Sunday, April 8, 2012

Review: Christopher Grundy // Stepping In

Christopher Grundy's new CD Stepping In is the latest addition to the growing catalog of progressive Christian music. It's an especially interesting album to us because we were part of the songwriter's group at Eden Theological Seminary when Christopher wrote two of the songs, "Every Step of the Way" and "Peace Be With You." Those are also two of the best songs on the CD. The first song focuses on a Biblical image of social justice while the other song provides a soundtrack for passing the peace. Both songs are easy to sing, which helps them to be great resources for congregations. Actually, many of these songs could be easily adapted for congregational singing. The music has the singability of Marty Haugen more than syncopation of U2. And that's a good thing for a liturgical project like "Stepping In."

All of the songs have progressive theology (e.g. inclusive language) and liturgical mindfulness (e.g. Eucharist music). It's obvious that a lot of thought when into the lyrics of this album. The more time you spend soaking up the lyrics, the more you will appreciate their depth. It's carefully crafted stuff. To give brief quotations of the lyrics here would be offering a reductionistic sample of something that really needs to be appreciated in its entirety. In order to fully appreciate the lyrics, they need to be heard within the context of the song and album. Complexity needs to be savored.

Next time, it would be nice to see more expansive language and images in the lyrics. While this album is progressive, it tends to play it pretty safe. It's like a book by Marcus Borg. Many of the traditional elements are maintained in an effort to reinterpret them. While this is admirable, it would also be interesting to see the theological boundaries expanded a bit further in the future. People like Christopher Grundy are in an excellent position to dust off the theologies that are cordoned off in seminaries and share them with local congregations. These folks could help congregations know and understand God in ever-enlarging ways!

Christopher clearly spend some serious time (and money) in the studio for this CD. There's high quality recordings of lead vocals, gospel singers, congregational singers, drum work, guitar solos, cello music, etc. Plus, across this album, you will hear a diversity of genres, including: classic ballads; alternative folk; praise and worship; etc. All of these elements are woven together in a creative tapestry of musical and theological integrity.

If you're looking for new, progressive music to try in your congregation, this is the stuff for you! Listen to it, practice it, and then play it. It will add spirit and zest to worship.

However, if you're looking for a solo folk album, you might be disappointed. Every song on this album has background singers, which makes it sound like a cross between congregational karaoke and Def Leppard. You know the kind of music. It's the multilayered stuff that sounds like 30 people are singing together. Needless to say, it sounds a bit cheesy coming through car speakers or an iPod. While the idea of collaborative singing is commendable, it became a bit too cutesy and predictable for an entire album.

All-in-all, "Stepping In" is a great step in the right direction for Christian music. With thoughtful lyrics, singable melodies, and progressive theology, this album is an important resource for congregations, camps, retreats, etc. The Spirit will use this music in powerful ways. Click here to check it out.

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