Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Top 10 Christian Songs

I just found out that Daniel Radosh, the author of the amazing Rapture Ready (which is a funny and also beautifully nuanced and compassionate look at Christian pop culture; I recommend it to everyone, Christian or not), also put out a list of what are, in his opinion as an interested outsider, the top 10 Christian rock songs. It's been awhile, so I haven't heard most of these new bands he mentions, but I thought I'd weigh in--admittedly far after the fact--to make my own list. Since this dates from my own experiences in the '80s and '90s, I haven't heard Sufjan Stevens or Caedmon's Call or any of a dozen others.

My own Top Ten list, in something close to chronological order, is as follows:

1. "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?" by Larry Norman (from Only Visiting This Planet). The granddaddy Christian music song that practically invented the entire genre, and it's still a helluva lot of fun to listen to.

2. "Future Now" by Prodigal (from Just Like Real Life).

3. "Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba" by The 77s (from All Fall Down).

4. "(It's the Eighties, So Where's Our) Rocket Packs" by Daniel Amos (from Vox Humana). Beautifully structured, with a Buggles-style tinny voice effect that's just perfect for its litany of sci-fi hopes about the future--many of which are quite close to coming true ("in every house a picture phone" and "a president of female gender"). Funny and sweet.

5. "True Confessions" by Tonio K. (from Romeo Unchained).

6. "River of Love" by Sam Phillips (from The Turning). This is the last "Christian" album she made, and these days it's been rereleased on a standard secular label. But at the time, this was an unusually difficult and ambiguous Christian album.

7. "Whatever Happened to Sin?" by Steve Taylor (from I Want to Be a Clone). This is a tough call, because Steve Taylor was very political, and (of course) conservative, and so almost every single part of the song is ugly to me now. (It's anti-choice and homophobic.) But it's such brilliant lyric writing--[particularly the never-seen-it-before-or-since use of a one-word gimmick in the rhyme scheme. This is what I always liked about him; he wrote the smartest songs, even if you didn't agree with them.

8. "Hero," by Steve Taylor (from Meltdown). Not only a lovely song, but a very honest look at what evangelical Christianity offers its adherents: the chance to be a real hero, and to have one that won't disappoint.

9. "House of Broken Dreams" by Mark Heard (from Dry Bones Dance)
10. "Another Day in Limbo" by Mark Heard (from Satellite Sky)

Mark Heard left us WAY too soon, but thank goodness he found his footing before he passed, with a series of three absolutely terrific albums (Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand, and Satellite Sky) whose songs are still being widely covered today--most recently by Buddy Miller, whose Universal United House of Prayer covers "Worry Too Much."

I was surprised that some of the songs I thought for sure I'd represent--Steve Taylor's "Meltdown," for instance--have not aged well at all, while others--like "Future Now"--haven't aged well either and yet I don't care for some reason. Who knows. All I know is, this stuff stays with you. Just a week or so ago I actually had a the chorus from "Royal Command Performance" pass through my brain--it was written by a Christian synth band called Crumbacher, on an album I never even liked very much. It gives me an idea for an absolutely impossible trivia game that I'll spare you all.

(P.S. I ignored mainstream bands like U2 or The Call--whose "I Still Believe" is still probably one of the most stirring religious anthems ever written--in order to keep this a ranking of bands that you really had to be a Christian in the 80s to have heard of. It's more fun that way.)

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4 Comments:

Blogger HawaiianBrian said...

Huh? No Amy Grant? No Michael W. Smith?

No STRYPER?!?!?

7/30/2008 12:31 AM  
Anonymous Christian Wulfsberg said...

I still think "Cash Cow" is the most clever writing Steve Taylor has done... "The Cash Cow will not be mocked! The Cash Cow is planning a coup! The Cash Cow chews cud bigger than you!"

7/30/2008 4:19 PM  
Blogger Jason Rohrblogger said...

ZOMG! I haven't thought about Crumbacher in TWENTY YEARS. Thanks for the memories...

7/30/2008 9:34 PM  
Blogger Dw. Dunphy said...

While both "Meltdown" and "Future Now" are dated, I think Prodigal wins over because the song is done 'for real' and Taylor's song has a smirking, jeering nature to it that brings it dangerously close to comedy.

Meanwhile, I just have my vinyl rips of the Prodigal albums as none of them ever got a re-release, proper or not. Sad, really.

12/31/2008 10:57 PM  

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