Search this site
My Book

Entries in clint wells (4)


Songs for the Supper: Great New and Old Communion Songs - FOR FREE

Cardiphonia has produced a feast for the ears to strengthen the Feast of Christ in the modern church's worship.  Not long ago, Justin Taylor, when posting about our song, "Lord, I Believe," commented: "I’m not aware of many hymns that are specifically designed for celebrating the Lord’s Supper."  This observation is typical and appropriate for those of us (myself included) reared in the modern evangelical church.  Our tradition, by and large, has downplayed Communion.  We speak of its importance.  Some of us even believe it's more than mere symbol and memorial. However, the importance of the Eucharist, for many of us, is not necessarily displayed in the frequency of our observance of it, and it is certainly not a large part of the body of literature of modern church music.  

The irony of all of this is that many of our (Protestant) forefathers and mothers just a handful of generations ago were committed to writing songs for the Lord's Supper.  Cardiphonia has unearthed many of these old hymns and has encouraged new ones to be written.  This is Cardiphonia's most robust, most polished project to date: Songs for the Supper. And, as always, this record is FREE.  But, if you do contribute something to the project, all the proceeds go to Stop Hunger Now.  In celebrating the Meal, let's give others a meal.

Some notable artists on this record: The Welcome Wagon, the old Red Mountain Music gang (Brian T. Murphy, Clint Wells), and The Ironsides (Matt Boswell's outfit).  The songs by these folks are great, but they are by no means the only good tracks.  (I especially love the first track by Bobby Krier and Justin Ruddy.)  With this being the third "flash recording project" of Cardiphonia, we're watching each of these artists improve in their songwriting and production.  There are many great, great songs on this album.

I had the privilege of contributing a few songs to the record: (1) a folky remix of "Bread of the World in Mercy Broken," from our album The Glad Sound(2) a new tune for a forgotten hymn by Charles Wesley, entitled, "All Glory and Praise."  I'll post my musings on this second song in a few days.

So go get this free record!


Review of Fragments of Grace, by City Hymns

In the early days of the hymn resurgence among young (largely evangelical) Christians, only a handful of groups were making records.  Red Mountain Music was one of those entities. 

Click to read more ...


Pentecost Songs: The Way Forward Continues to be the Way Back

The rootlessness of contemporary Christianity is starved for remembrance, but the vacuum of historical connectivity has finally turned on.  And the sucking sound is getting louder and louder.

For years now, Cardiphonia has been on the leading edge of liturgical renewal in evangelicalism.  Before it was "cool" to talk about liturgy and historic practices in Christian worship, Cardiphonia was carving its path in this direction on the world wide web.  Its mastermind, Bruce Benedict, I have watched from afar in the past, and now I consider him a friend, liturgical mentor, and kindred spirit in worship-thought.  Bruce has many unique gifts, rarely packaged in a single person.  He is an artsy musician and an academician.  He listens widely and reads widely.  He plans and leads worship from the point of biblical values and ideals, not trends and polls.  But perhaps Bruce's most outstanding trait is his ability to network widely, inspire artists, and galvanize efforts for the sake of the broader Church. 

The latest masterpiece of Cardiphonia is the robust, twenty-three tracked compilation album, Pentecost Songs, gathering the efforts of twenty-one different artists (listed below) from across the country (and one in Singapore!).  The musical style straddles everything from folk, to ambient, to electronica, to rock, to pop-orchestral.  The importance of this project in the development of church music history is immense.  Contributor and Music Associate at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Greg Scheer, said it best in recent email correspondence:

It's really a monumental project. Who knows? Maybe 100 years from now, this will be in alongside the Foundling Hospital Collection or Southern Harmony! In the more immediate future, I hope the collection benefits the church.

In other words, this project is significant because it seeks to carry on the church music tradition of creating compilations of congregational music which pull from the past and push toward the future.  Pentecost Songs contains old hymns to new music, a re-harmonized chant, and brand new textual and musical creations.  Equally wonderful is the fact that the careful listener will hear, even amidst the clever and artsy production, that the songs have a simple integrity which makes them VERY suitable for congregational singing--simple, singable melodies, combined with accessible chord-structures and accompaniment options. 

Pentecost Songs is available for FREE on bandcamp, with an option to support the project financially.  The Pentecost Songs Songbook is also available for free!  The season of Pentecost begins this Sunday.  Don't miss this opportunity to listen and sing your way through the Spirit's season.  Read about the project in its entirety at Cardiphonia.

I've reproduced Cardiphonia's list of contributors here, so that you can see the diversity and breadth of expression represented.  I was blessed to be one of the songwriters on the project, but it's not at all pretense when I say that I am among the "least of these." 

Hiram Ring – Come, Holy Spirit, Come
Musician with Pageant Music and Doctoral Student in Linguistic in Singapore.

Nathan Partain – Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord
Music Arts Director at Redeemer Presbyterian, Indianapolis

Wen Reagan – Almighty Comforter
Musician and Doctoral Student in American Studies at Duke.

Bruce Benedict – Come, Holy Ghost & Come, Thou Everlasting Spirit
Music Director at Christ the King, Raleigh

Jered McKenna – Almighty Comforter
Musician and Worship Leader for Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church

Matt Boswell – God the Spirit
Worship Pastor at Fellowship of the Parks, Fort Worth, TX

Zac Hicks – Away With Our Fears
Associate Pastor of Worship & Liturgy at Cherry Creek Pres, CO

Brian T Murphy – Did I Not Plead Above
Red Mountain Music and New York Hymns

Melanie Penn & Steve Elliot – Holy Ghost, By Him Bestowed
Brooklyn, NC – /
Musicians at Park Slope Pres

Clint Wells – No Longer Visible
Nashville, TN –
Musician and Red Mountain Music

Karl Digerness – Spirit of God
San Francisco, CA –
Music Director at City Church, SF

Michael Van Patter – Breathe on Me & Great Comforter, Descend
Greensboro, NC –
Director of worship-arts at Hope Chapel

Anne-Marie Strohman – Holy Spirit, Light Divine
Musician – Palo Alto, Ca

Luke Brodine – Come Down O Love Divine
Palo Alto, CA –
Pastor and musician at Grace Pres.

Cameron Gray – Breathe on Me
San Diego, CA –
Chad Gray works as a designer and musics at Harbor Pres.

Greg Scheer – Glossolalia & O Holy Spirit, Come!
Grand Rapids, MI –
Minister of Worship at Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids and Music Associate at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Rick Jensen – Spirit I Wish I Knew Your Name
St. Louis, MO –
Musician and Liturgy Fellowship Dir.

Gina Tuck – Hymn to the Holy Spirit
St. Louis –
Director of Liturgical Arts at Central Pres

Luke Morton – Come, Holy Spirit, Come
Issaquah, WA – No More Fear
Assistant Pastor at Cov. Pres. Church.

Wendell Kimbrough – Holy Spirit, Come
Washington, DC –
Musician at Church of the Advent (DC)


All Things New: Red Mountain’s Last and Finest Album

Yesterday, All Things New was digitally released to the public.  (They are in the middle of printing and will have physical copies available soon.)  It is a remarkable album and definitely Red Mountain Music’s finest work to date.

You’ll notice a subtle change to the “artist name.”  No longer on the album are they called “Red Mountain Church,” but “Red Mountain Music.”  Brian T. Murphy, Red Mountain’s architect over the last several years, explained the shift to me in a recent email:

[The] biggest reason for it being our final record is I moved to NYC, and am no longer working for Red Mountain Church.  ‘Red Mountain Music’ is essentially a separate entity from the church, but at the same time the two ideas are so closely linked that it’s probably time for some closure.

Red Mountain Church/Music has had a rich and glorious history: Depth of Mercy (2003), Heaven (2004), The Gadsby Project (2005), Help My Unbelief (2006), This Breaks My Heart of Stone (2007), and Silent Night (2008).  Each album chronicles their growth—especially stylistically—with the common thread being their unwavering commitment to setting old hymns to new music.  To classify their music as “contemporary” is too general, quite unhelpful, and even misleading.  Red Mountain Music has never been mainstream pop.  They began with a more Americana/bluegrass-rock style and have shifted over the years to a meditative indie-ambient rock, light on the drums and heavy on the layers of electric guitars (courtesy of the creativity of Clint Wells, co-producer and now in-demand Nashville session musician and gigging artist).

Is All Things New the end of Red Mountain Music?  Not exactly.  As Murphy explained to me:

I still plan to be working on future hymn / sacred projects (have one in San Fran going on in early 2011, and a project I'm planning to kick off after the new year here in NYC); [it] just might not be "Red Mountain" going forward.  I've actually been getting a number of requests to collaborate with other artists and songwriters and that is something I'm really looking forward to, since that was really part of the hallmark of Red Mountain anyway.  Anyway, I guess all that is a long way of saying, I'm pretty excited about the next chapter.

I, for one, am glad for this.  Murphy and Wells have too much to offer the church music community, in my opinion, to abandon the enterprise altogether.  We need their voice.

All Things New, from top to bottom, is an incredible album.  If you want track-listing and information on the original hymns that inspired the album, check out Cardiphonia’s post yesterday.  My own brief comments are:

  • Textually and theologically solid as always.   The lyrics are taken from old hymns, usually from the 1600-1850 era, which was a golden age for English hymn-writing.
  • Musically rich.  The production is more inviting and professional than ever.  The layers are dense and sonically interesting.  One hears some interesting use of panning and distancing in the mic-placement to allow for some tasteful, creative sounds.  (This album is worth a listen on a good set of headphones or a nice stereo system.)
  • Never too rockin’.  I’ve noticed over the years that Red Mountain (esp. Murphy and Wells) have found their angle in soft, meditative, ambient reflection.  All Things New reflects that bent.  Not one song is fast-paced; high-energy drumming is not to be found on any track.
  • Congregationally friendly.  In songwriting for congregational material, a tension exists.  Though they aren’t mutually exclusive, there is a push and pull between accessibility and musicality.  If you’re writing material that is meant to be sung by congregations, it needs to be simple enough in melody and chord structure to be singable.  At the same time, if that is one’s only concern, it becomes musically “blah.”  Red Mountain has always found that sweet spot between these two poles.  Many of the songs on All Things New are congregation-ready, and yet they hold their musical integrity as songs and as arranged, recorded material.  The tone of the songs is fairly homogeneous across the album—reflective and humble.  Nevertheless, they are accessible for congregations.

In my opinion, Red Mountain’s legacy will be that they were one of the front-runners in the hymns movement.  Whenever you hear anyone talk about the movement, two names are always referenced: Indelible Grace and Red Mountain.  Red Mountain will always be known for being one of the first (in the modern worship era) to stick their necks out there in the enterprise of setting old hymns to new music, and, unlike other projects and artists that have come and gone, Red Mountain has a seven-album longevity.  In a day and age when mainstream evangelical worship music continues to be the choice of the masses in American Christianity, Red Mountain’s achievement is truly remarkable.

I have three favorite tracks on this album.  The first is its title track, “All Things New.”  It is singable, accessible, and lyrical.  Its text is from the great hymn-writer Horatius Bonar, and it sets forth an eschatological vision which fuels the church with energy and hope.  Track five, “My Business Lies at Jesus’ Gate” is equally moving.  Here is John Berridge’s beautiful text from the Gadsby hymnal:

My business lies at Jesus’ gate,
Where many a Lazar comes;
And here I sue, and here I wait
For mercy’s falling crumbs.

My rags and wounds my wants proclaim,
And help from him implore;
The wounds do witness I am lame,
The rags that I am poor.

The Lord, I hear, the hungry feeds,
And cheereth souls distressed;
He loves to bind up broken reeds,
And heal a bleeding breast.

His name is Jesus, full of grace,
Which draws me to his door;
And will not Jesus show his face,
And bring his gospel store?

Supplies of every grace I want,
And each day want supply;
And if no grace the Lord will grant,
I must lie down and die.  

The third song of choice is Psalm 126 (“When God Revealed His Gracious Name”).  This song was written as a part of Cardiphonia’s Psalms of Ascents grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship…a glorious text-and-tune pairing.

This final offering of Red Mountain Music is certainly its pinnacle achievement.  Just as the prayer of “All Things New” is that Christ would consummate the kingdom He inaugurated upon His first advent, so my prayer for Brian, Clint, and the rest of the Red Mountain gang is that, in this new chapter of their lives, God would make all things new in them and through them as well, to the glory of Christ and for the sake of His Bride.

Praise God for the legacy of Red Mountain.  Today, I raise a glass to eight plus years of great hymns and great music.