Monday, February 22, 2010

Through Songs I Was First Undone

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending a conference in Pittsburgh, PA called Jubilee (more on that in a later blog). While I was there, I had a great opportunity to talk to Singer/Songwriter/Pastor/Philosopher Justin McRoberts and share a bit about Nuru, about music, about the church, as well as about what God was up to in each of our lives. It was a great conversation, and one I hope to continue in the future.

Justin has a new album that is getting released tomorrow, and he gave me a copy of it to listen to and so I wanted to share a bit about it with you. I'd recommend checking out his website too when you have an opportunity, and I would definitely recommend picking up the album.

On my way back from Pittsburgh I popped in the CD, and began listening to the album. I think I've listened through the album four times already--it's one of those albums that grows on you with each listening through. Of course Justin is an extremely talented singer/musician, but this album is significantly different from other releases. This is an album of cover songs and the original renditions cover a wide array of musical genre's. One of the aspects I enjoy most about this album is the fact that while Justin play's another artists song's he doesn't simply mimic every aspect of the original. Instead, Justin's voice and style emerge as unique variations on these songs that in no way denigrate the originals. For instance, when you listen to the cover of a song like Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like A Hole" you do not hear a techno-industrial style song and an impassioned imitation of Trent Reznor, but rather a song that sounds like an acoustic folk musician's re-rendering of lyrics that have moved his soul. I would actually draw comparisons between McRoberts cover of this song and Johnny Cash's cover of the NIN song "Hurt".

The quality of the recordings is great, and the content is highly varied. Not many musicians would attempt to cover artists as varied as Tom Waits, NIN, and Depeche Mode, and George Michael, but Justin McRoberts is anything but typical. I'm at a loss at a personal favorite, but I'd say my top three are "Freedom! 90", "No One Is To Blame", and "You Can't Always Get What You Want". The recordings as a whole were heartfelt, passionate, and thoughtful, and across the album I found myself singing along as much as I was listening and reflecting.

One improvement I would like to suggest is an insert with descriptions of how each of these songs "Undid" Justin. Because we are around the same age, I found that the album was a bit of a walk down memory lane with a few songs across my lifespan that also stirred my soul. Maybe that's part of why I enjoyed the album so much. (On a tangent, after my third listening I found myself on youtube and iTunes listening to clips from several other songs from younger days as a result of my nostalgia!). I also discovered that the album gave an incredible opportunity to reflect on my life as I listened to these familiar songs in a fresh way and considered the profound shaping nature of music in my own life.

If you like Justin McRobert's other albums, I highly recommend making this addition to your collection. And if you've never heard of Justin McRoberts, I think you should look him up. He's an incredibly talented and thoughtful musician with a rich voice and a passion that comes through vividly as you listen. The album is available Tuesday February 23 via iTunes.


Justin McRoberts said...

Actually, regarding your suggestion: I agree. and because of that, I've been posting a series of blogs about the new album in that very direction:

chanchanchepon said...

Ask and you shall receive I guess. ;)

Thanks for pointing me to your blog. I look forward to the continuation of your series.

Anonymous said...

And I look forward to the continuation of your beard!