So . . . after a one month hiatus (sorry, guys, I was sick!) I am back this month with more news than ever on the local and national CCM front.
On June 13 I stopped by Jonah's Java Cafe to catch local band Neptune's show, and the place was packed – literally standing room only! Chris Lewis, coordinator of Jonah's Java, said the place is always that packed for Neptune shows and was averaging around 60-70 people every Friday night for other bands, so they are planning to build a larger building to house the Cafe – plans should be implemented for the building sometime next year. Jonah's is doing a wonderful job of exposing Louisvillians to lots of local and national talent at a pretty cheap price, so it couldn't happen to a nicer place! Here's hoping Jonah's keeps growing and growing.
And speaking of coffeehouses, a couple of new places are springing up here and there that deserve mention. One I've been hearing a lot about is a new coffeehouse called Holy Ground Music Cafe that meets at St. Rita's Church, 8709 Preston Highway. The coffeehouse is only open on specific dates each month, so call Mike at 969-2166 for info before showing up.
And then there's that local band scene...
Neptune has just released their first CD, which is self-titled and available at Jonah's Java shows, Baptist Book Store and through the band itself. Having heard it, I can wholeheartedly recommend the project for fans of alternative pop. The band has the garage sound of The Replacements mixed with bits of U2, REM and the Grateful Dead and thoughtful lyrics to boot – quite an impressive package for a relatively new local band. Then there's Death Defying Leap, whose members have been busy in the studio recording and mixing their latest CD project, Deconstruction. The project is slated for release very soon. Both Neptune and DDL were showcased in Knoxville, Tennessee last month at the annual Southeast Region CMC (Christian Music Connection) Festival.
An interesting three-song CD project that arrived in my mail recently was from Simple Faith, an alternative band based in Indiana. The band describes themselves as "Christian acoustic rock" and I would add that the edges of that acoustic rock are definitely pretty grungy. The band has an impressive touring list of regional colleges, youth groups and coffeehouses and can presently be heard on Indiana radio stations WJLR and WORX. For ordering info on the CD, call (812) 273-1346 and ask for Brandon Andress, the band's lead vocalist
On the national front, I recently received word that a new recording and music publishing company has started up in Madison, Tennessee called Temple Hall recordings. Longtime industry insiders Nancy A. Reece and Brian Hardin are heading up the new label which, according to their press release, "was formed out a groaning of the heart. It has always been [our] goal to take the business of music and look at it from an artistic perspective . . . We hope to facilitate artists in such a way that their music and their art can change little corners of the world in some way, whether one song at a time or one person at a time." Two Temple Hall releases are scheduled for the fall, and three more in 1998.
And finally, let's get to some national artists that I presently have in heavy rotation on my CD player. Carolyn Arend's sophomore project Feel Free is, in a word, wonderful. She has turned the amps up on this recording and loses a bit of the folk feel for some atmospheric rock that is refreshing, creative, and just plain fun to listen to. I can't recommend this CD enough.
Also, longtime CCM artist Julie Miller has released her first crossover project on High Tone Records titled Blue Pony. Julie was always a bit of a fringe artist in the CCM world, her voice too unusual and her lyrics too raw and honest to fit squarely into the world of mainstream CCM. Blue Pony, produced by Julie and her husband, Buddy (who last year released the critically-acclaimed country album Your Love and Other Lies), is labeled as a country album but she bends that genre quite a bit, creating a beautiful album of moody, atmospheric music that is far superior to anything she has released in the CCM market while keeping the moments of innocence and childlike wonder that made her Christian releases so endearing to her fans. Ably backed up by Buddy, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, Miller has Grammy-worthy material in Blue Pony.
Last but not least, a couple new national CCM acts have fallen onto my desk that are definitely worthy of mention: Reality Check and The Altered. Reality Check is an 8-piece band that mixes alternative pop with street rhythms and a sprinkling of rap – comparable in a loose way to DC Talk's later projects. The band won the 1996 Gospel Music Association's New Band Showcase and is on its way to making a solid national reputation. Their debut should be in Christian bookstores now, so check The Wellspring, Baptist Book Store, The Word Depot or Expressions of the Heart for a copy.
The Altered is a fun, garage-y folk acoustic band that deserves national attention. Different from much of the CCM mainstream, this band has a great deal of potential not only in the CCM market but in the college/alternative music crowd as well. Again, call your favorite local Christian bookstore for details on when their debut will be released.
Well, stay cool and I'll see you in August!