Friday, December 31, 2010

New Photos

I've had a few rolls of film sitting by the front door for ages, waiting for me to bring them to fruition. Finally, I took them to the lab, and here are a few of the jewels that emerged. The rest can be found at my Flickr site. I always get a giddy sense of anticipation sending photos to the lab. "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days, you will find it again." Shooting photographs, playing with light, is a treasure hunt in the dark - with film, at least. Perhaps that's part of the draw to film for me. I desire hard-earned satisfaction, full of characteristic minuscule imperfections that I can never quite erase.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Geeky Neighbor Who Loved Me

Years ago, when I rode in my dad's truck listening to Rich Mullins, Sandi Patty, and early Michael W. Smith - who, like Dick Clark and Paula Dean, doesn't age - the radio dial would lean constantly toward 89.1 FM. My dad would drive down curvy East Tennessee roads with his elbow out the window, quietly singing harmony to familiar tunes tinnily buzzing out of the speakers of a white Dodge pickup. I myself learned to sing harmony to that stuff, my fake, peer-induced attempts at liking Nirvana notwithstanding. The station went through changes over the years, changing their target demographic from the middle-aged single to the Starbucks-fueled soccer mom, but resolutely keeping ties with all digital content that came pouring out of Nashville's recording studios. Eventually, of course, they realized that Soccer Mom's Soccer Kids like music too, and they began the occasional tangent into DC Talk and other offerings of Forefront Records.

This was my musical tour through middle school, my aural window to a world larger than Halls Crossroads.

Then came our falling out. 89.1, Love89, plowed onward with its target listener pleased as punch, and I heard "Vitalogy," "The Wall," "Zoso," and other gems from my aunt's collection. I spent my high school years with a foot in each world, loving bands like Jars of Clay and Caedmon's Call who made decidedly engaging art. Then, after years of impolite snickers on my part, the geeky neighbor, who I'd long written off, extended his hand across the fence to me.

I was a singer/songwriter with vague dreams of playing great songs for attentive crowds. I shunned anything kept ties with all of that trite and pigeonholing nonsense. My first record was made up of a bunch of one-takes sitting in front of a microphone at my parents' church. I'd been listening to the Counting Crows and anything I could find that was acoustic and depressing - ergo, the sound of said record, but Love89 accepted it. A guy called Kris Love had started a new program called the Detour, playing local folks, many of them friends of mine. He played embarrassingly terrible cuts from my record and found speeches full of kind words to say about them. Then I made another record, better and with only one or two embarrassments, and Kris played that one as well. Not being a soccer mom, I still thought the main format of the radio station was a trifle geeky, but I had to admit that anyone who would play my record (and say it was not only good, but worthwhile) had my attention.

My geeky neighbor (If Love89 could speak, would they call me, "My pretentiously esoteric neighbor who fancies himself a pillar of the intelligentsia?") and I had since waved to each other over the fence more often. I've even whispered quiet words of admiration over the station. Yet today, I awake to find that it shall all pass away soon.

Love89 has been sold, the DJs will lose their jobs, and the format will be replaced by a syndicated Christian radio source out of Los Angeles or someplace. I watched a news report summing up the story, and a woman lamented that the local flavor would be gone, but "at least there will still be Christian radio." This caused an amount of ranting on the part of me, the pretentiously esoteric pillar of the intelligentsia, until my graceful wife told me to put down the telephone and the flame-thrower and rethink my principles. I shall miss my neighbor, who championed my music and the music of my friends, passing it along with words of encouragement and praise to people who otherwise would never have paid attention. It is my hope that someone or something else will arise to do the work that was done by the DJs and programmers of that station. Keep the old radio warm and close; good music needs a home.

Listen up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Behold the Lamb of God

Most people have something which they define as "My Christmas," sounding vaguely like some kind of cute, frothy computer application (My Pictures, My Hard Drive, My Collection of Nosehairs, etc.). A decade ago, I stood in New City Cafe at 116 South Central and gave Andrew Peterson a geeky grin as he handed me a copy of his new record "Behold the Lamb of God." Since that time, it has been the cohering variation of my Christmas, leading me annually back to that theme from which all variations spring, Christ himself. This year, I've had the honor to participate in a hometown production of the song cycle, in a grand telling of the Story. For the past several months, I met with Greg Adkins and Bill Wolf, a couple of local Creative Arts pastors that I'm delighted to call my friends, to plan rehearsals, draft willing participants, and stand on a pair of stages in a whirlwind of a musical narrative of the Advent of Christ. I hesitate to call it a show, a performance, or even something that we did, even though there was an undeniable element of labor. It is more something for which we strove, and which we found, to our joyous surprise, had surrounded us all along. It was more than the sum of its parts.

Here is a taste of our Sunday morning, an offered handful of vignettes. Enjoy.

(from Greg Adkins' blog...)
Here is the complete list of musicians and singers in alphabetical order:

Adam Adkins - shakers, tamborines, congas, djembe, percussion
Greg Adkins - piano, organ, acoustic guitar, hammered dulcimer, vocals
Kevin Bower - vocals
Chad Covert - drums
Craig Covert - vocals
Burt Elmore - electric guitars, mandolin
Angela Hemrick - vocals
Robyn James - viola
Sarah McAffry - vocals
Grayson Mynatt - violin
Matthew Nelson - electric bass, upright bass
Patricia Peacock - cello
Nathan Sharpe - acoustic guitar, vocals, washboard
Andy Vandergriff - vocals
Mandy Watson - vocals
Adam Whipple - acoustic guitar, piano, organ, penny whistle, lap steel, accordion, vocals
Bill Wolf - acoustic guitar, banjo, accordion, vocals

(from me...)
Also, Kenny Woodhull and Mark Nelson emceed respective Sunday mornings for us. It is truly beyond words to describe what an honor this was. Thanks to Greg and Bill for making this happen in community and for having vision. Thanks to everyone who sang, strummed, stomped, drummed, bowed, hummed, and walloped. And certainly, thanks to everyone who listened and participated in the Telling of the Story with us. Merry Christmas unto you. The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.