The singer stood absolutely still. With open-hearted simplicity she crafted each phrase as if she were proclaiming an essential, God-given message. She did not perform the song but gave it as an offering, a gift, an extension of her innermost thoughts. Several worshipers nodded their heads yes with their eyes closed. Others were bent over in prayer; a few were rocking to the music. There was no sound but the singer's voice, yet an eclectic, diverse bunch of people had become one in the Spirit.
In the two-CD effort Why Not Sea Monsters? Songs from the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, (Carpet Square) Justin Roberts steers clear of any ham-fisted agenda while staying faithful to the power and majesty of the Bible stories, and making them his stories. On the “Hebrew Scriptures” CD, Roberts gets things off to a clever start with “Why Not a Spark?” Singing in a style that suggests John Lennon, James Taylor and Glenn Tilbrook, Roberts lays out the tale of creation as if God were a smiling child in a swirling cosmic sandbox: “On the fourth day / God said, Where are the stars? / Where’s Mercury, Venus and Mars?/ Where’s all those old rusty cars? / Wait, that’s later!”
The British band Delirious has always been smart, drawing comparisons to U2, Radiohead and Blur. With the album The Mission Bell, the band shoots for added lyrical depth and force. “Our God Reigns,” a key-of-D dirge built around spare acoustic guitar, keyboards and thunderous percussion, may be the hardest-hitting piece, tacking issues like abortion and the AIDS pandemic. (“My Chinese take away/ Could pay for someone’s drugs.”) “Love Is a Miracle” alternates between smoldering, soulful verses and wide-open, gospel-flavored choruses, while “Paint the Town Red” rocks as hard as anything Delirious has ever cut.