In-store author reading and mini-concert Saturday, July 27th: God on the Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith by Phil Madeira (Jericho Books) 20% off, too

Last week was thrilling for us — we were with authors we esteem, selling books that are extraordinarily important.  I’ve told you about the ESA 40th anniversary conference and announced the excellent Following Jesus: Journeys of Radical Discipleship (Regnum; sale price $25.00), the book done in honor of our friend Ron Sider, a scholar, theologian, activist and popularizer of a wholistic gospel who has galvanized tens of thousands towards living lives of generous justice, mercy, creation-care, and peace-making. Ron is an impeccable evangelical, a fine and humble Christian, and you should read my review if you haven’t.  You really should have a few of books!

A few days later we lugged a truck-load of books to hot, hot Pittsburgh, doing an all-day set-up as part of the staff training sessions of the CCO campus ministry.  There, we hosted our friend Dr. William Edgar (and his lovely wife Barbara) of Westminster Theological Seminary, for the second annual Hearts & Minds Pittsburgh Summer Lecture.  Edgar spoke of his conversion to Christ while in conversation with Francis Schaeffer, then bringing Schaeffer to Harvard, and on-going decades of involvement with the L’Abri movement.  I hope you saw my review of Edgar’s fantastic book Schaeffer on the Spiritual Life: A Counter-cultural Spirituality (Crossway; sale price $14.40).  We highly recommend it. 

And, by the way, recent friends may not have seen the review I did several years ago of Edgar’s live jazz album, Heaven in a Nightclub, produced by the Chesterton House in Ithaca NY. Man, that cat can play — and he has some amazing players sitting in.  He talks a bit between the songs; it is just wonderful for such a studious, Reformed theologian to have such passion not only for the arts, but for the history of African American culture, black gospel music, blues and jazz. You can order that double CD from us, too.

 SATURDAY – JULY 27, 2013
@ 7:00 PM

god on the rocks.jpgWe want to invite you to come by our store this Saturday night, July 27th at 7:00 pm or so, as we are hosting another sort of event: a book reading, conversation and mini-concert by a new author and long-time, highly-respected, stellar musician, Mr. Phil Madeira. If the aforementioned Ron Sider and Bill Edgar are stalwarts for evangelical faith and robustly strategic Christian cultural engagement, and prolific authors, our new friend Phil Madeira is… well, maybe not so much.  As his new book God on the Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith (Jericho; $24.00) describes, he was raised fundamentalist, and has dabbled in all manner of Christian experiences and churches. (He was even a PCA elder for a while, so he knows his stuff.)  He’s a liberal Episcopalian, now, I guess, and a man admittedly still on a journey.  Maybe it’s a meandering one – he’s given up being driven and dutiful and seems pretty comfortable with ambiguity – as would befit a Southern storyteller and late-night blues man. (How many religious books do you know that have a play list in the back which includes stuff like Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharp, Taj Mahal and Blind Willie Johnson?)  God on the Rocks is a fantastic book with fabulous stories, tons of clever lines, upbeat tellings of his roundabout life, and some honest telling of some downbeat stuff.  As Ian Morgan Cron notes, “Madeira’s voice is gritty and tender, broody and vulnerable, unwaveringly honest, yet compassionate.”
Phil Madeira is nearly a legend in the music scene of Nashville. Inpm blue shirt.jpg recent years he has been in Emmylou Harris’ band. (Emmylou is truly a legendary folk/country singer who traveled with The Band – that’s Dylan’s early band, you know, and knew Graham Parsons and CSNY and the like, making her one of the pioneers of alt-country/roots Americana – and is an icon in country and alt/country.) Madeira has played with everybody from Elvis Costello to the Civil Wars, from Bill Mallonee to Sixpence None the Richer, from Mavis Staples to Julie and Buddy Miller. He’s written songs with Garth Brooks and Amy Grant, and nearly everybody in the singer-songwriter/new-folk, acoustic music biz knows him. Did I say he was in Emmylou Harris’ band?  He’s in Emmyloupm with emmylou.jpg Harris’ band!  I will mention below the album he produced last year called Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us, which includes artists like The Civil Wars and Matt Kearney and Buddy Miller and Shawn Mullins and the North Mississippi Allstars and Emmylou, which has gotten very good reviews.

God on the Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith brings together at least three main plot-lines, it seems, reoccurring themes that surround the episodes that are well told and delightfully specific, as any memoir must be. Yet, these are (as good novels and memoirs are) somehow universal, enabling readers to resonate with this story, even if their own experiences are dissimilar.  My life is not at all like his, but I somehow related well to it. The mark of a good book, no?

In a set of enjoyable, almost stand-alone chapters, Madeira offers snapshots of his life, while the themes of family, faith, and music are intertwined, over and over again.
First, God on the Rocks is a coming of age tale (and he comes of age a few times, it seems, as this memoir chronicles his various stages and phases of a fascinating life journey that is restless and evolving.) Firstly, though, it is of a boy raised in a conservative fundamentalist family.  Not unlike the crazy memoir Crazy for God by Franky Schaeffer (who endorses this book, by the way) Madeira tells how he loves his family, and respects them in many ways, colorful as they may be, and disagreeing with them as he does. His mother and father were different in notable ways, and, naturally, his relationship with both were distinct. His disagreements with both, but especially his mother, were at times weighty; his love for them enduring.  As he came to question some of what they believed, and the way they believed and lived it, conflict arises which causes tension, anxiety, and irresolution.  Can you relate?

But yet, it was a mostly happy, if quirky, childhood. Get a glimpse of his boyhood from the chapter “Happy Feet.”

As teenage boys, my brother David and I had a Yuletide strategy. Our shoulders shrugged with the knowledge that many our presents would be mundane – socks, a tie, a tie clip, a devotional book from Mom, and Old Spice from Dad: the usual stuff.  Thus, every Advent, we whispered what we each wanted from his brother. It would always be a rock ‘n’ roll recording, the one thing our parents were not going to spend money on.

Come Christmas, tearing into the wrapped vinyl record, I would feign surprise, exclaiming, “This is j
ust what I wanted,” as if he didn’t know.

Our tradition was to open our gifts on Christmas Eve, as my mother’s Swedish family did. Santa never squeezed his jolly behind and beer gut down our chimney; Mom guarded our Christmas fiercely from commercialism by keeping our fireplace stoked and burning, lest Santa believe he was welcome at 22 Salisbury Road.

Occasionally, Dad would sign a gift “from Santa” but that was all the fantasy we were allowed on this holy night. He didn’t seem to have a problem with the fantasy and the reality coming to terms with each other, but our mother’s scruples ruled the holiday. I didn’t care if Santa was real, but it would have been fun to pretend that someone beyond ourselves knew our secret wishes, and I never understood the harm of writing a letter addressed to the North Pole, which would have wound up in a drawer in the east bedroom instead. She may have been guarding her children from the World, but I’m more inclined to believe she was protecting the Infant Jesus.

Later in that touching chapter, he ruminates on a Buddy Miles record he received from his brother as a Christmas present.  Buddy Miles, you probably know, is a renowned jazz drummer.
Phil writes,

For all I know, Emmanuel, “God with us”, was indeed tapping along to Buddy Miles’ music that Christmas morning in our living room. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? The divine intersection with our profane, fallen, lives, Jesus coming down from Heaven and dipping his bare foot in the muddy water of the deluge, swimming with us, pulling us by the scruff of the necks over the crest of a wave, his strong body ferrying weary souls to an eternal shore?

I wish there had been a bit more about his boyhood, the “childhood shenanigans” to which he alludes. (“Those who love me have sometimes felt the need to explain or excuse me.”)  When he writes about his youthful years, it is endearing and interesting. 

For instance, in a chapter called “Southern by the Grace of God” he starts off like this:

My mother always noted that I was born in New Hampshire, and that for the first two years of my life, my home was in a hamlet dreadfully named Gonic, where my father was the sparsely rewarded minister of the Baptist church. It always annoyed me to know that I was born in their worst years, as if I had tumbled out of the womb with an IOU slip pinned to my big toe. A boy likes to know that he brought bounty with him, good luck or prosperity, but I just brought rhythm. Born drumming, she still says.

Those were the meager years of their lives, even worse than when Dad was a circuit rider in Maine, dividing his sermons between three churches in the rocky farmland far from any semblance of coastal romance. Before God Almighty moved our family to Rhode Island, Dad preached to callous-handed farmers and laborers who tithed with bushels of corn or apples or with their skills, perhaps fixing the parsonage’s eternally running toilet, or unloading a cord of firewood.

My mother relishes those days of depending on God’s provision, likening their time in the Granite State to the prophet Elijah’s stint in the wilderness, as if we were eating raven flesh and locusts instead of Cream of Wheat.

Much of the book moves beyond his childhood, telling of his years at the midwesternly Christian Taylorpm hat.jpg University (and drinking Boones Farm), leaving to work with the young Phil Keaggy, just after his Glass Harp years, getting known in the broader music world, the demise of his first marriage, the relationship he has with his beloved daughters.  He tells stories like playing on Prairie Home Companion, or attending the funerals of fellow musicians and old friends. He’s past mid-life, now, and he’s simply not the man he once was.  Besides his music work, he has become a painter, and while there isn’t much about that, it comes up a bit. He is in a relationship with one whom he calls his Southern Born Woman, who has herself a book of dramatic readings of women in the Bible (Jezebel’s Got the Blues…and other Works of the Imagination) for which Madeira has composed and performs a live blues score. (We carry that, too, by the way.) Many of the chapters mutate from biography to essay as Madeira offers his ruminations; wasn’t it Buechner who said all theology was biography, anyway.

I like memoir, and love these sorts of glimpses into how people understand their life and times, and like that he offers these short essay-like reflections as well.
Secondly, God on the Rocks is, as the title implies, is not just a story of his mischievous boyhood, his coming of age, drifting from his family, his dysfunctional grandmother,  the break-up of a marriage, his relational ups and downs, but it is, more importantly, a narrative of his journey away from his vibrant evangelical faith, a descriptor he no longer uses about himself. Madeira was a contemporary Christian music star for decades, traveling with the PhiPhil-Keaggy-Emerging-front.jpgl Keaggy Band, severely discipled in the ’70s at Love Inn by those involved in C.J. Mahaney’s weird shepherding movement and doing rock music ministry with hundreds of thousands of fans, at large venues like the Creation Festival, college campuses. as well as church basements.  As a studio musician within contemporary gospel music, he has played on hundreds of albums and penned songs for dozens of artists. This is raw reporting, although I wished for just a bit more. Was his leaving the world of conservative evangelicalism problematic for a guy who made his living in that world?  What was it like harboring doubts and concerns even as one is doing ministry, traveling to festivals and churches?crowd stage.jpg He gives us glimpses and it makes for a fabulous read, especially for those of us who lived through the “Jesus Movement” of the early 70s and knew well these kinds of artists, but it leaves us with episodes and impressions, not quite a linear biography of the developments of his interior life.

It is interesting to me that many of the best artists of the early CCM industry – Keaggy himself, Amy Grant, obviously Mark Heard (RIP), Sam Phillips, Pam Mark Hall, Cindy Morgan, Jennifer Knapp, all the guys who make up The Lost Dogs, John Michael Talbot, Glen Kaiser, even – have mellowed and matured out of a zealous evangelicalism to a more sobered, quieter faith.

Of course, a few have walked away altogether.
Some, coming out of an American pietism that keenly — and unfaithfully — separates the so-called sacred and secular, simply never had a robust view of creation and work and culture, so while they intuited that their art was important and valuable, they did not have a theology to frame it; their super-spiritual worldview was sadly on a collision course with their art and cultural mission. Pop musicians are often not very well-read in theology of culture, too, I’ve found, and they may have even resisted studying the very work that might have resourced them to do sustainable, evangelical art and cultural engagement. (That is, by the way, one of the great tasks of Charlie Peacock’s important Art House ministry: to offer space and resources for considering deeply the relationship of faith and art and culture-making.) Some of thos
e unable or unwilling to grapple with those sorts of conversations, it seems, just drifted from their childhood faith and about all they can say is that they are no longer fundamentalists; they drink and smoke and aren’t legalists.

Madeira’s approach is better than that, and his book shows that he has certainly considered this stuff (he even includes the famous G.K. Chesterton quote about saying grace before everything we do and at least once explains that God does not intend for us to think of life as a dualism between sacred and secular, since all of life matters to God.)  His story here is familiar to me, though, as I’ve heard it a dozen times before, especially from friends in the Christian music and publishing world. They say they are no longer fundamentalists, but in a way, they still are: it defines them supremely as about all they can do is to say what they aren’t and the new texture of their faith develops mostly as a reaction to their earlier rigidity.) 

I also also suspect (and Madeira hints at it a time or two) that another reason for a shift away from evangelicalism among these sorts of performing artists is that they have seen the worst of showy religious glitz and the underbelly of the interface of faith and commerce; that side of the CCM world is in some places worse than most people know and could be enough to drive any sensitive soul away from earnest faith if one encounters it from the inside.
Or, perhaps an artistic temperament just leads one to naturally question cliches and seek a nuanced faith rather than rigid sorts of dogma.  There is little doubt that poets, song-writers and cultural creatives are often on the margins of conservative churches, and their own sense of mystery and wonder and pain puts them at odds with the simple truths and easy answers in which some churches traffic.

So it is no wonder Mr. Madiera drifted from his earnestly held conservative faith.  It never provided him with an adequate foundation for being an artist, and couldn’t provide sustaining insight for the complex, broken lives he and his comrades were experiencing.  In saying this, I’m reading into the book more than I should, perhaps.  It will be good to talk with him about it all, since he is not the first to leave standard evangelicalism behind.
The subtitle of God on the Rocks — “Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith” makes it clear that the book includes a rumination on the role of truth and dogma and church and spirituality and God. It is on Jericho Books, a new progressive publishing house which excels in this genreJerichoFall2013Winter2014 1.jpg and this perspective. Other Jericho authors include Brian McLaren, Jay Bakker, Shane Hipps, Justin Lee, Becca Stevens, Lillian Daniel (whose books we love and have commended before), Heather Kopp — her recent memoir Sober Mercies is one of the best I read all year!  We carry all their books. Memoirist and novelist (and Episcopal priest) Ian Morgan Cron is correct to call God on the Rocks a “heartfelt travelogue of faith.”  Cron continues, “If you’re a cage-pacing, God-haunted pilgrim like me, then this deftly penned collection of stories will deeply move you.”  (Anybody that includes a Bruce Cockburn phrase and a Flannery O’Connor nod in one endorsement proves that he knows what he’s talking about.)

“Spiritual but not religious” is a phrase I do not like. Gladly, as an Episcopalian, Mr. Madeira doesn’t exactly describe himself that way.  But he almost does; he admits to not being terribly involved in congregational life. “Over the years,” he says, “the search for God’s presence led me in and out of a variety of traditions, from incense burners to barn burners, liturgies to improvisers. In contrast to conventional church wisdom, the more active I became in one group or another, the less connected to Christ I felt.”  

So, the book will resonate with many who have been, or feel they have been, disenfranchised from traditional church life.  Whether he is wise and right about all this is nearly beside the point – it is a memoir where he shares how he makes sense of his own story, and he invites us to listen in.  He’s a bluesman, not a theologian; a painter and poet, not a preacher. It may not be the only book to give to a seeker, skeptic or broken backslider, but it is certainly a good one.  I think many H&M friends will enjoy it.  Why not get one to pass on to somebody who might not appreciate a more directly religious title?

I chuckled when he reports, “Trying to be a good parent to the end, my nonagenarian mother still sends me books by prominent evangelical authors. I’m in good company, mind you; she sends devotional books to the president of the United States! Once, after reading something Barack Obama had said about his spiritual life Mom told me that she was quite certain he had read the book she’d sent him. If that’s the case, he’s one up on me.”

Brian McLaren says nicely of God on the Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith that it is a “gritty, gutsy, funny, moving, insightful spiritual memoir.”  He is quite right to say that “it exemplifies a growing phenomenon on the American religious landscape, an emerging spiritual ethos that defies standard labels and has the feel of our best roots music.” For this reason alone —  besides the fact that it is just a really fun book to read and enjoy — it is worth having and considering its illumination of the larger religious landscape.  (Church leaders, evangelists? Listen up!)

wild goose.jpgWild Goose Festival is an example of one place where this eclectic sort of faith expression is celebrated.  It would be a digression to talk about it much here, but McLaren is correct that PMs book seems part of a growing disenchantment with typical religious labels.  God on the Rocks has a chapter on that, in fact.  And, he is playing at Wild Goose this year.

Madeira, by the way, isn’t a heavy-weight intellectual reading cutting-edge theology or post-modern philosophers.  Maybe he is, and does, but this book doesn’t suggest that.  Rather, it is more home-spun, making it funny and interesting and enjoyable, provocative, but in a light-hearted way. 

And he’s no strident ideologue, either.  He has a chapter on God being feminine (“God Almighty, the Chick Upstairs”) but continues,

In truth, I call Her “Him” because my picture of God is decidedly paternal. Growing up with a reasonable and loving dad never made the masculine image of God anything but good to my eyes.”  He continues, pondering a motherly she-God, “Oh, Lord, She’d be bugging me about washing my hands, and reading my Bible, and changing my underwear just in case I wind up in the emergency room.  I wouldn’t be able to question Her without being accused of blasphemy.

I imagine God the Father quietly nodding as I ramble on, giving me a grin like my old man would have when I played some boogie-woogie version of a hymn, and kissing me on the lips when I showed unannounced at his back door.

And then he observes, surely with a bit of a pluck,

Nonetheless, I’m not sure what’s so riling when some Christians encounter inclusive language regarding the Person of God. I still cross myself and the brows of
my woman and my children, intoning the words, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and am quite comfortable doing so. At Christ Church Cathedral, the traditional language of the Trinity is sometimes altered to “Creator, Savior” and Sanctifier.” I recently read a proposal in the Presbyterian Church to use this alteration: “Mother, Child, Womb.” What can I say? Point well taken, but… womb? I’ll take the comfort, but not the claustrophobia.

And there ya go.  In one short paragraph he offends traditionalists, feminists, liberal Presbyterians and probably the conservative ones, too, just for bringing the whole matter up.  Yowza — I love it!

pm electric.jpgThirdly, God on the Rocks is about being a musician, about Nashville, and a bit about his years in the CCM world and beyond. Man, this guy gets around. He plays a lot of instruments, works with all kinds of folks, knows everybody, and drinks with a lot of them.  He’s got a number of drinking stories, a few performance stories, and nice words for a lot of his comrades. His description of the flood that ravaged Nashville and destroyed so many recording studios and concert halls (and the community and rebuilding that followed) was riveting. I wished he would have told a bit more about his song-writing efforts, but when he does, it is very special.

I suspect that many readers will be attracted to this book because they know Phil Madeira as a player in the CCM world, and due to his collaboration and long-time friendship with guitar maestro and Christian rock star Phil Keaggy. Madeira has long-lasting friends in that sub-culture: Steve Hindalong of The Choir raves about the book in a lovely blurb; the late Tom Howard was a best friend; he still hangs out with Dave Perkins, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Jimmy Abegg (with whom he paints regularly.) I loved reading the acknowledgements and was thrilled to see a few people I know, and cool cats like Colin Linden, Bruce Cockburn’s  producer, whose own solo album Through the Storm, Through the Night, is one of my all time favs.  These chapters will be enjoyable for anybody who likes entertainment news and wonders about the behind-the- scenes of the music business.  I might have wished for more dishing, but plenty of names are dropped. It’s pretty darn fun.

pm with accordian.jpgAnd there is no doubt that Madeira is an amazingly talented musician. The first line of the book is “I am the baby who tumbled from the womb drumming.” 

Later, though, he writes of his mother, “My mother’s love of Mahalia Jackson’s music is probably the raison d’etre for my obsession with American roots music. I can still see mom dancing with her young children in our living room as Mahalia belted out “Didn’t It Rain?” while the needle of our old RCA Victor scraped and skipped across the ribbed furrows of an oft-used record.”
It seems like Madeira has spent a lot of his life on the road; he writes about this in his songs and in the book, a bit. His is the life of a performing musician.  But, his mother had not approved; she couldn’t believe he’d write a song for “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band” (just for instance) and wanted him to just do gospel material.  In a passage that moved me to tears, he tells of his 90 year-old mother watching him from the wings as he played with Emmylou Harris at the famous Newport Folk Festival.  She appreciated his work on the guitar, accordion, keyboards and more as well as Emmylou’s graceful, feisty folk rock, which she complimented.
His mother had routinely chastised him for singing “secular” music and not using his talents to evangelize the lost.  She had been stern about her wayward son (“counting my losses even as I try to move onward from them.”) For her to enjoy meeting Emmylou and hear Elvis Costello and watch her son play on the huge stage with his Wayfarer shades, was more than a breakthrough, it was a blessing for Phil. She seemed to get the beauty and worth of what he did for a living.  He later described this afternoon of fellowship with his mother as “basking in glory.”
“The next day,” he tells us,

I received an email the contents of which seemed to have forgotten the light that had shined on the two of us momentarily in Newport.  She seemed back to worrying about the course of my life, but I didn’t care… My lungs had salt air billowing in them, as I savored the delight on my mother’s face after we’d sung our final encore. It was a morsel, but it was delicious, that taste of approval that I seem to have been yearning for these many years.

Sometimes Madeira is almost disappointingly prosaic and less than elegant (didn’t his editor teach him that a “proposition is a bad thing to end a sentence with”?) A few of the sentences are real clunkers.  But he often crafts stunning lines of beauty and elegance — nearly poetry. For instance, following the glorious episode with his mother and the rebuking email, he writes, “For a moment she beheld something holistic and beautiful, something artistic that encapsulates all of life; Mississippi mud and higher ground, the life blood of history and the holy spirit that ties it all together into a God Almighty love song.”

As you can see, the three themes of his relationship with his aging parents, the shifting shape of his Christian faith and his vocation as an artist are deeply inter-twined.  The portions that are most about his spiritual journey are also set in the context of his art – painter, poet, songwriter, sideman, producer.

For instance,

I don’t often remember my dreams, although when accompanied by a few glasses of red wine, they seem more insistent on being recognized.  Shamans, prophets, seers, and soothsayers all place stock in the nocturnal playground of the subconscious.  With all the noise that accompanies consciousness, perhaps there’s something to the idea of the Spirit finding a wider berth in the vessel of our dreams.

Dehydrated, I woke at 3:00 am.  My thirst had interrupted a dream that was fresh and vivid. My mind had taken me on a boat ride with the ghost of Johnny Cash sitting in the stern and dispensing homespun wisdom to me as I rowed across a choppy sea.

Knowing there was something in the phrase “the ghost of Johnny Cash” I immediately rose, found my laptop, and began writing a lyric. Eventually the verses I wrote would become a song, but in the wee hours they mirrored the image of my small craft getting obscured by the giant waves of my difficult choices.

I was a man who was cut in half, broken but believing, and somehow newly set free, although being set adrift was the true feeling of what looked to some like freedom.  In my marriage I felt no embrace clinging to me in love, and now I felt none either, but I hoped that the arms of God Almighty were wrapping around me as I descended into the abyss.

I needed Johnny on that old January night.

I haven’t heard it yet, but Madeira has a new album out any day and he says the strongest song (perhaps it is a lament) was co-written with Amy Grant, who I have always thought to be smarter and a better songwriter than her CCM super-star status allowed.

Here is Ms Grant writing about God on the Rocks

god on the rocks.jpg

Thank God for a storyteller like Phil Madeira, who delivers a feast for the ears, and for the mind, as he ponders the traditions of his family and the mysteries of the faith that have shaped his life. Like every good thing in life, it was over too soon.

She means, of course, the book.  Madeira ain’t dead yet.  You can see for yourself here at the shop at 7:00 PM on the 27th at our in-store gig here in Dallastown, which I bet will be lively. If you aren’t somewhat local, why not buy his book from us now?  Want an autographed one?  Let us know before Saturday — just tell us to whom you want it inscribed.

The evening here will be great time. Madeira is a seasoned entertainer, an amazingly multi-talented musician. And he will be fun to listen to. He is witty and sharp-tongued, but never mean; the book includes some witty ruminations, which he deftly uses as a segue for larger points (he’s learned from his years of listening to preachers, eh?)         

 For instance, I chuckled reading this:

Sometimes I wonder if the people who come up with names for neighborhoods, apartment complexes, streets and parks should be required to take a course in literary aesthetics. I think zoning boards should prohibit stupid names.

For example, my old neighborhood is called Raintree Forest, which sounds to me like a feminine hygiene product. To my knowledge, there’s no such thing as a “raintree.” I’m sure of it because the spell-check on my computer keeps highlighting the word in red.

Here in Tennessee, and perhaps in America in general, there is a fixation on naming suburban developments after English towns and villages.  Having traveled the U.K. many times, I know something about the real places that suburban planners steal names from, and often they are not as quaint in reality as one might think.  Have you ever been to Sheffield, England? If you had, you might not name your neighborhood after it. That being said, I had the best Indian meal of my life in the city of Sheffield.


mercyland.jpgA final thing you should know.  About a year ago, Madeira released a project he coordinated and produced, a recording called Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us.  We reviewed it briefly when it first came out. It is a great album, songs that were put together by people of faith who perhaps are not comfortable with the “Jesus is My Boyfriend” kind of love songs to God, the happy-clappy praise songs, the highly-stylized, mass-marketed arena rock that now passes for passionate worship, at least among white, middle-class young adults.  What would it look like, he wondered – what would it sound like? – to get Americana artists who offer doubts and laments and stories and songs that might serve as hymns for those who can’t quite abide the over-confidence of most modern religious music? That focus not on rah-rah “we’re in on this” and you aren’t, but that are sensitive to the human condition and project a sense of inclusion and, well, mercy.  The Mercyland CD brings together under Phil’s moody, groovy production vibe, the Caroline Chocolate Drops, The Civil Wars, Matt Kearney, Shawn Mullins, Cindy Morgan, Emmylou Harris and many others.

Read a short review from Christianity Today, here, and a longer, more descriptive, important one here, and a little shout out from Paste, here.  He will be playing some of these songs in the store, when he does the reading and book signing event.
mercyland picture at_americana_music_fest_09_13_12-770x0.jpg
Madeira has won numerous awards, for songwriting, for his Hammond organ playing, for his philanthropy. I adore his out of print CD 3 Horseshoes, a set of songs about an inn at which he was staying in Ireland.  His new indie recording PM will be out soon. We are thrilled he is willing to visit our humble little shop, we’re looking forward to hearing him play some unplugged stuff, share from his new book and tell us about the Mercyland project.  I hear there is a video in the making, and they are performing the album live at the upcoming Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina.

 Join us, won’t you here on July 27th, this Saturday, at 7:00?  We’ll have some fun, some light refreshments — we’re working on an excellent iced coffee bar — and somehow, we’ll all come away thinking about God on the Rocks, which just might help us “distill religion and savor faith.”


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