SONGS FOR A HEALTHY SOUL

STOCKI'S TEN TOP HOLIDAY SONGS OF THE WEEK #1

Songs-Of-The-Week

10 tunes that particularly caught my attention in my first week of stay-cation...

 

LUKA BLOOM - THE BEAUTY OF EVERYDAY THINGS

Bloom’s new record Bittersweet Crimson deserves a review. Maybe next week. It is all perfect Irish coastal scenery reflectiveness and as this one states, The Beauty Of Everyday Things!

 

RORY BUTLER - WINDOW SHOPPING

Butler has that Scottish John Martyn sound but adds a contemporary energy in sound and content.

 

FONTAINES DC - HERO’S DEATH

These boys are conquering the world Kinda The Velvet Underground meet The Pogues. They don’t write unless the song has a reason to write.

 

JASON ISBELL - LETTING YOU GO

About his daughter. I relate so well.

 

RANDY NEWMAN - IT’S MONEY THAT MATTERS

A Mark Knopfler guitar riff fuels yet another Newman cultural critique. 

 

SAMMY BRUE - TRUE BELIEVER

One of the more reflective songs from Teenage Mayhem. 

 

TAYLOR SWIFT - MIRRORBALL

Yes! That Taylor Swift. A lo-fi album to sit beside Bon Iver who actually features on the album. Lovely haunting melodies. A very different beast from the beauty of pop.

 

SNOW PATROL - REACHING OUT TO YOU

This EP will get its full review in late August. Songs written in lockdown along with fans on Facebook. Only Gary Lightbody! Then produced by Iain Archer.

 

SARA BAREILLES - SAINT HONESTY

Dipped in Bareilles for the first time. Saint Honesty seems a relevant song in such times.

 

DEACON BLUE - WHAT SO FUNNY ‘BOUT PEACE, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING

Why indeed? From their Lock Inn Session, I love how they almost make this Nick Lowe song a Gospel hymn. 


PAUL WELLER'S SERMON ON THE MOUNT MOMENT ON HIS NEW ALBUM ON SUNSET

More

Paul Weller’s new album On Sunset might not be as sonic shifting as some recent albums. Don’t however be as lazy as some reviewers and think for a minute it is not experimental. It is Weller doing his best Curtis Mayfield, an influence surely hinted in his work since at The Gift in 1982, and there are sprinklings of Beatles’ stardust all across it. 

Actually it is more than a little bit Michael Kiwanuka. The careful and clever use of instruments. Hannah Peel’s strings so evident in True Meanings, horns, old mate Mick Talbot’s hammond organ and even Slade’s Jim Lea’s violin. The grooves, the psychedelia, near music hall. All full of soul - Baptiste gets almost spiritual about it! 

Best of all for me is the song More. Weller might not be fully aware of how Jesus-like this song’s sermon is. I preached in Fitzroy recently about Jesus idea that where your treasure is your heart will be also. It is in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and he is talking about treasure in general, how God and money is a constant battle and how we shouldn’t be obsessed with treasure on earth.

Jesus could have put it another way. The Paul Weller way:

 

The more we get, the more we lose

When all is more, it's more we choose

There's always something else in store

That keeps me running down that road, keeps me running

To an unknown place I think is more

 

The addiction for more seems a modern ailment. Jesus obviously felt that it was a problem in his day too though he might have been talking about the religious leaders of his day who had done financial deals with Herod and the Roman occupiers. 

I actually think that this teaching of Jesus makes this past of the Bible even more relevant than it was when it was written. Jesus followers didn’t have much treasure to store! 

Paul Weller puts it beautifully though and I was sorry I forgot to quote it in that ‘treasure’ sermon. Lyrically brilliant. Spiritually, right on it!


THE KILLERS - MY SOUL'S OWN WARNING - Soul Surmise Song

Killers Soul's Warning

I love it when songs kick some spiritual surmising into my day. I love to share them. Here's a new one by The Killers...

 

"If you could see through the banner of the sun

Into eternity's eyes

Like a vision reaching down to you

Would you turn away?

What if it knew you by your name?

What kind of words would cut

Through the clutter of the whirlwind of these days?"

 

The Killers have been teasing us for a while, streaming singles off a new record, Imploding The Mirage, that still doesn’t seem to have a release date.

A song called My Soul’s Own Warning was bound to catch my attention. They lyricist and frontman Brandon Flowers has never been short of some spiritual surmising. and then this verse had me really meditating on spiritual things. This one has us looking into eternity, finding a vision from what can only be understood as heaven. 

The thrill for any human being of being known by name. To be seen, recognised, taken seriously is something that is becoming more and more realised as being vital for a human being’s mental, emotional and spiritual health. That lyric had me off to Isaiah 43 where God tells us that we are “precious and in honoured in my sight” and “I have summoned you by name.” Flowers’ lyrics ask if we would turn such attention down.

He then goes on to ask if such a vision and such knowledge might cut through “the clutter of the whirlwind of these days”. Maybe Coronavirus has exposed the clutter but it certainly tossed up the whirlwind.

My Own Soul’s Warning is the stuff of spiritual surmising. Now what about the rest of the record? 


HERE COMES THE SUN - THE BEATLES

Here Comes The Sun

On our one permissible escape from the house today, we went as usual to walk Jed around Barnett's Demense. It wasn't us usual though. The sky was blue and even more intriguing was that the sun felt warm! There is one particular 30 metre hill that is worth a 3 mile walk in fitness and at the top I was feeling my body sweat... and I wasn't wearing a coat for the first time since about October.

The strong hint of spring brought a smile to my face and immediately George Harrison’s voice was in my ear... “Here Comes The Sun... little darling...” It is for me the ultimate celebration of sunshine. Harrison's guitar seems vibrant with goodness.

Harrison wrote it at a time in rock history when things were far from sunny. Just two years after they sang ‘All You Need Is Love’, the Beatles were breaking up. It was while Harrison was escaping the managerial backbiting that he found himself in Eric Clapton’s garden, and with the sun shining he found some hopefulness. “It’s been a long cold lonely winter but here comes the sun”.

Winter is about discontent and we living through a metaphorical winter right now. Summer is where we would rather be. We all need songs of hope. We all need hope. It is easy to be gloomy in these Coronavirus days. Listening to the news and rising death tolls across the world it can be difficult to look ahead with any sense of sunny-ness.

My faith gives me an alternative. I look back to a long heritage and find myself part of God's story full of liberation, redemption and purpose. And the Jesus of the story speaks into the here and now with another way to navigate this rocky terrain, looking ahead with the hope of a better future.

Faith in Jesus is not just some ‘pie in the sky when we die’ hope, but a belief in a divine presence that brings strength, grace and wisdom to change what is into what could be. As American activist Jim Wallis describes it, hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and watching the evidence change. That might be exactly how George Harrison felt when he wrote Here Comes The Sun!


STOCKI'S ST. PATRICK'S DAY PLAYLIST 2020

Music_shamrock_516_560_80

(St. Patrick's Day 2020... never been anything like it... Coronavirus has quietened the world... so here's what I have been listening to as I celebrate my Irishness... be it that you will notice that it leans towards ny Northern Irishness)

 

I THINK OF HOME - SNOW PATROL

(from Reworked)

 

NORTHLAND - BOBBY SPEERS

(from Northland)

 

LAST TRAIN TO LIMERICK - JULES MAXWELL

(from Songs From The Cultural Backwater)

 

SHIPYARDS FROM BELFAST - ULAID & DUKE SPECIAL

(from A Note Let Go)

 

YOU I KNOW - RUNABAY

(from Between the Lines)

 

IN A HEARTBEAT - RYAN MCMULLAN

(single)

 

I’M STILL ALIVE (live) - DAVID C CLEMENTS

(from The Sound Of The Forest Choir (live))

 

TALK (single edit) - TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB

(single)

 

KNOCK ME OFF MY FEET - SOAK

(from Grim Town)

 

DOWN DAYS - ROE

(single)

 

SUGAR ISLAND - THE 4 Of US

(from Sugar Island)

 

I’LL BE ALRIGHT - MALOJIAN

(from this Is Nowhere)

 

TELL THEM ALL - CIARAN LAVERY

(from Let Bad In)

 

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

(from Borders)

 

ST. PATRICK ON SLEMISH MOUNTAIN - THE ORPHAN BRIGADE

(from To The Edge Of The World)

 

MY LAGAN LOVE - THE CHIEFTAINS & LISA HANNIGAN)

(from Voice Of Ages)

 

CARRICKFERGUS - BRIAN HOUSTON

(from Songs Of My Father0

 

GREEN GLENS OF ANTRIM - BEN GLOVER

(from The Emigrant)

 

FROZEN NORTHERN SHORES - IAIN ARCHER

(from Frozen Northern Shores)

 

GOING DOWN TO BANGOR - VAN MORRISON

(from Keep Me Singing)

 

BANGOR TOWN - FOY VANCE

(from Wild Swans)

 

BELFAST - JOBY FOX

(single0

 

BELFAST (PLACE OF MY SOUL) - BURNING CODES

(single)

 

BELFAST TOWN - KAZ HAWKINS

(from Feelin’ Good)

 

SHAKE THE DUST - KATHLEEN TURNER

(from Like A Lion)

 

HUMAN - KITT PHILIPPA

(from Human)

 

SHANDY BASS - ROMANTICA

(from Shadowlands)

 

ONE FOR THE BLACK BOX - ANTHONY TONER

(from Our Lady of The Wind And Rain)

 

HOMEWARD BOUND - STREET LIGHTS

(single)

 

COME, COME AWAY - STEVENSON AND SAMUEL

(from Gracenotes)


MASQUERADE (SAM HILL JR) - FOR JANICE'S BIRTHDAY

Janice and Clock

A song for Janice's birthday. It is written and performed by Sam Hill Jr but from a lyric of mine. Sam and I went on to make an entire album - Grace Notes under the name Stevenson and Samuel.

My original lyric 73a Penwith Road is a love song for Janice when we going out together. She was living in London and the lyrics are based on pictures on the walls of Janice's flat and what I watched her do in love and hospitality.

Sam sang it with the help of Iain Archer, Miriam Kaufmann, Helen Killick and a Derryvolgie Student Choir as Janice came up the aisle at our wedding.

Here's the original poem. Happy birthday wonderful woman!

 

73A PENWITH ROAD

 

Where there's mist upon the lake

And painted African faces

Romantics in a field of poppies

And badgers on a thousand places

Smell the sweetness of her laughter

Of flowers on the window sill

Homemade cooking in the kitchen

Always much more than your fill

In the midst of all these changes

Memories time cannot erode

My heart discovered love right here

73A Penwith Road.

 

Where the arms of love are open

Hearts wider than the sky

Touching those who need a touch

Without ever asking why

Here the dance of her laughter

See the radiant sunshine smile

If you're pounded by the weary world

Sit down and rest a while

Feel the strength of gentleness

Come take your heavy load

I fly with freedom in my soul

73A Penrith Road.

 

 

Check out more Sam Hill Jr work here - https://samhilljr.co.uk

 



 

 


PARTICLES OF LIGHT...

McCrea BELFAST LIGHTS

photo: Philip McCrea

 

LISTEN to Bruce Cockburn's Hills Of Morning 

There are phrase that the preacher uses that stick, that are repeated, that can become imbedded in lives and communities. Just a few words that can carry a sermon or a theological idea or a mission statement into people’s minds before hopefully seeping into their hearts and souls and then out into their lives and actions. “Particles of light across the city” has become one of many such phrases in Fitzroy.

I stole it as I often do from a song. My very favourite Bruce Cockburn record is Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaw. It is a spiritually potent album, vivid in literary images, influenced by the Charles Williams books that Cockburn was reading at the time. For years I had the chorus of one of that album’s songs, Hills Of Morning, on a photograph of the Giants Causeway up on my study wall.

“Let me be a little of your breath
Moving over the face of the deep
I want to be a particle of your light
Flowing over the hills of morning”

These words conjure the mystery of how us humans somehow get the privilege of merging with God in God’s tangible presence in the world. It is a prayer to be involved in God’s breath, in God’s light, in God’s mission to make the world better than the world is. 

Of course we know Jesus is the light of the world but Matthew 5 turns the direction back to us:

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Back in September 2010 I titled a sermon on Matthew 5 “Particles Of Light…” and it has stuck. As well as attempting to be missional where we are located, on University Street in Belfast, we are aware that as a community we are vocationally scattered across the entire city and indeed beyond. Our members work in very influential places, effecting social change and caring for many people who are not finding themselves cared for elsewhere.

A friend of mine who now works for a Christian development organisation told me once that when he was a probation officer no one asked him how he was bringing the Kingdom but that now that he is working for a “Christian” organisation lots of people ask him. 

I don’t believe you have to be working for a Christian organisation to bring the Kingdom. We can, and indeed must, be “particles of light” scattered across the city, bringing the thinking, voice, touch, attitude and ultimately love of God wherever we are and whoever we are with. Those particles of light are somehow partners with God making up the bigger light. I guess that is why Jesus called himself the Light of the world and then at another time told the disciples that they were the Light of the world. 

Cockburn’s lyric is powerful prayer seeking God that we might be part of the force that transforms the world.

“Let me be a little of your breath
Moving over the face of the deep
I want to be a particle of your light
Flowing over the hills of morning”


THE ISLAND - 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL, 2 VERSIONS, 2 SIDES OF BELFAST - SONG OF PEACE

The Island

Not once but twice at this year’s 4 Corners Festival we were called to reflect on Paul Brady’s powerful peace anthem, The Island. 

Firstly, Jim Deeds placed a raw unrehearsed version when Tommy Sands had got the date wrong and was on his way to Sydenham Methodist during the actual gig. In the shadow of the Cranes the line “Whitewashing slogans on the shipyard walls” was never so perfectly placed. Jim opened a window on the soul.

Exactly a week later Ken Haddock was at it again. In Fitzroy not too far from the Belfast Markets area this time it was “They’re raising banners over by the markets” that fitted the space. Ken is one of our very best interpreter of songs and in an event entitled Belfast Song Book he brought a more deliberate take. He eked out the sadness, the love and the hopeful poignancy.

Both versions were great contributions to a Festival trying to bring Belfast together. Jim Deeds if from The Falls Road and understands Ken Haddock’s admission, in Fitzroy, that growing up on the Shankill Road he didn’t know anyone from “the other side” until his late teens.

That two singers brought up in two different sides of the city should choose to sing this same song should not be lost on us. Brady was living in Dublin but had been born in Strabane. He was a central figure in the Irish folk scene for almost a decade first with Planxty then with Andy Irvine before turning his hand to mainstream songwriting in 1981. His Irishness was part of his songwriting DNA particularly on the poignant Nothing But The Same Old Story.

Others from that scene tended to lean towards supporting the Republican struggle. Most notably Christy Moore who made a whole record about the H Block Hunger Strikes. Moore at the time ridiculed Brady’s song but later toned down his rhetoric.

Brady saw the criticism coming and dealt with it:

 

“Now I know us plain folks don't see all the story.
And I know this peace and love's just copping out.
And I guess these young boys dying in the ditches.
Is just what being free is all about.
And how this twisted wreckage down on main street.
Will bring us all together in the end.
And we'll go marching down the road to freedom....
Freedom...”

 

When Brady released The Island brought this song out during the 80s Northern Ireland was right up to its bloody neck in violence. Murders were common place and hope for peace was a long way off. 

The Island is a sad song. A lament, if you like. He does it by doing what Damian Gorman taught us about poetry at another 4 Corners Festival event. Brady takes The Troubles in one hand and a love song in the other and blends them together.

It is as good a song of peace that has ever been written. 


5 SONGS ABOUT KINDNESS - AS PROTESTS TO THE CRUELTY SUFFERED BY CAROLINE FLACK

Caroline-flack-portraet

A Be Kind hashtag posted by Caroline Flack just weeks before her tragic suicide has become the protest statement against the cruel world of the media and social media that is destroying the soul of our society and individuals within it.

It would be a good hashtag to promote. Two years ago my music playlists was bombard by the word and the idea.

It all started in Glenarm. Well, a singer from Glenarm anyway. The Antrim east coast’s most successful singer Ben Glover has a song on his brilliant new record Shorebound called Kindness:

“May you know kindness 

May kindness know you”

It is beautiful, like a prayer. 

Then I turned south, down the coast. Frank Turner’s Be More Kind album features 4 co-writes with Bangor’s Grammy nominated Iain Archer. Though Iain was not involved in the title track, that song is called Be More Kind! 

 

“In a world that has decided

That it's going to lose its mind

Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind”

 

Staying with Iain Archer, an actual co-write of his, released the same week, by the band Peace, Kindness is The New Rock N Roll. With a rock strut they sing: 

 

“Kindness is new rock and roll

Kindness is the climax of the soul

It's all full of love bursting from the seams

So lets make kindness the new rock and roll”

 

That was not all. I blogged these lyrics and someone pointed out that I missed another quotation from an album I had just reviewed at the time. The title track of Courtney Marie Andrew’s superb record suggested kindness more powerful than wealth:

 

Fortune might buy you diamonds, all shiny and new

But it can't buy you happiness, or love that is true

And if your money runs out, and your good looks fade

May your kindness remain

 

Finally, Ray Lamontagne’s title track Part of the Light sees kindness as a light in the world:

 

When kindness is the greatest gift that one can share

Why choose hate to subjugate your fellow man

I don't know, I don't know, I don't know

 

I want to be a part of the light

Please let me be a part of the light

I want to be a part of the light

 

Oh that these songs suggest that kindness is “the start of the latest style” to quote Joni Mitchell. 

I would suggest that there is a Biblical argument for kindness being part of the light as Lamontagne sings. There it is in the fruit of the Holy Spirit as the apostle Paul lists them in Galatians 5“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” 

How does kindness stand out in that list? Well, a quote by a Bible scholar caught my eye, “It is the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be harsh and austere.” More of that. 

Caroline Flack’s Be Kind hashtag is a posture in our inner souls that changes all our relationships towards love. Like God, sending Jesus to save the world. Out of the posture of his deep rooted kindness, God loved us enough to act towards us in a way that would heal our brokenness. 

Back to Lamontagne for the altar call -

 

“When kindness is the greatest gift that one can share

Why choose hate to subjugate your fellow man?”

 

Sing it guys. Preach it. Amen! Let’s live the Caroline Flack hashtag and somehow prevent another Caroline Flack like headline. #bekind


SNOW PATROL - TAKE BACK THE CITY

Gary on Wall

“It’s a mess

It’s a start

It’s a flawed work of art

Your city, your call

Every crack, every wall”

 

At the launch of the 2016 4 Corners Festival, Hannah McPhillimy took Snow Patrol’s Take Back The City in an original way, keyboard led, reshaping chords and revealing other angles into the anthem that was. She made us feel old that it was all over the radio when she was at school!

Snow Patrol have also reworked Take Back The City since Hannah’s version back in 2016. Last year’s Reworked album brings a yearning poignancy to the song. Every time they sing “I love this city tonight/I love this city always” I realise that I do!

When Take Back The City was the lead off single on Snow Patrol’s A Hundred Million Suns it was is a bit of a departure. Up until then Gary Lightbody was writing about romance, mostly the melancholy side. In a Q magazine, at the time of the single’s release, Lightbody explained that the song is about his home city of Belfast which he has learned to fall in love with all over again. When Lightbody left for University in Dundee at the beginning of the nineties Belfast was a besieged city. 

There were a couple of years when every road into the city had police checks and people were being shot almost daily. By the time Lightbody returned, around 2005, the city had had a decade without bombs and bullets; it was a place revived with new shopping centres, city centre bars and clubs and music venues big enough for Snow Patrol’s success. Just like its returning sons, Belfast is thriving!

Though the negative side of Northern Ireland’s conflict haunts Take Back The City it is a song about loving the city, enjoying the city and reshaping the city. Lightbody sings about the broken record of entrenched political sectarianism and about the futility of picking sides in a historical fight he doesn’t understand. 

The main thrust of Lightbody’s ode to home though is about sucking the marrow out of the city, sometimes admitting to partying too much. Where I have personally been inspired is in the verse:

 

“God knows you put your life into its hands 

And it's both cradled you and crushed 

But now it's time to make your own demands.”

 

I am sure Gary Lightbody does not have the same missional intent as those of us who organised the 4 Corners Festival but this is a very interesting take on our relationship with our home cities, towns or villages. 

The city shapes us, cradles and crushes us into the adults we become but after that we are the shapers of the city. Our task as the Churches is to engage with our city as “World Formative Christians” to take a phrase from theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff.  

Since he released Take Back The City in 2016 Gary Lightbody has put his money and time where his mouth was. Whether encouraging young artists, or doing In Conversations like the one he is doing with me at 4 Corners Festival, he has contributed hugely to this mess, this start, this flawed work of art. Every time I hear it I want to get up and go and build a city of grace!