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December 2019

"HAPPY" NEW YEAR DOESN'T CUT IT... TOO WISPY AND SHALLOW...

2020

Happy doesn’t cut it. It lacks. It is too wispy. Shallow even. It all depends on the right lining up of happenings.

Life doesn’t often line up. At least not the way we long for it. Oh there will be happy moments in 2020. 

Your team will win. 

You will get a nice surprise. 

There might be a romantic sunset kiss. 

You will read that stimulating book on a warm beach. 

The recipe will work perfectly and everyone will say so. 

That ski slope will be the perfect speed. 

A five iron to three feet. 

A wedding. 

A new baby. 

I wish you all these kinds of happy moments.

BUT… I yearn to wish you more than that.

There will be moments in 2020 that will be far from happy. 

Life will not be lined up. 

Indeed it will be cracked, anxious and sore. 

Finding yourself on the outside. 

The betrayal. 

The broken relationship. 

The lost job. 

The natural disaster. 

The tragic news headline. 

The shock diagnosis. 

The long surgery and precarious aftermath. 

The death of a loved one. 

The ongoing grief. 

2020 will not be all happy. It will have its sadness. It is into all of the blend and blur of life’s twists and turns and rollercoaster of ups and downs that I want to find a word to greet you with. Those might be the most crucial moments. 

I am dissatisfied with "Happy" New Year. It will not cut it. It is not robust enough. Not deep enough. It is just not enough.

What is enough? 

My biggest lesson and most preached mantra in 2019 was that WITH is the most important word in theology. That the BEING WITH of the baby Jesus is what God is all about. Emmanuel - God with us.

May you be loved in the New Year. 

May you have someone to cheer your team winning with in the New Year.

May you have someone to taste that perfect recipe with in the New Year.

May you have an ear to listen to your innermost in the New Year.

May you have a hand to hold no matter what in the New Year. 

May you be loved in the New Year in the happy moments and all the rest of the time too!

May it be an Emmanuel New Year!


STOCKI'S FAV RECORDS OF 2019 - #10-1

10. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - WESTERN STARS/...SONGS FROM
THE FILM

Bruce Film

Some didn't but I loved Bruce taking on his inner Jimmy Webb, great songs of place with strings and all... I am adding the Songs From The Film version too because he actually added a cover Rhinestone Cowboy to inform his lazier fans what he was doing...

read my review of Western Stars here

 

9. KARINE POLWART - KARINE POLWART'S SCOTTISH SONGBOOK

Scottish Songbook

She was my Record of 2018 and another top ten for this reimagining of the Scottish songs she grew up with... Deacon Blue, The Waterboys, Blue Nile, Frightened Rabbit and Biffy Clyro among the artists covered... best of all her re-reading of Big Country's Chance like a Springsteen Nebraska track is revelatory! 

Read my full review here

 

8. THE HEAD & THE HEART

Living Mirage

Since I was introduced to them at Calvin College in 2014 I have loved this band... West Coast sound in with great harmonies...

Read my full review here  

 

7. RUNABAY

Runabay

Heard these guys at a SoFar Belfast event in Fitzroy a few years ago and yearned for this record... one of three in my Top 40 from the Glens of Antrim... the world's new rock n roll Hub! These songs swell like Atlantic waves and have all the beauty of those Glens...

Read my full Review here

 

6. LUKE SITAL-SINGH

A Golden State

I love the intimacy and fragility of this Luke Sital-Singh record... utterly beautiful and The Last Day might be the best song of the entire year...

Read my full review here

 

5. COLDPLAY

Everyday Life

I never imagined Coldplay would be in one of my Top 5s... BUT this one is a goodie with a couple of hymns and peace anthems, almost as many genres as The White Album... Performing it live in Jordan across the word by YouTube was wonderful too...

Read my full review here

 

4. JOE HENRY - THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WATER

Joe Henry

Written after a serious cancer prognosis Henry records his most stripped back and best record yet... my friends at #2 say of Joe that everything he speaks is literature and it sure is in these songs...

Read my full review here

 

3. NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS - GHOSTEEN

Ghosteen

For me this is the BEST record of 2019 and maybe one of the best of all time. Cave finally puts on fully the Leonard Cohen mantle and records his Astral Weeks... mythical, magical and melancholic wonder...  

Read my full review here

 

2. OVER THE RHINE - LOVE AND REVELATION

OTR Love

My favourite band for many a long year Karin and Linford are the best at writing and performing beautiful pieces of heartache... more of that here, songs of personal and national grief... full of wisdom, sympathy and the love of God... (they got the title from how the #4 act signs his letters!)

Read my full review here

 

1. THE ORPHAN BRIGADE - TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

Orphan Brigade record

Since Ben Glover suggested this record might be written, sitting in my office in 2018, I was captured by the idea... then when I heard it and the idea was even better in reality it was always going to be my favourite record of 2019... songs written on my East Antrim Coast, even here in Ballycastle... sounding earthy and windy with the sea rippling off the surface... and John Prine singing about Sorley Boy... come on!!!

Read my full review here

 


FR MARTIN'S SERMON AT LYRA MCKEE'S FUNERAL

Lyra's

There is little doubt that the murder of Lyra McKee was the most significant event in Northern Ireland in 2019. Lyra was a symbol of our new hope; a generation after the Troubles, taking us somewhere new.

Those shots in Derry/Londonderry were an assault on that hope. It was like we all got hit but only Lyra died. It was tragic not only for her partner and her family but all of us.

Then there was that sermon. Or that line in that sermon. My good friend Fr Martin Magill seizing the moment. Actually not being aware that a moment in his sermon was going to be seized. I had read that line the night before, when he asked some of us to go over the script. I didn't see it coming. Nor did he. 

He commended the politicians for responding together in the Creggan. That was Martin. Encourage them. Spark something. Then that pause... There was no pause in the script that I read off the page. BUT that pause was the power to come...

"I am however left with a question: ‘Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29 year old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point?’"

In the middle of a paragraph it seemed harmless enough but here in St. Anne's Cathedral in the high emotion of a funeral with all the political leaders from across two nations. Something went off. I still do not know where. A clap. Then two. Then hundreds. People on their feet. A cathedral on its feet. A country on its feet.

I was watching in Ballycastle and I was fist pumping the sky, "Go Martin. Get in there!" I was his biggest fan now (I might have been for a while) and tears welled up. 

Meanwhile Martin is trying to find his place. As surprised as everyone by this impact. A moment of God. I have no doubt. A moment of frustration from a country without a government for over two years. I am certain. A moment of hope that maybe the people on the ground could send a message to their politicians. They did!

I was so excited. I wanted to speak to Martin. Eventually he phoned. He handed the phone to Anna Burns who he had met in the crowd. I loved Milkman. Meeting a hero is one thing. Being on a phone that she is on the other end of is another. I froze. She froze. "Loved your book". "Thanks." "Bye".

I asked Martin how the pop star was. He didn't understand. He understood soon enough. I watched the wake of the wave ripple out across the world. He was in the wave and didn't see. Until the TV cameras came. Martin is not one for the headlines. He rang everyday. For some grounding. He was a pop star!

In those days, interview after interview, Martin was immense. He handled it so well. He said the right things at all the right times. My respect soared. A friend messaged me, "Your Robin just became Batman!" I was proud as punch to be his Robin! It gave Martin a voice that he continues to use pastorally and prophetically. 

Martin will say that the politicians missed that moment. They did. They missed the message from the people. Again. They missed a message from Lyra's generation. Again. 

Yet, I do not believe the people did. Or Lyra's generation did. We need to keep that wave going up behind the politicians. Lyra's Crossroads I called it. May we take the right road. The road that Martin helped nudge us down.

 

The sky went black

On Good Friday morning

When the news headlines

Told us you were murdered

Shot dead, doing your deepest gladness

One of the Ceasefire children

Shot by one of the Ceasefire children

One looking forward

The other looking back

One bringing us together

The other tearing us apart

It was not a Good Friday.

 

In your case

It didn’t take until Sunday

For resurrection

We couldn’t wait, for fear of the worst

And your life couldn’t wait, so full of the best

In the same sentences that told your death

Your life bloomed and bulldozed through

The darkness hit your flesh

But it missed your light

A star that shines on

Brighter than ever

 

You were our hope

But though they tried to make you past tense

You are still our hope

People are now being inspired

To make judgements without being judgemental

To revere the past without worshiping it

To doggedly hold a bone of truth

In the gentlest of a grace soft mouth

 

Politicians, years without speaking

Standing side by side

With whispers

Suspiciously grace impregnated

A palpable hope of new life

The potent power of a new seed

Planted.

 

And in your craftiest trick of all

You got the Churches out of their cold war

At peace in the same building

Sharing your city with a better future

With all your friends and all their opinions

For you it was always about everyone

And everyone was there

Even those enemies

 

And your friend, Fr Martin Magill

Learning about Hufflepuff

And The Lost Boys

Drawing comparisons with Jesus blood shed

And Resurrection

He commends the politicians,

Who stood together in the Creggan

Then, preacher perfect… pauses… to ask a question

“Why in God’s name did it take the death of a 29 year old woman

With her whole life in front of her…”

The congregation finish the sentence

Like a jury’s condemnation

Applause

Yet not applause

More like Amens with hand claps

Rippling across the pews 

Then a standing ovation of "preach it"

It goes on

Like the sound of peace

Flowing up the hill to Stormont Buildings

 

 

The sound rings around Lyra McKee Crossroads

A landmark

Where a young woman’s gifted legacy

And a Kairos moment collide

Into Beatitudes

Of Transformation

We can see why you loved those words of Jesus

Meek,

Hungry for Justice

Peacemakers

Blessed

Like the future you lived

An alternative Ulster indeed!


STOCKI'S FAV RECORDS OF 2019 - #20-11

 

20. GLEN HANSARD - THIS WILD WILLING

Hansard

I have argued with myself about this record all year. At times it was not on the list at all and at one stage it was top 10. 20 seems the right place for a record that had me in its John Martyn Small Hours-like moments... but at other times...

 

19. LEONARD COHEN  - THANKS FOR THE DANCE

Cohen

Put lovingly together by his son after Leonard passed away, Cohen's voice gives that poetic authority over the profane and very sacred...

 

18. VAN MORRISON - THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH

Van 3 Chords

Personally, even without Dana Masters amazing backing vocals, this was as strong a collection of songs as Van has done for a long number of years...

Read my full review

 

17. ELBOW - GIANTS OF ALL SIZES

Giants Elbow

Guy Garvey gives a few opinions of the giants oppressing our hearts and land... and does so with that poetic flair... 

Read my full review here

 

16 JOSH RITTER - FEVER BREAKS

RITTER

Ritter teams up with Jason Isbell and though louder it is no less literary... 

Read my full review here

 

15. ALLISON MOORER - BLOOD

Allison Moorer Blood

Companion record to her memoir about her dad shooting her mum and himself when she was 14... an album of some substance... Producer Kenny Greenberg gets the very best out of her writing...

 

14. PIERCE PETTIS - FATHER'S SON

Pettis Father's Son

Much to my excitement I discovered Pierce's first album in 10 years by chance at year's end... his usual poetry, spirituality and guitar genius enhanced by some neat fiddle... and that warm gracious voice... worth the wait!

 

13. ROBBIE ROBERTSON - SINEMATIC

Sinematic

This one nearly got passed me but Gar Saeger saved me from my bereftness. Robertson at his very best with Van Morrison and Glen Hansard as guests... Van even does the De Niro part!!!

 

12. MICHAEL KINAWAKU - KINAWUKA

Kinawuka

Kiwanuka arts up his rock and soul heart and... er... soul on an electric mix of all kinds of sounds... for me it is Donny Hathaway all mixed up with Curtis Mayfield and then some!

 

11. BUDDY & JULIE MILLER - BREAKDOWN ON 20TH AVENUE SOUTH

BUDDY & JULIE

This took me a while, just like Julie's rock drawl but once it kicked in it really kicked in... depths of poetry and soul in riffs and grooves


STOCKI'S FAV RECORDS OF 2019 - #30-21

30. KITT PHILIPPA  - HUMAN

Kitt

Ethereal, eccentric and mystical… there is nothing quite like Kitt Philippa and that is a wonderful thing… 

 

29. MARTYN JOSEPH - HERE COME THE YOUNG

Here Come The Young

Our Welsh buddy continues to shine a song across the world, personal and political… 

Read my full review here

 

28. KIERAN GOSS AND ANNIE KINSELLA - OH THE STARLINGS

Kieran and Annie

Bumped into these two in a hotel lift on our anniversary weekend, went home and discovered this. I suggest that Kieran’s wife adds much to his music…

Read my entire review here

 

27. THE DARKLING AIR - ANCESTOR

Darkling

These guys from Bangor make the most soothing sounds, gently stirring the classical with the songwriter with their own contemporary additives… very tasty…

 

26. YOLA - WALK THROUGH FIRE

YOLA

My good friend, whose taste I admire more than most, Gar Saeger had this as his #1… produced by Dan Auerbach it has an utterly timeless sound… 

 

25. KATHLEEN TURNER - LIKE A LION

Kathleen

Released late in the year Tyrone’s Kathleen Turner, now working in community arts in Limerick, brings a voice to great songs with a blend of folk and soul… 

Read my full review here

 

24.  ANTHONY TONER - THE LADY OF THE WIND AND RAIN

Toner

County Derry/Londonderry’s very own literate songwriter throws out humour and wisdom in another solid collection of crafted songs...

Read my full review here 

 

23. MARC COHN & THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA

Cohn and Blind

Cohn comes in to produce The Blind Boys and they throw a new perspective on Cohn’s work… A collaborative that benefits both artists… 

Read my full review here

 

22. MAVIS STAPLES - WE GET BY

We Get By

Mavis still has it… Ben Harper takes the production seat from Jeff Tweedy and gives Mavis’s voice the songs and playing that she shines upon… 

Read my full review here

 

21. BEAR’S DEN -  SO THAT YOU MIGHT HEAR ME

Bear's Den

More beautiful work from these boys... going deep and personal this time…


STOCKI'S FAV RECORDS OF 2019 - #40-31

40. AMANDA ST. JOHN - THE MUSCLE SHOALS SESSIONS

Amanda St J

The girl from the Glens heads to Muscle Shoals to fins a space and a sound for that big East Antrim voice…

Read my full review here

 

39. RYAN VAIL & ELMA ORKESTRA - BORDERS

Ryan and Elma

I probably preferred the live experience but though there is a lot of electronica and beats for my listening joys this one is worth a placing for the guest spots by Marie Brennan and Stephen James Smith…

 

38. JEREMY CASELLA - SPIRIT

Casella

Not much sneaks into my top albums from the Christian industry but Jeremy Casella songwriting and playing is a beautiful call to be still… 

Read my full review here

 

37.  DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS - DRAGON

Holcomb

Holcomb never fails to write a quality song with Lone Bellow as guests on this one too..

 

36. THE DELINES - THE IMPERIAL

Delines

Hushed American beauty… so sorry that my illness early in 2019 caused me to miss their gig… check their 2015 Scenic Sessions re-released this year too.

 

35. ANGIE MCMAHON - SALT

Salt

Australian youngster who came to our ears through the Women Sing Waits record. My compadre in ministry and music, Paul Bowman, gifted me Angie’s vinyl album for Christmas… she’s a talent…

 

34. CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN - CAMILLE SINGS CAVE LIVE

Camille cave

You’ve got to love a bit of Camille and an entire record of Nick Cave covers… what's not to like...

 

33. JOY WILLIAMS - FRONT PORCH

Joy Williams

Joy came to fame in Civil Wars but she is a wonder in her own right… more so, in my opinion… Front Porch is organic, personal and crafted…

 

32. ALDOUS HARDING - DESIGNER

Aldous

A New Zealander Harding is a curious artist who throws intrigue and magic all across her dusk time sounds… 

 

31. PATTY GRIFFIN - PATTY GRIFFIN

Patty G

As stripped back a collection as Griffin has done… and all the better for it… Her Black Box gig was wondrous…


STOCKI'S FAV 10 REISSUES AND LIVE ALBUMS OF 2019

 

10. STING - MY SONGS (Deluxe)

Not as reworked as the #1 piece of re-imagination but all these songs together and not in a lazy Best Of kind of way... plus the live extra CD...

 

9. BOB DYLAN - BOOTLEG SERIES Vol 15 - TRAVELLING THRU 1967-69

Maybe not the strongest Bootleg Series but some little gems with and without Johnny Cash... Closer Walk With Thee... Ring Of Fire...

 

8. CHRISTY MOORE - MAGIC NIGHTS

The live setting is Christy's best space right now. This is less "hits"orientated than Road Songs... all the better for it.

 

7. JONI 75 - VARIOUS ARTISTS

Any Joni Tribute gig has to be a thrill. Glen Hansard's Coyote a highlight...

Read my full review here

 

6. PAUL WELLER - OTHER ASPECTS; PAUL WELLER LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL 

The Jam with strings... who'd have thought... and brilliantly done by Northern Ireland's Hannah Peel... who'd have thought

Read my full review here

 

5. BOB DYLAN - THE ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: THE 1975 LIVE RECORDINGS

My fav era of Dylan live and 14 discs of it!!!

 

4. VAN MORRISON - THE HEALING GAME 

Wonderful re-issue with two CDs of amazing extra tracks and a live gig...

Read my full review here

 

3.WOMEN SING WAITS - VARIOUS ARTISTS

Tom Waits songs tenderly loved by a variety of amazing female vocalists old and young...

 

2. THE BEATLES - ABBEY ROAD; 50th Anniversary Box Set

My very Fav Beatles's record... with Giles Martin stereo mix twinkle and two dice of extra tracks...

 

Reworked

 

1. SNOW PATROL - REWORKED

no lazy hits record for their 25th anniversary... they dismantle, re-imagined and rebuilt the back catalogue... and added three new wonders. This really is their best of! 

Read my full review here

 


STOCKI'S BEST OF 2019 PLAYLIST

Tracks 19

(not just a list of songs but quite a few links and themes going on... enjoy)

 

MY ISLAND (feat. Stephen James Smith) - RYAN VEIL & ELMA ORKESTRA

(from Borders)

 

I THINK OF HOME - SNOW PATROL

(from Reworked)

 

DANCE WITH ME TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD - THE ORPHAN BRIGADE

(from To Edge Of the World)

 

UNDERNEATH THE SKY - BUDDY & JULIE MILLER

(from Breakdown On 20th Ave. South)

 

EVERYTHING IS BROKEN (Feat. Jason Isbell) - SHERYL CROW

(from Threads)

 

BROKEN - COLDPLAY

(from Everyday Life)

 

LET LOVE REIGN - ROBBIE ROBERTSON

(from Sinematic)

 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WATER - JOE HENRY

(from The Gospel According To Water)

 

LOVE AND REVELATION - OVER THE RHINE

(from Love And Revelation)

 

SILVER THUNDERBIRD - MARC COHN & THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA

(from Work To Do)

 

AHIMSA - U2 and A. R. RAHMAN

(from single)

 

CITY OF LOVE - DEACON BLUE

(from the forthcoming City Of Love)

 

THE LAST DAY - LUKE SITAL-SINGH

(from Golden State)

 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARY - JOSH RITTER & THE MILK CARTON KIDS

(from single)

 

AFRICA (WAVING AT YOU) (feat. Onialeku Primary School) - JONNY FITCH

(from single)

 

BLIND LEADING THE BLIND - MUMFORD & SONS

(from single)

 

LAND OF THE FREE - THE KILLERS

(from single)

 

HUMAN (Live) - JACK SAVORETTI & WARD THOMAS

(from Singing To Strangers (Special Edition)

 

HUMAN - KITT PHILIPPA

(from Human)

 

THERE GOES MY MIRACLE (Film Version) - BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

(from Western Stars - Songs From The Film)

 

CHANCE - KARINE POLWART

(from Karine Polwart's Scottish Songbook)

 

WAITING FOR YOU - NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS

(from Ghosteen)

 

JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE (Take 1) - BOB DYLAN & JOHNNY CASH

(from The Bootleg Series Vol 15; Talking Through 1967-69)

 

SOLID GROUND - MICHAEL KIWANUKA

(from Kiwanuka)

 

SHAKE THE DUST - KATHLEEN TURNER

(from Like A lion)

 

COYOTE (live) - GLEN HANSARD

(from Joni 75)

 

THAT KIND OF LOVE - ANTHONY TONER

(from Our Lady Of The Wind and Rain)

 

YOU I KNOW - RUNABAY

(from Between the Lines)

 

HEAL - ALLISON MOORER

(from Blood)

 

INSTRUMENT - PIERCE PETTIS

(from Father's Son)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


SENT - Day After Christmas Poem

Sent

The turkey is eaten... the wrapping paper binned... the baby is born... but if you think it is all over... this is but the beginning...

 

An angel was sent

To break to Mary the shocking news

To find out if she was up for the privilege

Mary was sent into a tail spin

That would need some cool prayerful courage

So she sent herself off to Elizabeth 

A companion who understood and affirmed.

An angel was sent, again

To calm Joseph’s shock and anger

And turn his disappointment and confusion into complicity.

A choir of angels were sent

To sing the news of peace and good will

To shepherds who were sent

Scurrying with joyous abandon

Right into the holy of holies in straw and filth.

Oriental stargazers were sent in awe and wonder

On the trail of a sign of seismic shift 

So, Herod sent for his religious scholars

To make theological sense of the conjecture

The King then sent his death squads

To kill the idea and the revolution being born.

An angel was sent, yet again

To Joseph in a dream to warn of a nightmare

Which sent Joseph, Mary and the baby of to Egypt as refugees

Because God so loved the world he sent

Himself to be present with us

To light our way in darkness

To overturn the tables of our greed

To give himself for our redemption

To bring God’s will to where he was sent

As it is where he was sent from.

 

As the Father sent the baby

We are sent. 

 

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20: 21)


CHRISTMAS GIFTS - WILL WE RIP THEM OPEN?

Subbuteo Rugby

A very happy Christmas to you all. I love Christmas morning. Let me ask you, what was the earliest you got up to see what Santa left? For me it was just 30 minutes after midnight. I lay waiting until my parents went to bed. I reckoned that Santa must have been. I sneaked out and there was my Subbuteo Rugby. I didn’t have the players lined out for a game before my parents were down the corridor telling me to get back to bed. 

Darn… but my 4am wake ups worked so much better. My parents were deeper in their sleep and I used to watch out the window as the McKeown’s light then the Wilson’s lights would go on around the same time.

I always watch carefully on Christmas Day to catch people’s reactions to being given a present. I always wonder what would happen if someone refused the gift they are handed? “No thank you” they say. “I’d prefer not to take that from you.” How would that go?

Then what if someone took the gift and just set it down somewhere. The giver asks if they want to know what it is. “Oh no”, they reply, “It was the thought that counted. I don’t want to get over excited or fanatical. I’ll just look at it occasionally and think of you!”

Give a gift to me today and I’ll have it out of your and, no matter how expensive or carefully wrapped the paper, I’ll have it ripped off off to see what is in there. I love Christmas. I love the gifts. I am up with my children, no matter how early to see what is in that stocking.

And what of the baby. That other gift of Christmas. We all know the words and can dismiss them with over familiarity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What a gift. There, in the nativity decoration. There, in the manger. God’s gift to us all. How will we respond on this Christmas morning? Like I did with that Subbuteo Rugby?