Mormon Music I’ll Actually Listen To

Rusty - January 12, 2011

Some folks loooove the hymns. I don’t. I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed singing them in church, but I’ve never considered them very good for listening. Like, I’ll never put them on my iPod. Sure, they’re nice to sing while I’m wrangling my 2-year old in the pew, and even better when someone prepares a special musical number. But even then, they’re just a little too…I don’t know, serious? Righteous? Of course, I’ve never had any other expectation. I mean, we’re a bunch of God-worshipping lay-singers with “serious-face”, how else am I supposed to sing them?

And perhaps that’s why hearing this album by The Lower Lights was such a gleeful surprise. Hymns, but fun. And not so much They Might Be Giants fun, but more O Brother, Where Art Thou? fun. Vocally, instrumentally, the arrangements are almost all at least a couple taps better and more interesting than what I expected. The dynamic of the large ensemble group gives depth to the seemingly-simple melodies.

I love that the first song on the album, Ye Elders Of Israel, has a woman singing the lead. And it’s gorgeous. A hymn I’ve never had any opinion on, Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy suddenly moved up a dozen notches on my list of favorites. Their version of For the Beauty of the Earth has this stark beauty I love to go back to. And listening to This Little Light Of Mine you just know they’re actually having fun, smiling and laughing while they’re singing. The only song on the album that I don’t care for, and this is probably just me, is Count Your Blessings as it feels almost like a parody of the genre, rather than comfortably fitting in it like the rest of the album. But really, if that’s my only complaint, which it is, then the fact that I now listen to hymns on my iPod is high praise for this album.

Playlist:
1. Ye Elders Of Israel
2. Come, Ye Children Of The Lord
3. Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me
4. Secret Prayer
5. Count Your Blessings
6. If You Could Hie To Kolob
7. Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy
8. Israel, Israel God Is Calling
9. The Lord Is My Shepherd
10. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
11. We Thank Thee, Oh God, For A Prophet
12. For The Beauty Of The Earth
13. There Is A Green Hill Far Away
14. Sweet Hour Of Prayer
15. This Little Light Of Mine

Full disclosure: One member of the group is a long-lost friend of mine who moved away from Brooklyn a couple years ago. We used to go and see him perform his genius songs in various venues, so when I found out about this album I jumped (I literally hurled myself into the air) at the chance to listen to it. Sadly, I’m a lazy-A so it took me 3 months to write this review.

25 Comments »

  1. Awesome. I have always loved Brightly Beams and have heard it sung in many different arrangements. Apparently, it is a favorite of Polynesian saints, so I actually have heard it sung a couple times in Hawaii with a slack key guitar. It’s amazing.

    This is a very cool album, and it’s great to hear these standard hymns performed in new ways.

    Comment by MCQ — January 12, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

  2. You’ve got me interested, but your link 404ed. Thought you’d like to know.

    Comment by Conifer — January 12, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

  3. How about this: http://thelowerlights.bandcamp.com/

    Comment by Conifer — January 12, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  4. Thanks for the link Conifer. There’s also a few videos on that site that are pretty cool.

    It seems like they must have taken their name from a line in the hymn Brightly Beams.

    Comment by MCQ — January 12, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  5. Sweet!

    I thought this post was going to be about the Sabre Rattlers:

    http://www.sabre-rattlers.com/

    They’ve also done an album of hymns, in alt-country style. I like it a lot. Got copies for my sisters-in-law for Christmas.

    Comment by Susan M — January 13, 2011 @ 8:16 am

  6. I could live without Secret Prayer, but other than that, an enjoyable Sunday listen. I gave a bunch away fro Christmas, and have made this my new baptism gift. I’ll have to take a look at the Sabre Rattlers, too.

    Comment by ESO — January 13, 2011 @ 8:56 am

  7. If you look around that Sabre Rattlers link, you might see my name.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — January 13, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  8. I love the hymns. Anybody who doesn’t like to sing them hasn’t been in a congregation with me at the organ.

    The hymns are the very definition of western music.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — January 13, 2011 @ 11:08 am

  9. The General Authorities have often spoken on the use of sacred music and how to perform it. It can be a very fine line between performing sacred music properly and performing it in a sacrilegious manner. These guys seem to walk that line quite well, IMHO:) (Unlike the awful soundtrack to The Singles Ward) They’re different but still singing with praise and worship rather than self gratification or glory.

    D. Fletcher,

    Well said sir!

    Russ,

    I know you don’t mean it this way but the way you wrote this article makes it sound like you only like music that is fun and serious music is always boring and stern:)

    Comment by Bret — January 13, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

  10. I absolutely love all sacred choral works, LDS or not. There is not a single day since I was 7 years of age that I didn’t fill my heart with the Spirit using the marvelous gifts of music. God has inspired men and women to compose praises to His name and works.

    Comment by Paul Giff — January 14, 2011 @ 5:27 am

  11. Some hymns are funny while singing them in church. Watch Mark B. the next time you sing Scatter Sunshine or something else that sounds like it should have accordion accompaniment.

    Comment by Maryanne — January 15, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  12. Mark B. plays the accordion?

    Comment by MCQ — January 15, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

  13. Only an imaginary one.

    Comment by Maryanne — January 16, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

  14. If you’ll recommend a good teacher, MCQ, maybe I’ll take it up.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 17, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

  15. Here you go, Mark B.

    http://www.accordionlessons.org/

    You’re welcome.

    Comment by MCQ — January 18, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

  16. Hi Seth,
    It has to be better than the music at my church on a Sunday morning. My hubby’s comment after the Christmas Day service
    was “Maureen hits all the right notes-just not in the right order!”

    Comment by Janice Moorcroft — January 26, 2011 @ 8:08 am

  17. Even though it looks like commenting on this post has died down a bit, I figured I’d add my thoughts for anyone who stumbles upon this.

    First, I purchased “A Hymn Revival” by The Lower Lights, and couldn’t have been happier. It’s available on Amazon via direct MP3 download, and I’ve been listening to it for the past couple of days, and can’t get enough.

    Second, I also picked up Susan M’s suggestions of The Sabre Rattler’s “Twixt Me and the Peaceful Rest,” and by golly, they were nice enough to send me a little email with a thank you note in it! I thought it would have more a country twang to it (based on some of the comments), but it’s definatley got an alt-folk ring to it. It reminds me a bit of bands like Mumford and Sons. It’s got a much more upbeat tempo to it, and I think it does a good job of keeping the spirit of the hymns.

    I also picked up Clayton Pixton’s “Hymns Anew” album from Amazon’s MP3 service. Clayton and Skye do the bumper music to Mormon Stories, and he’s got a great talent for giving a new view on some great classic hymns (I can’t get enough of his rendition of “Adam-ondi-Ahman” and “Come Come Ye Saints.” Another great album.

    Any more suggestions you folks have, I’d love to devour them. I’m finding that some of the hokey overproduced Deseret Book artists just don’t do it for me…

    Comment by brandt — February 1, 2011 @ 6:23 am

  18. Amen, brandt!

    Comment by MCQ — February 1, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  19. Hi! Not sure if you’ll ever see this comment, but I am with The Lower Lights and we just wanted to thank you so much for this great review and testimonial of our first album. We are getting ready to release our next album and wondered if you’d be interested in helping to review/promote it as well. Please contact me if you’d like me to send you a promo copy.

    Thank you,
    Sarah
    info@thelowerlights.com

    Comment by Sarah Wiley — June 27, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

  20. Yes please Sarah! We will review it here and, assuming we like it, would love to help promote it. Thanks for the offer and please contact me at markcquinn at q dot com if I don’t contact you first. Glad you stopped by.

    Comment by MCQ — June 30, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

  21. I love a CD I made of Susan Boyle, Jackie Evancho and Celtic Woman, for my spiritual personal listening in the car.

    I was thinking the other day I wish I was the choir leader because we would be doing some kick-*** songs. Maybe with bongos. I’d get released, but it would be great while it lasted.

    Comment by annegb — July 3, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

  22. Forget the bongos. It would be nice to just have a guitar or other instrument other than the organ/piano/violin that we always hear. I don’t think God ordained only those instruments as acceptable.

    Comment by MCQ — July 3, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

  23. [...] still spiritual and perhaps even more meaningful than the original arrangement, at least to some. We’ve talked about them before, when their first album came out. I’m happy to let you know that their second volume of hymns [...]

    Pingback by Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The Lower Lights: A Hymn Revival Volume 2 » The Lower Lights: A Hymn Revival Volume 2 — August 7, 2012 @ 1:49 am

  24. [...] still spiritual and perhaps even more meaningful than the original arrangement, at least to some. We’ve talked about them before, when their first album came out. I’m happy to let you know that their second volume of hymns [...]

    Pingback by The Lower Lights: A Hymn Revival Volume 2 « MCQESQ — August 7, 2012 @ 3:47 am

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