Sarah Masen: The Trying Mark, Part 1

Guest Post

By Angela Doll Carlson

The first time I heard Sarah Masen sing was at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. Sarah took the stage after being introduced as a “songwriter’s songwriter” and a “musician’s muse.” She carried a rich burgundy mandolin and wore denim high-water overalls and heavy boots, her long hair twisted in two small knots near the top of her head. Her wide, welcoming smile was striking and her strong, wiry build made it seem as though, like a bird, she was made to take flight. And when she began to sing, she did take flight, right there at the Bluebird Café.

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Sarah wrapped her fingers around the neck of the guitar beginning in the mid nineties. Her self titled solo album, released in 1996, garnered considerable attention from the music community and was a solid launch base for her subsequent works which included Carry Us Through in 1998, The Holding in 1999 (a re-release of a previous project), and The Dreamlife of Angels in 2001, as well as a trio of EP projects in 2007: Women’s Work Is Alchemy, A History of Lights and Shadows and Magic That Works.

[Read more...]

The Choir: Children of Krakatoa

Parker & Coward, Krakatoa Eruption (1888)

On August 26, 1883, the people of Perth, Western Australia, paused to register what historians have referred to as “the loudest sound ever heard.” Almost 2,000 miles away, a volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa rocked the world, obliterating two-thirds of the island, and causing tsunamis that killed over 36,000 people.

In 2012, atmospheric alternative rockers The Choir titled their fourteenth record The Loudest Sound Ever Heard, too—a decidedly ironic move for the Nashville, Tennessee-based outfit. The band has made unassuming, understated alternative-rock for almost thirty years, after all, relying more often on restraint than bombast.

It was for this reason, in fact, that I dismissed the band’s music as a teenager in the early nineties. When compared to the heaviness of sludgy Seattle grunge—a sound that stole my heart and never returned it—The Choir felt like a featherweight act to me. Frontman Derri Daugherty’s vocals had all the innocence of a songbird’s, and I preferred Kurt Cobain’s world-weary wail.

A classmate insisted on introducing me to Nirvana’s Nevermind album on his Walkman on a youth group ski trip, and I had obliged him, albeit reluctantly. For my teenage mind, the sacred and the profane existed in compartmentalized, cordoned-off spaces—seldom overlapping and, more often than not, existing at odds with one another. [Read more...]

Over the Rhine’s Sound of Place

Guest Post
Brian Volck


“Somewhere is better than anywhere.”
—Flannery O’Connor


Early in the film, Lone Star, written and directed by John Sayles, a man poking about in the Texas borderlands says, “You live in a place, you should learn something about it.” Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler have lived in and learned about Ohio most of their lives: rural childhoods, Malone College where they met, and music-making in the historic Cincinnati neighborhood from which their band, Over the Rhine, takes its name.

Now living in a nineteenth-century house in Highland County, Ohio, the married singer-songwriter duo has spent recent years learning the ways of what they call “Nowhere Farm,” the names of the birds and trees at home there, and the rhythms of the day in a place where, heeding the advice of Detweiler’s father, they’ve kept the edges wild.

While Meet Me at the Edge of the World, Over the Rhine’s new double-CD release, isn’t the first to emerge from Nowhere Farm, it documents a deepening attention to and appreciation of place. Through thoughtful lyrics and tunes drawn from the deep American musical tradition, it’s clear how much Bergquist and Detweiler have become, in agrarian writer Wes Jackson’s words, “native to this place.” [Read more...]

From Luci Shaw to Brother K: My Life with IMAGE

Guest post by Lucas Kwong


“Art, Faith, Mystery.” These watchwords have formed the center of Image journal’s mission since I joined its staff as a summer intern in 2006 (and, of course, well before that). Seven years later, on the eve of finishing my band’s first full length album, I find myself marveling at the mysteries by which Image has shaped my view of art and faith—and, by extension, the mysteries by which it has shaped the way that I approach my craft as a musician.

In light of the “near-death experience” cited earlier this week by Image founder Gregory Wolfe and resource development director Stuart Scadron-Wattles, I offer this post as a humble testimonial as to why Image is worth every dollar of your support.

When I moved into my apartment in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood in June 2006, I had no idea what my summer at Image’s offices would entail. I knew, of course, that the Luci Shaw summer fellowship would require me to update the website and help plan Image’s Glen Workshop. [Read more...]

Becoming Baroque

Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Oscar Wilde’s mischievously challenging line appears across the opening frame of a film about Concerto Italiano’s recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

The film came unexpectedly into my hands. I hadn’t listened to the Brandenburgs in a while, and felt a need for their exuberating uplift. So I got the CDs from my public library, not knowing these performers but taking a chance on them.

I was wowed by the crisp liveliness of their performance. And delighted to discover that, along with the CDs of the six Brandenburgs, came a 2005 DVD about Concerto Italiano’s recording process, featuring interviews with their director, Rinaldo Alessandrini.

Alessandrini thoroughly enchanted me. Sporting the scruffy look, he spoke brilliantly, with a thoughtful twinkling joy, about baroque music.

The speed and invention of Italian baroque music—as with Bach’s Brandenburgs, which were inspired by the Italian baroque—force us to maintain a lightness in performing. It requires us only to bring out its elegance, its beauty, to make it speak very calmly. For the audience, it becomes a calm, cordial communication.

Baroque music as conversation: Alessandrini kept returning to this metaphor. [Read more...]