Michial Farmer leads a discussion with Nathan Gilmour and David Grubbs about the late singer/songwriter Mark Heard’s 1992 greatest-hits album High Noon. Heard died unexpected of a heart attack in 1992, and still remains an obscure name today. But his music is some of the best that “Christian rock” has had to offer the world.
MF - would you consider the band "The Choir" as a musical descendant of Mark Heard? I know you've used some of their music on CHP podcasts. How enthusiastic are you for The Choir and even the broader work of Derri Daugherty and Steve Hindalong (e.g., At the Foot of the Cross, City on a Hill, & etc.)?
@dpreimer I've actually never heard Martyn Joseph, though I've heard his name a lot. Where should I start with him?
I get him confused with Joseph Arthur, whom I intermittently like but who has little in common with Mark Heard.
@ChenBuLei I've been a Choir fan since high school and own all their records. I think they definitely belong to the same group as Heard did; in fact, they cover "Tip of My Tongue" for one of the tribute albums, and I think he plays on the "Wide Eyed Wonder" album. I like them best when they're weird and noisy, mostly, and when their lyrics are less straightforward. I didn't like "The Loudest Sound Ever Heard" because it felt tediously preachy to me, though I appreciate that it's a recovery record for Hindalong and probably something he needed to make. I think their latest, "Shadow Weaver," is largely a return to form.
I have the two At the Foot of the Cross records and the first City on a Hill. I don't listen to them that often, though I appreciate what they do (especially the ATFOTC records, which are much, much different than typical "worship" music). I do think "Forgive Us," from the second ATFOTC record, is one of the best CCM songs ever written--and one of the great Gene Eugene's finest vocal performances.
And now, just for the heck of it, I will rank the Choir albums from my favorite to my least favorite, because my wife is asleep and I'm not tired yet:
Speckled Bird/Kissers and Killers (1994)
Free Flying Soul (1996)
Burning Like the Midnight Sun (2011)
Flap Your Wings (2000)
Shadow Weaver (2014)
Chase the Kangaroo (1988)
Wide Eyed Wonder (1989)
Circle Slide (1990)
O How the Mighty Have Fallen (2005)
The Loudest Sound Ever Heard (2012)
Shades of Gray (1985)
Diamonds and Rain (1986)
Voices in Shadows (1984)
Everything above the space I would say I like; the four below the space I would say I don't like. "Speckled Bird" is maybe a controversial pick for their best album (most people would say "Circle Slide," I imagine), but I think the heavy guitars are a nice counterpart to Derri Daugherty's voice, which can otherwise be too sweet, even cloying, at times. And "Love Your Mind" is self-evidently the best of their love songs.
@Michial Farmer @dpreimer re: Martyn Joseph: Well ... practically speaking one of his live collections would cover the bases. I'm as reluctant to recommend that as I would be recommending Hammer & Nails to a MH newcomer. Live showcases MJ's strengths and weaknesses -- he is nowhere nearly as circumspect as MH when it comes to making political statements. Studio work, I'm especially fond of "Vegas," particularly the title track (which reminds me a great deal of MH) and "The Things We Have Carried". if either of those tracks is to your taste, you might explore the album further -- DPR ("Whisky Prajer" -- full marks for your impeccable Germanic pronunciation, BTW)
@Michial Farmer @ChenBuLei Thanks for the feedback, and I dig your ranking of Choir albums. I'd probably flip-flop Free Flying Soul and Flap Your Wings. Flap Your Wings sounds best with headphones given all the funky distortions they do on that album.
I love the ATFOTC albums (especially Vol. 1). They strike me as the kind of worship music that the three CHP hosts would enjoy, so I was glad to hear that you liked them. I also remember you mentioning Michael Card. I have all his albums, and I am surprised by how many Christians I talk to who don't know his music. His music is saturated with scripture. I think NG should listen to Michael Card's 'Ancient Faith Trilogy' given his love of all things OT. One last worship comment - The Sons of Korah are a band from Australia. They have a half-dozen or so albums and they sing the Psalms. Best psalter music on the planet. I never thought I could be moved by the singing of Psalm 137, but they make it happen. Wonderful stuff.
This episode prompted me to try and find some of the bands I used to listen to a lot back in the early 90's - bands like The 77's, Lifesavers Underground (L.S.U.), and Mortal. (I became a Christian in 1992) Amazingly enough a lot of these bands are on iTunes! I also found this article from a dude who ranked the Top 100 Christian albums of the 90's. Thought you might enjoy this as well:
@ChenBuLei @Michial Farmer The 77's are another favorite of mine, although my all-time favorite band, Christian or secular, is Daniel Amos. I just love everything Terry Taylor does. Mike Knott of L.S.U. is a little more scattershot for me; he put out way too many albums in the 1990s, with little quality control. He has some wonderful songs, and some nearly unlistenable ones. Only "Rocket and a Bomb" and the first Aunt Bettys album hold up all the way through, at least for me. (I also think "Dogfish Jones" is shamefully underrated--what a weird and wonderful album that is.) I only had one Mortal album--"Pura," which I understand to be a departure for them.
I'll have to check out the other acts you mention. Thanks for the recommendations!