Disclaimer: I have received a complimentary copy of each CD I’ll be giving away (as well as the give-away CDs), in exchange for giving my really, truly, genuine, honest opinion of each album. Since I’m pretty opinionated, and even more so about music than other things, this was a very bold marketing risk on the part of www.YourLDSRadio.com!
So, what you see is really me, nothing coerced or inappropriately remunerated.
I grew up during one of the very most twee phases of twee church music; overly-synthesized and electronically blended echoey stuff with heavy-handed “churchy” themes. I stood and sang “I Walk By Faith” more than any one human being ever ought to do (and may I say, I wish to kick whomever attempted the revisionist version that shoves the newest Young Women value, Virtue, into the mix with zero regard for the overall tempo and musical integrity of the song, and even if they did talk Janice Kapp Perry into doing it, I’ll still kick whomever asked her, because it is just about as dreadful as setting catechism to the twaddle of tuneless meanderings in the children’s song book. It’s right up there with honey ham. Seriously.) I sighed over Afterglow, and spent a lot of time belting out Michael Kapp Perry songs in my bedroom. Keep in mind that this was also the era of really tall “mall claw” bangs (which I could not manage) and pegged jeans (which I could) with long tunic sweaters. And shoulder pads. So, you have to know that musical sensibility, along with a grand lot of other sensibilities, was off, in general, and forgive my youthful musical follies. I’ve grown.
My point is: I don’t listen to artists because they are LDS, or play along specifically LDS themes. I do, however, listen to artists who make great music, and some of them happen to be LDS. And, I’m always on the lookout for new music, so the chance to listen to two new CDs, and then share them with other people? Very nifty. And, I get to suck my lovely
minions… erm, children, into the adventure with a youth-oriented give-away in the next few days.
So, let me tell you what I think about the new Katherine Nelson album, “Born Brave“, and then, if you want to wait a week and see if The Digital Sprites who govern random-number-selection favor you, leave a comment here. I have one copy to share. If you can’t wait, click on that link right up there, and go hear samples for yourself, and I’m betting you find a few tunes you need to own.
First off, I’m inclined to like Katherine Nelson. She melted my heart playing Emma Smith (one of my favorite mid-19th century ladies) (and the hairstyles and costuming in the movies weren’t her fault, so to say she herself distracted me from those aspects, knowing the historic costuming nerd/critic I happen to be? That’s huge.)
Second: the album. Like it. As my Lefty and Spicy might say, I like it lots and gobbies.
She’s really easy to listen to, but not in a bland, vanilla, twee way. Her voice is grounded, able to soar, and real, not overly-perfected or synthesized. There’s a real person singing and playing and sharing. I feel like she may be my reward for suffering through some of the musical exploits of the 80s. She does some interesting things with melody patterns, upward movement in unexpected places, that remind me in very good ways of some of my favorite female indie artists from the late 80s and early 90s. There are several tracks I could write about, but I’ll not keep you captive for all of that. Let me hit just a few, and then turn you loose to find your favorites.
“Soldiers Girls” has anthem potential, and a really cool tune progression that caught me off guard, and immediately called up music video ideas. I love songs that do that for me. The symbols in the lyrics are gorgeous: strong, harsh, but graceful. I suppose that’s what I like about the song; it reminds me of the inner iron of so many good women in the world, and in my own life. It reminds me that I’m blessed, and I’m not alone in the battles we all wage.
My first listen of “Good For Me”, I wasn’t quite sure I liked the song. I immediately thought it might increase the “Us/Them” mom debate, but I chose to listen again, and heard a different interpretation, one that acknowledges the worth and challenge of all moms, regardless of W-2 status. It praises the necessary Mom Work, and the joy in finding contentment in the chaos of motherhood.
The track that really gets me, though? “What’s Mine is Yours.”
It is hard to write music. It’s even harder to write music about hard things. Katherine nails it.
If a woman has not experienced pregnancy loss, she might not connect in the same way to the first part of the song. Having had that sort of loss touch me personally, more often than I really like to think on, the raw reality of the opening lines scraped across the part of me that is Me, with a capital M.
No rushing… it was just… over.
So rarely is the experience of losing a baby acknowledged as a full experience, or captured in a few words, so well. It’s something many of us bottle up, and just try to cope with on our own. Grief is invisible. We even shut out our spouses, our sisters, our mothers… all the people who love us best and ache along with us. But trying to shut it all out, to move forward, to “get over it”, bottling up doesn’t work. It… leaks. The odd moments catch us, months and years later (we saw that heart beating… it was real!) Katherine’s lyrics walk through that fog so many feel. That I’ve felt. I’ve been in the parking lot, in the kitchen, in the quiet moments when those walls crash, and the wounds are raw again. And the release of the chorus, the utter lifting up of agony? It’s really gorgeous. The grief of losing a hoped-for child does not go away, so much as it is ameliorated by God’s grand grace, and that is a tremendously, achingly, beautiful thing. It is catharsis in truly awesome ways.
So, that review didn’t go the way I expected. But isn’t that what good music does for us?
Comments will stay open until 10pm Mountain Time, 10 August 2012. I can ship the winner’s copy anywhere in the US.