Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Parental Predicament - Buying CDs for My Daughter

I was talking about kids and music with a guitarist friend of mine a few weeks ago. A father of a couple of teenagers, he remarked that one really has to reconsider all of the bashing of Contemporary Christian Music that all of us musician Christians engage in. His point was that there's so much crap you don't want your kids listening to because of the words and messages being promoted by the artists that maybe CCM isn't that bad after all. Though I thought what he was saying was interesting it didn't seem all that relevant to my life because my kids are both pretty young.

Well life comes up on you pretty quickly! For Christmas my daughter asked for a boom box. So my wife went out and got her one. No big deal right? Wrong. We had not thought this thing through very well. A boom box means that she'll want to play CDs. And CDs are very powerful things aren’t they. Since she doesn't have any CDs of her own, I felt the burden to step up and fulfill the great calling of music provider. I wasn't too intimidated about the buying her a few CDs because after all I'm a musician and a lover of music. How hard could it be? However, as I stood in the CD section of Target trying to find something that I approved of both for its musical value and its lyrical content, the weight of the task began to descend on my holiday-stressed shoulders.

I immediately felt like such a dad as I looked at the latest pop albums.
"I can't believe what folks are wearing on the covers of these CDs."
"I don't want my daughter listening to this crap! She'll want to grow up and be a thug or dope dealer or a stripper!"

So then I strolled over for a look at the country music section. It was certainly a lot more wholesome looking but I couldn't get past the fact that it was country music, or should I say a certain very commercialized type of country music. I had no problem with getting her a Johnny Cash CD if I thought she would listen to it but that ain't going to happen. And besides the man in black isn’t the type of country music they are selling in the country music section these days.

After disappointing perusals of Pop and Country music I reluctantly brought myself to look at the latest offerings from CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artists, which, while not singing about dope, sex, and grills, were pretty low on the artistic scale. I even caught myself thinking of that conversation with my friend.

I thought to myself, "Why does it matter if the music she listens to is not all that great artistically if she likes it and the lyrics are at the very least clean?"

I was flirting with compromise. I almost had myself talked into buying her a Wow compilation of songs from Stephen Curtis Chapman, Mary Mary, and Michael W. Smith but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

My hopes were fading.
“Maybe we should just scrap the whole giving her a boom box thing until we have a year to think the music thing through?”

Wearily I turned my attention to the soundtrack section.

There I glimpsed a few CDs from Disney. My daughter would be thrilled if I got her the newest Disney channel soundtracks. The only problem is I’ve seen enough of the shows to know that the CDs will be filled with nothing but sugarcoated pop songs about cute boys and tweeny romance. Though my daughter is still under the illusion that daddy's going to let her date guys before she's 30 years old, I will not contribute to the lie by buying that dribble for her. Sorry Disney!

I figure my daughter is at an age where she will still think that the CD's I buy her are cool (as long as I don't try and give her Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson.) If I'm lucky I have a window of a couple of years where I can have input on music without seeming like an out-of-touch curmudgeon. What I faced in Target that day was much bigger than simply buying a couple of CDs. These CDs could very well be some of the fundamental pieces of music that would contribute to her taste in music for years to come. Believe it or not I still listen to some of the CDs my dad turned me onto in those impressionable years of my own life. Thank God my dad had a real aversion to Michael Jackson, which he passed onto me at a time when Jackson's career was peaking (remember Thriller?) I might have turned out to be a much different musician if my dad hadn't intervened with some good music like Dire Straits, Bob Dylan, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. As for my daughter, who knows she may just become a musician herself. If that's the case then the burden is even bigger to get her heading in a good direction musically.

So after a few minutes of stress and on the verge of failure, my eyes landed on the Curious George soundtrack by Jack Johnson and Friends. I knew the music would be good and since it was the soundtrack to Curious George the lyrics should be appropriate for her. This was the type of CD I had been looking for. I was pleasantly surprised when, after opening presents on Christmas morning, we gave the CD a spin. The music was good as expected and the lyrics were about sharing and recycling and making a difference in the world. Ben Harper even does a cheerier version of "My Own Two Hands" on the CD (one of my favorite Ben Harper songs.) Score! I can only hope for more CDs like this one.

I also got her another CD - More Than Ever, Live From the Rockies. I guess I have to take advantage of the fact that she still thinks it's cool to have a CD with a couple of songs from her dad on it. I've got to enjoy it while it lasts.

My little boy got the DVD of the Pixar movie Cars for Christmas as well. I figure I'll have to get that soundtrack next. It's not bad. In fact it's pretty good. I can even tolerate the rocked up country version of "Life is a Highway".

I've threatened for years to do a Children's album.
If I can't find more CDs out there I may just have to...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Breaking in the Harmonium

Another CSB gig at PJ's. I got to introduce the Harmonium in the set on a few songs. It sounds enough like an acordian that it works well in Louisiana styles of music. A fun time tonight. Jared "Buckey" Morvant sat in on Funky Jambalaya- brought the funk.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

India Trip Part 2 - Guitar Center Worship, You Are There

Almost as rare a sightings of big-foot are pictures of me in khakis and dress shoes. Here's a grainy photo of a person in khakis we think is me...
Local woman praying in the church building
- A view of the crowd from the stage
- Hangin' with the local worship leader

Worship was an interesting part of my trip to India. I really didn’t know what to expect concerning leading worship on the other side of the world. First off I was concerned with the language barrier. I was told that less than half of the people where we were going spoke English and that even fewer would be able to read the words to the songs in English on the screens. Secondly, I was concerned about the cultural barriers. I was given a list of songs that I was told to use at the conference. The list was comprised of top 40 worship songs from the last 10 years such as Shout to the Lord, Here I Am to Worship etc. However, I really wondered how much the indigenous people of India were going to connect with these very American/ Western European style songs. I tried imagining how much I would connect with worship songs from India if one of their worship leaders lead worship at my church. I figured it would be awkward at the very least. So I was very sensitive to this when I arrived at the first conference. I was glad to see that there was a local worship band ready to lead some songs at the first conference. I sat in with them on the first couple of songs, which were naturally very Indian sounding. Then it was my turn to lead. I went into “Here I Am to Worship” and I could tell within about 10 seconds that no one was singing along. So by the end of the song I launched into an oldie – “Hallelujah”. “Hallelujah” is one of those words that is the same everywhere I’ve been in the world – one of those transcendent words with which Christians from around the world can connect. Immediately everybody in the room was on the same page with me. In that moment the barriers of culture, language, and worship style dissolved as we set our hearts on Christ together.

Two days later we began our second Alpha conference. I was expecting similar worship challenges. I met with the local worship pastor and asked him to do the first two songs and told him that I would do two songs after him. I assumed the band would be of the same caliber as the previous conference, but there’s always that little bit about assuming things. To my surprise the Indian worship leader just starts singing, leaving the band struggling to find what key he was in. By the end of the second song they were getting close to the same key but everything still sounded pretty crazy. It was time for me to lead my songs and I figure the band would not try to play songs they didn’t know. Well once again I was wrong. They struggled to play along the whole time. I struggled to not pay attention to how dissonant everything sounded, but it was really hard. It was something like trying to lead worship in a Guitar Center (for those of you who have been to a Guitar Center you will know what I’m talking about, for those of you who haven’t imagine a bunch of songs being played on various instruments coming at you from every direction and key and you’ll have a bit of an idea.)

The next day I asked that only the drummer play with me. I really tried to keep things as simple as I could. It was amazing how different things turned out on day two of that conference. Again I went with a couple of very simple songs and an even simpler line up of musicians. As I launched into the chorus of “Hosanna” I began to feel God’s presence fill the room. Everyone was worshipping. We felt God’s peace descend upon us. Though I was thousands of miles from home, I felt at home. Though I was in a foreign country, with a different culture and customs I felt close to these people as if they were my own brothers and sisters. Later that day we invited the people up for prayer. Just about every person in the place came up for prayer. We prayed for mothers who faced persecution from Hindu family members, asthmatics, and those who simply wanted to surrender more completely to God among many other prayer requests. We saw God move in a very powerful way as we prayed with these brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. I come away in awe of the God we serve and how he meets us no matter where in the world we are. I read Psalm 139 at the beginning of my time in India. The words became more and more real to me throughout the trip.


7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 

if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

"Harmonium" - I Stand Corrected

I have been informed by some music instrument aficionados that what I actually picked up in India is a Harmonium (the name did ring a bell and actually sounds cooler than "pump organ" which is really a different thing all together.) Well, after a bit of looking around I confirmed that what I got was in fact a harmonium. I am trying to figure out where I'm going to incorporate it in my next gig. If you're in the area and interested in hearing the harmonium then come out to PJ's this Friday. I also have a couple of worship nights this weekend with Vineyard Music and I am determined to make use of it in worship as well. Here's a helpful link that my friend Dave sent me-

Friday, December 08, 2006

To India and Back

India trip Recap - I just got back from a week and a half in India. I went as part of a team from my church to put on 2 Alpha Course conferences in Southeast India. What a trip! The food was spicy, very spicy, and you eat with your hands. The people were very gracious and hospitable. We were welcomed warmly everywhere we went. I even got to play a little India music and even found an Indian music store where I bought an Indian pump organ (I’m not sure if that's the official name but I'm sure you will here it on my next CD.) The 2 conferences we did went well. We could really sense God among us in our times of worship and prayer with the locals. There was a real openness to God among the people. I was expecting there to be much more resistance but was pleasantly surprised. 
I came back appreciating life much more after what seemed a near death experience of a ride one night - the scariest ride of my life. After the second day of the first conference we headed out for Pondicherry (a coastal town), which was supposed to be a 3 to 4 hour drive. It ended up taking six hours, six very scary hours of dodging craters in the road and oncoming trucks. There were times where we didn't get over 15 miles an hour for 30 minutes at a time because the roads were so bad. I won't complain about New Orleans roads anymore. 
Though I got back yesterday, my luggage is yet to arrive, a long story. Though I loved India and Indian food and culture it was great to get back to the states. We arrived in Washington D. C. on Sunday night. We made it to the hotel in time to get a cheeseburger, a cold one, and catch the Saints clobbering the Cowboys. Ahh, it's good to be home!