Christian Artists To Know: Cool Hand Luke

Cool Hand Luke
Genre: Rock
Sub-genres: Progressive, Atmospheric Rock, Experimental
Location: Nashville, TN
Label: Lujo Records
Christian label: no
Category: The Spiritual whats this?

Hush, little boy, don’t say a word
Don’t you know Daddy’s got this one?
Hey, little boy, bury your sword
Jesus already won this war

The chorus of the opening song, “Heroes Will Be Heroes”, off of Cool Hand Luke‘s 2003 CD Wake Up O Sleeper immediately sets up listeners for the band’s message.  Surrender.  With deeply introspective lyrics, soaring atmospheric guitars, and the broken whisper of frontman, Mark Nickes, Cool Hand Luke has evolved from their early screamo days to become a unique and progressive voice in Christian art rock.  Since the release of Wake Up O Sleeper, the band has focused their sound, and crafted an identity that is theirs only. On the surface, Cool Hand Luke is a mellow indie rock band. However, to listen deeper not only reveals strong rock elements, along with heavy percussion and experimentation, but also very intense and personal lyrics crafted by Nickes.  Comparisons to Radiohead prior to the Kid A electronic phase are valid.  Like Radiohead, Cool Hand Luke is able to make what would seem boring at most times interesting and doesn’t allow the listener to turn away.

The follow up to O Sleeper was the band’s most experimental stage of their career with The Fires Of Life.  Bigger song progressions, more instruments, and hints of electronic back beats made songs like “Cinematic”, and “I’m Not Running” instant classics. The band toured relentlessly for almost two years on the album, gaining new fans and critic appreciation across the US.

Then it all stopped.  By 2004, Cool Hand Luke had completely dropped off the face of the planet. Most of the members were working on other projects, including Nickes drumming for art-chaos band The Chariot.  For fans, this unannounced hiatus was long and saddening. In 2006, the band returned with an altered line-up, a “best of” CD (mainly to fulfill their contractual obligations to Floodgate Records), and new direction. In 2008, the now three-piece band released The Sleeping House through Lujo Records. The CD saw Cool Hand Luke enter yet a new area by exploring a more progressive and straight rock sound, once again displaying the band’s commitment to true artistic expansion.

The core of Cool Hand Luke though, is the intimate and personal lyrics that exist in all of the band’s songs. Songs of brokenness, prayer, redemption, joy, and as stated before, surrender make up Cool Hand Luke‘s vast song library.  One of these songs is “One Time” from Wake Up O Sleeper, preformed here by Mark and friend Aaron Roche.

Let me tell you what he did for me,
with the weight of my worries tearing my sleeve.
I cried to my father the other night, the end of all hope.
“Show me the rope, which way to go”
As I fell asleep, he took away my worries.
He picked me up put me on his shoulders.

I could see for miles.
He showed me that the mountain I’m climbing,
is not a mountain at all,
but a gentle slope leading home.

There are mountains
towering ahead.
He says to me “These are mine.
Hold my hand, you’ll be fine”

I could see for miles.
He showed me that the mountain I’m climbing,
is not a mountain at all,
but a gentle slope leading home.

“The mountains are mine”

We also have to post this incredible video for the band’s song “Wonder Tour” from The Sleeping House. I’m going to let you experience the lyrics for yourself this time.

In 2003, I was tired. I had been at Cornerstone Festival all week, and it was a hot year. I had been going through a lot in my life at the time, a relationship that I had been very happy in had ended the night before I traveled to the festival. I was starting a new school in a few months, and I was struggling with where my life was at the time.  I had three more bands on my list to see, but in the heat of the afternoon on my last day there, all I wanted to do was rest. I wondered into a tent close to my camp site, and just sat down. The band playing was just walking up onto the stage and getting settled.  The background music faded, and a voice came over the mic and said:

“We are Cool Hand Luke, thank you for worshiping with us”

I stayed in that tent for an hour and didn’t move, speak, or even stand up. I let the music surround me and just let myself relax. When I stood up, I felt rejuvenated, happy, and lighter.  I have always remembered what Cool Hand Luke‘s music did to me that day, and for what God did in my heart during their short set. They continue to surprise me and inspire my faith. The new era of the band gives me hope that we will not have to suffer through another dry period, and that we will continue to see how the band will evolve and surprise for years to come.

Cool Hand Luke’s music can be found digitally on Cool Hand Luke

You can also get their CDs on Amazon: Wake Up, O Sleeper(2003), The Fires of Life(2004), The Balancing Act(2007), The Sleeping House(2008)


  1. Chuck says:

    I don’t know if it is cool to comment on my own site, but after watching the Cool Hand Luke videos, I must. Cool Hand Luke is why we started One21music. This band’s music is as vibrant, relevant and cool as any band around today. Couple that with lyrics that are filed with hope in the midst of struggles and I work to make sure that Cool Hand Luke lands on the iPod of every sophisticated music lover in our high schools and colleges.

    Their live shows are magical events.


  1. [...] The Sleeping House Entrancing, heart-breaking, and the return of a great band in indie rock. Where Cool Hand Luke’s last effort saw them experimenting in many different sounds, The Sleeping House sees the indie [...]

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