29th April 2016
*This interview was originally from March 2012. Since then, Tom has released a fantastic new book on revival, ‘Scotland: Land of Many Revivals (Christian Focus Publications)':
1) As a music reviewer, how do you think Contemporary Worship Music has changed over the past number of years?
I’m not sure there’s been a truly significant change in the essence of popular worship music in the past decade or so, to be honest. Pop/rock praise anthems, with punchy hook lines and congregationally singable choruses have been very much the order of the day in modern worship music for many years now, and that’s still the same today. British worship writers/musicians like Matt Redman and Tim Hughes remain hugely popular both sides of the Atlantic, as do American dudes like Chris Tomlin and David Crowder. What changes over time is the number of new names in worship that are cropping up – the market is saturated with worship albums and mp3s, and so much of it is really good. My only issue is there’s often not much variability – much contemporary worship music sticks to a very similar, indistinct format.
I am impressed, though, with a number of fresh sounds in worship that are cropping up from time to time. I’m thinking, for example of that Northern Irish team, The Rend Collective Experiment. or that energetic group from Colorado, known as Gungor and led my Michael Gungor. Or the original, rootsy sound of Australian four-piece Sons Of Korah, who have yet to become widely recognised, but who’s impressive output focuses almost exclusively on the Psalms, into which biblical pieces they breathe wonderfully fresh and inspirational life.
2) You mentioned in Cross Rhythms that two of your all time favourites ‘Back Home’ by Caedmon’s Call and ‘Myself When I Am Real’ by Bebo Norman, is that still the case or have you changed from that?
I’m listening to Caedmon’s Call right now as I write – their Chronicles album! Love that group. their combination of folk and rock with catchy melodies and great harmonies really appeals to me. And yeh, I still think Bebo Norman is great too. His songwriting skills are first-rate; in terms of both lyrical content, which is rich in spiritual depth, and in catchy hook-lines, which stay with you. He has a great voice, too. Among other favourites, I’d include the above-mentioned Sons Of Korah, Jadon Lavik and Canadian Steve Bell. Actually, one of the most beautiful, Spirit-led worship albums I know of is a very early recording by Rita Springer called ‘Love Covers’. It’s out of print these days, and very hard to come by, but the album contains a whole string of the most spiritually-sensitive piano-led worship songs I’ve ever heard. Love listening to that album (or I would do, if only my friend would return it to me!). Another worship beauty is ‘Divine Whisper’ by former Vineyard worship leader (now based in Seoul, South Korea), Scott Brenner. Gentle songs of adoration – utterly heaven-inspired. And then there’s Misty Edwards, one of Kansas City IHOP’s worship musicians. Her album ‘Relentless’ is powerful, prophetic and wonderfully engaging.
3) Any up and coming acts you think are ones to watch, or any good albums from old favourites (g.Stuart Townend, Graham Kendrick)?
Loads of up and coming musicians out there who are worth watching for, including some already mentioned above. One guy who’s been making a big mark on the Scottish music scene is Steph Macleod. Now well-know in his native land, but still undiscovered by many, Steph’s distinctly bluesy vocals and impressive songs are most noteworthy. Or how about Dutch worship musician, Kees Kraayenoord, almost completely unkown in the UK – his album ‘Speak The Word’s is full of ear-catching p&w sounds. Or again, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors.
You mention Graham Kendrick. Some of his output in the last ten or fifteen years has been excellent. He kinda went through a period in the late 80s and 90s when his music wasn’t too exciting. But then came ‘What Grace’ – with guest appearances from ‘youngsters’ Martin Smith and Matt Redman. A gorgeous album of diverse worship sounds. He’s done the same thing more recently with ‘Banquet released in 2011. Remarkably it’s his 30th album to date – which makes it all the more impressive that it sounds so fresh and interesting from start to finish. Another worship veteran, Robin Mark’s most recent recording ‘Fly’ is also worth checking out.
28th April 2016
*This interview was originally from March 2012. Since then, Tom has released a new book on revival, ‘Scotland: Land of Many Revivals':
Tom Lennie was born and raised in the beautiful parish of Orphir, in Orkney. Earning a degree at Aberdeen University, he worked in accountancy for some years. Though debilitated by chronic fatigue syndrome, Tom has served as a music and book reviewer for many years. With a particular passion for spiritual revivals worldwide, he owns a sizeable library of revival literature of books and journals from all over the world. He presently resides in Edinburgh, where he is working on the next volume of his trilogy on Scottish revival movements. His first book, Glory In The Glen, was released in 2009 through Christian Focus Publishing. To contact Tom or find out more information, please visit http://www.scottishrevivals.co.uk/.
1) Can you name some occasions where music has played a prominent role in a revival?
Music has played a prominent part in virtually every revival I’ve read about.
22nd April 2016
Thank you to all who enjoyed the article on Ringo Starr. Here’s the 2nd drummer in this 4-part feature – Steve Jordan.
Steve Jordan is definitely one of my favourite drummers. I actually did a full-on book project on him when I was at University. I think its so important to find out about new drummers and develop an interest in those whom we enjoy listening to. It really helps us as drummers become better listeners, better players, and also helps us to play with a band more effectively. In short, we mature as musicians. So without further ado, here’s a bit about Steve, why I think his contribution to music over the past 30 years is significant, and also some wisdom in the form of comments from the man himself as well as a few groove transcriptions.
Steve Jordan was born on January 14th, 1957 in New York. After studying as a classical percussionist at the famous LaGuardia High School of Music & Art in NYC, Steve Jordan launched a legendary career in rock, collaborating with artists such as Keith Richards, Don Henley, John Mayer, The Pretenders, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Bob Dylan and Alicia Keys. As a Grammy Award-winning record producer, his inspired presence and craft have raised the standard. Steve Jordan is well known as a multi-instrumentalist, musical director, producer and a writer of exceptional quality. In addition to his late 70’s / early 80’s tenure with Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, Steve has been one of the most in demand session drummers in the world. He has recorded and toured with such artists as The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, BB King, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow and many more. Steve has evolved into a Grammy Award winning producer with Robert Crays’ album ‘Take Your Shoes Off’ and the nominated ‘Bring ‘Em In’ by Buddy Guy. While he has played on countless hits, from Alicia Keys ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Devils and Dust’, and he continues to produce with such works as the John Mayer Trio album ‘Try!’, the John Mayer album ‘Continuum’, John Scofield’s ‘That’s What I Say,’ ‘Possiblilties’ by Herbie Hancock, among many others. As a musical director, Steve has worked on such high profile projects as Superbowl XXXX, the Martin Scorsese/Antoine Fuqua film ‘Lightning in a Bottle’ and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Steve Jordan is one of the most influential and sought after session drummers in the world. He has accomplished more in his drumming career than he ever could have imagined. Steve isn’t known in the music industry for playing the hardest licks ever known to the human mind, or for the technical skills that would make even the late, great Buddy Rich squirm (although he has great technique and soloing ability!). What Steve Jordan is best known for is making the drums sound good in any musical situation. He can take a simple beat and make it sound great. He can take a more complicated beat and make it sound so fluid and simple. He has taken his drumming beyond technique, having studied formally, and found his own sound, making the music the best it can be on each record he appears on. He has taken his influences, from Kenny Clarke to Carlton Barrett to David Garibaldi to Steve Gadd, and formed his own unique voice, and continues to inspire countless drummers today. Steve Jordan is one of my favourite drummers ever, and has made an amazing mark on the music industry.
Some Steve quotes:
“Every building has a strong foundation. When you’re building a rhythm track, you have to provide the foundation. The drummer has to be strong and solid.”
(The Groove Is Here DVD, 2002)
“When drummers practice with time, they usually practice with a metronome. That’s fine except a key ingredient to the secret of timekeeping is overlooked. I realise that in drumming you start the note but don’t stop it. That opened me up to a whole new world for me. You need to know the full length of a quarter note.”
On the subject of groove in an interview with Modern Drummer magazine: “That’s why people play so much stuff, because they can’t play a steady beat. But when you get into playing a steady groove and you can hypnotize somebody with that beat, that’s the bomb. And it takes confidence to know you can do that and not care what anybody says. People might think you don’t play fills because you can’t, but you have to do away with all that. They’ll feel it when it’s good” (Modern Drummer October 2010).
“Simplicity is not stupidity. Just because some- thing sounds good in your mind doesn’t mean that it’s dumb.”
“WHO DID YOU THINK I WAS” by John Mayer Trio (from the record ‘Try!’)
14th April 2016
The New Scottish Hymns Band are releasing a new album on May 19th, 2016, and touring throughout May and June. This will be a great tour featuring wonderful new hymns written by Greg deBlieck. The band features Ellyn Oliver on vocals, Greg deBlieck on acoustic guitar and vocals (Greg is also the bandleader and will be sharing the stories behind the songs throughout the tour), Pete Crockett on keys, Gus Stirrat on bass, Richard Kennedy on drums (I will be playing kit for the dates Richard can’t do) and myself on percussion for some dates. Danny Robinson will be doing the live sound for each event. Really looking forward to being a part of this exciting tour and all the great Christian music currently coming out of Scotland!
20th February 2016
***NEW BLOG SERIES: DRUM LEGENDS*** (VOL.1 – Ringo Starr, Steve Gadd, Neil Peart, Steve Jordan)
RINGO STARR IS ONE OF THE GREATEST DRUMMERS OF ALL TIME…not a sentence you hear all that much. But it is definitely one I am going to use here. In terms of technique – the statement is not true. In terms of natural talent – no. In terms of skill – no. In terms of reading music – no. Etc etc…you get my drift. But in terms of playing the right beat for the song, in terms of knowing what to play and when to play it – Ringo is one of the most influential, most copied, most underrated and most beloved drummers of all time. It helps being in perhaps the most celebrated and popular band of all time, The Beatles. Unfortunately some people have not appreciated Ringo because he isn’t “technically” a good player. And they’ll use the argument that he couldn’t play to a click, he didn’t (supposedly) play on all of The Beatles songs, and that Paul McCartney said he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles. I must admit I used to snub Ringo. But once I delved into his playing, his unique, left-handed on a right-handed kit style, his sloppy hi hat hits, his inventive drumming – I came to love him. I mean, Ringo has played some really cool beats over the years, ‘Rain’ being a great example. What about ‘Ticket To Ride’? ‘Come Together’? ‘The End’? ‘Helter Skelter?’ ‘Help?’ Of course, there are so many more great Ringo moments. What are yours? Leave a comment below.
Ringo still plays drums and tours into his 70s, wearing well for his age – and currently has drumming legend Gregg Bissonette, one of my favourite drummers of all time (and who is a Christian himself) playing in his band.
Gregg constantly talks up Ringo’s skills in interviews and mentions things such as: what about the “coolness” factor? Ringo looked great behind that beautiful Ludwig drum set! He had a big hand in making Ludwig drums famous worldwide. And let’s not forget Ringo also helped made Modern Drummer magazine famous by giving them the 1st interview he had done in a long time – back in 1982. Here’s a snippet from that interview:
MD: What were the highlights of your time in the Beatles, in terms of the band and your playing?
8th February 2016
My apologies for the lateness in this post, I originally wrote it before Christmas but my Macbook had some issues so I lost the document. Thank you to those who have read part 1 ! Also are my links to 2014’s album reviews, as well as 2013’s (part 1 & part 2):
July was a good month for album releases, as a good offering from Worship Central Director Tim Hughes was released, entitled ‘Pocketful of Faith.’ The album is based around Hughes’ move to Birmingham (see more here). The title track is particularly good, and there are other nice moments from tracks such as ‘Hope and Glory’ and ‘Symphony’. ‘The Way’ and The Cross Stands’ also feature as “singles” from Worship Central’s previous albums and sound pretty decent in the studio. Hughes has used a Nashville band for this, and the familiar Nathan Nockels produces.
I’ll pause here and make a slight critique
31st December 2015
There have been a lot of new releases this year in mainstream Christian Worship this year. I’ve purchased quite a few and so I’d like to briefly review some of them, month-by-month through 2015. Click here for my review of 2013 (part 1 and part 2) and 2014’s albums. I’ll also mention at this point that the reviews are not based on lyrical content as such, but primarily musical. The reason for this is that I am reviewing from a musical perspective, and that I believe each album has Biblical, Gospel-centred lyrics. Secondly, I will not be reviewing Christmas albums: sorry!
5/5 – outstanding 4.5/5 – exceptional 4/5 – excellent
3.5/5 – very good 3/5 – good 2.5/5 – average
2/5 – below average 1.5/5 and below – poor
14th December 2015
My latest drum cover is the wonderful song that is ‘Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)’ – but first…at the bottom of this article I’ve put a fun link to something many of you will probably have seen before. It’s a video that has gone viral! My question is how did the worship leader manage to keep time?
Hope you enjoy my cover! *Skip to 1:33 if you just want to go straight to the drumming, but if not, please enjoy the visuals!
3rd December 2015
A slightly different post: earlier on this year I joined a new band, a blues trio outfit (with great Scottish musicians Simon Kennedy & Miroslaw Hodun), the Simon Kennedy Band. It’s been great fun gigging so far, and all of us are Christians. We enjoy the performance aspect and improvisation, and play in a lot of secular venues. Check out the video (before I had joined):
About The Simon Kennedy Band:
BIO – A GUITAR AND ORGAN DRIVEN BAND, IT WAS FORMED IN 2014 BY DUNDEE BORN GUITARIST SIMON KENNEDY. ENLISTING MIREK HODUN ON THE ORGAN THEY SET ABOUT WRITING AND PRODUCING THEIR DEBUT ALBUM MAKE UP YOUR MIND THEMSELVES WHICH WAS WELL RECEIVED BY CRITICS AND FANS ALIKE WITH BBC RADIO 2’S PAUL JONES SAYING THE BAND WAS “DESERVEDLY THE RECIPIENTS OF A GREAT DEAL OF PRAISE” AND THE INDEPENDENT BLUES BROADCASTERS ASSOCIATION VOTING IT THEIR ALBUM OF THE MONTH.
IN 2015 EDINBURGH BASED SESSION DRUMMER BRIAN MACLEOD WAS BROUGHT IN TO COMPLETE THE LIVE LINE-UP OF GUITAR, ORGAN AND DRUMS.
WITH THE SUCCESS OF THE DEBUT ALBUM THEY HAVE BEEN SOUGHT OUT TO PLAY MAJOR FESTIVALS SUCH AS THE ORKNEY BLUES FESTIVAL, PERTH’S SOUTHERN FRIED FESTIVAL AND GLASGOW’S MERCHANT CITY FESTIVAL. AT THE END OF THE YEAR THEY WILL ALSO BE PLAYING AT THE EDINBURGH BLUES CLUB, SCOTLAND’S BIGGEST BLUES CLUB, IN SUPPORT OF BIG JOE LOUIS.
WHAT PEOPLE HAVE SAID:
“Deservedly the recipient of a great deal of praise since the album came out”
Paul Jones BBC Radio 2
Blues Matters Magazine
“This is a solid debut album and deserves to be heard for its excellent sound qualities and stirring playing.”
Blues In Britain Magazine
“Cracking album this one”
Dave Watkins, Blues & Roots
(2014 British Blues Awards Independent Blues Broadcaster of the Year)
“Highly accomplished blues release” 5/5
Lins Honeyman, Broadcast Magazine
Paul Stewart, Pablo & The Blues Show
“Funky, defiant and triumphant, these gospel-tinged songs tackle the classic blues themes of faithlessness, hope and heartbreak in an unusually affirmative fashion. His commanding vocal presence is matched by his effervescent guitar.”
The Musician Magazine
The Independant Blues Broadcasters Association voted “Make Up Your Mind” their Album of the Month.
22nd September 2015
Here we are at the last blog post. I have really enjoyed writing them and I hope you might have been blessed too. I thought I would ﬁnish off with some general tips and helpful suggestions for playing drums in Church.
Get A Good Sound Out of A Cheap Drum Set
There a few good ways to get a good sound out of a cheap drum set, and it doesn’t have to cost your Church a tonne of cash. This video on YouTube is very helpful too.
Replacing seriously old drum heads on a well-used Church kit can make a world of difference. It can add that extra bit of warmth and tone, livening up the sound. I currently use the Evans 360 G2’s – coated. I love the warmth and sustain as well as the range of tuning they give. Learn and experiment with tuning drums. There are so many helpful videos on YouTube nowadays. The coated heads are also great for brush sounds.