Monday, April 24, 2017

Greatest Story Ever Told (TOTR 296)

Son House - John the Revelator
The Louvin Brothers - Are You Washed In The Blood
Hart Valley Drifters - Standing in the Need of Prayer
Old & In The Way - Angel Band
Grateful Dead - Samson & Delilah
Jerry Garcia Band - Who Was John?
Grateful Dead - Sing Me Back Home
Wilco & Bob Weir - St. Stephen
Bob Dylan - Man Gave Names to All the Animals
Bob Dylan - Saved
Bob Dylan - Property of Jesus
Jerry Garcia Band - Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Grateful Dead - Greatest Story Ever Told
Jesse McReynolds - Franklin’s Tower
David Crosby - I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here
David Crosby - Tamalpais High
John Fogerty & My Morning Jacket - Long As I Can See The Light
Divine Hair - The Flesh Failures

Monday, April 17, 2017

Interfaith Is Alright (TOTR 295) - with annotations/liner notes & embedded playlist

Alison Krauss “Down To The River To Pray”
The Alison Krauss version of the traditional medicinal now iconic, this song is an invitation to the holy waters of baptism, best done when we get clean in the dirty waters of a local creek. This song signifies what I call the ‘O Brother’ effect when the Coen brothers 2000 film turned all our hearts to the deep American river of Appalachian roots music and religion, the comedy and mythos of the movie notwithstanding. This is our ‘invocation’ and ‘call’ to study the intersection of popular music and religion in the United States.

Madonna “Ray of Light”
An exuberant singalong dance number that brings this 1980s star into the next century, this song reminds that we all know the light means something spiritual. In the live version performed at Live 8 in 2005, Madonna and her entire backing ensemble are all wearing white, like the robed sinners on their way to baptism in the movie scene where I first discovered the previous track. Madonna much like Marvin Gaye has done much to entice Americans to explore difficult tangles at the place where the sexual and spiritual, the ethereal and erotic meet, but most of all, this track is pure pop gospel as evidenced in the lyric: “She's got herself a little piece of heaven/Waiting for the time when earth shall be as one/And I feel like I just got home.” Even the performer’s stage name demands we reckon with the divine feminine and the divine within.

Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky”
Did your hippy grandparents get saved listening to this swirling psychedelic 1969 pop rock-meets-gospel-revival that would become the Jesus People? Some might be surprised that this big hit is brought to us by an observant Jew who was raised in an orthodox household. Greenbaum’s grooves would later be matched by the Doobie Brothers on “Jesus is Just Alright” for radio-friendly hints of the gospel amid the sensations of secular hope and hedonism that defined the 60s and 70s sounds.

Queen Latifah “Oh Happy Day”
The Queen is holding court as this dynamic actress, R&B singer, and MC renders this Easter classic a truly bodily resurrection, supercharging the track with the smoky charisma of her supernatural sensual side.

Stevie Wonder “Jesus Children of America”
Generally placed in the Motown tradition, Stevie Wonder is a genre all his own. The musical genius is responsible for every sound on this song’s sonic funkfest of holy fusion:  lead vocal, background vocal, Fender Rhodes, Hohner clavinet, handclaps, tambourine, handclapping, drums, Moog bass. Wonder’s lyrics connect compassionate mother Mary with transcendental meditation or the junky’s obsession with Christ’s sacrifice for salvation. Released in 1973, this track captures the old school churchy aspects of the Jesus revival in conversation with the drugs and New Age ideals mingling in the air.

For my interfaith hip hop set, we go on a whirlwind tour including Christian (Lecrae), Muslim (Rakim), and Jewish (Matisyahu) rappers, along with MC Yogi, who is the feel-good, interfaith yoga MC. He had a rough life transformed by Yoga practice. Chance lays such dynamic and divine-dense head-flipping, knowledge-sipping goodness, it shows why hip-hop is the perfect medium for laypersons turned MC preacher-philosophers.

Chance The Rapper - How Great
Rakim - Holy Are You
Lecrae - It Is What It Is
MC Yogi - Namaste
Matisyahu - King Without A Crown

For our first kirtan set, we turn to Krishna Das, a leader in the genre, and the kirtan Rabbi chanting the traditional Jewish “shema,” meaning: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Kirtan is a call-and-response musical chant genre, with repetitive vocals and instruments like harmonium, the veena or ektara (forms of string instruments), the tabla (one-sided drums), the mrdanga or pakhawaj (two-sided drum), flute (forms of woodwind instruments), and karatalas or talas (cymbals). Kirtan gets categorized as a New Age musical genre and attracts people on blended paths. It’s current forms are recent developments but roots are in Yoga, Hinduism, and Krishna Consciousness. Celtic Christian and Jewish kirtan are emerging. I really like the description provided by Nashville kirtan artist Amy Barnes on her website here:

Kirtan Rabbi - Shema
Krishna Das - Hara Hara Mahaadeva
Paul Simon - Spirit Voices
Originally a superstar with Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon has delivered quite the electrifying career as a solo artist. A line from this track -- “Some stories are magical, meant to be sung” -- could be a defining line for this whole playlist and foray into interfaith musical mecca. Back when Simon’s stunning Graceland first came out with the great help of African musicians such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, I was first introduced to the concept of “cultural appropriation,” or, inappropriate borrowing from marginalized cultures by dominant cultures in offensive, and at times, profiteering ways. Although there are truly exploitative and egregious manifestations of this, the idea itself is a recent invention, and the attempt to “copyright” a musical idea or fashion expression as the exclusive property of an ethnic or religious group has problematic aspects as well.  Point being: be sensitive, give credit, and don’t be a total jerk by stealing another culture’s or someone else’s idea or by morally condemning those who do share in truly communal and collaborative ways.

Aaron Neville - Gotta Serve Somebody
Taking the most influential and inspiring track at the top of Bob Dylan’s “born-again Jesus phase,” Aaron Neville gives the track a remarkable treatment as New Orleans gospel. The lyrics to this song describe a defining moment in any spiritual seeker’s life, when the existential rubber meets the road of cosmic reality, and the seeker must decide who is God and who is not.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Come By Here
When I think about the intersection of the blues and gospel, I think about Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She fuses these genres with her deep throaty singing and acid-rock worthy axe-slinging. There’s a version of “Up Above My Head” on YouTube that is Jimi Hendrix backed by a choir, except the Sister is Hendrix, and the lead singer in the choir. Although many of you know this track as “Kum Ba Yah,” this iteration makes as much sense for our ears. I have taken it upon myself to chair the defense of “Kum Ba Yah” against all the cynical cliches armed against it. This version has its own version of the lyrics that speak to the heart and Sister’s guitar, which speaks to the rest of the body.

Mahalia Jackson - This might be the most genuine black gospel track in the whole mix, and it is fitting because it is Mahalia’s version of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” that initiated my true love for black gospel many years ago. As you may or may not know, Jackson is depicted singing this song to Martin Luther King over the phone during the movie Selma. She also sang this song at MLK’s memorial in 1968. Sometimes when this song plays, tears are not optional.

There’s an actual John Coltrane church in San Francisco, and I have been there. The song “Love Supreme” is legendary in jazz, and in the liner notes, it testifies to God and spiritual awakening, to Coltrane’s overcoming of heroin and alcohol addiction. Alice Coltrane is John Coltrane’s widow, who after his death, studied under Swami Satchidinanda and Sathya Sai Baba. She established an ashram and pioneered the Kirtan chant genre, coupled with cosmic free jazz.

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme, Pt. 1
Alice Coltrane - Om Shanti
Marion Williams - Hare Krishna
Continuing the collision of gospel, jazz, and Kirtan, the great Marion Williams does her version of “Hare Krishna” from a 1971 record of peace and love streetcorner gospel.

Rev. Yolanda - Interfaith is Just Alright
Rev. Yolanda is a gospel-kirtan trans-performer who holds church in a bar in New York. Yolanda’s riffing on the Doobie Brothers classic “Jesus Is Just Alright” is a glorious celebration of peace and dialogue for persons of all faiths and no faiths. You just cannot help but sing along to this cosmic love song and learn from it. It should be an interfaith anthem, but it is an interspiritual hymn. Its theological claim of “sameness” may be too much to transcend the particularities of some faith practitioners.

Amy Barnes - Shiva Gospel
From a gospel singer doing kirtan, we conclude with a kirtan singer doing gospel. When we are in the zone of interfaith and musical jams, that’s just how we roll.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Crucified Again (TOTR 294)

Humanity Hanging by Winston Smith 

Johnny & June Carter Cash - Follow Me
Johnny Cash - Introduction
Johnny Cash - Jesus’ First Miracle
Kris Kristofferson - Jesus Was A Capricorn
Bruce Springsteen - Jesus Was an Only Son
Joseph Arthur - The Ballad of Boogie Christ
Brother Mitch - Hippie Jesus Freak
A Band Called David - Jesus People
Larry Norman - Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus
Nathan Partain - Jesus Is Mine
Jars of Clay - Jesus, I Lift My Eyes
Mike Farris - Dear Lazarus
The Collection - Lazarus
Gungor - This Is Not The End
Alice Cooper - King Herod’s Song
Sister Janet Mead - Hosanna
Godspell - We Beseech Thee
Godspell - By My Side
OCP Session Choir - Lord of the Dance
Rodriguez - Crucify Your Mind
Arcade Fire - Crucified Again
John Michael Talbot - Would You Crucify Him
Holy City Hymns - Go To Dark Gethsemane
Barrington Levy - Crucifixion
Rev. Gary Davis - Crucifixion
Johnny Cash - Jesus’ Last Words
Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Were You There When They Crucified My Lord
Rich Mullins - Creed
Johnny Cash & The Carter Family - The Lord’s Prayer & Amen Chorus

Monday, April 3, 2017

Within Sight / Out Of Sight (TOTR 293)

Dan Auerbach - Shine On Me
Spiritualized - Out Of Sight
Jim James - Hide In Plain Sight
Promised Land Sound - Within Sight
Pale Saints - Sight Of You
Rag’n’Bone Man - The Fire
Matisyahu - Shade from the Sun
Elbow - Trust the Sun
Major & the Monbacks - Sunshine
Atlas Road Crew - Black Eye Sunrise
Boy Named Banjo - The Light
Jonah Tolchin - Diamond Mind
The Dead Tongues - Empire Builder
Poor Remy - Cave Eyes
Cbdb - New Eyes
Kendall Street Company - Sweet and Clean
Steve Gunn & Black Twig Pickers - Trailways Ramble
Matthew Logan Vasquez - Maria
Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra - Dreamcatcher
Whiskerman - Everything is Small
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Hope the High Road
Ryley Walker - A Choir Apart
Elephant Revival - To and From

Monday, March 27, 2017

Keep the Circle Turning (TOTR 292)

Chuck Berry - I’m a Rocker
Chuck Berry - Have Mercy Judge
Marc Benno - Speak Your Mind
Stephen Stills - Isn’t It About Time
Leon Russell - Stranger in a Strange Land
Spirit - Dream Within A Dream
Love - Dream
Lee Michaels - Can I Get A Witness
Lee Michaels - Hold On To Freedom
Lee Michaels - What Now America
Lee Michaels - Keep the Circle Turning
Country Joe & the Fish - Death Sound Blues
Quicksilver Messenger Service - Fresh Air
Moby Grape - It’s A Beautiful Day Today
The Electric Flag - Going Down Slow
It’s A Beautiful Day- Essence of Now
The Sons of Champlain - Things Are Gettin’ Better
Stoneground - Great Changes Since I’ve Been Born
John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers - Laurel Canyon Home
The Byrds - Change Is Now
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Mystery Train
Jefferson Airplane - Crown of Creation
Grateful Dead - New Speedway Boogie
Chuck Berry - I Still Got The Blues
The Staple Singers - Samson & Delilah

Little Richard - Dancing in the Street

Monday, March 20, 2017

Listen To The River (TOTR 291)

(Photo of Calfkiller River & Waterfall (c) Chuck Sutherland.)

Johnny Cash - Big River
Doc Watson - Deep River Blues
Mason Jennings - How Deep Is That River
Kevin Morby - Harlem River
Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues
The Tallest Man On Earth - Rivers
The Head and The Heart - Rivers and Roads
Run River North - Run River Run
The Collection - You Taste Like Wine
The Collection - Birds
The Collection - The Listener
The Oh Hellos - Bitter Water
Caamp - Down the River
Cereus Bright - River Run
The Black Atlantic - I Shall Cross This River
Fleet Foxes - Drops In The River
Nick Drake - River Man
Railroad Earth - Mighty River
Warren Haynes - River’s Gonna Rise
Van Morrison - Every Time I See A River
Sublime - Rivers of Babylon
My Morning Jacket - Like A River
Leon Bridges - River
Bruce Springsteen - The River

Monday, March 13, 2017

Trip Through Your Wires (TOTR 290)

The Impressions - People Get Ready
John Lennon - Stand By Me
The Beatles - Help
U2 - Helter Skelter
U2 - Maggie’s Farm
Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower
The Doors - Riders On The Storm
The Dubliners - Springhill Mining Disaster
Hot Buttered Rum - Where the Streets Have No Name
The Persuasions - I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Scala & Kolacny Brothers - With or Without You
Absinthe - Bullet the Blue Sky
Earl Pickens & Family - Running to Stand Still
J Scott Bergman - Red Hill Mining Town
U2 - In God’s Country
Jamestowne - Trip Through Your Wires
Whitewater Ramble - One Tree Hill
U2 - Exit
Susan Aglukark - Mothers of the Disappeared
U2 - The Electric Co.
U2 - 40
U2 - Sweetest Thing
The Rolling Stones - Ruby Tuesday
Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
U2 - All I Want Is You

'Teacher on the Radio' turns 10 by Hannah Barger

by Hannah Barger, reprinted by permission of the author;
originally appeared in the Tennessee Tech Oracle

Since 2007, Professor Andrew Smith has been a fixture of Tennessee Tech's airwaves (and downloads) with his weekly Teacher on the Radio series. As the show, which draws its name from the Brooklyn indie band TV on the Radio, nears its tenth anniversary, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Professor Smith in TTU's recording studio (adjacent to the scenic Oracle office) to discuss the show's past, present and future. 

Let me start by saying I'm probably biased. Professor Smith is honestly one of the coolest and most genuine people I know, and I'm not just saying that because I liked his Bible as Literature class. That put me at ease, so with my less than stellar interviewing skills, I started from the beginning, asking Smith about the early days of his DJ career. 
Radio comes as naturally to Smith as teaching does. From the early days as a "high school celebrity," who got free tickets to local shows in Michigan, Smith has always felt at home in a recording studio. So it seems fitting that in 2007, he began his radio tenure here at Tech. 

Smith's playlists are themed, and when I sat down with him on the night of the twentieth, the theme was "Bless this mess," and the musical selection was, fittingly, full of songs about hope and revolution. Artists like Green Day, Chance the Rapper, and Depeche Mode were featured, filling the airwaves with voices of dissent. Smith suggests that college radio is subversive by nature, and I have to agree with him. No one turns on their local university station to hear about how cool it is to listen unquestioningly to authority and do your homework (though I guess he would advise you to do the latter). It's noteworthy that not every artist on the lists are artists Smith is personally very familiar with- he chooses music that fits in with his theme, be it love, blessings, rebellion, or religion. This fact is one thing I love about his series' style- Smith makes the show accessible to everyone and sidesteps the "if it's not a white guy with a guitar it sucks" elitism that some rock n roll-loving DJs are inclined to. 

At the risk of sounding all "let's all hold hands and sing Kumbaya,"  I'll say now that music is undeniably something that brings people together. It articulates the things we feel but can't really express on our own. It MAKES us feel. That is why, in my opinion, people like professor Smith are so important. In a world that seems incredibly uncertain, listening to one of your favorite teachers playing great music as though it was his calling in life and speaking words of wisdom can make you believe that the world isn't such a bad place. 

The world is changing, for better or for worse. But at Tennessee Tech, the Teacher on the Radio is here to stay.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Transfiguration (TOTR 289)

Gene Krupa - Sing Sing Sing
Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Can’t Sit Down
Sam Cooke - Come & Go To That Land
Arcade Fire & Mavis Staples - I Give You Power
The Staple Singers - Let’s Get Together
The Byrds - Turn! Turn! Turn!
David Crowder Band - The Transfiguration
Josh Garrels - Fire By Night
Fragile Dragon - Fire on the Mountain
Son Volt - Promise the World
Son Volt - Cherokee St
Ryan Adams - Shiver & Shake
Ryan Adams - To Be Without You
The Way Down Wanderers - New Day Dawning
The Way Down Wanderers - Circles
The Hanging Stars - Crippled Shining Blues
Last of the Easy Riders - Mystic Legend
Arcade Fire & David Byrne - Speaking in Tongues
All Things Bright & Beautiful - Transfiguration, pt 1 & 2
Graham Ord - Shine Forth Like The Sun
The Brilliance - Night Has Passed/Morning Has Broken
The Brilliance - All Is Not Lost
YofiYah - Dodi Li

Krishna Das - God Is Real /Hare Ram

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bless This Mess (TOTR 288)

David Bazan - Bless This Mess
Jay Samel & Friends - Activist
John Butler Trio - Revolution
Green Day - Revolution Radio
Depeche Mode - Where’s the Revolution
Chance The Rapper - Blessings
Jill Scott - Blessed
Sho Baraka - Soul, 1971
Fedel - The Brave
Da T.R.U.T.H. - Religion
nobigdyl - Tree Tops
Sho Baraka - Road to Humble, 1979
Norah Jones - Humble Me
The Infamous Stringdusters - Gravity
Will Varley - To Build A Wall
The Pines - Where Something Wild Still Grows
Josh Garrels - At the Table
Passenger - Table for One
The Pinkerton Raid - Giving Tree
Staying for the Weekend - The Giving Tree
Roadkill Ghost Choir - Cassette Memory
R.E.M. - Radio (Acoustic ‘Radio Song’)
U2 - Wave Of Sorrow (Birdland)
Sheryl Crow - God Bless This Mess
Elton John - Blessed
Josh Garrels - Blessed Is He