The One21 Essential 100 is a collection of albums that represent the best in creativity, innovation, and originality in music. This is not a “best of” list, nor is it influenced by album sales, or even popularity. Our attempt with this series is to highlight the gems, those rare albums that push boundaries and encourage new ways of thinking; both musical and philosophically. In our opinion, the music highlighted in this series is the “good stuff”.
Simply what this is going to be is a list of 100 albums from Christian music artists that we think you should own. Like our website, most genres will be represented, and some of the albums will be from as far back as the 60s, to as current as 2009. Each week we will post five albums, in no real order, with descriptions, album artwork, and places to buy the music.
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
Having already established himself as one of the best house DJs of all time, Moby’s 1999 album, Play, introduced the world to a very different kind of electronic artist. Utilizing his ability to not only piece together complicated beats with melody, Moby turned to the collected field recordings of Alan Lomax to give his music an older world feel. He sampled from the recordings, and built many of the songs on Play around single folk and blues choruses, while also lending to the mood of the songs with every electronic weapon he had (synth strings, layered beats, tone warping). It was a big risk, because while Moby was known, he was not known for music like this. He was blending the lines of traditional electronic music and traditional….well music.
The gambled paid off, and Play is still the best selling album in his genre. While he had been a big name in his field, Play turned Moby into a star. Even more than 10 years later, Play’s influence can be felt on almost every movie soundtrack, commercial, or background music in a TV show. This is in part to the fact that the music on Play is REALLY GOOD, but there is also something that Moby did with Play that no one had ever done before in electronic music. Moby celebrated with Play; he took old, barely listenable recordings and made them sound how he heard them in his head and in his heart. He made electronic organic for an entire culture, and the possibilities for music, old and new, endless.
Highlights: Honey, Run On, Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
Return Of The Frog Queen
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
Return Of The Frog Queen is a solo album recorded by Jeremy Enigk just after he converted to Christianity; this conversion had brought on the disbanding of the genre-defining Sunny Day Real Estate. It has a slower and quieter sound than Sunny Day Real Estate’s hard driving post-hardcore style. With the ambitious and fervent Return Of The Frog Queen, the former Sunny Day Real Estate frontman plays everything from guitar and drums to harpsichord. Then he surrounds himself with a strings, woodwinds, and brass. Lyrically, Jeremy Enigk explores the new world he has found in his faith; musically, he strays from pretty pop to a kind of sober psychedelia. Ultimately, he clearly feels the need to make a grand statement.
Jeremy Enigk chooses a really remarkable path, taking his highly dramatic, angst-ridden singing to a totally new sound. Here he favors harshly played acoustics. On top of that Enigk lassos a whole orchestra to flesh out the background of each song! A truly remarkable work that has done the unthinkable, Return Of The Frog Queen breaks new ground yet remains a direct hit, with the passion, power, and rage of punk; the simple, appealing babbling of folk; and even the multidimensional, nasty din of modern Russian classical Jeremy Enigk creates a stunning work that influences rock and Christian music for the next decade.
Highlights: Shade And The Black Hat, Return Of The Frog Queen, Explain
Universal House Of Prayer
Buy this album:Amazon, iTunes
In 2004, Americana icon Buddy Miller ripped open his shirt to reveal the heart of a devout Christian, steeped in God’s love and greatly troubled by the evil all around him. With Universal House of Prayer, he has created a masterpiece where modern Americana meets traditional roots country meets gospel meets soul meets blues in a breathtaking gumbo of Biblical teaching and universal Truth for humans and society alike.
The CD is full of meaty lyrics by Buddy Miller, Bob Dylan, Mark Heard and several others like these from the amazing song “Don’t Wait”: “Now I’m praying for strength, To get one last try, From mercy’s cup to drink, Before it’s time to die, And all the wicked they best, Start to change their ways. Don’t wait don’t wait, Don’t wait it’s late, Don’t wait don’t wait.”
If you like country wrap this around yourself like an old coat and, if you don’t, buy it anyway and dance to this music. If you are a believer, take comfort from these lyrics and if you are not, find yourself in his observations on our society today. Universal House of Prayer is Buddy Miller’s masterpiece and one of the greatest alt-country and Christian records ever made.
Highlights: There’s A Higher Power, Don’t Wait, Worry Too Much
Bring Me The Workhorse
My Brightest Diamond
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
If I were to tell you a classically trained operatic vocalist who makes indie rock that sounds a lot like Portishead made an album that I consider one of the best of the decade, would you listen to it? That description is a little hard to fathom, I know, but that is the truth of Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond)’s 2006 album, Bring Me The Workhorse. Everything about this album is both haunting and beautiful at the same time. Shara’s voice leads the slow-trudging songs through a bleak landscape of smoke filled jazz, spastically progressive indie rock, and 90s esque trip-hop. Each song stands on its own, yet somehow always seems to lead into the next, like a movie who’s scenes were all shot by a different director.
The focal point is, of course, Shara’s unique voice. While you can tell she is always in control of the next note, there are hints of fear on the tail end of her words, almost as if she is not quite sure where the melody will end up next. At times deep and powerful, and at others light and fragile, Shara’s voice is what makes Bring Me The Workhorse so special. It is what makes My Brightest Diamond so special. If this is the only masterwork that voice ever produces, this would be enough, because it is just that. A masterwork.
Highlights: Golden Star, We Were Sparkling, Disappear
Drawing Black Lines
Buy this album: iTunes
If you cant understand the power of Drawing Black Lines by the first 30 seconds of the opening track, then you may want to check your pulse. In 2000, Project 86, a four piece monster out of California, separated themselves from the “rapcore” stigma by creating an album so original that people couldn’t figure out what to call it, and yet familiar enough that most considered it an instant classic upon first listen. By breaking down the elements of their rhythmic vocals, massively heavy rock sound, and deeply interesting lyrics, Project 86 reinvented themselves in a way most bands can only dream of. Drawing Black Lines was every bit an aggressive, angry album as their self-titled debt, but melody and focus refined the band’s sound into a completely unique creative force that could not be reckoned with.
The album is perfectly balanced too; while there are plenty of 100 mph hard rock song (Steins Theme, One Armed Man, Sad Machines), there are also many songs that relish in their low build, and low to feel every part before the elements come together in a song. Possibly one of the best examples of this is “P.S.”, clocking in as the longest on song on the album at almost 6 minutes, it is a perfect lesson in build and release in a song, and leaves you gasping for breathe at the end. Combine all this with the brilliant lyrical and vocal stylings of Andrew Schwab, and you have a hard rock album that never disappoints. Another word to describe it may be brilliant, but I think it might come up short.
Speaking personally, listening to this album as a junior in high school was what made me realize that “Christian music” didn’t have to be bad rip offs of mainstream music, but when done like Drawing Black Lines, it could be MUCH better than anything played on the radio. In a way, this is the album that started the idea for The ONE21 Music.
Highlights: One-Armed Man (Play On), P.S., Me Against Me, Chimes
Paste magazine just released their list of 50 greatest albums of the decade on their website. Five recordings made by Christian music artists made the list.
We were excited that iconic indie artist Sufjan Stevens was number one on the list with Come On Feel the Illinoise (notice Paste did not get the name correct) and alternative rock’s darling Pedro The Lion made the list with Control. The rock cred of Jack White garnered the attention of Paste writers so that country legend Loretta Lynn made the list with Van Lear Rose. The best movie soundtrack of the decade ‘O Brother Where Are Thou? made the list but why do we include it here? Well, the soundtrack was the brainchild of Christian music artist and famed producer T Bone Burnett.
Finally, we were shocked and thrilled that one of our favorite cds of the decade, Over The Rhine‘s Ohio made the list. We did not think anyone had noticed the greatness of this folk, rock, jazz, pop masterpiece.
Of course we think the list excluded these masterpieces:
- Brother, Sister- mewithoutyou
- Unviversal House of Prayer- Buddy Miller
- Ships- Danielson
- Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink- Bodies of Water
But worry not we are working on our list of essential recordings by Christian Music Artists.
In the meantime, here is what Paste had to say about these great records.
1. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois [Asthmatic Kitty] (2005) Amazon
In 2005, when Sufjan Stevens released Illinois, the second album in his planned 50-state project, American pride was at a record low—especially among young people. The death toll in Iraq was steadily climbing, and Abu Ghraib was fresh on our minds. Meanwhile, Stevens was beginning to seem brilliant enough to fulfill his ambitious plan. His music pushed boundaries between pop and classical, and the emotional weight of his lyrics grounded his feather-light voice. There was a distinct peculiarity about Illinois and Stevens himself, who gave his songs titles like “To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament.” Critics embraced the mystery and declared the album a masterpiece. Stevens and his band, The Illinoisemakers, wore cheerleading costumes onstage to promote the record, and once its success took them to larger venues, Stevens switched to giant, colorful bird wings. His band was a spectacle, their performances magical. Thousands of fans gathered in theaters across the country to behold this winged creature and rally behind his songs about America’s heartland. It was a new, weird kind of patriotism.
26. Over the Rhine: Ohio (2004) Amazon
In the liner notes accompanying Over the Rhine’s gloriously self-indulgent double-disc, Ohio, co-founder Linford Detweiler, writes, “We grew up in small coal mining towns in the Ohio Valley, listening to music that could have only been unearthed in America: Southern Gospel, Country Western and Rock ’n’ Roll. This music fertilized the soil of our early lives. We sit down at the upright piano these days with dirt under our fingernails.” And I suppose that’s what I love about this album. The songs feel gritty and real, unpolished and perfect. Just like people. All the artifice (both musical and emotional) has been carefully dismantled, traditional instruments—upright piano, pedal steel, acoustic guitars—have been dusted off, arrangements have been simplified, windows into souls have been propped open a bit wider. In stark contrast, Karin Bergquist’s voice has never felt as undressed and painfully honest as it does in these songs, as if she’s opened her gut and tugged the melodies out like a breach baby. This process is partly masochistic, partly exhibitionist, entirely self-consuming: but such is true art. Ohio, is more than simply a dense, rich, vulnerable collection of songs; it’s a dirt road companion on that difficult journey inward, upward. Homeward. Jason Killingsworth
34. Various artists: O Brother Where Art Thou? [Mercury] (2001) Amazon
This old-timey country album and most unlikely hit may have signaled the last gasp of alternative country. On the bright side, it suggested that those alt-country values (rough-hewn vocals, acoustic instrumentation, a palpable connection to American roots music) had busted out of the sub-genre ghetto and crossed over into the mainstream. After all, the album did win the Grammy for Album of the Year. Some of our favorite female vocalists—one-named artists like Emmylou and Gillian—got much-deserved exposure thanks to this collection, which scored a freewheeling Coen Bros movie and did nothing but good for all concerned. Nick Marino
36. Pedro The Lion: Control [Jade Tree] (2002) Control
David Bazan’s Seattle indie rock is well played, and his voice is perfectly restrained, but his most unique gift lies in storytelling—vivid images and a thoughtful perspective create a deep, dark feeling of sadness. In-depth descriptions of extramarital affairs appear throughout Control, a characteristically bold move for the former Christian singer/songwriter. The music is heavier, too—this time around, electric guitars dare to match the lyrical intensity. Kate Kiefer
48. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose [Interscope] (2004) Amazon
In 2004, 69-year-old Loretta Lynn released her thirty-seventh solo studio album. It could have been a sad affair, the desperate yawp of a legendary Nashville madam teetering into an aged cliché of herself, but with the help of rock ‘n’ roll upstart Jack White, Lynn made the greatest record of her career. Like a bunch of rowdy grandkids, White and a crew of friends (most of whom would converge a year later as The Raconteurs) lent a sly, gritty feel to Lynn’s 13 mostly-autobiographical tracks—Van Lear Rose was her 70th release overall, but it was only the second time she’d written or co-written all of her songs. Her seasoned, tremulous voice paired perfectly with White’s electric guitar warble, pulling off mournful country crooners and all-out rock numbers with equal grit and spunk. She hasn’t released anything since, but it almost doesn’t matter. Rachael Maddux
Austin City Limits Music Festival is one of the top rock music festivals in the world. When you stroll the fields of Austin’s Zilker Parks every fall you meet music fans who have flown in from Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and Africa to experience the three days of beautiful weather, great Austin food and some of the best hip rock, indie, hip/hop, country and electronic music in the world.
Austin City Limits Music Festival has featured Al Green and Bob Dylan, Arcade Fire and Pearl Jam, Bjork and Wilco and Coldplay. However, Christian music artists are usually under-represented at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. All major music and entertainment media attend and report from the festival. This year, Mute Math, Billy Joe Shaver and a few local gospel groups were the only Christian artists we saw on the Austin City Limits Music Festival line-up. Mute Math received rave reviews and many are predicting a headline spot for them in the near future.
We have an opportunity to change that. Austin City Limits Music Festival promoter, C3, has sent a note to ask fans to suggest bands to book at the 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival. We need your help in creating a good sample of music made by Christians that would catch the eye of hip music fans local and national media.
Each of us can only suggest five bands. We ask you to go to the site below and list the following bands for Austin City Limits to book in 2010:
These bands represent a broad range of styes, from mewithoutyou‘s post-hardcore neo-folk talk music, to Buddy Miller‘s Americana, to Danielson‘s experimental Indie music to, Over The Rhine‘s jazz driven folk pop to Wovenhand‘s gothic folk hard rock revival meetings.
There are many, many bands that deserve to be on the list so you can go to our Music A to Z page and find your own. However, if you join us in this concentrated effort to promote the artists we may have chance of pushing a few through. But, whatever you do, go quickly. Our opportunity to book Christian music artists at Austin City Limits Music Festival ends on Tuesday, November 17, 2009.
Hello to all the amazing people who read our site, we love you. Really, your participation in this website makes everything worth it. Every time you visit, it counts as only good stuff for us as a group. So, thank you….
If you will remember, a few months back, we announced that we were going to tone things down a little bit on the site. At the time, we were putting up three posts a day, beginning to build our artist database, and trying to manage our emerging “ezine” persona. In all honesty, we never intended to use The One21 as a magazine-type website. Our original idea for this blog was to simply communicate our passion and try to begin to introduce the world to a larger perspective of “Christian music”in modern culture.
Well, God, as He always does, has His own plans for things, and seven months in to our existence we were doing interviews, reporting on news, and in general acting like more of a magazine.
However, the true intention of this site, The One21 Music, was to build a tool that could fully introduce the people to the vast body of music made by believers. So, in May, we officially began to build our artists database. We started strong, found out we weren’t doing it right, started over, added a few features, went back and added those features to the existing profiles, went back and edited, and then once again began to add new artists, and here we are.
Confused? Dont worry, all of that was my long way of saying that we are now 260 artists strong in our database, and every week we are adding on average 6-10 new entries. The profiles span over 10 genres, 3 categories, and over 120 styles (sub-genres). We are doing our best to make sure that any fan, of any type of music will have a place on this website. You can go see our progress by clicking on the “Artist Search” tab up at the top of this page, or you can click here.
Also, if there is particular artist you want to check out, you can get to them quickly by typing in www.one21music.com/(artist name) into the address bar on your browser (so an example would be www.one21music.com/owl city). If you dont get anything, it most likely means we have not gotten that particular artist into the system yet, but don’t fret because we are working on it.
Alright, with so much going on, Chuck and I thought it would be a good idea to start giving you guys weekly rundowns on what is happening here on the site. So at the end of the week, we will recap what we have been writing about on the blog, in the database, and what is happening in our company. Our hope is that not only will you stay up to date to what is happening on the blog, and what new artists you may want to check out, but also that you would get to know us as people and as a company. So, here we go, this our first real update so I hope you enjoy:
General Site Updates:
-First of all, you may notice that we have a new banner. The old one was cool and everything, but as we turn the corner on this website, we wanted to go with something a bit “cleaner” looking. Plus, I (Ian) was really tired of looking at myself every time I looked at the site (yes, if you remember the guy in the banner, that was a big ‘ol profile of me, myself, and I).
-We launched our “Album Release” page this week. this page contains dates, titles, and album artwork(when available) for all the upcoming CDs from Christian artists. It will be updated often, and in future “update” posts I will keep you up to date on what we have added to the page. Go check out all the upcoming releases here.
-We got rid of our “Music Artists” and “Christian Labels” tabs. With the database, we don’t need the “Artist” tab, although you may see a newer, more accessible version of it pop up in the near future. All the information from the “Christian Labels” can now be found in our “Links” page. You can click on the “Links” tab at the top of the page or just click here
-New Releases-The big release this week came from MuteMath, but Manic Drive and Take It Back! also released somke new stuff this week.
-Music News- new videos from John Reuben, Paramore, and Philmont, along with new album info for Abandon Kansas, and a lot of bands leaving their labels and others getting signed.
-Free Download- a new little DJ album from hip-hop artist Playdough. Very strange, but hard to pass up for free.
-Voices Of The Underground2 Pt.1- Begin a new “season” of our round table interview series by asking Thousand Foot Krutch, White Collar Sideshow, Gileah Taylor, and many others what they love about music.
Artist Database Updates:
-Chuck has moved around some genre definitions to best suite our Praise & Worship, and Gospel fans.
Bodies Of Water
The Welcome Wagon
Gileah Taylor (Gileah & The Ghost Train)
Also, this weekend we will be holding a meeting to try and figure out a possible One21 Fest here in Austin, Texas. If you are reading this and have some ideas, please speak up. Until next week, God bless, and have a great weekend.
Christian Music Is Not A Genre, It Is A Movement
One of the biggest surprises since we have started One21music is the lack of interest our readers have shown in eMusic.
This was the first ad we put on our site. We thought people would flock to get 25 free songs. No one has explored the trial subscription, so I thought I would give you a testimonial from an excited subscriber. But first let me explain eMusic.
eMusic is the #1 site for independent music, with a library of over 4,500,000 MP3s. eMusic sets itself apart from other well-known subscription music services (such as Napster and Rhapsody) because eMusic customers truly own the music they download. The files available for download are in the MP3 format, making them fully compatible with all digital music players, and free from digital rights management Hippo software restrictions such as expiration dates, or copying or CD burning limitations. eMusic’s MP3′s play on any portable music player (including the iPod and Zune), can be downloaded to unlimited computers as well as burned to CD.
Here is how it works. You can subscribe to download 25 to 100 songs each month based on the subscription level you buy. The base subscription is 25 songs ($11.99 per month), then grows in 25 song increments (50 songs for $14.99, 75 songs for 19.99, 100 songs for $24.99). eMusic offers about 25 different plans bu these are the most popular.
I have been a subscriber for over a year and my co-founder has been a subscriber for about nine months. We love, l-o-v-e, eMusic. Ian maintains a list of over 100 CDs and uses up his subscription on the first day it is available. I like to save my downloads to use over the month. Today is May 8th and I have already downloaded 65 of my 100 songs, so I am not such a good saver.
These downloads are just like buying the CD’s or downloading songs from iTunes, except they are cheaper and you own them. If you really like music, or if your CD store is the electronics section at WalMart or if you are just cheap; eMusic is for you. I downloaded , on their release date, the highly acclaimed new CD from Beirut for @$2.75, the EP from Bon Iver for $1.00 and M.Ward’snew one for $3.50. Beat those prices WalMart and iTunes.
But more than convienence and thrift, eMusic has great services to help you find music you will love. You can browse by genre, editors’ picks, new music, free tracks, advance releases, members ratings and any combination of those categories. eMusic has music journalists writing artist and genre features and reviews.
Finally, eMusic has an extensive collection of songs and CDs from artists we have profiled on One21music. See the list below.
One21Christian Music Artists on eMusic
Cold War Kids
Enter The Worship Circle
Bodies of Water
Cool Hand Luke
Nicole C Mullen
The Welcome Wagon
Bill Mallonee/Vigilantes of Love
Ever since we started The One21, we have been learning a lot. From the vast amount of new talent we come across, to the trends in music and entertainment we have been able to identify, this company has allowed us to learn new things daily about the world of music we love so much. We have tried to share those trends with you, and explore what the digital age of music has done for the underground music movement. We have attempted to expand the knowledge of the music out there being made by believers. We have tried endlessly on this site to change the perception of what most people think when they hear the term “Christian music”, and bring you a whole new world of music that exists outside of the mainstream Christian industry.
It is in that last idea that we have run into the most trouble. We feel that this website and the database of music we are building is our calling, our ministry to you, the person reading this. We feel that we have a responsibility to give you as much information about the artists we talk about so that you can make the most informed decision on what music you allow in to your life and those around you. On the other hand, we also feel that we have a responsibility to artists we talk about. We don’t want to force any artist to label themselves as something they don’t want to labeled as. The choices that an artists make in their career are their own, and it be irresponsible for us to (forcefully) change those decisions ( we REALLY want Kate Minor to come back to music, and I REALLY want Damien Rice to become a believer). So how do we talk to people about music that is made by believers without forcing those artists to be pigeon-holed into a scene they want to exist outside of.
This struggle was put center stage recently as we attended SXSW. A band that we have featured on this site (I’m not going to tell you who it is, don’t ask), had a very strong reaction to us wanting to interview them and talk about it on the site. They told Chuck “well we are Christians, but we defiantly don’t make Christian music”, and were still debating this issue when I walked past them ten minutes later. Some of the members seemed upset that since we were a site that covered Christian music, that talking to us would change the perception of their band in the general public. However, all the research we had done on the band not only revealed that they were believers, but the majority of their lyrics centered around the dark picture the church paints of Christ versus what He truly is. We felt a little awkward because in a way we had tried to make them something they didn’t want to be, which is their call, not ours. The outcome is that they didn’t talk to us, even when Chuck attended their show a few nights later.
Later that same week, Chuck presented our pastor with a signed copy of a CD, from one of the hip-hop artists we interviewed, for his ten year old son who is really into hip-hop at the moment. Our pastor thanked Chuck, but said that he needed to listen to it before his son could have it. That seemed strange to me for a moment, but then he explained that another Christian hip-hop artist had frequently used the word “hell” (in the correct context by the way), a word that shocked and offended his young children who had been told NOT to say that word. It occurred to me that a lot of people can’t just listen to ANY artist who says that they are a Christian, even with ideologies that match up, subject matter is still an issue.
So on one side, we have believers who are making music, but do not want to be part of the Christian music world, and on the other side, we have people who need help with finding the right artist that helps them live their faith. On the one hand we know of a lot of Christian artist who hardly ever talk directly about their faith in their music, and on the other we have a responsibility to present music that lines up with the ideologies that exist in Christianity. The dichotomy bothered me all week until we met with Tre9, a Houston hip-hop artist and founder of DaSouth.com, who spoke in our interview with him about hip hop artists being relevant to the audience that they are trying to reach.
“You’ve got to know as an artist who you are going to target your message to. Obviously if you want to disciple Christians then you need to make music relevant to them. Which would be music: quoting scriptures, having heavy spiritual content; but if you want to reach people that don’t have church knowledge and maybe don’t even read their Bible then you need to bring it down to their level. So, that may require you to do music that shares your life story more often, and maybe closes with the fact that you found fulfillment in Christ, but you’re not so heavily focused on making sure you get a scripture in there. Throw a Jesus here; throw a God, a Holy Spirit there. Throw the word redemption. You know sanctification; these words that the world doesn’t understand. You want to make music that is relevant to where they are at mentally and even spiritually.
When I say relevant, you’ve got groups like P.O.D. who are way into the world, but are making relevant music to their audience, and look at them, they are global. They have penetrated a market that they couldn’t penetrate when they were labeled a Christian artist. I think that’s good. A lot of people think they are sell outs because they don’t preach the gospel in their music, but for me I feel that this world needs Godly principles, they need the Bible interpenetrated in today’s language so that it’s relevant. So, if P.O.D. makes a song about ‘I feel so alive’, but they don’t say it’s because of Jesus; I think that person will eventually become a follower of P.O.D.; listening to their music, going to their website, researching and finding out “Hey, these guys are Christians. So that’s what they mean by ‘I feel so alive’.” So they don’t have to put it into a song for me. Now, a lot of people would disagree with that but, we need wholesome music. We need songs that deal with drugs, and the dangers of drugs; songs that deal with abstinence. These songs don’t have to say anything about God. God is in that, God wants people to live an abstinent life, God wants people to avoid drugs. So, I’m ok with making music that is relevant to that market or that particular group of people. Going into public schools we can’t do Christian music, especially during school hours. You can’t just go in there preaching about Jesus. So, if you are going to make music relevant to a school; if it’s an elementary school, then you need to write some stuff elementary level. Junior high, High school…so that’s what I mean by relevant.”
I was blown away. This was a concept that had always been in the back of my mind, but I had never heard put into words. I also realized that this line of thinking could be applied to all music, not just the world of hip-hop. As I thought about it more, I became aware that this was how the whole scope of the Christian music scene fit together, even the artists that wanted to exists outside the borders of what is traditionally thought of as Christian music. This is how we can talk about really good music that is being made by believers, but not really overtly spiritually, and then turn around and talk about worship music in the same breathe. It is because in “Christian music” there are different forms of it, but all of them are written from a world-view of Christ.
In the end, I propose that all music, written from a foundation of hope and faith, that God can use to touch people’s hearts, can be divided into three categories:
The Spiritual- this is music that is made by believers, and is mainly intended for believers. This music uses language and subjects that believers understand, and is made mainly for the purpose of worship, education, and encouragement. This music will use a lot of direct Biblical scripture, or discuss the literal concepts within the Bible. The gospel message is OBVIOUS to anyone. This music is meant to celebrate and discuss God and His teachings. This is were the majority of worship music will exist, as well as artist who talk about heavy Biblical truths.
Becoming The Archetype
Shane and Shane
Enter The Worship Circle
The Message- the music in this category is evangelical in nature. It is made by believers for everyone. While it deals with strong Biblical truths, the music is made to appeal to both believers and non-believers alike. The messages are meant to talk about address the need for Christ and the struggles that people go through before the come to know Him, and the relationship that exists afterward. Sometimes the message is obvious, sometimes it isn’t. Most artists talk about their faith not only through their lyrics, but also from the stages that they play from (be it a church or a bar stage). This category is a musical response to the great commission.
August Burns Red
A Plea For Purging
The Light- this is the category that collects all the Christians who are out their making music, but are not necessarily talking about anything that is directly Biblical. This is just music made by believers. Most of the time, the songs have a indirect message pertaining to the artists faith. The artists in this category are not trying to speak to their beliefs, but are simply trying to make music , and their faith shines through from time to time. The artists in this category most times exist completely outside of the Christian music radar, some of them you will know, but most you have never heard of. What is important to note is that while the music in this category is not overtly faith-based, it is music that is written from a heart changed by Christ, and can be used as a catalyst people’s life.
Cold War Kids
Bodies Of Water
On our site, we are going to begin using these categories to define our artists better. You will begin to see them on our “Christian Artists To Know”, and as we build our database of artists, the categories will also be incorporated.
The idea behind these categories to allow all the many ways that music is made by believers to be viewed as a unified music scene. For the artists that sing honestly about thier life and for the worship leader in the church, God uses all this music to touch people’s hearts.
One21music is at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive, Film and Music Festival. Read about the significance of the media event at One21music Takes you to SXSW but it is big in the interactive world, it is big in the film world (dozens of premieres of mainstream movies that will be in your multi-plex over the next few months) and it is the biggest in the music world.
Today, tomorrow and Monday we will be at the Interactive conference/festival and, so mostly, you do not care. But I have had a couple of moments that are highly compelling for what Ian and I are attempting to do with One21music.com. Here is one.
We just finished a session with two of the blogging world’s icons. Quite frankly, I don’t remember their names because I don’t read very much about technology and they were generally narcissistic brats. However, they did say something that has me hooked. One of their overriding themes is that you should only start a blog if your are obsessed about something and you have something interesting to say about it. It said a lot, to me, about Underground Christian music and the artists who make it.
Underground Christian music artists are obsessed with their faith and their artistry give them a voice to express it in an exceptional manner. That is why they deserved to be heard. The artists we love are not willing to compromise their voice (the artistry of their music) to the mainstream Christian music industry. We have seen so many great, great artists (Sam Phillips, The Elms, etc.) leave the mainstream Christian music scene to pursue their voices.
I love that Underground Christian music artists (U2, Buddy Miller, etc) refuse to compromise their obsession for their faith in order to achieve success in the mainstream music industry. Some, like U2 and the Fray, achieve great success. Most Christian music artists (mewithoutyou, Danielson, Wovenhand) trying to make it in the mainstream music scene live on the fringe.
The combination of obsession with their faith and commitment to their voice, results in uncompromising music with uncompromising messages. That is the music I am willing to commit my life to promoting.
One21music exists because these artists need to be heard.
Styles: Alternative County, Americana. Gospel
Location: Nashville, TN
Label: New West Records
Christian label: no
Category: The Light whats this?
No Depression Magazine , the combination New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone of the Americana/Alt Country scene, published its last issue in June 2008 (it is now a vibrant webzine). That final issue featured underground Christian music artist Buddy Miller on its cover, declaring Buddy their “Artist of the Decade.”
Emmylou Harris, for who he served as lead guitarist and band leader for 8 years, calls Buddy Miller “one of the best guitar players of all time.” Steve Earle, another former band mate, pronounces Buddy Miller “the best country singer working today.”
And yet, most of us have not heard of him. Who is this guy?
Buddy Miller hit the country music scene in the sixties as a young guitar slinger touring the country with acts large and small. He made his way to Austin in 1975 and became a fixture in the “Outlaw Country” scene led by Willie Nelson. There, Buddy met his soul mate, Julie Miller (now a CCM star in her own right). As Buddy and Julie were building a growing fan base in New York in the early 80′s, Julie gave her life to Christ and disappeared. Buddy Miller followed his soul mate, discovering Christ and new life. The couple left the music scene for several years only to emerge in the early 90′s as solo artists. His first solo album Your Love and Other Lies was not released until 1995. Many don’t know Buddy Miller because his music pays homage to the roots of the greatest country music and does not succumb to the formulas of the country hit machine.
The sound is pure old-school country, mixed with swamp rock and high plains vocals with complex roots instrumentation and song structures from soul, gospel, rock and the best country. His first four solo albums did not touch much on his faith. The themes of the early records on Hi-Tone Records mostly dealt with the traditional worldly themes of country music: lost love and broken dreams. According to Miller, “although my faith is a big part of my life, I just make my records, my country records. Maybe there will be a little something of faith in there, but it’s not what I’m comfortable doing.”
That was until Buddy Miller ripped open his shirt in 2004 to reveal the heart of a devout Christian, steeped in God’s love and greatly troubled by the evil all around him. His fifth solo record Universal House of Prayer is the second best Underground Christian record of the decade and I cannot imagine anyone displacing it in the next two years.
With Universal House of Prayer, he has created a masterpiece where modern Americana meets traditional roots country meets gospel meets soul meets blues in a breathtaking gumbo of Biblical teaching and universal Truth for humans and society alike.
Our overriding theme at One21music is One Hope, Three Chords and The Truth and Universal House of Prayer exemplifies that mantra. The CD is full of meaty lyrics by Buddy Miller , Bob Dylan, Mark Heard and several others like these from the amazing song “Don’t Wait”:
Temptation will rust
Crawls in with the fog
Eats away at your trust
Mean as a wild pack of dogs
Uses you up throws your life away
Don’t let it win for another day
Don’t wait don’t wait
Don’t wait it’s late
Don’t wait don’t wait
Don’t wait don’t wait don’t wait don’t wait
Now I’m praying for strength
To get one last try
From mercy’s cup to drink
Before it’s time to die
And all the wicked they best
Start to change their ways
Here is the video for Mark Heard‘s “Worry Too Much” from Universal House of Prayer.
If you like country wrap this around yourself like an old coat and, if you don’t, buy it anyway and dance to this music. If you are a believer, take comfort from these lyrics and if you are not, find yourself in his observations on our society today.
Universal House of Prayer is Buddy Miller‘s masterpiece and one of the greatest alt-country and Christian records ever made, but his reputation was made long before 2004. His Best the Hi-Tone Years was named one of the essential Americana records of all time. His music has been recorded by Emmy Lou Harris, The Dixie Chicks,Steve Earle, Lee Ann Womack, Brooks and Dunn, Suzy Bogguss and Garth Brooks and even jazz singer Jimmy Scott. Buddy Miller is also a highly sought after producer, recording albums for Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Vigilantes of Love.
Buddy Miller is one of the most respected writers, producers, arrangers, instrumentalists and singers in Nashville. More than that he is a devoted believer who openly professes his faith from the stage and who is highly respected in the Nashville community as a man of character. Forget genre labels and enjoy one of the greatest American musicians recording today.
You can also get his CDs through Amazon: Poison Love(1997 solo), Cruel Moon (1999 solo), Buddy & Julie Miller (2001 with Julie), Midnight and Lonesome (2002 solo), Love Snuck Up (2004 with Julie), Universal United House of Prayer (2004 solo), The Best of the Hightone Years (2008 solo), Written In Chalk(2009 with Julie)