Had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view: My Top 20 Caedmon’s Call Songs

The mid-to-late 1990s seemed like an absolutely fantastic time for just about any Christian rock band with an acoustic guitar. At least that’s how it looked to me, a college kid eager to broaden his musical horizons, who at the time still limited himself to only Christian music, but who was hungry for more “alternative” forms of it than the straight-up pop/rock he had mostly gotten into at that point. While Jars of Clay was definitely the band that kicked off my fascination with more folk-influenced forms of alternative pop and rock, another band soon followed, with a huge folk/rock sound driven by no less than three lead vocalists and a formidable rhythm section, and some incredibly thoughtful and literate lyrics, and they managed to almost as big of a household name within the CCM world. That band was Caedmon’s Call.

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I’m not sure all these people understand: My Top 20 R.E.M. Songs

If I were to make a list of favorite bands, and sort them by the amount of time it took me from first hearing them to realizing they were one of my favorites, R.E.M. would easily be one of the farthest entries down on that list. It took me forever to truly feel like I was a fan, and not just one of those casual listeners who knew a few of their hit singles and wrote the rest off as largely uninteresting. Sadly, right around the time I finally realized I was falling in love with a myriad of songs from all across their discography, was when the group decided to disband. I guess the old adage “better late than never” is still true… but man, if I had the chance to go back in time and experience some of their best songs and albums when they were still new, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

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All Heaven Is Ringing: My Top 20 David Crowder Band Songs

You’ve probably observed by this point that most of the bands I’ve covered in this monthly Top 20 series have some relationship, whether direct or tangential, to the world of Contemporary Christian Music. While my musical tastes are much more diverse today, I’m open to hearing a variety of viewpoints beyond my own, and most of the artists I currently listen to who are Christians tend to operate largely outside the confines of the CCM industry, I can’t hide the fact that Christian rock is in my DNA, and a lot of my longest-running favorite bands came from that world. Most of these bands were known for at least trying to challenge the status quo in ways that sometimes made their religious audiences uncomfortable, and that I applauded them for. But the David Crowder Band might be the lone exception on this list, since they’ve always belonged to the niche-within-a-niche known as “praise and worship”, and I don’t think anyone’s ever felt the need to put a qualifier on it when describing them as “Christian rock”. What makes the David Crowder Band unique in my personal pantheon of favorite bands is that they managed to beat the odds and win me over despite being a worship band at a time when I was really starting to get cynical about the whole idea of worship bands in general.

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Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride: Why’s your heart grown heavy when things were feeling light?

Artist: Vampire Weekend
Album: Father of the Bride
Year: 2019
Grade: B+

In Brief: It’s been six years, and Vampire Weekend has made their long-anticipated fourth album worth the wait. In many ways the music is sunnier and folksier than their past stuff, yet their love of electronic sampling and worldbeat influences still strongly influences their sound, which has taken a notable stylistic leap forward. Not all of these 18 songs are winners, and there are a few sections of the album that drag as a result of its long-windedness, but that gives the band room to try a lot of different things and see what sticks, and I’m happy to report that the vast majority of it does.

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John Paul White – The Hurting Kind: Don’t you dare kiss me goodbye.

Artist: John Paul White
Album: The Hurting Kind
Year: 2019
Grade: B

In Brief: White’s second post-Civil Wars solo album is a stronger showing than his first, demonstrating that he knows when to augment his songwriting with the strength of a backing band, and when to scale back to the bare bones approach that tends to be his default mode. The result is more of a full-bodied country album that knows when to play the classic tropes of the genre for full effect, and when to subvert them by throwing a curveball somewhere in the lyrics.

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Myles Kennedy – Year of the Tiger: Just a man and his will to survive.

Artist: Myles Kennedy
Album: Year of the Tiger
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A surprising detour into folk and blues-influenced rock territory that demonstrates a more personal and eclectic side of the Alter Bridge frontman. Though the subject matter on his solo debut is often quite dark, it’s also cathartic, and a refreshing change of pace from what I would have expected.

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Music in Every Sound: My Top 20 Iona Songs

“Ah, so that’s where murlough23 got his screen name from! I just assumed he was really into wine or something.”

Out of all the bands I’ve ever been truly fanatical about, Iona might have been the one that was the toughest sell for friends who I hoped I could convert to fellow fans. For starters, their music generally got tagged as either “Celtic rock” or even “new age”. That generally made folks think more of Enya, and I don’t know, the Titanic soundtrack or something, rather than the more complex and often long-winded style of progressive rock that they actually made. Here in the U.S., they were marketed as a Christian rock band, which I suppose is technically correct since a lot of their music was inspired by the history of Celtic Christianity, and a the band’s members were mostly Christians, but stylistically, they were a pretty lousy fit for Christian radio in any era. And from the perspective of potential American listeners, they were an import band, with their primary audience in the U.K. and rather limited exposure in the States, carried by a Christian record label that really didn’t know how to market them, and with their albums generally having a limited print run in an age when you couldn’t simply download an album from anywhere in the world with the simple click of a mouse.

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