One of life’s great pleasures for me is discovering new music. Now, mind you, this is rarely new in the sense of being a new group which has just broken onto the scene; in most cases, I’m discovering music, artists, or groups which have been around for some time, unbeknownst to me.
One such artist I have recently run across is Jonny Lang. One of his songs, Lie to Me, caught my ear on XM radio, and I jotted it down and subsequently made a beeline for iTunes. Turns out, this guy is nothing short of extraordinary. He starts playing the guitar at age 12, releases his first album at 13, and his second album — his first solo and signature blues work, Lie to Me — is released at age 15, and goes triple platinum. He blows away critics with a voice which, at age 15, sounds like a hardened blues player three times his age. It’s gutter-grating gritty, his phrasing and expression incredibly innovative, and the guitar playing is evocative of such blues greats as Stevie Ray Vaughn, with exquisitely blended influences of soul, R&B, Motown, and gospel music. Before he turns 20, he’s touring as the warm-up band for Aerosmith, Sting, Jeff Beck, Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and B. B. King.
Not bad for a kid with a guitar.
However, life in the fast lane is rarely kind. Many older and more mature troubadours than he have fallen to its brutal revenge — think Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, Brian Jones, and a host of others — to whom the Roman candle of fame proved both furious and lethal. Drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll often prove a highway to hell, and Jonny Lang was driving that freeway with pedal to the metal.
Then something changed — drastically, almost cataclysmically. In what can only be termed an extraordinary conversion experience, his entire life is transformed, bringing with it his music, immediately terminating his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and changing his very face and disposition.
I was not thinking about God, not at all. In the middle of our conversation, from that same spot that I felt something had hit me earlier, I just felt something start welling up, just burning in me, and it came up out of my throat. It was like I was throwing up, and the name “Jesus” just came out of my mouth. I just said “Jesus!”
Interviewer: Mid conversation?
Lang: Yeah. And when I said “Jesus,” my whole body started shaking. Haylie was looking right at me (laughing).
This is the part of my story where I’ve just said, “Lord, if I’m ever doing interviews, what should I say?” People are going to think I’m insane, you know? Nevertheless, it’s what happened. I knew it was Jesus immediately from the moment I started shaking. It was like he just came up and introduced himself to me. I remember him saying, “You don’t have to have this if you don’t want it.” And I said, “No, I want it.”
I kept shaking, and I knew when it was done that I had been completely set free of all my addictions, and I knew that I didn’t have to smoke or drink or do drugs anymore. All I could do was fall on the ground, and I gave my life to him right there. I was just in shock. I thought, “I totally despised you, and you just did this to me!”
Check out his music video for “Lie to Me”:
Now, take a look at his face, and watch him perform after his experience. It is almost like he has been replaced by another human being.
Which, in a very real sense, he has.
You can read about his rather extraordinary conversion and the changes it made in his life here. Check it out.
First, the obvious: can you imagine a Republican or a Conservativepreaching in a church and quoting the Bible — without the chorus of cries about “theocracy” and “right-wing fundamentalist extremists”? Didn’t think so. But more to the point: I somehow don’t think Christ was referring to government when He spoke about building houses on on the Rock … and isn’t New Orleans an excellent example of building houses on sand?
And while we’re on the subject of New Orleans: Just among friends, may I say something, rather politically incorrect? Why in the hell are we rebuilding this city? We’re $127 billion in, with very little to show for it, and we’re one hurricane away from flushing that money down the can as well. Leave the Crescent, bulldoze the rest, breach the dikes permanently, and let the Mississippi regain its tidal marshes. Mona Charen spells it out nicely, as does the Confederate Yankee: Rebuilding New Orleans: A Continuing Mistake
In memory of Stevie Ray Vaughn: Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of the truly great blues guitarists, died 17 years ago this week in a helicopter crash:
And check out this session with Albert King — two of the greatest electric blues players ever. (Notice King’s left-handed Gibson Flying V) — played upside-down (high strings at the top):
OK, stop me before I link again — here’s SRV, Albert King B.B. King, and I think (correct me if I’m wrong), Charlie Musselwhite. Blues ecstasy!
Gagdad Bob nails it: Robert Godwin over at One Cosmos is one deep thinker — so deep at times I need a decompression chamber to recover. No nitrogen narcosis from this one, just outta sight insight: Epidemanology 101: The Cause and Cure of Mankind
Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me: Modern secular liberalism is all about words — negotiation, compromise, appeasement, multilateral solutions, tough talk without action. Why smooth-talking lily-livered intellectuals pose such a threat to Western culture: Courage, Cowardice and the Wordsmiths:
These self-flattering views carry over to adulthood, and shape the future wordsmith intellectuals’ political views. If words can resolve all conflicts, then wordsmiths are exceedingly important. If conflicts within and between human beings can be “resolved” with words, then who better to play the role of savior than the wordsmith intellectual?
One of the central features of utopian politics, explaining their appeal to intellectuals, is the promise that conflict can be abolished and human nature fundamentally changed. Whether Communism, Nazism or Islamism, the aim is a unified, submissive, happy mankind led by an elite in possession of the truth, just like Miss Murphy when she taught 6th grade. Aggression will then vanish when egalitarian paradise prevails.
The pointlessness of suffering: Once again, a home run over at First Things — this time on the problem of pain and suffering in Christianity:
Which is to say that there the already of salvation history: He is risen! and the not yet. And the not yet entails suffering in this passing — suffering that is often unjust and seemingly pointless, but in the hands of a sovereign and Good God a tool to conform his children to the image of his Only Begotten, the true purpose of their predestination. (So as not to be misunderstood, because suffering falls within the permissive will of God, and can even be used by him for ultimately good ends, is no excuse for complacency; the alleviation of pain, done in the name of Jesus, is, like preaching and teaching, a heralding of the kingdom and a diffusion of hope.)
Now, a sovereign God does not displace secondary causes in Christians’ thinking about how the world works. Shifting tectonic plates do give rise to earthquakes and tsunamis. But Christians also believe God continues to intervene in the affairs of his creatures and does so to remind them that the world and its horrors are not beyond his purview, and that the saved child and the answered prayer is a foretaste of the age to come, in which every tear shall be wiped away and the body will no longer be an occasion of sin or pain.
But a foretaste only. Which is why sometimes only one child is saved. And why only Lazarus is raised from the dead. They are signs of this already, while the rest endure the not yet. Hints, whispers, and still small voices until the full number of the Elect have come into the Kingdom and the very last fundamentalist Darwinian has raged.
An Arab, desperate for water, was plodding through the desert when he saw something far off in the distance. Hoping to find water, he walked toward the object, only to find a little old Jewish man at a small stand selling neckties.
The Arab asked, “Do you have water?”
The Jewish man replied, “I have no water. Would you like to buy a tie? They are only $5.”
The Arab shouted, “Idiot Jew! Israel should not exist! I do not need an overpriced tie. I need water! I should kill you, but I must find water first.”
“OK,” said the old Jew, “it does not matter that you do not want to buy a tie and that you hate me. I will show you that I am bigger than that. If you continue over that hill to the east for about two miles, you will find a lovely restaurant. It has all the water you need. Shalom.”
Muttering, the Arab staggered away over the hill. Several hours later he staggered back, near collapse.
For those of you who are guitar players (as I was in a former life), or admire guitar players, or have played air guitar when you thought no one was looking, here’s a rather amazing performance by John Butler.
What amazes me most about this performance is that he is working his magic on a 12-string guitar. For those unfamiliar with such things, a 12-string has two paired strings corresponding to each string of a 6 string guitar, either doubling the note or an octave higher. The two strings of each pair are struck in unison (not plucked separately), providing an extraordinarily rich and nuanced sound, with rich overtones and sonic saturation. Because of the added heft the the paired strings, however, it is far more challenging to perform agile fretwork (12-strings are often used for chording and accompaniment rather than detailed melody lines and arpeggios).
And speaking of wizardry on stringed instruments, this is another must-hear experience: Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” — on a ukulele, by the world’s best player, Jake Shimabukuro:
It is simply not possible to get that much sound and complexity out of a ukulele. 4 strings. Unbelievable.