories.

About ten years ago, I decided that I couldn’t take living in such a small world anymore.

and further on is this paragraph:

I could no longer buy the idea that, when it comes to art, Christians should only pay attention to:

whatever is clean;
whatever is free of anything that could possibly offend;
whatever is cute;
whatever portrays America as blameless;
whatever assures us that the good guys always win;
whatever is safe for six-year-olds and simplistic enough for them to understand;
and whatever openly proclaims the name of Jesus.

For me, these qualifications confined me to a sort of wish-fulfillment art. It limited me to a particular corner of Christian culture in which we dreamed about what we wanted the world to look like… a sort of Thomas Kincaid vision of the world… not art that challenged me to grapple with the dark, complicated world I live in, where answers don’t come easy. It was art designed to make me comfortable, not art designed to challenge my mind and test me.

Read his full post here.

Check these out…

I downloaded 3 songs from iTunes this week that I’ve been enjoying. The first is No More from Bob Seger’s new self-produced album Face the Promise. I did the music prep. for this song and was at the studio for the string session. The string arrangement is very cool (they are featured in the interlude between verses), the lyrics are great (the second verse starts out “Tomorrow is the price for yesterday”), and it’s an all around solid song.

The second song that I’ve been hitting repeat on over and over is Crossing the Briney from the new Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder CD, Instrumentals. It’s a 7:00 contagious Irish jig featuring Ricky’s bluegrass band with a great orchestral arrangement for strings, horns, and percussion by Jim Gray. I hung out at the orchestra session for this back in April at Jim’s invitation, and was looking forward to hearing the final version. It’s every bit as good as I remembered it being.

Thankful, by Jonny Lang and featuring Michael McDonald with a gospel choir accompanying them, is the third song I downloaded. It’s from Lang’s new album Turn around. I bought it because I wanted to hear Lang’s collaboration with one of my favorite vocalists, Michael McDonald. While I’ve been enjoying it, I still prefer the Jonny Lang / Joss Stone duet on the U2 song When Loves Comes to Town from Herbie Hancock’s Possibilities. So if you’re not familiar with Jonny Lang, check that one out first.

In the spirit of the first day of creation…

Quote of the week:

Musicians do not learn from the creation in quite the same way visual artists do. There are no fugues or twelve-bar blues “out there” for us to use as models or to re-present. Even so, the principle suggested in the difference between the first day and all other days pertains to musical practice as well. In music, there are two poles: the strange and the familiar, somewhat analogous to the difference between the abstract and the representational in art. Radically different music may be just as difficult to accept as abstract art, when its harmonic practices, textures, structures, and colors are completely separated from what we have grown used to. This kind of music is best received in the spirit of the first day of creation. We must learn to live in the wonder – even shock – of that day, no matter how disturbed, stretched, or even threatened we might be. Creative musicians have every right to thrive within the spirit of that day and to produce musical works that honor God by following hard after his originating ways.

But this is not all. Many musical days have followed the first day. These are the days of innovative conservatism, nuanced repetition, paraphrase, and variation. While the first day of creation is absolutely essential to the practice of music, so are all the other days. And the most balanced artistic communities – and these must surely include the Christian ones – are those that seek both the avant-garde and the conservative; the new, the disturbing, and the most inventively familiar.

Dr. Harold M. Best
Music Through the Eyes of Faith

The Wittenburg Door

I’ve been reading the online version of the Wittenburg Door for a while but had not read their print magazine until this past weekend. For those unfamiliar with it, they bill themselves as “The World’s Pretty Much Only Religious Satire Magazine”.

If you pick up a copy, I recommend not reading it in a public place. At least, not if you don’t want people looking at you strange. Among the funnier pieces is an article about the new “One Second Bible” for those who don’t have time for the “One Minute Bible”. One paragraph cheerfully notes that “in just over a week “practically anybody” can read through the entire verse of John 3:16.” Which is, the VP of marketing stressed, “all a Christian really needs to know anyway”.
“According to the book’s reading timetable, the more industrious reader can complete Paul’s epistle to the Romans in just under twelve years. (Which is just about the same amount of time it takes the average Presbyterian minister to preach through it.)

Here’s another excerpt:

Good News for CBA 2007
By Darrin Rittenhouse

The slump in sales suffered by Christian Bookstore Association members in 2006 can be attributed to two factors. First, the ferocious attempt by Wal-Mart to corner the market by illegally undercutting Christian publishers. Second, the dearth of even marginally original new books by the world’s best-known religious authors, most of whom have been long since reduced to recycling their earlier work.

Fortunately, a new trend is sweeping among evangelical authors – blending! Why should one author struggle to stretch a marginal idea over 180 pages? Instead, top authors are working together to create a whole new wave of powerful, prophetic, groundbreaking, relatively original books. Here’s a sneak preview up upcoming titles in 2007:

Your Best Purpose-Driven Life Now by Joel Osteen and Rick Warren

Cure for the Common Life You’ve Always Wanted by Max Lucado and John Ortberg

So You Want to be Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and Charles Swindoll

So You Want to be Like, You Know, Wild at Heart (for teens) by Eldredge and Swindoll

The Case for Approval Addiction by Joyce Meyer and Lee Strobel

I Kissed the Bad Girls of the Bible by Joshua Harris and Liz Curtis Higgs

What’s So Amazing about Bruce Wilkinson by Philip and Jabez Yancey

What Every Man Wants… Twelve Extraordinary Women by John Hagee and John MacArthur

You can read more from this issue at http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/current_issue.html.

6 Months

Today marks 6 months since I moved to Nashville. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been involved in some way (mostly music prep.) working on projects for artists as diverse as Nanci Griffith, Bob Seger, Ronan Tynan, the Nashville Symphony, Vince Ambrosetti, J.C. Chasez, Rick Trevino and Josh Turner, producers such as Brown Bannister and Peter Collins, and a number of other projects (Disney’s High School Musical, for one). I’ve also done a lot of song transcriptions, working on everything from on a Hebrew songbook to an Evangelical church’s youth choir musical to a musical based on the book of Tobit (from the Apocrypha), besides some arranging, composing, and web design on the side.

I’m looking forward to the next 6 months.

On Being Needy

Randall Goodgame, songwriter extraordinaire and worship leader at my church, wrote this on his blog yesterday:

On Being Needy

You can call me nasty, or hateful, or dorky, or slick, or lame, or irresponsible, or a show off, or stuck up, or a coward, or a fake, or a drunk, or a druggy, or a philanderer, or any other horrible thing you can think of, but please, just don’t call me needy.

Whoa, that guy is needy, STAY AWAY.

The more I thought about this recently, the more profound it became. There is almost nothing as repulsive to our human spirit as someone that is obviously needy. A girl dates a guy and likes him until she gets a needy vibe, then she’s gone like the chocolate covered doughnuts in an assorted dozen. And if a girl seems needy, the guy is beating Carl Lewis to the door. We hate needy. I hate needy! What’s up with that?

Could it be that we are all so good at hiding our own neediness that when we see it right out in front of us it is too repulsive, like walking in on someone taking a dump? You can’t get away fast enough!

Read the rest of his post here.

The longing that makes us believe…

I just came from seeing Sandra McCracken in concert for the second time this week. Her new CD, Gravity | Love, came out on Tuesday, and I went with some friends to her release concert at Mercy Lounge. Kate York and Matthew Perryman Jones opened for her, and then she played for just over an hour with a full band. Tonight she played an acoustic set with her husband Derek Webb accompanying her as a part of a preview series for the Americana Folk Festival that she is playing next month along with artists like Mindy Smith and Patty Griffin.

Sandra McCracken - Gravity | Love

I’ve heard Sandra sing several of the songs from her new record at the Square Peg Alliance in-the-round concerts at Radio Café recently, and I enjoyed getting to hear them again both with a band and acoustically in the same week.

Her new record was produced by Peter Collins, who has produced records for Jewel, Nanci Griffith, Bon Jovi, the Indigo Girls, Beth Nielsen Chapman, and many others. The song I was looking forward to hearing most is Portadown Station, which features a string arrangement by Kris Wilkinson with Sandra playing piano. I heard about this song about five months ago when I was working with Kris on a Nanci Griffith project, and it is one of my favorites on the CD.

Another one I was waiting to hear the studio version of is Chattanooga, a song I first heard her play about a year ago. In the chorus she sings // Can I drive you to Chattanooga / Where the city in October looks like fire / Changing lanes on this restless highway / Between this living and desire //.

The song that is my favorite lyrically at the moment is Shelter. The lyric that jumped out at me when she sang it Tuesday was about “the longing that makes me believe”.

Here are the full lyrics:

In the arms of a good Father
You can go to the deep water
Where the questions, we have left unspoken
Come out in the open
We will find shelter here

So I lay down, what I cannot hold in my hands
Every sorrow and hope spinning out of control
And here I find sweet resolution comes in letting go
And we will find shelter here

When I look back I can see,
And when I am old I’ll remember these things
Like a mountain of stone
And the longing that makes me believe…

There is a tree by the blue river
Where the shade stretches wide over
In this breaking we are hand and glove
Come with me my love
We will find shelter here
We will find shelter here…

Derek Webb made his last CD Mockingbird available as a free download at freederekwebb.com two weeks ago, and so far it has been downloaded over 35,000 times. Sandra mentioned Tuesday that she may be doing a similar thing with some of her music in December. I’ll post about it here when I hear something.

She and Derek are getting ready for another tour starting next week, and they’ll be on the road for a couple weeks. Check out www.sandramccracken.com or www.derekwebb.com to find out where they’ll be playing.