First, of course, is my fellow Patheosi’s bluesy new CD Late to Love, based on the work of St. Augustine. If there was ever a Catholic theological rationale for the blues needed, Augustine, the guy who gave you original sin, is the man to provide it. (Okay, actually it was Adam who gave you original sin, but Augustine is the guy who did the most thorough and penetrating account of why that man of yours cheats on you, why you keep going to the bottle for solace and ending up hung over on Sunday morning, why the boss screws you out of your pay, and why this old world keeps spinnin’ when the blues have got you down.)
Here’s the blurb from the album site:
On August 28, 2014, Wiseblood Records will release our inaugural collection of music, Late to Love, by Sam Rocha. Late to Love is musically inspired by the genealogy of soul music that scans the genres of spirituals, folk, gospel, country, R&B, blues, funk, jazz, hip-hop, neo-soul and nu-jazz. T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles, Gil Scott Heron, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, and Curtis Mayfield—with dashes of Willie Nelson and Pat Metheny—are the old foundation for something entirely new: Augustinian soul music.
Late to Love is an original concept album that performs a reading of Augustine’s Confessions through soul music. It is not a generic ode to a saint or holy person, nor it is a neutral and uncontroversial celebration of an important ancient book. From beginning to end Rocha offers a bold and fresh reading of Augustine’s Confessions where the form is the content, where melody and verse take the place of assertions and argument.
I’ve given the album a listen and it’s good stuff. Check it out! And you can pre-order it here! (And, by the way, note that this is not one of those “If you care about supporting Catholic art, then you must buy this album” pleas. Nobody says “If you care about supporting Catholic art, then please read The Lord of the Rings!” Why? Because good art doesn’t need people to be guilted into patronizing it. It takes care of getting its own audience. So will this album.)
Also, Jody Bottum writes:
Not sure if you saw this, but a new collection of seven of my roots/folk compositions, called “Send My Roots Rain” and recorded down in Nashville, is now out on iTunes with two of the “official music videos” already appearing on a YouTube channel, with more to come.
You might especially like the open anti-abortion themes in the Appalachian apocalyptic song “The Rain and Wind” and the horror-movie “The Children.” Or maybe the recasting of a medieval poem about purgatory, in endless unresolved 5th chords, I give in “Thorny Moor.”
The poet and critic Joseph Bottum has managed to produce something genuinely original and quite brilliant: fine new words for good old tunes. His lyrics breathe vitality into some of our most wonderful folk melodies. — Robert P. George, Princeton University
Joseph Bottum digs into the vast riches to be found in forgotten folk ditties, ballads, hymns, and popular tunes, and has sought to revivify them with lyrics worthy of their haunting melodies, which somehow cut to the marrow of the soul. In this, he has succeeded beyond what one would have thought possible, by way of a fierce critical intelligence and a terrific sense of the comedy of errors we call the human condition. — Paul Mariani, Boston College
Looking about American culture today, it’s easy to recoil in gloom. But Bottum reminds us that we look too partially if we see only the meretricious, superficial, and degraded. There is a new current of vitality coursing through American cultural life, a current that is life- and beauty- and joy-affirming. Bottum has reinvigorated a plump score of traditional tunes with lyrics that Make it New indeed. — Roger Kimball, The New Criterion
Whether or not poetry began as song, all good poetry should certainly sing, and Joseph Bottum’s does. His lyric gift is immense, enviable, and delightful— David Bentley Hart
Joseph Bottum resurrects great forgotten songs and reminds us that the roots of poetry are in popular music. His pitch-perfect lyrics are a wonder that will stir admiration, joy, and, with any luck, widespread desire to imitate his achievement. — A.M. Juster