Monday, August 1, 2011

We are here, We are here

During the latter half of the 1990's Christian Music was about to come full circle. Though most of the "pop" music of the Jesus Music era would be classified as Folk (or even Folk Rock) by today's standards, beginning with the 80's, CCM focused on the emerging Rock genre, purging Folk from its repertoire. The biggest "folk star" of the early CCM era was Amy Grant. In the beginning it was One Girl and her guitar playing "My Father's Eyes". As the industry changed, Amy became the first bonafide Pop-Rock Star that CCM had. Except for the Messianic Music sub genre (Lamb), folk was dead.

Frail Jars from Kansas Revive Folk

Jars Of ClayThe resurrection began in 1995 with the release of "frail", the debut release by Jars of Clay. (#22 on CCM Magazine's 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music) "Was it an acoustic based alternative band or a cleverly disguised folk act?" they asked. The answer was folk, but then it alternative, and now, with the release of The Shelter (2010), it's folk again.

Caedmon's Call1997 saw two radically different sounds take over folk music. First out of the gate was Christian music's original junkyard band, Caedmon's Call and their self-titled release. (I don't think they ever played old bottles or metal garbage cans, but I don't think they wouldn't have tried them). The year ended with the Amy Grant's "girl with a guitar" mantle being passed to a girl from Kansas named Jennifer Knapp. Kansas (1997) (#80 on the CCM list) was full ahead folk-rock. Though she would later be more rock than folk, and she would later be disowned by the CCM industry at large for personal issues, three of her four albums would make my greatest album list: Kansas, The Way I Am (2001) and Letting Go (2010) Which won the First Ever Platinum Vinyl Award Best Folk Rock Album, and also garnered Jennifer the Comeback Artist of the Year Award as well as the Night Beat Fallen Award. I Would encourage you all to visit my Platinum Vinyl Award Homepage for the complete list of winners and the description of the various awards. Though not marketed to the CCM industry as a "Christian Album", there is nothing objectionable in Letting Go. And, as in other Christian matters, count me as one of the "Once saved always saved" crowd, with one caveat. If you intentionally renounce Jesus, you are doomed. Unless you do that, you're still saved. I never read that Jen renounced Jesus, so she's still in the kingdom.

Basic Instructions for Musical Domination

Basic InstructionsBasic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (that's BIBLE f.y.i) took over the airwaves the following year and the phenomenon known as Burlap to Cashmere took the throne. 1998's Anybody Out There? was a fusion of Greek-Mediterranean-Middle Eastern influences with Folk Rock. Founders Steven Delopoulos and John Philippidis influences are most evident on the opening track entitled Digee Dime, as well as Basic Instructions, Divorce, and the martial-sounding Scenes. Then, almost as quickly as they rose to the top, they vanished.

Orchestrated Love SongFast forward thirteen years. Christian Music is experiencing a period of reunion. (I would say renewal but that sounds a bit too ecumenical). Bands (or artists) who either through an official disbandment or just a long period of inactivity have disappeared from the public consciousness have orchestrated their comebacks. It is no surprise that BTC are among the returnees. Their self titled release, which came out July 19, is like a cool drink of water to a thirsty soul. Though more standard folk rock, with even some Jars like influences, the Greek sound can still be heard in cuts like Build a Wall, Orchestrated Love Song, and Santorini.

After repeated listening, I have to say this is one of the best folk albums of 2011. Where I thought that The Civil Wars would be runaway winners this year, I am not so sure now. I am giving Burlap to Cashmere a just short of perfect 4.75 Emeralds. Welcome Back Burlap to Cashmere, and, until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.