Brawney, Syrupy And Flashy: A Renewal Of The Spirit

Last week I was voicing my angst to a friend.

“I feel so stifled. I don’t feel like I do anything creative anymore. I feel so stuck.”

Imagine that; I have the immense privilege of making music almost every week, with a fine group of musicians. It’s an incredible dance – the art in my soul expressed through the ancient words and more contemporary words and rhythm of the spiritual. I do “church music”, but it is woven in and around opportunities for artistic expression that are quite far away from many of the stereotypes – whether those that lean towards the notion that “church music is boring” or those that suppose “church music is derivative and lacking passion”. It’s an incredible job, and a great privilege that rolls around every week, without fail. I love music, I love to play, I love to sing, and I love the local church. I believe in Jesus. And I get to wrap myself around all of those things I love, each and every week.

I have that opportunity. And yet still, seasonally, I get stuck. It gets boring. Redundant. Rote. Hard to believe. Difficult to admit. But true.

The cycle of creativity is still a mystery to me. It breathes deeply in collaboration but also soars in isolation. There is no set routine. It comes and goes. And recently, it’s been gone. I gave voice to my discontent, and then waited for things to change, as they always do.

First a two-hour concert that focused exclusively on spiritual music – but not the boring kind. It left us completely, utterly spent – physically, emotionally, musically. But it started a recharge, a rekindling, and I felt some things stirring.

And then came Adele.

I began to soak in this new album on Monday morning as I drove around to various meetings, and with repeated listenings I grew more and more amazed. And grateful. This record* just filled me up, stirred my soul, as art will do. And out of that stirring came a new passion and appreciation, a desire to create.

Let me tell you this one thing: I became particularly entranced by a song called “I’ll Be Waiting”. Soulful, with something besides a typical run-of-the-mill chord progression, smooth horn punches and a brilliant piano riff. I kept hitting the repeat button. In my head, I couldn’t help but consider the progression, figure out the key and trace out the changes. I just absorbed every bit of it as I drove down Route 60.

I pulled in the driveway. I walked in the door, went to the piano and played the entire song out of the depths of my head, right then and there. First time. BAM! Which made me happy and proud. Which might sound weird, but I had this great appreciation of the gift I had been given: First, the music, the song and the singer and the musicians playing. Secondly, the ability to recreate it, to claim and channel it as my own.


If you buy ANY record this year, make it this one. I don’t care what style of music you prefer – this is music that matters.

Here’s what Frannie Kelley says, from NPR’s website:

Adele is a 22-year-old woman from London whose voice sounds as if it’s being yanked out of her chest through the throat of someone much older; someone shouldering more painful stories and a far larger chest cavity. She says that both of her albums — 2008’s 19, for which she won Best New Artist at the Grammys, and this one, 21 — are about boys, two different ones. The stories she tells about them are average, familiar, normal. The voice she uses to tell them is a force of nature. It’s brawny, syrupy and flashy at the same time.

“Brawny, syrupy and flashy.” And brilliant. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Do yourself a favor and get this music. Buy it here or on iTunes.

Then come tell me what you think.

*By the way, for the record (ha), I will always call these recorded things “records”. I don’t care if we’re at the point when the music is encoded on chips in our heads. To me, they will be, forever and always, records. Just because. It’s a nostalgia thing. Deal with it.

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