Posts Tagged ‘songs’

Gratitude (Woven And Spun Album Version)

I’ve long loved Nichole Nordeman’s music – I named my first blog after a lyric from her song “Healed.” And this song is one of my very favorites. I carry its lyrics in my heart. Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving.

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You may have noticed I’ve been missing home this winter. The weather, the distance, the long months of unemployment followed by the transition to a new job – all have had me missing the familiarity of Abilene. Which is perhaps why two songs on the subject have lodged in my heart and stayed there.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes have been everywhere recently with their folk hit, “Home.” Just watch this beautiful video of a dad and his little daughter singing it and tell me you aren’t sold:

Closer to (my) home, a college acquaintance of mine (Brandon Kinder, who also sings lead for the Rocketboys) recently released an EP, and as a sneak peek, released the music video for a song also called “Home”:

Two lines in these songs, one from each, get me every time. The first, sung repeatedly among all that whistling, is “Home is wherever I’m with you.” I am lucky, I know, to have people in Boston with whom I feel at home – most notably my sweet husband, and our fellow Abilene transplants. (I’ve talked so much about them because I have, literally, clung to them – they are not only kind and funny and wise, but they represent that familiarity I miss.) And I/we have made new friends with whom we also feel at home, and in whose presence we can relax, open up, laugh, cry, be known.

The other line, from Brandon’s song, hits me with more poignancy: “You’re never gonna be that far away from home.” I know in my bones it’s true, in important ways – home is something you carry with you; home is people, not always a place (see above); those people I love in Texas/Nashville/Oxford/all over the place are still home to me, and we’re not that far away, in the grand scheme of things.

But there have been so many times this winter when it hasn’t felt true. When it has felt like we’re a million miles from Abilene and our families and the life we used to have. When I have wondered if Boston will ever feel like home, and if we’ll ever get back home, to wide sunset skies and Tex-Mex food and Friday nights filled with high school football.

I still don’t know the answers to those questions – though I have a suspicion Boston will eventually begin to feel like home. Until then, I’ll be holding both these songs close, thankful for the people who make that Edward Sharpe lyric true for me. And trying with all my heart to believe Brandon’s words…to trust that home is often so much closer than I think it is.

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I always find myself craving a certain kind of music in January: one that evokes firelight and starlight, crisp blue twilights, soft snow. I’m always a little sad to let go of Christmas music and I’m not ready for anything revved-up or summer-carefree. So here are a few albums and songs I’m playing over and over, to ease me into this year that is both about comfort and bravery.

1. Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong is technically a Christmas album, but includes several “winter songs,” and oh, they are gorgeous. And so is her voice. I adore her rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “River” and her soft version of “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

2. Oren Lavie’s “Her Morning Elegance” seems like the perfect song to start a new year – inspiring, elusive and fun. (The rest of the CD tends to make me sad, though…so melancholy.)

3. Grace Pettis’ self-titled album is a favorite all year long, but these days I’m reaching for the quiet, meditative songs – “Turning Too,” “Speak Tenderly,” “Long Sleep.”

4. I love Nichole Nordeman all year long, but I especially love “Every Season” in the dead of winter. It celebrates each season and gives me hope for spring.

5. The Pride and Prejudice (2005) soundtrack is perfect for quiet afternoons at home, working or tidying or writing or just being.

6. Dave Madden‘s songs make me want to be a better person. (I’ve always been a sucker for guitar players with rough-edged voices and dark, soulful eyes.) Favorites include “Dirty Feet,” “The New New Testament” and “This is Love.”

What are you listening to lately?

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As Much for Me

I’ve recently rediscovered Ross King, for one reason and another (I think he was probably on the “good list” mentioned in the previous post), and have been SO annoyed at myself for not uploading more of his CDs to my iTunes before I left the country. (I have five of them at home, and only one – Something by Sunrise – on my machine. Why?!?) But now that he’s on the brain again, the lyrics to his songs have been running through my head. Here are the words to one from the album Big Quiet Truth:

As Much for Me

As much for me as for the murderers and thieves who kill and steal without remorse
And for the ones who claim convenience and shrug and choose abortion and divorce
As much for me as for the hypocrites who preach the Word of God and fool the weak
And for the self-proclaimed messiahs who mislead the lost with every word they speak

Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they have done
Where they deserve to go
And me, I sit here and consider this
As if the truth did not apply to me at all

But grace is as much for me as for anyone
Just look at all I’ve done
I praise You for Calvary
Where You took away my sin, just like every one of them
So how could I condemn
How could I condemn?

As much for me as for the racist ones who justify a philosophy of hate
And for the poor unknowing worshipers of idols that will only pass away
As much for me as for the husbands who are violent and unfaithful to their wives
And for the plague-infected ones who die too soon because they choose to roll the dice

Somehow I’ve made myself believe that when You look down on me
You see something better than You see in them
My lust and greed and pride and selfish way of living
Are the hammer and the nails that took Your life

But grace is as much for me as for anyone
Just look at all I’ve done
I praise You for Calvary
Where You took away my sin, just like every one of them
So how could I condemn
How could I condemn?

Grace is not just for me
It’s for everyone – no matter what they’ve done
I praise You for Calvary
Where You took away my sin, just like every one of them
So how could I condemn
How could I condemn?

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Having finished one and a half more books (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and If Today Be Sweet by Thrity Umrigar), co-hosted a garage sale, done copious amounts of laundry (thanks to Jodi’s generosity), attended a dinner hosted by Scott at Cole’s house (which was ever so much fun), sent tons of emails, and put in several days at work – all since I last posted – I’m taking off.

I’m going to Nashville tomorrow to visit my sweet Bethany, to hang out in her lovely apartment and go to her knitting shop and meet some of her friends and explore Nashville while she has to work. And talk for hours and hours with her (we never run out of things to say), and perhaps get to see Laura G and some of my Oxford girls. This has definite potential to be a fabulous, long, lazy girlie weekend (though I will miss my J and be glad to get back to Abilene). However, right now I’m getting excited! See y’all in a few days!

*title from “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson – though my favorite rendition comes from the donkey in Shrek

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bleak midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
A breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him? Give my heart.

This carol has been on my mind for the past two days. We sang it last December in our Christmas concert, and its quiet, haunting melody has stayed with me. The words were written by Christina Rossetti, one of my favourite poets, in 1872 as a response to a Scribner’s Magazine request for a Christmas poem. They were later set to the tune “Cranham” by Gustav Holst, whose “First Suite in E Flat” was one of my favourite pieces from my high school band days. (We played it in London when we went for the millenium, and there are some beautiful, soaring flute parts.) So even its origins have special meaning for me.

It is bleak midwinter today in Abilene – and about to get bleaker, when a frosty cold front blows through tonight. But it’s also coming on Christmas – December starts Friday, Advent begins Sunday, and the Christmas shopping season has already begun. I love, love, love popular Christmas music – both church songs and fun holiday ditties like Rudolph and Frosty and “Winter Wonderland.” But there are also a few obscure songs that have worked their way into my heart over the years, and this is one of them. You can hear an instrumental recording on its Cyberhymnal page here. Enjoy, and merry pre-Christmas.

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I have to brag on Cole. Or just give him a massive shout out. After spending last Friday evening listening to JamisonPriest play their charming folk songs at Mezamiz Deux, I bought their latest CD, Dreams I’ll Never Know. And I am hooked. I can’t stop listening. In fact, it’s playing right now as I write this blog entry. If you don’t own it, you should contact Cole about obtaining a copy. Right now.

I’m a fan of mellow guitar and gentle, lilting “ramblin'” songs (Jenni’s favorites) as well as tender love ballads and rollicking tunes that tell stories or are just fun. I love the thunder in the chords of “Weatherman” (the first song on the CD) and the rich, sometimes unexpected harmonies of Cole’s and Jenni’s and Ed’s voices. But what really grabs me about these songs are the lyrics. I’m a words person, so naturally, the words in songs mean a lot to me. And three of the songs on this CD that have absolutely grabbed my heart were written by our friend Cole.

I first heard “Lost Generation (The New London Song)” in a Honolulu living room last summer…the other side of Scott’s duplex, where we girls were staying. Cole brought out his guitar and played it for us, and Krissi and I sat there sniffling as she recorded it on video. She’s from Overton, not far from New London, and the rest of us – Karen, Laura and I – were struck by the quiet tragedy of the story. The line “Today all the playgrounds lie cold in the sun” still gives me chills.

“Small Town Sara” may soon be the subject of an article…I CANNOT stop listening to this song. It’s about a waitress who dreams of the big city, but spends her days serving plate-lunch specials and iced tea and smiling at her customers. I’ve worked in a small-town coffee house, so I identify strongly with Sara. Granted, the Ground Floor was a summer/holiday job, and I always knew I was going to leave it one day. But I was once the girl who “poured her soul in every empty cup” and had customers who “loved me like their own.” And even while I pursue another path, I miss that life. I loved it. And it loved me back.

Finally, “Infamy” is the story of a woman who lost her husband at Pearl Harbor, and it’s heartbreaking, but beautiful. She keeps a pair of unworn Mary Janes in her closet, as if waiting for her husband to come back and take her dancing to “the big band and the horn.” Even her turn signal is “blinking jump-swing time” as she thinks about him. It’s gorgeous. Makes me remember walking around above the sunken Arizona at Pearl Harbor. (To which, bless him, Cole actually took me, on my last day in Honolulu. Thanks, Cole.)

You can read the full lyrics at www.jamisonpriest.com. But you should really get a copy of the CD. The words are lovely by themselves, but with the music, they’re pure magic.

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The strains of “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera are running through my head… I just got back from a musical theatre recital, and it was brilliant. And I’m thinking again about a conversation I had over Spring Break, with Janine and Jacque and Ron and Cole, as we walked through Port Meadow in the biting wind, to the Trout Inn for tea. We were all bundled in multiple layers, coats and scarves, and Jacque even had her pink-flowered “wellies” on. Cole was wearing his red toboggan and looking stylishly teenagerish. 🙂 Anyway, Janine started a discussion about the music of our lives, and what songs would be on the soundtrack of our lives. So here’s mine…a short list of songs that have had a deep, profound and/or long-lasting presence in my life (NOT in chronological or any kind of order)…

-“Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole – a wonderful piece of music, and a very special song for my dad and me

-“The Prayer” – lots of musicians have recorded this duet, but the Charlotte Church/Josh Groban version is my favourite. Tori and I used to ride around in her car and belt it out (she was Charlotte; I was Josh). The lyrics are gorgeous, and I looove the instrumentation.

-“Air for Band” is a little-known instrumental piece that was the anthem for Midland High Band. It’s short, sweet and somehow poignant; the warm clarinet harmonies choke me up every time.

-“Seasons of Love” is the key song from the musical Rent, and has been one of my faves for years. I remember Jon pulling me aside at Kate’s fifteenth birthday party, saying, “You have to hear this song.” We went into her room and he played it for me on the stereo. I was captivated. And last semester at a House 9 party, I wound up standing shoulder to shoulder with a half-dozen of my best friends, singing it with all my heart. Good times.

-“Superman” by Five For Fighting – captures the end of high school, with all its fear and promise. Only Jon, my best friend, knows how much this song means. I’ll always think of him when I hear it.

-I can’t pick one song by George Strait, but if I had to, I’d probably pick “I Cross My Heart” – that’s one of my parents’ songs – or “Ocean Front Property” or “Heartland.” One of the old ones. Those songs conjure up memories of LONG car trips to Ohio when I was a kid…we rotated our half-dozen George Strait cassettes in the car stereo, and Betsy and I knew every word. (We still do!)

-“In the Mood” – from high school football games to Swing Cats sessions to dancing in my living room, it’s my fave jazz piece EVER.

-“Brighter Than You Know” by Ross King – my introduction to a musician I have since come to love, who writes honest, thought-provoking songs that have room for faith and doubt. Adam played this for me one night in the Barnes & Noble parking lot, when I was really down about my life…I remember crying on his shoulder as it played. And since then it has kept coming back to encourage me.

-“The Sign” by Ace of Base – memories of sixth grade and sleepover nights with my friend Stephanie. Staying up late, talking about boys, painting our nails outrageous colors and watching Clueless way too many times…

-I can’t pick one Barry Manilow song either, but if I had to it would be “I Write the Songs.” Or “Mandy” or even “Copacabana”… 🙂

-“I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack – the basis for my high school graduation speech and, in a sense, my life. At least, I hope so. I’m trying to live that way.

-“Hallelujah to the Lamb” – a choral piece that for several years was the finale to our church’s Easter Passion Play. Standing up there with the choir, dressed in first-century Jewish costume, and singing at the top of my lungs about our risen Savior is still one of the high moments of my life.

-“The Sound of Music,” from my favourite musical ever – the one that got me hooked on Julie Andrews, Austria, and musical theatre. New Year’s Day 1993…my dad’s favourite movie and mine too. Thanks, Dad.

-“Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley – from one of the tapes we listen to EVERY year while putting up the tree. My dad didn’t know the words – for years it was “Let the red raindrops fall on a green Christmas tree” and “I’m here without you, and you’re not here with me.” (Makes logical sense, right?)

-“Salvation Belongs to Our God,” sung a cappella with Jamie in the courtyard of a sixth-century abbey in Whitby, England. Since then it has become one of my anthems, and it’s special to Charity and me, too.

-“Blessed Be Your Name” – I first heard it at St. Aldate’s, and fell in love with it on the spot. When my life fell apart that summer, and for the entire next year when I had no answers, this song got me through some rough times. Highland has picked it up almost as an anthem since last January’s wreck, and we have sung it through tears and through joy.

Anyone else? What’s on the soundtrack of your life?

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As mentioned a few weeks ago, Tolkien’s love for songs and poetry runs throughout his stories. Here is a song sung by Aragorn as he approaches Edoras with Legolas, Gandalf and Gimli:

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?

Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?

Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?

Where is the spring and the harvest, and the tall corn growing?

They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;

The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.

Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,

Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

Some sad, ethereal power sings its way through these lines…I can’t explain why they touch me, but they do. Tolkien has a gift for making the reader look far back into history, even a history we don’t know, and calling us to remember its glory. The songs in the books always idealize the past, and speak of the present as rather a dark time. Even so, the “present” (i.e. the Third Age of Middle-earth, the time of the Fellowship’s quest) is also a time when great deeds are done. The past acts as a perfect prelude to the present, setting up a grand plan that will be fulfilled in this time. For example, Aragorn’s heritage as a descendant of Numenor makes him the perfect one to defeat the Dark Armies and claim the throne of Gondor. The long enmity between the Dwarves and Elves, and the urgency of the present time, makes the friendship of Legolas and Gimli particularly poignant. Gandalf’s long history in Middle-earth has given him invaluable knowledge of the creatures, the land and the races of people, which he must use in this, his last and greatest task. Like Esther in the palace of Susa, all the members of the Fellowship and even their dark counterparts have been prepared “for such a time as this.”

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Tolkien inserts multiple verses and songs, some simple and cheerful, some sad and beautiful, that recall the rich oral traditions of ancient peoples. Currently, rhyming poetry is very much out of fashion, but these simple lines still hold magic for us. Here is the song both Bilbo and Frodo sing as they set out on the Road:

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.

Even those of us with a deep love for home occasionally catch a longing to wander, to go far afield on some adventure or quest. Bilbo’s flight is voluntary while Frodo’s is rather forced, but both of them feel the allure of the Road and its call to all who will wander. Just this week, our Oxford community had a dialogue about the fact that we, as mortals and as Christians, are pilgrims: this world is not our permanent home. We are all destined for eternity. Therefore we can never, and should never, be fully satisfied with where we are: something in us will always be hungering to move on, to go ahead to the next part of the adventure. The old paths can sometimes seem “too well-trodden,” and our feet want to break new ground.

Frodo wondered what was in the “white space” he saw at the edges of maps of the Shire. Exploring the white space can be “a dangerous business,” as Bilbo warned, but it is also exciting and an essential part of the journey of life. All of us in Oxford certainly wandered far from home this semester. A frightening step, yes, but an exciting one, and we are already witnessing the growth that comes from daring to step out in faith.

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