Archive for December, 2008

Back to albums that matter…

December 30, 2008

And a blog that may not.

Well, it’s been two months. I’d like to claim that this was some sort of intentional decision designed to remind me of how much I enjoy watching the stats page on this blog climb. But it wasn’t. (And it doesn’t climb THAT much anyway!)

But I do miss spouting off randomly, and thought I’d give it another shot.


That album is Buddy Miller’s Universal United House of Prayer. And it matters to me.

One of the constant battles of adult life for me is balancing what I believe and what I think. Reason and faith. Too often, I feel ostracized within the Christian faith because I don’t believe that Jesus would’ve voted Bush/Cheney. In fairness, for that matter, too often I feel ostractized within the Democratic Party because I do feel that there are some absolute values in human behavior and morality. Balacing freedom and responibility intertwines with shutting out both intolerance and moral relativism.

Sometimes, on a good day, or week or year, one finds people in this world who have a gift for putting the whole thing back together. They live their lives with a complete commitment to honoring Jesus Christ, but they also have a gift of understanding and compassion that tells me that they might recognize a bit of Jesus in the grizzly homeless guy they drive past every morning. You know, the human part. And when we’re really lucky, these people aren’t just schmoes like me who work in an office. They are artists, who take this rounded approach and create something new and bold.

That’s where Buddy Miller comes in. Miller is a Christian who records rockish countryish guitar based music. Universal United House of Prayer was a departure to him. The album bears a much heavier religious influence that his previous country/bluesy/Americana CDs. In what it says, and in the space it leaves to complete its vision with its listener, the album is a masterwork.

“Worry Too Much”, a Mark Heard song from the days of Desert Storm is a central piece of this record. In the same vein, Miller mines Dylan’s “With God On Our Side” for a poignancy which even Bob couldn’t find. That’s not to say this record is entirely navel-gazing over the state of our earthly world.

“There’s a Higher Power” is an upbeat gospel song with the McCrary sisters that brings praise into a world gone wrong. Miller’s wife and collaborator, Julie, contributes a heavy gospel song “Fall on the Rock”, with its central message being “You got to fall on the Rock or the Rock’s gonna fall on you.” “Wide River to Cross”, on the other hand, is a gorgeous meditation on human existence, written in the shadow of the death of Julie’s brother in a motorcycle accident.

If you like countryish rock, but could live without another album of wine, weed and women, or if you like the idea of Christian music, but the execution of same just bores you with antiseptic praise bands trying to out-clever each other, check out this record. It has a lived in feel. It’s an album you can feel joy with, or ponder mysteries with, or just abide with. It sounds like a good friend.