New Music Fridays. It’s been a couple months since anything really good dropped. Today I’ve got a couple new albums. Let’s start with Wilder Woods, the solo act of Bear Rineheart, lead singer of Needtobreathe. My youngest is nicknamed Bear because of this man, so needless to say, we’re fans. His new album Fever/Sky is just dripping with character and songwriting excellence. The guitar too. This man is Americana in a nutshell and the instrumentation is just everything I need.

And to continue in the Americana, Chris Thile of Punch Brothers got back with his early 2000’s band to release a new album. These guys were the Backstreet Boys of bluegrass. I didn’t listen to them then, but as I got out of college I became more and more a fan of Americana through the likes of Needtobreathe and Mumford and Sons. Then someone recommended Punch Brothers and I became a mandolinist. I got hooked because of Chris. Celebrants brings the chops, the fiddle, and the falsettos you expect with Chris and his Nickel Creek bandmates.

I was talking with someone the other day about “new” music. He said he doesn’t really listen to new music and is stuck in stuff from a decade ago. While I don’t feel the need to be listening to new music for relevance sake, music is experiential and new music brings new experience. New words, new lyrics, new thoughts. It’s like reading a book. I could reread an old book. There is value to that. But I also love to read new books. I’m no Top 50 kinda guy— never was— but I pay attention to specific artists and genres. So Fridays are something to look forward to with music. Go soak in some good music.

Demon Hunter: Exile

Every Monday we drive over 2 hours for the kid’s music lessons. Sometimes we fill this time with audiobooks. Sometimes podcasts. Sometimes we just catch up on conversations. Last night was music and it had been a while since I listened to Demon Hunter’s album Exile straight through, so we put that on and screamed out.

Much of this album is counter-culture— specifically political and social media culture. Take Master, which screams:

You need a lesson in loyalty
No need to suffer alone
You violate your humanity
When you recoil away from the tone

If all you want is just a master
We could be everything you need
If flesh and bone is what you’re after
Then let the foolish take the lead

Drop your Jesus, Christian. If all you want is just a master, the world is more than willing to fulfill every need you have. Just follow the tone.

They tell me God is not enough for war
Take a lesser man and bleed for him

In the words of the band, this is a concept album “[s]et in the aftermath of civilized society’s collapse, the 12 songs examine modern life through the lens of a nonconformist, contemplating a life untethered.” Social media is killing us. Specifically algorithm-powered feeds. The algorithm wants engagement and extreme content gets engagement. In Ryan Clark’s words, “[e]ven when it seems people have pinpointed things like social media as destructive, the concept of abstaining from it is quickly excused away.”

How do I silence the world?
How do I live through the noise?

We gave you this voice
A freedom you don’t deserve
Resounding with all of the noise
Dying to strike a nerve

Whatever happened to indifference?
Whatever happened to divided views?
It reads a lot like intolerance
When every word that you write says
freedom is dead

I saw an extreme far Leftist calling for the guillotining of Republicans on Twitter a few weeks ago. When he was responded to with “what happened to tolerance?” his response was “who ever said I was tolerant?” The tolerance bullshit was just to ram through the only allowed views. Now the facade is coming down. Whatever happened to indifference? To divided views? If dissent is not allowed, then freedom is dead.

I am a longtime fan of Demon Hunter and this album is no different. Ryan Clark is a great songwriter, and a great singer, and this album is full of great riffs and great lyrics when you slow down and listen.

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth´s lamentation
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear that music ringing
It finds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

I had never really liked this song before I heard them perform it in person.

By grace alone somehow I stand
where even angels fear to tread.

Boldly I Approach by Rend Collective

How can I, a sinner stand at the Throne of God?

When condemnation grips my heart
and Satan tempts me to despair,
I hear the voice that scatters fear;
the Great I Am, The Lord is here.
O praise the One who fights for me,
and shields my soul eternally!

Despair, the opposite of hope. This world doesn’t understand hope. And it revels in despair.

For the Christian, we have to understand that “[t]he threat of Hell is real. Wilson’s analogy of receiving a pardon but understanding that you were going to be executed is important. There is punishment for sin. A just God cannot allow there not to be.” (Good News and Hope for Detransitioners). Satan will use this against us, but we must understand that this even applied to us. Our sins are forgiven by the Grace of God, but the punishment we deserve is real. And Satan is all too willing to taunt us, “surely God wouldn’t forgive you, James. Surely you have wandered too far, pissed him off too much.”

But the voice of God scatters fear. He fights for me. In your salvation, Christian, you have nothing to despair. You have nothing to fear. “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” If you were responsible for attaining salvation, you might be right to fear your ability to lose it. But God chose you. Yeah, you hid that one sin from Him, but seriously stop assuming there is something about you that God can miss. Chin up, finish the race.

Two of my favorite artists. Needtobreathe and Shakey Graves. This popped up last night. Needtobreathe covering Deadly Departed by Shakey Graves. Y’oughta go give it a listen.

Some good traditional music feel here. Enjoy!

So I throw up my hands
And praise You again and again
‘Cause all that I have is a hallelujah
And I know it’s not much
But I’ve nothing else fit for a King
Except for a heart singing hallelujah

Gratitude by Brandon Lake

In the words of Jonathan Edwards, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” What can we bring before the King? Worship.

Brother, brother, can’t you see?
The path that you’ve chosen will lead you to misery
Brother, brother, emergency
The road that you’re bound on will lead you to misery
You say you’re free and you do what you want, push love aside as you follow the pun
Your addictions ruling you, peace not the choice you even choose
You cast the blame on the world outside, yet you’re the one who chose to hide You’re always free to take my hand

Brother Brother by Flatfoot 56

It’s the time of year that I pull out my Irish music and celebrate St. Patrick, a Christian man that sought to bring the Gospel to the barbarians and see them come to know Jesus. Flatfoot 56 is one of my favorite bands from my college years. Irish punk, but an underbelly of Christian theology.

If you need to scratch your bluegrass itch, I can never recommend The Dead South enough. While most of their stuff is darker— I believe they call themselves gothic bluegrass— their Easy Listening for Jerks, Pt. 1 is classic bluegrass. Get hooked, then listen to some of their other stuff.

These words echoed last year. I stood amongst the Church and cried more than I have in my entire adult life. I stood on stage, hidden behind the brim of my hat and my guitar, praising God that my instrument wasn’t my voice, tears streaming down my face.

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say when I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

Even If by MercyMe

Church got me through. Being with the Body, amongst the Body, surrounded by the Body. They were my legs when mine didn’t work. And music. God speaks so much through art and worship.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

The lyric “but even if You don’t.” Last week we talked about sovereignty and God’s will during our Wednesday night group. We must pray to God as if He will answer our prayers and praise God even if He doesn’t.

But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

Leaving mountains unmovable. That was my 2022. But I lit many campfires and sang many dark nights, after the kids and the Sun went down, “it is well with my soul.”