Pinning down this Chicago-based group’s sound is difficult. But it’s easy to name resemblances: the progressive song structure and guitar work of Yes; the spoken-word interludes of Frank Zappa and Ken Nordine; the slithery funk of 1970s David Bowie.
The Minneapolis-based Rundman has built an unlikely career as a scruffy Lutheran rocker, tackling scripture and spirituality with finesse that transcends the vapid Christian rock scene. This disc surveys Rundman’s career from 2000 to the present, with cuts from the 52-song Sound Theology project such as “Carol of the Bells,” which celebrates a cute girl in the handbell choir.
Richard Colligan, a Lutheran church musician, yields two uplifting discs and 30 songs inspired by the Psalms. The overall feel varies from minor-key folk to gospel-tinged rock. It’s anchored by Colligan’s voice, a creamy, sublime tenor reminiscent of Jars of Clay’s Dan Haseltine.
Steve Martin’s novelty song “King Tut” contains the line “could’ve won a Grammy.” Now this disc by the actor-comedian is indeed Grammy nominated, in the bluegrass category. A deft banjo picker, Martin gets A-list help from Paul McCartney (who takes the lead vocal on “Best Love”) and the Dixie Chicks (who sing lovely, tight harmonies on the ballad “You”).
I am told to be grateful as I wake each morning wrapped in the unfolding blanket of dawn, shake off the moon, dying stars, and taste the beige-gray breath of incipient day.
Grateful to whom or what? To the rain that coats the pavement with its timid sheen, the birds’ silence in the settling damp, the bodies of neighbors rising, reluctant, in boxes of houses that line the street with woe and weariness?
Let me drink strong coffee, toast my bread with dailiness, uncurl myself to a day lit only by a hidden sun. I might have been rich or famous, cured cancer, saved the world. For now, let me watch butter melt as a golden flower.