caleb's dream - my review

Back when I started writing and assembling music for my last record one of the writers I spent some time working with was Caleb Collins. Honestly, until I was told by my record company that they wanted him and me to write together, I'd never heard of him. I'm sure that he said the same thing.

If you're gonna do something as personal as writing music together, it's good to know a bit about your co's life and stuff. So, Caleb and I met and learned about each other, our backgrounds and musical likes and our own approaches to creating songs. I found out that he has deep Pentecostal roots. So do I. So we set out to take advantage of it. We ended up with a song called, "It's Never Too Late" and I used it to tie my record together at the end. He and I have collaborated since and have become great friends.

Caleb is more than a great writer. Last Christmas he released a holiday record that just blew me away. Now I'm fascinated with his newest album, Dream. I've not had it long because no one has until just a few days ago. But I've been wearing it out since downloading it to my iPod. (Well, actually my iPhone. But that seems pretentious to some people.)

Musically, I'm a lover of Josh Groban and Idina Menzel. The production on their records is big, orchestrated, current and sophisticated - the kind of stuff you'd hear in a poppish movie score. The music on Dream is just as large, maybe even trendier – but still very tasteful. Voice-wise, when a friend got in my car the other day he thought he was hearing Michael Buble. I would've said Harry Connick, Jr.

Yesterday I told Caleb that I'd love to see the liner notes that go with this project. I know that he either wrote or co-wrote all of the songs. I suspect he played most, if not all of the piano, keys and organ. I know he arranged and orchestrated some of the most remarkable strings and musical licks I've enjoyed in a long time. My sixteen year old son, who is just as fascinated by the texture and emotion of music as I am, was also just as captured by this recording as his dad.

Musically, the record is a wow! The point of the record though is obviously the message. It's a "gospel" collection of songs for Christians mostly it seems. But it's not a typical one. And it's not an obvious one unless you're paying attention. I will say though, I had no problems at all being lured in and getting the point, right from bar one.

It didn't hurt that the first words I heard were, "Hush and let me hold you now, while the rain is falling hard." It was pouring outside and my windshield wipers were barely keeping up. The message though was not only relevant and calming for that moment in the car, but for my place in life too. Like a lot of the songs, the words in track number one are through God's lips. The reassurance meant a lot to me at the time, and still does.

I thought it was neat that the very next song was an acknowledgement of the one before it. No less sophisticated musically, "Healer of My Heart" could play well on southern gospel radio I think. I can hear church praise and worship teams singing it too since it comes from the singer to God. There are a couple of others too that could probably accomplish some SGM radio success if politics doesn’t get involved, especially "Peace That Covers All the Pain."

The rest of the record mostly follows the pattern of God to Caleb (us), then Caleb's (our) response.

With all due respect, (please believe me) I don't think God is nearly as stuffy as we've made Him out to be, especially on Sunday mornings. There are a few songs in this collection that take that idea and run with it, almost to the point of being rebellious. "My Love" and "Sweet Child of Mine" are two of them. They're musically and lyrically fun. Christian, my son, really took a liking to them and hopes to sing them at school and church. A personal favorite is the most poignant "You're Safe Here."

Dream is a very deep experience. If all of these songs are from Caleb's heart and some of the experiences he's had (and maybe still has), he’s had some very heavy things on his mind. As a writer, he and his partners have done a remarkable job of saying just enough to allow me, as the listener, to place myself in the lyrics and the places the songs bring us to. At the same time though, there were a couple of moments I sorta had that sensation of relief you get after reading a suspenseful book and realizing you were only the reader. Good though is the fact that on this record no dilemma or difficult situation is left in a state of hopelessness. In every song, God always comes through.

To anyone who wishes to clap along to happy tunes about the sweet by-and-by or Peter's pearly gates or golden roads or happy reunions, this is not that kind of gospel record. Not even close really. These songs are about a testimony that's still being made here on earth. And as young as Caleb is, there is still a lot of dreaming yet to do. I’m anxious to hear about it.

To get Caleb’s recording Dream click
here or go to www.calebcollins.com.


come now, children.

It really doesn't bother me at all that President Obama is talking to the kids of America today. I have confidence in the conversations I've already had with my own kids and I trust their intellect. They know why I believe what I believe. I have a relationship with them that trumps that of the president. They have more reason to trust me than him. I didn't have to prove it by yelling at a congressman or shouting down another civic minded neighbor who happens to disagree with me or by sporting a crude bumper sticker.

I think it's because of my current government job, or past political jobs, that a lot of my family and many of my friends ask me about things politic. I'm always asked my opinion on current campaigns, debates, bills, policies and laws on the state and national level. "We gonna be able to gamble in Kentucky anytime soon?" "They gonna take Rush Limbaugh off the radio?" "Can you get me out of this ticket?" I always try to answer the fiercely partisan stuff as unpartisan as I can - the way news reporters should but don't always.

My toned down and parsed responses, which are probably a product of my having to speak politically strategic for so many years (don't pick an unnecessary fight), are often met with a little disappointment. Nowadays, it seems conservatives like to see liberal blood - and vice versa. Truth is, in my opinion, most of the stuff we hear over and over again on talk radio and cable news and morning TV is just scripted screaming meant to rile, enrage and scare us mad. And it seems to be working.

Some guy on the radio yesterday asked if Obama had anything more important to do than use up two hours of his kid's school day with liberal indoctrination. I'm betting the caller is a Republican. I'd also wager that he would've been all about Junior and all of his young "liberal" friends sitting in on President Reagan's address to the classrooms back in '88. A wise word or two from a great conservative would be good for the lot of them. I don't remember if the Dems were making issues of the GOP president's talk back then, but if they did, they were just as guilty of paranoia peddling as all these professional talkers nowadays who are trying their best to make our current president the dictator of the next Holocaust.

I'm not about giving President Obama free reign. I have some serious concerns about the structure and strength of the new federal health care plan he's pushing. Most of my questions are about who and what is covered, what it's going to cost, how it'll be paid for and all the trickery in its administration. History proves that the folks in DC are reckless managers without much practical money sense.

I'm concerned that so much of our auto and banking industries are owned by the government. It's always an issue to me when what is supposed to be a privately owned or publicly traded company is in the hands of the same people who are armed and charged with keeping our foreign enemies at bay. And I don't like that the most powerful home-office in the world has so many extreme thinking "czars" with desks only steps from the oval, who have no congressional oversight and answer only to the president.

However, most of the media chatter I'm hearing is hypocritical. If this president goes on vacation he gets beat up by the same people with mics or web sites who supported President Bush's right to get away for a few days. All POTUS' vacay for a while. (Like a president ever is really on vacation anyway??) The talkers who bash Obama for wanting to encourage kids to study hard, stay in school and do their homework are all about sainting Mr. Reagan who did the same thing twenty years ago. (I am a big Reagan fan BTW.)

In war, the objective is to destroy the enemy. Politics isn't much different. Convince the public that everyone who disagrees with your point of view is an evil racist or a bigot or an elitist or a radical extremist or just plain stupid and you're on your way to winning the battle. The White House is not above it. Neither is the House or Senate or the leaders of either party. Neither are the TV/radio talkers and bloggers who know how to play the game. It's their job. They are expected to be loud and take issue with every deed and magnify every flaw of their political opposite.

All of that being said, I'm as grateful as anyone that ours is a country where it's possible to disagree with whoever is in charge of the government for the moment and say so wherever, however we want. I just hate it when the school kids make us grownups look like the juvies.


do hoarders go to heaven?

I'm a hoarder. Saying it out loud sounds kinda dirty. But I am. I keep things that are supposed to be temporary thinking maybe they'll be useful again - maybe. I'm bad enough that one time when a friend obviously made a quick stop at the store to pick up a card on the way to my birthday dinner, and just stuffed it in the envelope without writing on it or signing it, I put my name on it and gave it to another friend a few days later. Why waste a clean card? Had I not been a hoarder that card wouldn't have had the chance to bring cheer to yet another happy birthdayee.

For about the last year and a half I've been using my extra bedroom as a "temporary" storage space. When my very patient former in-laws got tired of going into their attic and stepping around all my stuff, they kindly took it all out and dropped it off at my parent's house. When my parents decided to clean out their garage it was time for me to take possession of the eight or ten boxes of who knows what. So, I carried them all home, took them straight to the back bedroom and told myself I'd go through them on my next free weekend. About a year later, this past weekend, I finally did it.

Evidently I'm a longtime hoarder. Most of this stuff goes back to the 1980s at least. Why in the world would I have kept roller skate toe stoppers? I'm wondering what the significance of the yellow handkerchief is. I'll bet it used to be white. Regardless, why would I hang onto it? Keeping pictures makes sense. My yearbooks and notes from old flames and hard-researched thesis papers and certificates and diplomas and newspaper clippings, my cap and gown and school programs and trophies all make sense. But a little bag of rice?? Was this ever my wallet?

I'd forgotten that I earned a letter jacket in high school. All that work and money to Lee College so I can be a preacher and all I've got now is framed papers behind cracked glass. A silk rose... Wonder whose wedding? Pictures of Kim, Chris, Troy, Robbie, Elizabeth, Danny, Tracy, Sheri and so many other friends from so many years ago looking like I remember most of them the last time I saw them. We promised we'd stay in touch. We even put it in writing in each other's yearbooks. People don't believe me when I tell them I played two parts in "Oklahoma" one night at Madison Central High School. Now I have proof. And here, I'm wearing those famous von Trapp family curtains that Maria made for us. Fun! I was Friedrich, the oldest boy whose voice had changed although mine hadn't really, yet. Tell me I wasn't a good actor.

Hoarders aren't good at tossing things. Although my attic is a mess, the rest of my house is not a piled up depository. As a matter of fact, as much as I'm a hoarder in private, in my line-of-sight space I like things nice and orderly, without clutter. I kept the back bedroom door closed.

After I sorted through the boxes that my in-laws and my parent's had stored for me, I bought new, fresh, plastic ones and re-put the memories inside for safe keeping - again. Until I get up the nerve to take on the attic. They'll be fine.


stringing for amy the pcv

I'm guilty, and I've been feeling it. So, the notes and the threats from my adoring fan(s) hoping to prompt me to do something bloggish haven't been necessary. The encouragement though is always nice, especially since I've been waking up most everyday these last couple of weeks with the urge to sit on the big red couch and start talking. I've actually even started at least a handful of posts and just fizzled out or got distracted before the thought was complete. My drafts folder is loaded with incomplete ramblings and things that were pretty topical for the moment. I've also made lots of notes about things bouncing around my brain. Plenty a thought has crossed my mind - some dreadful, some weird and some sorta meaningful. So, that being said, the next several days I'll prolly hop to and fro and ramble in an effort to catch up.

I tied one on for Amy the other day. The moment she left the US for her two year stint as a Peace Corp Volunteer I wrapped a little string around my ankle and made a firm knot to keep it in place. I see it everyday and it reminds me of my super friend who I miss right now more than I know how to express. It'll be there until Namibia lets us have her back. I get an email from her when she can catch some Net service, and I read them all like an anticipated next chapter. We also get to follow Amy's PCV journey at http://amywickliffeinafrica.blogspot.com/.

Now, I've gotta go blow my nose. Allergies...