Monday, December 15, 2014

The Sun Is Rising / Scare Away The Dark (TOTR 223/224)

#223 “The Sun is Rising”
Rev. Edward Clayburn – Wrong Way To Celebrate Christmas
African Children’s Choir – Kumbaya
Taj Mahal & the Blind Boys of Alabama – The Sun is Rising
Yusuf – You Are My Sunshine
Pentatonix - White Winter Hymnal
Jim Henry - The Tree
Mark Kozelek - O Christmas Tree
The Lower Lights - I Saw Three Ships
Kemper Crabb - Down In Yon Forest
Sufjan Stevens - Angels We Have Heard On High
Michael W. Smith - The Darkest Midnight featuring Bono
Emmylou Harris – There’s A Light
Loreena McKennitt - Good King Wenceslas
Revels Chorus - Wonderful Counselor
Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers - Christ Was Born On Christmas Morn
Rotary Connection - Silent Night Chant
Anthony Hamilton - Little Drummer Boy
Anthony Hamilton - Away In A Manger
Gregory Porter - Go Tell It On The Mountain / Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Jesse Colin Young - Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella
Great Big Sea - Seven Joys Of Mary
Elizabeth Mitchell - Children, Go Where I Send Thee
Johnnyswim - O Come All Ye FaithfulWe
Punch Brothers - O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Beta Radio - O Holy Night
Folk Angel - Joy To The World

#224 “Scare Away The Dark”
Beck - Morning
The New Basement Tapes - Kansas City
Ray LaMontagne – She’s the One
Foy Vance - You And I (featuring Bonnie Raitt)
Needtobreathe - Difference Maker
Angaleena Presley - American Middle Class
Against Me! - Two Coffins
Roadkill Ghost Choir - Womb
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - All You Can Carry
Delta Spirit - Take Shelter
Cold War Kids - Hotel Anywhere
TV On The Radio - Right Now
Ben & Ellen Harper - A House Is A Home
Jack White - Alone In My Home
Robert Ellis - Chemical Plant
Sun Kil Moon - I Love My Dad
Run River North - Growing Up
Johnnyswim - Live While We’re Young
Yusuf - Dying to Live
the Collection - The Art of Dying
St. Paul – I’m Torn Up
Natalie Merchant - Go Down Moses
Sturgill Simpson - A Little Light
Mike Farris - This Little Light
Passenger - Scare Away The Dark
U2 - Song For Someone (Acoustic) 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Before My Time (TOTR 222)

The Open Mind – Before My Time
Hot Tuna – New Song For The Morning
New Riders of the Purple Sage – Glendale Train
13th Floor Elevators – Dust
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Hope
Mountain Bus – Sundance
Farm Band – Let It Ride - 1972
Closer To The Ground – Closer To The Ground
Jo Jo Gunne – Flying Home
Batdorf & Rodney – Long Way From Heaven
Mother Earth – Deliver Me
Humble Pie – Alabama 69
Allman Brothers Band – Melissa
Brian Auger &Julie Tippetts – Freedom Highway
Simon and Garfunkel – Mrs. Robinson
James Taylor – Fire And Rain
Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky
Harpers Bizarre – If We Ever Needed The Lord Before
Dobie Gray – Drift Away
Gallery – I Believe In Music
Rhinoceros – It’s a Groovy World
Dr. Hook &The Medicine Show – Sing Me A Rainbo
Sailcat – On The Brighter Side of It All

Brewer & Shipley – The Light

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fool's Wisdom (TOTR 221)

Randy Matthews – Holy Band
Mustard Seed – Shepherd's Song
Malcolm & Alwyn – Fool’s Wisdom
The Eternal Savings & Trust Company – Karin
Cephas – Show Me The Way
Canaan – Jesus Revolution
Arthur Blessit – SoulSession (Excerpt)
The Joyful Noise – High On Jesus
The Four Corners Gospel Experience – Jesus Rocks
AndraĆ© Crouch and the Disciples – Satisfied
Michael Omartian – Take Me Down
Dust – Gone
Paul Clark – Which One Are You
Resurrection Band – Better Way
Earthen Vessel – Let Jesus Bring You Back
Spirit & Understanding – It’s Jesus That They Need
Master’s Lantern – Amen, Amen
Holy Ghost Reception Committee – Hey Lord
Azitis – From This Place
Jack Miffleton, Skipp Sanders, & The Group – Revolutionary Peace  
Agape   Rejoice
California Earthquake – Let There Be Light
Richie Furay – Dance a Little Light
Song of Solomon/Pete Giardina – Dance Song
Wilson McKinley – One in the Spirit
Barry McGuire – Love Is
God Unlimited – Joy  

Monday, July 28, 2014

In The Garden (TOTR 220)

Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything
Oasis – Up In The Sky
Paul McCartney – Heart Of The Country
The Beatles – Good Day Sunshine
Donovan – Sun
Christie Hennessy – Mr. Sunshine’s On My Side
Vashti Bunyan – Come Wind Come Rain
The Incredible String Band – The Water Song
Pentangle – Light Flight
The Albion Band – Rainbow Over The Hill
Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game
Moving Hearts – May Morning Dew
Planxty – Well Below the Valley
Johnny Duhan – In The Garden
The Chieftains – Down In The Willow Garden
Van Morrison – In The Garden
Mumford & Sons – Thistle & Weeds
The Lost Brothers – Those Ancient Eyes
Fionn Regan – Hey Rabbit
Loudest Whisper – Lord Have Mercy
Bread, Love & Dreams – He Who Knows All
Simple Kid – A Song Of Stone
Boy George – King of Everything
U2 – An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gown of Grief: The Collection’s courageous collection of songs of mourning & celebration

No abundant bright bloom of flowers on the CD cover or obscure Latin in the title or gentle dance of cursive font describing the song list, nothing can hide that this is not your light-and-breezy summer release of cruising-with-the-top-down jams, but rather, a full-blown concept album of folk hymns about the art of dying.

The Art of Dying (officially Ars Moriendi) represents a brave and risky move for the make-it or break-it breakout album of an up-and-coming band. The Collection’s courageous collection of orchestral pop hymns chart and curate the grieving heart of a gifted songwriter and the community of bandmates and fans that surround him.

At a time when the flame of the alternative folk explosion still burns bright despite much backlash, this North Carolina ensemble shows up as the son of Mumford and Sons, married-to-Edward Sharpe’s second cousin, with too many members to pack the tiny stages of clubs and bars, with a sound fit for mountaintop vistas and songs as mystic visions that pierce the veil between life and death.

Despite the heavy earnestness of the entire package, it’s exactly the grief-support-group that my ears need, and I imagine a rendering of fragile faith and hope against hope that our world craves. The Collection manage to sing about Jesus and Thomas and the prodigal son without getting pushy, dancing on the fringe of explicit CCM, exploring sacred-meets-secular crossover paths and gritty crossroads that groups like Needtobreathe, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and Gungor have already traveled.

Death remains that earthly finality to render our denial mute—and our religious musings about whether it represents cosmic reunion, bodily resurrection, or eternal rest are powerless when we admit that the mysterious premonitions of the “heaven is real” crowd are but passing glimpses and not bulletproof facts. The Christians that remain relevant in our world have invested in the Kingdom here, now, and all around us, and they don’t shove tracts that guarantee afterlife fantasies in our faces on the same streetcorners where tramps and hobos sleep and sometimes starve.

This album is everything but a tract, and a cosmic creation consciousness drips from every track as David Wimbish invites listeners on the single “Gown of Green” to “Stop looking at the ground, start looking at the leaves” because “up among the dirt and rust is where the kingdom breathes.”

This kingdom doesn’t suckle at the unenlightened nipple of mindless obedience to stiff doctrine, yet instead it feeds on seeds and weeds and breeds wild green freedom for the dangerous disciples daring to “sow the earth with diligence and love.” Anthems for an anarchic 21st-century faith do not come with pat power-point slides and tidy handouts and bullet-point programs for salvation.

Wimbish moans with melody and groans with gravity what we were already thinking: “a cross hangs around your neck so loose/and though it brings you life, sometimes it feels just like a noose/but god is not disappointed in you/but love and beauty haunt you in your dreams.” The Collection sip from the overflowing cup of spiritual freedom, and one taste of this new wine might make bland another taste of the lukewarm life-numbing churchianity still making its way around the land.

As my daddy departed this earth this past May, I must confess many attempts to review this album have been interrupted by uncontrollable fits of weeping. The solemn-yet-exuberant trance invoked by these songs does not easily evoke translation as a regular record review. These ruminations about death inspire a rant against death: I want to dance and scream and just cry some more. There is an emptiness on the other side of emptiness where it can feel pointless to carry on, because, we’re all just going to die anyways, right?

How quickly gratitude can give way to apathy when you suffer from the lazy grief of which C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book. Wimbish wonders if he even has the “right” to sing his songs in this world filled with wrong. I feel the same way about writing this review, not to mention the countless poems and sermons and social media statuses I continue to crank out, about a laundry list of worldly hopes and woes. Is anyone even listening? Does anyone even care?

Did you ever wonder if Jesus ever asked himself if anyone was listening to his crazy stitched quilt of parables and poems? Was anyone even nourished from yet another dinner party, another feast of bread and wine? Up-and-coming musical artists like The Collection don’t make much money to speak of and often go into debt instead. Sadly, there are probably several thousands of souls who would love to hear these songs but may not be plugged into the blogs and indie radio and social scenes that would make it possible. 

Yet—The Collection carries on anyhow, and those of us who get to wrap ourselves in these sonic poems and potent songs are inevitably changed and charged to share our reactions to these prophetic tunes. These tunes bring soaring melodies, mythic crescendos, orchestral aches, sponsored by a rambling circus-tent revival of songcrafters touring the country for just a few weeks in a rented van, before many return to dayjobs as educators and artists and theologians and recording engineers and foodies and what have you.

The Collection is a collection of friends I could not have dreamed into being. They hold open the door to heaven for just a few milliseconds, and the view is foggy with the limits of our vision, but the songs are bigger than they are, bigger than we are, and they are a form of poetry that even poetry cannot touch. Somehow, I hear angels, and my dead Daddy has a new body and is dancing with me.

For tour dates & more information about how to get your own copy of Ars Moriendi, please visit:

Photo by Stephanie Berbec Photography

Monday, July 21, 2014

Take Me To Church (TOTR 219)

Sweet Honey In The Rock – We All Everyone Of Us
(Part one – happy)
Sam Cooke – Happy In Love
Pharrell Williams - Happy
The Rolling Stones - Happy
The Lonely Forest - Warm_Happy
Kings of Leon - Happy Alone
The Turtles - Happy Together
R.E.M – Shiny Happy People
The Grateful Dead – Eyes of the World
(Part two – take me to church)
Ben Harper – Church on Time
The Flying Burrito Bros – Down In The Churchyard
Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – Church Without A Name
Love Song – Little Country Church
Lyle Lovett – Church
Hozier – Take Me to Church
The Raphaels – Life Is A Church
The Waterboys – Church Not Made With Hands
Gungor – Church Bells
(Part 3 – home)
Rodney Crowell – Hungry for Home.
Johnnyswim – Home
John Mayer – On The Way Home
Dawes – My Way Back Home
Rising Appalachia – Calling Me Home
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home
Billy Bragg – Sing Their Souls Back Home
Delta Spirit – Home
Band Of Horses – On My Way Back Home
The Collection – The Art of Dying
David Crowder Band –Oh, My God I’m Coming Home
Earthen Vessel – Coming Home

Monday, July 14, 2014

Distant Lands (TOTR 218)

Hurray for the Riff Raff - Forever Is Just A Day
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Stranger to My Happiness
Mount Moriah - Miracle Temple Holiness
Jill Andrews - The Mirror
Jenny Lewis - Godspeed
Nickel Creek - This Side
Willie Watson - Midnight Special
Br’er Rabbit - Distant Lands
the Collection - The Art of Dying
Ray LaMontagne - Airwaves
Lord Huron - I Will Be Back One Day
The Districts - Funeral Beds
Leagues - Haunted
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors - A Place to Lay My Head
Johnnyswim - Live While We’re Young
The Replacements - Kiss Me on the Bus
Against Me! - The Ocean
Drive-By Truckers - Decoration Day
The Grateful Dead - St. Stephen
Jack White - Temporary Ground
Band Of Horses - Everything’s Gonna Be Undone (Live Acoustic)
Beck - Waking Light
Foy Vance - Guiding Light featuring Ed Sheeran

Monday, July 7, 2014

Changes (TOTR 217)

SNCC Freedom Singers - Woke Up This Morning with My Mind on Freedom
The Campbell Brothers - A Change Is Gonna Come
Brothers & Sisters - The Times They Are a Changin      
John Mayer - Waiting On The World To Change
Moon Taxi - Change
David Bowie - Changes
Ben & Ellen Harper - A House Is A Home
Cat Stevens - Tuesday’s Dead
Indigo Girls - Yoke
The Collection - The Gown of Green
Run River North - Banner
Circle Of Hope Audio Art - Make a Way
Rev. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes - We Are Angels
Against Me! - True Trans Soul Rebel
The Cult- She Sells Sanctuary
Origene - Sanctuary
Oasis Worship - Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary
Enigma - The Cross Of Changes
Scissor Sisters - Inevitable
Bronski Beat - I Feel Love
Troy Bronsink - Love
Jars of Clay - Inland      
Nina Simone - New World Coming
Rory Cooney - Canticle of the Turning
Peter Donnelly - Love With Me
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus - Irish Blessing

Monday, June 2, 2014

Stand By Me (TOTR 216 for Kenneth R. Smith)

Frightened Rabbit – Swim Until You Can’t See Land
Band Of Horses – The Funeral (Live Acoustic)
Ryan Adams – Peaceful Valley
Billy Bragg & Wilco – Ain’ta Gonna Grieve
Coldplay – Midnight
U2 – Kite
My Morning Jacket – Look at You
Grateful Dead – Cosmic Charlie
John Denver – All Of My Memories
Harry Chapin – Cat’s In The Cradle
Cat Stevens – Father And Son
Simon and Garfunkel – The Boxer
Ben E. King – Stand By Me
Bill Withers – Lean On Me
Ben & Ellen Harper – How Could We Not Believe
Mary Gauthier – Mercy Now
Mike Farris – Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Crowder – Ain’t No Grave
Delta Rae – Dance In The Graveyards
Dr. John – When The Saints Go Marching In - (featuring Mavis Staples)
Jimmy Cliff – I Can See Clearly Now
Sweet Honey In The Rock – Breaths
Judy Collins – Battle Hymn Of The Republic (John Browns Body)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Higher (TOTR 215)

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Let’s Get High
Richie Havens – High Flyin' Bird
Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Rosalee
Grateful Dead – Wharf Rat
The Black Angels – I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)
13th Floor Elevators – (It’s All Over Now) Baby Blue
Umphrey’s McGee – ANDY’S LAST BEER
Amos Lee – Lowdown Life
Patrick Sky – Nectar Of God
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – Chase the Feeling
Holly Williams – Drinkin’
Tedeschi Trucks Band – Whiskey Legs
Robert Ellis – Bottle Of Wine
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Codeine
Jason Isbell – Cover Me Up
Frank Turner – Recovery
Johnny Cash – I Came to Believe
Humming House – When The Dawn Becomes The Day
Earthen Vessel – Get High
Gungor – Higher
Imperials – Jesus Made Me Higher

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday (TOTR 214)

Neulore – Shadow Of A Man
Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Nothing But The Water
Delta Rae – Bottom Of The River
Emmylou Harris – All My Tears
Gary Louris – Gonna Be A Darkness
The Wright Brothers – Blood On My Name
The Liturgists – Saturday (Feat. Rachel Held Evans)
The Liturgists – We Believe- (Feat. Michael Gungor)
The Collection – Lazarus
Troy Bronsink – Rescue Us All Here
Sam Cooke – Were You There
Ashley Cleveland – Revive Us Again
Brother John Rydgren – Portrait of Christ
Randy Matthews – Son of Dust (1973)-Didn’t He
Bob Dylan – In The Garden
Needtobreathe – Garden
Needtobreathe – Multiplied
Needtobreathe – Brother
Jars of Clay – What Wondrous Love
Mike Farris – Can’t No Grave Hold My Body Down
The Grateful Dead – Throwing Stones
Rev. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes – Sweet Sweet Spirit (feat. Rev. Chanda Rule)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Brokedown Palace: American Music, American Land (TOTR 213)

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (Part I/Acknowledgement)
The Impressions – People Get Ready
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Morphine – Kerouac
Eddie Vedder – Society
Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard – Big Sur
Bruce Springsteen – American Land
Violent Femmes – American Music
R.E.M – I Believe
Humming House – Gasoline
The Dirty Guv’nahs – The Country
Janis Joplin – Kozmic Blues
Jim Morrison – Living In One Country
Jimi Hendrix – The Star Spangled Banner
The Velvet Underground – Heroin
Nirvana – All Apologies
The White Stripes – One More Cup Of Coffee
Bob Dylan – Ballad of a Thin Man
Rodriguez – This Is Not A Song, It’s An Outburst/Or, The Establishment Blues
Pete Seeger – Pretty Boy Floyd
Saul Williams – Give Blood [Phantom Dancehall Mix]
Rising Appalachia – Occupy
Patti Smith – Capitol Letter (from the Catching Fire soundtrack)
Grateful Dead – Brokedown Palace

Saturday, March 29, 2014

For What It’s Worth (TOTR 212)

 ** the history of my fandom continues with a hippy dippy trippy flippy mix fix**

The Fugs – No More Slavery
Phil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son
Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth
Country Joe & The Fish – Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
The Stooges – 1969
MC5 – Ramblin’ Rose
Sly & The Family Stone – Everyday People
The Staple Singers – We The People
The Byrds – Eight Miles High
Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
Jefferson Airplane – Embryonic Journey
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Third Stone From The Sun
The Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning
Nick Drake – Northern Sky
Van Morrison – Ballerina
Crosby, Stills, & Nash – Helplessly Hoping
Janis Joplin – Me And Bobby McGee
Joni Mitchell – Woodstock
Canned Heat – Going Up The Country
Allman Brothers Band – Revival
The Band – The Weight
Arlo Guthrie – Coming into Los Angeles
Eagles – Doolin-Dalton
The Holy Modal Rounders – Hot Corn, Cold Corn
Grateful Dead – Uncle John’s Band
Gram Parsons – Love Hurts

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Like A Song (TOTR 211)

Originally aired in 2014.
Edited post in 2023.

Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark
U2 – Like a Song
Big Country – Fields Of Fire
Mike Peters – The Stand
The Waterboys – Spirit
Simple Minds – Sanctify Yourself
Lone Justice – Soap, Soup And Salvation
R.E.M. – Harborcoat
Guadalcanal Diary – Fire From Heaven
Echo & the Bunnymen – Seven Seas
the The – This is the Day
The Cure – In Between Days
The Smiths – How Soon Is Now
Billy Bragg – The World Turned Upside Down
The Clash – Clampdown
Peter Gabriel – Biko
Violent Femmes – No Killing
Minutemen – The Price Of Paradise
The Replacements – Here Comes a Regular
Suzanne Vega – Undertow
10,000 Maniacs – Back O’ The Moon
Lone Justice - Wheels 
Cocteau Twins – Lorelei
This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren

By the time I reached high school, I knew I wanted to write and began working for the school paper, the Southfield JAY (our team mascot being the Blue Jays). For the duration of my high school career, I would write about sports, music, and social issues, including peace, civil rights, and ill-fated endorsement of the Walter Mondale/Geraldine Ferraro ticket for President in 1984. 

My older friends Scott and Joe had programs on the school radio station WSHJ, so soon I joined them with “Music For Thinking People” and “United Underground,” airing weekly and respectively during my junior and senior years. I like to joke that “sex, drugs, and rock n roll” ended my athletic career, lettering in track and cross-country, and it’s not that far from the truth. 

By 11th grade year, I had adjusted the birth date on my driver’s license from 1967 to 1962, so I could get into clubs that had an age restriction. Using my radio and journalism passions as justification, I even went downtown to shows on school nights. I learned how to telephone record labels and managers and get free stuff or get on the guestlist, with my staff status on the JAY and WSHJ as the only credentials I needed.  

As an up-and-coming journalist, I read Rolling Stone magazine religiously. Soon, I would discover fanzines. I was weaning myself off classic rock and getting heavily into punk, new wave, and those bands or artists that would end up under the wide umbrella of “alternative.” In Rolling Stone around 1983, an article about the Irish band U2 was called “Blessed Are The Peacemakers.” As a devout Christian, the reference to the Beatitudes immediately grabbed my eye. In this story, a singer called Bono spoke of his allegiance to the ideals of the 60s and his disdain for the superficial sides of pop music. He exuded an enthusiasm for life that I shared, and he located his anti-apartheid, anti-nuke stances in his Christian faith, such as I would soon discover, with biblical allusions dripping from his lyrics, all the while resisting the “Christian rock” pigeonhole of groups like Petra or Rez Band.

By then, I was already passionate about John Lennon and the Beatles. Lennon’s death in 1980 had hurt me deeply, so nothing could mean more than seeing a passionate and charismatic voice like this coming from my generation. I was in my late teens and the members of U2 were in their early twenties.  On the album War, Bono declares in “Like A Song”: 

Angry words won’t stop the fight
Two wrongs won’t make it right
A new heart is what I need
Oh God make it bleed

In U2, I had found the voice of my generation.

My enthusiasm for U2 quickly turned me on to the authentic anthem bands from across the pond, bands like The Alarm, Big Country, Waterboys, and Simple Minds. The politics of people over profit informed the likes of Billy Bragg and the clash. Back in the USA, Bruce Springsteen was a more sophisticated John Cougar. Down in the South, there was a jangle rock scene, from fiery bar band Guadalcanal Diary to the Athens, Georgia legends R.E.M., who would be the American peers to U2 in terms of widespread popularity, creative expressions, and progressive messages. 

Refugees from punk provided the antidote to cheesy radio rock, and the likes of Minutemen, Replacements, and Violent Femmes filled my ears. 

Finally I found my first genuine fanboy crushes on Maria McKee of Lone Justice and Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs. I kept my intentions all about the music and was thrilled to meet them, interview them, write about them, and travel all around the country to see them play. As my newspaper and fanzine articles started to land in the hands of other bands and labels, backstage access was a surprisingly easy hustle. I ended up meeting almost every artist I saw. 

Many of the artists I saw were also activists against war and racism, commitments I shared. Surviving the Reagan years meant meeting like minded folks, attending lots of protests, and having a great record collection. The transition from the high school years to the college experience was so bumpy and wild and included drugs and dropping out. While I loved all my adventures, there were close calls and dark detours. These amazing soundtracks kept me moderately sane and always inspired.  

Listen to a playlist: