“There's nothing worthless about being wordless, it will only save your mouth from talking gibberish.” —Michael Bassey Johnson “Good morning, maestra. How are you?” “I’m well, how are you?” “I am good . . . thank you.” Her English is halting and deeply sincere. We look into each other’s eyes for a brief moment, both of us willing to say more---if only we spoke the same language. We are building a bridge as the weeks pass, but our work doesn’t seem like progress. She learns my language more quickly than I learn hers---that is, after all, why we meet. She wants to learn English; I can speak it. She is one of a handful of adult students from Mexico, China, and Vietnam. We sit together for an hour every morning, enter into the same rhythm: I read, they repeat, I annunciate, they repeat. They strain to wrap their lips around the contours of this strange language, but their tongues refuse reform. Their accents add intricate flourishes to words that would otherwise escape my notice.
Mixing begins this week on the forthcoming album from Ron Block and Jeff Taylor. The album features 10 original hymn-style songs and lyrics from Rebecca Reynolds. In addition, vocalists Suzanne Cox, Julie Lee, Ellie Holcomb, Skye Peterson, and several others contribute alongside fine musicians like Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Luke Bulla (fiddle), Sierra Hull (mando), and John Mock (bodhran). Tomorrow night at 8:00 CST, Andrew Peterson and his family are putting on their first-ever AP and the Family Band show, live and online via StageIt. The show will feature Skye Peterson on piano, Asher Peterson on percussion, Aedan Peterson on guitar, and Jamie Peterson on BGVs. They've been rehearsing hard all week, and are nervously excited. Click here for details. Andrew Osenga is released his Heart EP to the masses last Tuesday (available here). Details are forthcoming on a Stageit show to highlight the new songs (and more). A new Rain for Roots project is releasing tomorrow, April 8, entitled The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like This. Rain for Roots is a collective that features Sandra McCracken, Flo Paris, Katy Bowser, and Ellie Holcomb (among others) with the intent of making scripture songs for children. If you missed the first Rain for Roots album, Big Stories for Little Ones, check out Randall Goodgame's review here. Waterdeep has already met their Kickstarter goal for a double album, which speaks to the thirst for new music from Don and Lori Chaffer. Make sure to check out the hilarious video and then sign up for one of several great exclusives available. And finally, there's only a few hours left in Kelly Rae Burton's Kickstarter campaign. Ben Shive is producing and he's really excited about the project. Read more about Ben's involvement and listen to an unfinished track here.
The biggest news this week was the more or less instant sell-out of Hutchmoot 2014 tickets. Once again, we wish there was room for everyone who wants to come, but it just isn't so. For those who snatched up a golden ticket, we'll see you in October. For those who weren't so lucky, you're welcome to shoot me an email at email@example.com and I'll add your name to the waiting list---and neither is that an empty hope; each year we've gone all the way through the waiting list trying to fill last minute vacancies. Here's what else has been going on lately: Eric Peters recently sat down with Barry Dunlap of the Twelve-Minute Muse to discuss music (including his new EP, Counting My Rings), books (including the Book Mole), painting, metaphor, inspiration, and a whole passel of other things (including LSU football). If you've got 12 minutes (or so) to spare, check it out here, or just hit play below. Allow me to make a confession. I've never heard any of Gungor's music. Chris Yokel has, though, and his post last week about their new film, Let There Be, sounds fascinating. I suppose I'm going to have to get out of the old folks' home and go listen to some of that new music. We'll see. Where's my cane? The cat-maligning Sam Smith poked his head out of the Story Warren with a few words of wisdom about introverts and . . . Star Trek. Can a bizarre Patrick Stewart meme be far behind? All joking aside, it's a great post. Sam never ceases to amaze me with his ability to shine light on things and speak with gentle wisdom. If only he'd stop hiding all that good stuff behind his raging cat-hatred. Ben Shive is working on lots of new projects these days, and one of them is a record from a young artist you probably haven't heard of, Kelly Burton (check out her Kickstarter campaign here). I've had the pleasure of hearing Ben and Kelly working in the next room, and I'm really looking forward to the finished album. Ben wrote a great article this week about the processing of co-writing. If you're a songwriter, or really an artist of any sort, and you've found yourself in the sometimes-awkward position of collaborator, this is definitely worth your time. Good stuff. Check out the link to listen to a rough cut of one of the tracks Ben co-wrote for Kelly's record. In cooperation with Rabbit Room Press, Jonathan Rogers has finally put his long out-of-print Wilderking Trilogy back into readers' hands. The books look great and you can order them in the Rabbit Room store, or anywhere else great books are sold. In commemoration of the release, Andrew Peterson wrote a post this week about his introduction to Jonathan and his work. Read it here. David Michael Bruno dropped in with a post called "Good Middle," which happens to be great from beginning to end. He writes about relationships, both between each of us and between us and God, and illustrates the importance of making sure "there's some good middle happening." Strangely, the subject of jelly donuts is not addressed. Confused? Don't be. Read his post. And last, but definitely most, Andrew Osenga gave birth to a new EP this week. Heart is the first of his four-EP project, Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone. He wrote up a song-by-song analysis of the record for us and you can read it here, along with previews of each track. Good stuff. Thanks, Andy.
[Editor's note: Andy Osenga's new EP, Heart, is now available. Here's Andy with a song-by-song breakdown of the record. Enjoy.] "No Heart Beats Alone" My friend Russ Ramsey had open heart surgery this past year (you may have read about it here). He was telling me about all he was learning about the heart and how it works and said he asked the doctor if it was hard to get the heart beating again once you stopped it. The doctor replied, "No, it's hard to get it to stop. It starts right up. The heart is made to beat. It wants to beat." How powerful. Two heart cells floating in a petri dish will, Russ told me, find each other and begin beating in time. No heart can beat alone. The guitar at the end is my Les Paul, through my new Tyler JT45, on some stage in some church somewhere between soundcheck and the show. [audio:1_Heart_clips.mp3]
Between any person and any other person is the middle. What happens in the middle makes a significant difference. For not one of us ever experiences another person without first passing---physically, emotionally, spiritually---through the middle. Picture the middle by looking over this simple illustration:
Any other personThink for a moment about all that happens in the middle. Take a simple relationship, a husband and wife. Consider everything between them. They see each other, hear each other, touch each other---bodies are in the middle. Usually they are wearing clothes---fashion is in the middle. Usually they are somewhere---a house and parks and all manner of created spaces are in the middle. He was the first child of three and she was an only child---all the experiences of their families of origin are in the middle. She speaks English and so does he---language is in the middle. But she is from New England and he is from the Pacific Northwest---cosmopolitanism and hipster culture are in the middle. She grew up Catholic and he grew up Baptist though now they attend a Presbyterian church---religious expression is in the middle.
Andy Osenga kickstarted a project to record four EPs this year. He called the project Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone, and each EP is to feature a different style of music. Today marks the public release of the first of those EPs, Heart. What style is it? Heart. Okay, that's not so helpful. How about we say it's very much in the style of my favorite of his solo records, Photographs. Those of us who kickstarted the project have been listening to the new EP (and loving it) for a couple of weeks. Now let the rest of the masses join in. The EP is now available in the Rabbit Room store. Here's a sneak preview. "Out of Town" by Andrew Osenga [audio:OutofTown.mp3] Later this week we'll have a song by song breakdown of the record straight from the horse's mouth.
Today is the official release of the new edition of Jonathan Rogers's The Wilderking Trilogy. I wanted to write a few words to commemorate not just one of the best writers around, but a good friend. Come with me, if you will, to Belmont University in the year 2005. Belmont hosted a C. S. Lewis conference called Past Watchful Dragons, which I attended for a number of reasons, none of which yielded anything nearly as impacting as my chance introduction to the Good Doctor Rogers. I had just released my fifth album, The Far Country, and because of the Lewis/Tolkien influence on those songs, I thought the conference might be a good opportunity to sneak my CDs into the gift bags of the attendees. (That album was released independently, so any crazy marketing ideas were carried out by yours truly.) Towards the end of the conference Douglas Gresham (Lewis's stepson) was signing autographs and I decided to wait in line and give him a copy of the record. After that extremely awkward interaction I saw another dude standing around. He leaned against the wall in a way that made me think he was much more smarter than I be. As I recall, he had under one arm a box of leftover Wilderking books which his publisher had also included in the gift bags; I was carrying a box of leftover CDs, expecting at any moment to be ejected from the premises. I remembered seeing The Bark of the Bog Owl on a display at the local Walmart, so when I saw his name tag I introduced myself and told him so. He was doubtful that the books had ever had such prestigious placement. What I didn't tell Jonathan was that when I first saw his books I was a little jealous that he had beaten me to the punch. At the time I had been working on The Wingfeather Saga for a few years and had yet to find a publisher. Here was another Christian writing fantasy aimed at children---so I decided to finagle my way into his inner circle and thwart him. (It hasn't worked. He just keeps writing awesome books.)
"Something You Choose" (unfinished) by Kelly Burton and Ben Shive [audio:SomethingYouChoose.mp3] The Lord must want me to start co-writing. It keeps coming up. Before January of this year, I had avoided co-writing like the plague. Why? I guess I've always been a bit cynical about the outcome and even more cynical about the process. In my view, the difference between the process of writing by myself and that of co-writing has always looked something like this: when I write for myself I attempt to come up with the words that will most delight me; in a co-write I try to come up with the words that I hope will least offend what I perceive to be my partner's sensibility. Sound like fun? But I don't feel that way anymore. I don't know what happened. My distaste for it simply vanished. It might be that I wrote two records by myself. And yes, I was trying to prove something. But what I ended up proving (NOT my intent) was that it's lonely when you don't have anyone with whom to share your victory, or worse, your defeat. Or---Lord I pray it's true---it might be that I'm in the foothills right on the border of that lovely country called Over Myself. If I am approaching that fair land, let's be very clear that God brought me to the verge of this country and on the way I got dysentery and my wagon caught fire---both clearly my fault. I can think of two modes by which God would have brought me safe thus far. One would be the aforementioned two albums' worth of trying to be Brian Wilson's heir-apparent only to find out that was a dumb dream. Don't argue. The other would be ten years' worth of producing, every day of which I've had to make the decision of whether to appease my unholy ego or to render the best service I can to my artists.
Update: Today's batch of tickets are sold out. The remaining 70 tickets will be available tomorrow at noon EST. All right, folks. Here's the plan for Hutchmoot tickets this year. We discussed a lot of options for how best to handle sales in a way that would give everyone a fair shot at a ticket. Every solution came with its own set of drawbacks and limitations. There's really no simple fix. So here what we've decided to do: Half the tickets for Hutchmoot 2014 will go on sale Monday, March 31st, at noon EST. If you miss out on getting one of those first 70, the second half will go on sale the following day, April 1st, at noon. When they're gone, they're gone. The price of a ticket is $295 (plus merchant fees), and please remember that tickets are non-refundable. Here's the link to the ticketing page at iTickets. We'll see you in October!
West Virginia is a little state with a big chip on its shoulder. I know, I’m a proud Mountaineer. We are likely to strike out in anger for many possibly slights, one being those delightful occasions when people express ignorance of our very existence. No, we are not part of Virginia. There was this little war between the states. You might have heard of it. Does the Civil War ring a bell? No, I don’t live near Richmond. That’s another state. In fact, we just celebrated 150 years of being our very own state. We get mad and hurt and complain, “Why can’t they get it right? How can people be so stupid as to not know about us?” But there’s another possible take on these infuriating occurrences.