A New Psalms Album
A few weeks ago I received a small package from a man announcing himself as the father of one Wendell Kimbrough, and containing his son's new cd of Psalms. I always wince at such arrivals on the grounds that I fear I am going to have to come perilously close to breaking the Ninth Commandment when I write back expressing my thanks and appreciation.
I've always been an advocate of psalm singing. Yes, I know that it has to be done well. Flat acapella singing of the whole of Psalm 137 to the tune 'Smallpox' is not going to lift many people's hearts heavenwards. But the Psalms do articulate a range of human emotion in response to life and to God which are rarely found elsewhere. They allow us to mourn and they allow us to rejoice, and all points in between, in songs of praise to our Lord. So I am always interested in anybody doing anything new and interesting with them.
Well, the cd sat on the passenger seat of my car, unlistened to, for some days until my wife and I were traveling to church. My usual preference is nothing at all or a bit of The Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies on a Sunday morning (not a particularly godly choice, I confess, but definitely very English). My wife being somewhat more sanctified than me picked up the Psalm cd, ejected Ray and the boys and inserted it into the player. All without asking my permission, mind you -- that's how far I've slipped down the egalitarian road. She'll be wearing trousers, cutting her hair, and wanting the vote next. Where will it end?
Anyway, we listened. And I was impressed. This is a musician with talent, a great voice, and a feel for what contemporary tunes fit with the words. I would say that there are touches of American folk -- perhaps particularly tones of Dylan and also The Band -- and some traditional country and western (a style of music which is not one I typically appreciate but does seem to be OK here). And I lack the ability to know whether all or any of the compositions would transfer to congregational singing. But this is good. Really good. And I would recommend it to anyone who loves the Psalms and simply wants to hear how these old songs can be set to attractive and varied contemporary arrangements.
The album can be ordered from here. I hope that in coming years we will see Wendell Kimbrough doing much more of the same with the Psalter. And, for the record, I did not need to worry about breaking the Ninth Commandment in my note of thanks.