Monday, March 31, 2008

Music on Monday: Josh Ritter

It is not often that I stumble upon an artist that captures my attention wholly. Not since I bought 1000 Kisses by Patty Griffin have I enjoyed such a discovery.

Josh Ritter looks like Tom Waits, plays with words like Dylan, writes like Leonard Cohen and tells a story like Springsteen. And his distinctive vocals are all his own. Again I feel like a poor man might if he found a pirate's treasure.

His songs are full of memorable lines worthy of dozens of thoughts...

I got a girl in the war and Paul, her eyes like champagne
They sparkle, bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain.

And that is just one line among so many that reek of thoughtfulness and beg the listener to stop and think with the heart.

One of the things that always worries me when I find a new artist is wondering if he or she is a jerk. Are they a prima donna who will complain about the trials of stardom and disdain the popularity of their music? Well after reading interview after interview and listening to two on npr I was able to relax. He is just a nice guy who considers himself lucky to be doing what he is doing. He is famous for his constant enthusiastic "thank yous" throughout his live shows. And if you watch him in concert you can tell he is thoroughly enjoying playing his music.

Also it is impossible to not like a guy who gives away all the songs that his fans seem to love the most! He also is glad that people are bootlegging his shows. His own website links to downloadable shows in audio and video. It is not just is free...and legal. I now have three bootlegs and so far they all have great sound...did I mention how funny he is also?

Below are YouTube videos to introduce you to Josh Ritter...


"Girl in the War" on Letterman

Live Concert Stream of Bootlegged Show in 2007

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fake Empire

I just discovered the National and am hypnotized by their sound.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Music on Monday

This is of course, the White Stripes performing "Ball and Biscuit" live at vh1. Their wikipedia page will help you understand a little bit more of what they are doing musically. Yeah, they are a little weird. But at least they are interesting and they can make some amazing and even beautiful music.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Not Dead Yet

Thomas Madden "saves Easter" over at National Review.

Hat Tip: 1517

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Piper on Pastors Guarding Time With Families

This is how they strive to do it at Bethleham Baptist Church.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Text and Context

Video and audio downloads are now available from last month's Resurgence Conference including talks by Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Darrin Patrick and C.J. Mahaney.

Monday, March 17, 2008

More Music Monday

Last night with my youth we did a "learn to discern" exercise with Paramore's "Misery Business." Right now we are doing lots of discussions and talks on "biblical love." We are asking questions like, "What does biblical love look like?" and "Where do you get the power to love like that?" So last nights discussion was mainly about looking for echoes of biblical love in the video and lyrics. None was really found. This is really disturbing for a number of reasons but mainly because the songwriter and lead-singer Hayley Williams says she is a Christian and this is her most honest song. I found out about her confession of her faith because she was apologizing for the line "God, it just feels so good." She was afraid or had been made aware of how offensive this might be to other Christians. What I could find no apology for was her vindictive arrogance in the lyrics. We discussed the fact that she apologized for breaking one of the big 10 but possibly sees no problem with her attitude displayed in the lyrics and music.

Hayley Williams has a remarkable voice which is best seeen below in the acoustic version of the song. She hits some amazing notes and has an infectious "stage presence." At only 18 (and from Meridian, MS.) she has become one of the more recognizable voices in altenative music.

Paramore is not some fringe band. They were nominated for a grammy and they have two songs in the "top 100 songs" downloaded on itunes.

Below is the music video for "Misery Business which has been watched over 22 million times on itunes. Below is an acoustic version of the same song which really shows of Williams' chops.

Music Monday

Last night I watched Bruce Springsteen: Live at the Hammersmith Odeon, 1975 and I was blown away. I had no idea I was going to be watching a whole concert, I thought it was going to a documentary. Everything about this show from the Born to Run tour in 1975 is intense.

I chose "She's the One" because I love the harmonica work and Little Steven's guitar work...yes, that is Little Steven Van Zandt. Clarence Clemons is as awesome as ever in his white tux and his signature dance moves.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Marines, Code Pink and Mercy

This is one of the best pieces I have read out in the blogosphere in awhile.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Love and Marriage: Luther Style

Justin Taylor writes a great article at on the history and lessons to be learned from Martin Luther's marriage to Katherine von Bora.

Tim Keller Speaks at Google

Buzzard posts his notes.

HT: Desiring God Blog

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Piper on the Prosperity Gospel

More Dylan

This is an article I wrote over a year ago that was in our church's newsletter (shortened) this month...

Convenience over Belief

Most fans of Bob Dylan are willing to admit he has a few albums that missed the target. One of those is Knocked Out Loaded released in 1986. It gets panned all over the place. I have not heard all of it. But I do know one song from that album. And ironically, it is one of my favorites.
Brownsville Girl is the one song that critics and fans alike see greatness in. It is a greatness seeking the size of a horizon. Just over 11 minutes long (or short?) it’s a narrative I am almost always trying to get my head around. Mostly this is because it is full of images of the Desert, the Southwest and Dylan standing in line waiting to see Gregory Peck movies. There is plenty of nourishment for the imagination. The sedate verses and a rapturous chorus are forever locked up in my mind’s safe. Like an heirloom, I pull them out and look them over and run my hands along the contours and edges.

There is one line I might actually call my favorite of all his many lines. It is a line he puts in the mouth of this Brownsville Girl,

You always said people don't do what they believe in,
they just do what's most convenient, then they repent.

Cynical? Maybe a little. But lets face it, rings true wouldn’t you say? There is enough of this lived out before all the world for us to say it is true for the great majority.

Liberal, conservative, rich, poor, white, black, young, old, non-Christian and Christian alike are under this indictment. More and more this may be what separates Western Civilization with its enemies. We may scoff at the beliefs of Islamic Militants. We may hate and decry their suicide bombings and their taking of innocent life. But we must acknowledge - what they are doing is a result of what they believe in.

Us? We choose Convenience.

The modern-day Christian, mired in the values of Western Civilization has heard the siren song of convenience and crashes against the craggy rocks of unbelief. Convenience buys us comfort and gadgets. It trades in the currency of a conviction-less culture. Its poison ignored convenience courses through our veins infecting all we cavort with.

Those who confess belief in Christ have so little affection for him their unbelief is conspicuous. The belief is stated, the unbelief is lived out. And it is lived out through tens of thousands of lives shot through with a lust for what is convenient. We are afraid of losing respect, status and a million little 30 second false gospels beamed into our homes. And so we choose what’s most convenient, then we repent.

The repentance of the Brownsville Girl is not repentance at all. This repentance is the “just kidding” after a startling insult. Problem is, real repentance fights against being convenient. A rebel admitting his hatred to the King’s rule and his need for amnesty is never convenient. Admitting the presence of the 400 pound gorilla in the corner vitiates against our sense of convenience. We must now do something…which is real repentance and belief.

Therefore it is real hard to not think of the many Christians throughout the World who are not lulled to sleep by the love songs of the free West. They are martyred. They are ripped from their families. They are ridiculed and they are thrown to the lions, metaphorically speaking and otherwise. When pressed on what they believe, they count the cost and then they “do what they believe in.” Like their King they refuse “whats most convenient” and find themselves “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” – Hebrews 12:2.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

My Music Monday

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then consider this project a serious compliment to Steve McCoy. He does a regular "Music Monday" post that I always find interesting. So I thought I might do the same...he gets all the credit for any genius.

So today begins "Music Mondays" here at discerning the times. My hope is that all five of my readers...hi, mom...will not only learn a little but really enjoy something in the world of music.

We start with a video of Bob Dylan live from 1966 singing "Like A Rolling Stone." This was filmed during his famous tour when he "plugged in" and earned the ire of many once fans.

From Wikipedia:

'"Like a Rolling Stone" is a song by Bob Dylan from his album Highway 61 Revisited. First issued in 1965, it represents in its length (6:09), style, and scoring, one of the most influential of Dylan's songs. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as the greatest song of all time, declaring, "No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time." In his 1988 speech inducting Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen remembered, "The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody had kicked open the door to your mind". In addition to the Rolling Stone ranking, website Acclaimed Music also ranks it #1 on its Top 3000 songs list, based on a number of reviews and "best of" lists."'

It is also my ringtone...