Andy Hunt and Paul Eckberg are in the control room discussing where to plug in the wiry things, Andy G. is on his way with the hard drives, and Ben and I sit here at the table in the kitchen, plucking away at our computers. Matt Pierson, player of bass, is also on his way. Ringo is safely tucked away in a backpack, awaiting his reanimation among our ranks.
Now's as good a time as any to tell you about my harebrained scheme (by the way, I looked it up and it's definitely harebrained) regarding Resurrection Letters.
This April I wrote a series of devotional thoughts during Holy Week and someone on the messageboard (Tim Bourne, a.k.a. Sevenmiles) said that they'd been enjoying reading my "resurrection letters." My brain perked up at that phrase, and I immediately thought that it sounded like a good title for an album.* Knowing that I was preparing for another foray into the studio, I made a list of the potential new album songs and was pretty bummed at first that I couldn't see why an album containing those particular songs would be called Resurrection Letters. They didn't seem to have that much to do with Holy Week.
I put the title aside while the Captains and I started playing the new songs at shows, working them out in soundcheck. I started looking for the common thread in the new songs (there's almost always a common thread, however tenuous), and in doing so I realized that RL was a fitting title after all. So many of these songs spoke of rebirth, redemption, new life, the shine of goodness emerging from the rubble of our lives. The title made perfect sense and tied together most of the songs, not to mention the emerging feel of the album.
Then a funny thing happened.
I realized that there was more to say. More than one album could contain. Over the years people have suggested that I record an Easter concept album that would complement Behold the Lamb, something that could be performed during the lenten season to help prepare the heart for Easter worship. My stock response has always been that Behold the Lamb IS an Easter album, if you think about it. Christmas and Easter are celebrating the same thing. Another cycle of songs would be redundant, not to mention possibly seeming opportunistic in light of the success of the Christmas album and tour. Nothing in me wanted to record an album like that. If nothing else, I balked at the challenge of writing a piece of that scope again. Behold the Lamb took years to write, and so many wonderful things aligned to make the record what it is, I doubted it could be repeated.
But doubt is a silly excuse not to do something.
I feel compelled to create an eight song (from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday) meditation on Holy Week. The two albums will fit together, one being about Christ's passion and resurrection, the other being about what that resurrection means for me and for us two thousand years later. The problem is, I'm recording volume two first. So the tentative title of this album is Resurrection Letters, Volume Two, and the next album will be volume one. I've already started one of the songs and have ideas for a few more, and we're thinking ahead about how to musically tie this record to that one.
With the Christmas album, there already existed a canon of carols and a long tradition of Advent concerts so there was a paradigm to challenge, a clear uniqueness of approach to the old story, which was to remind people of the breadth of the historic tale God's telling. In this case, finding a new way to sing about Easter isn't the point--just singing about it is. For some reason Easter week gets overlooked. Sure, there are cantatas, but that's not what I'm talking about. There's no grand holiday break from work and school to herald the event; there's no shopping craze; there's even more potential for the wonder of the celebration to be forgotten, but not because of the Easter Bunny (he's a much less formidable foe than Santa). Maybe it's because Christmas is so G rated, while the Passion forces us to consider the grisly outcome of our sin. Christmas reads like a fairy tale; Holy Week reads like an epic tragedy, bloody and heartbreaking till you reach the last glorious page. I don't know.
What I do know is that without the resurrection of Christ, we would have nothing to celebrate. If the son of God couldn't conquer Death, then Death would have the last word and we would tumble into the darkness of grave without a whisper of hope, virgin birth or no. It thrills me to have the opportunity to add to the body of songs about Christ's resurrection, songs for the church that might provide an avenue for worship.
When my wife and I were moving into our new house, we pulled up the 17 year-old linoleum flooring and the cat-hair imbued carpet because we knew that it would force us to replace the floors as soon as possible. We didn't have any idea how we'd manage to get new floors, but walking around on plywood and carpet tacks was a great motivation to figure it out. This is me pulling up the linoleum. I've said it, and now either I'll be made a liar or I'll hunker down and find these songs in due time. At first I thought I'd try to write the songs by early next year and record them in time to release the album around Easter, but then I remembered that I have a book to edit and another one to write. It'll probably take a bit longer than that.
So there you have it. These new songs, (volume two) deal with the present. They are songs about living in light of Christ's triumph, and about our struggle to do so. Volume one will tell the beginning of the story. The new covenant. The first notes of the New Song.
This is music, so as always, things can change. But as of August 22, that's my plan.
P.S. I brought Andy G. a pacifier to the studio today, and he finally stopped whining.
*Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria in the fourth century, wrote extensively about the celebration of Easter, and these writings together were called The Resurrection Letters. I don't think ol' 'Nasius will mind.