Sunday night CCM

March 8, 2009

Over at Light on Dark Water (a favourite at All Manner of Thing), Maclin Horton has posted a few examples of what he considers good quality CCM — Contemporary Christian Music.  CCM isn’t quite a genre in itself, since it runs the stylistic gamut from pop and rock to hip-hop and even heavy metal.  It is mostly produced by and for evangelical Protestants, and (as is the case with most kinds of music) most of it is pretty bad.   But some of it is pretty good.

Maclin’s selections are from the “praise and worship” end of the spectrum — songs that could be, and sometimes are, sung in church.  Since I don’t really know any songs like that — I’m a devotee of chant and traditional hymnody in church — I’ve chosen a few pop-style CCM songs that  nevertheless tend in the “praise and worship” direction.  I should also clarify that I don’t know much about CCM; these are a slender harvest from a field of ignorance.

My first pick is a song by Michael W. Smith, one of the patriarchs of CCM.   He has written a number of good songs over the years.  This one is called “Healing Rain”, and it is characteristic of his best work: accessible and anthemic.

Here’s a song called “Cry Out to Jesus” by a band called Third Day.  I don’t know anything about them, but this song is catchy, and I could see the chorus being converted into a church song (by evangelicals).  [Hat-tip to Korrektiv.]

One of the loveliest CCM songs I know is “Beautiful Scandalous Night”.  I cannot find the version I am most familiar with, but here is a pretty good one.  The singer, Leigh Nash, is (if memory serves and my ears do not deceive me) the lead singer of Sixpence None the Richer, who had a big hit a few years ago with “Kiss Me”.

These folks are all Protestants.  For whatever reason, there are not very many Catholics in the world of CCM.  One of the few of whom I am aware is John Michael Talbot.  Of his many albums, I have just one: Meditations from Solitude, from 1994.  It’s terrific, in a gentle way. From that album, here is “Where Have You Hidden?”, based on a poem of St. John of the Cross.

39 Responses to “Sunday night CCM”

  1. Intriguing! I’ll have to wait till later to listen to them, unfortunately. Btw I hate Daylight Saving Time.

  2. Janet Says:

    OH YES! I’ve been thinking for running for President in 2012 on the No More Daylight Savings Time ticket. It would be great. I could probably win on that issue alone and then sneak in all my pro-life policies.


  3. Great. Can I be Secretary of Gloating Over the End of DST?

  4. cburrell Says:

    What’s the problem with DST? I complain about it in the spring, of course, because I am robbed of an hour of sleep, but the gravity of the crime is mitigated by the fact that in the autumn I am given an extra hour. True, I am sleepy today, and correspondingly a little grumpy, but you both seem uncharacteristically grouchy.

  5. Janet Says:

    Hmmm. Maybe we are characteristically grouchy and we just can’t hide it today because we’re tired. 😉

    One thing I don’t like about DST is that I don’t like the idea of somebody just deciding that they are going to change something as enormous as the way we keep time, and making that decision without asking me if it’s ok. I mean, when they moved it up a month last year, who made that decision? Who are these powerful people?

    It’s like the International Color Board. Did you know that there is an International Color Board. They get together every year and decide what colors are going to be “in” the next year. So, if you just don’t really want clothes and dishes and furniture, etc., that are orange and turquoise and tan and spring green–well, too bad–those are the only colors available this season. And it’s international, so you can’t escape it.

    And then there’s the IMF. Those guys REALLY scare me. How do you get to be on the IMF?

    I’m not really grouchy, though. I’m actually in a pretty good mood.


  6. Janet Says:

    OH, and Maclin, you can be the Secretary of GOED. I always wanted a Secretary anyway.

    AMDG, Janet

  7. Christina A. Says:


    If you ever make it into office, I want to represent you on the international colour board.

    I will make sure that at least one saint statue colour makes it on the list per year – haven’t you ever noticed the particular greens and yellows and reds and blues that seem to be the only hues ever allowed on saint statues in churches? It’s a universal green, yellow and brown outfit for St. Joseph and there must be an official Sacred Heart red and Virgin blue. Therese of Liseux carmelite brown and carmelite yellow and carmelite pink (for the roses).

    The rest of you better vote for Janet in the mean time! (Whatever the time is doing today!)


  8. cburrell Says:

    Well, when you put it like that it doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? I don’t know why we have DST. It’s nice that it’s not dark when I leave work today — but, on the other hand, it was dark when I woke up this morning, which was not nice.

    Ah, Maclin (on another channel) points out this article about the rationale for DST. It seems the rationale is pretty muddled. “There is simply no way to “save daylight.”” It is hard to argue with that.

  9. Christina A. Says:

    By the way, Craig, I also like Jars of Clay (which is a pretty popular CCM band). Does the Loreena McKennett version of the St. John of the Cross Dark Night poem make it as CCM? (for a sample)

  10. cburrell Says:

    Christina, I only know one song by Jars of Clay. I don’t know what it is called, but I can remember the melody. Something about forty days, crashing waves, lift me up, and so on.

    I should clarify that the songs I included in this post were not chosen because I think them the best examples of CCM. I don’t. I restricted myself to “praise and worship”-type songs. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up post about the really best of CCM. The problem is that, as is so often the case, the best stuff is obscure, and obscure CCM is really obscure.

    No, Loreena McKennitt doesn’t count as CCM, though I like her version of the poem. I’m not sure exactly what the criteria are for being classified as CCM, but mainstream artists who sometimes have religious or spiritual themes (Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, U2 — even Loreena McKennitt) don’t count. I think one has to be sold primarily through those Christian bookstores / trinket shops.

  11. KathyB Says:

    I think Loreena McKennit doesn’t count because she’s not Christian. She’s got a lot of explicitly pagan music. I would know because I own most of it. Craig, the song you are thinking of is called “Flood”. I own that one too, but on (gasp) tape. Actually, to my surprise I am familiar with all of the bands you posted. Once upon a time, I even attended a concert where Third Day played.

    As for daylight savings time, this is the first year that I have ever encountered any advantage to it. When you have a toddler who wakes up with the sun, it is helpful if the sun gets up an hour later.

  12. cburrell Says:

    Good point, Kathy, about Loreena McKennit. I’m not surprised you know about these CCM folks; even someone as ignorant as me knows about them.

    I was thinking more about this DST business on the way home today. I was thinking how it was really nice that it was so light out still. If I could trade an hour of early morning light (before I am awake) for an hour of early evening light (when I am awake), I am happy to do so — and that is just what DST gives us! That is a good thing. People who live further south might not appreciate this benefit.

  13. Janet Says:

    Don’t worry, Craig, when I’m president, I still won’t be able to do anything about DST in Canada.

    AMDG, Janet

  14. I finally listened to these yesterday. I like the MW Smith & Leigh Nash ones better than the other two. I always feel a bit guilty about not liking JM Talbot any better than I do. This is quite nice, though.

    By the way I’m not entirely serious by any means about DST–it’s just that the spring-forward day always irritates me. There’s a sense of vague grievance that nobody bothered to ask *me* if I wanted to get up an hour earlier (which is what that leap effectively requires).

  15. Janet Says:

    That’s right, Maclin, desert me. I should have known better than to mix in politics. Well, I know who my friends are. Wait, ummm, do I have any friends?


  16. cburrell Says:

    JM Talbot is a little bland, I agree. I think he sounds like a shepherd singing on a grassy slope, surrounded by a gentle aura of light. Kind of kitschy, but also kind of appealing. On the album I have, the real strength of the songs is in the texts, almost all of which are borrowed from the monastic and contemplative traditions.

  17. cburrell Says:

    You’ve got a friend in Jesus, Janet.

  18. Janet Says:

    That’s deep, Craig. You know, the implications of this are making me a bit nervous.

    AMDG, Janet

  19. cburrell Says:

    I made an inappropriate comment. I shouldn’t be flippant with that name.

    I’m sure that Maclin is still your friend, even if he doesn’t agree with your policy.

  20. Janet Says:

    I’m sure that Jesus is my friend, too, I was just hoping I had some others. I was just trying to be amusingly ironic–not chiding or anything.

    AMDG, Janet

  21. cburrell Says:

    Oh, my conscience was chiding me, not you.

  22. Hey, I’m not bailing on the platform–I still think DST should be abolished. But I guess you can rightly accuse me of insufficient commitment to the cause. When they start torturing people to force them to support DST, they won’t have to work very hard on me.

  23. Paul Says:

    “(as is the case with most kinds of music) most of it is pretty bad”

    I laughed out loud. It’s a rider that should always be attached (implicitly at least) to critical commentary 🙂

  24. Paul Says:

    *Gnashes teeeth* – I see I got the swastika symbol again! Why does that always happen when I comment on wordpress blogs?

  25. Janet Says:

    It assigns you an icon the first time you use it and you will have it forever. UNLESS, as I discovered by accident, you change your email address when you send a post. Then it will think you are someone else and give you a new icon.

    AMDG, Janet

  26. cburrell Says:

    I don’t see a swastika, Paul, but feel free to give a false email address next time, as Janet suggests. We’re easy about such things around here.

  27. Janet Says:

    I didn’t say a FALSE email address, I said ANOTHER. This is my other one.

    AMDG, Janet

  28. KathyB Says:

    Clearly you folks all need a picture of the back of your head, and the back of your toddler’s head (if you have a toddler handy)to send to Craig for an avatar. Actually, Craig must have taken this picture, since I don’t know how he otherwise got hold of it.

  29. cburrell Says:

    I don’t assign these pictures, Kathy! You must have picked that picture for yourself at some point.

  30. Paul Says:

    Well, I’m not sure how to get a picture of the back of my head (and my toddler’s) – so we just went with a front view (he’s home sick with laryngitis: we’ve both got it).

    The worrying thing is that when I uploaded it, WordPress asked me to “rate” it. I can’t remember the exact rating system, but number 2 was “PG” and number 4 was “X”: “X-rated avatars may include explicit sex”. PG “avatars” are limited to “provocative dress and mild swear words”. Hm, thanks but no thanks.

    Is it just me, or is there something odd about WordPress thinking that people who upload obscene pictures can reliably self-assess how offensive they might be?

  31. cburrell Says:

    I hope you’re joking, Paul. But something tells me you’re not.

  32. Paul Says:

    Fraid not. “You just couldn’t make it up,” as they say round here (well, not here exactly, butnot far off).

  33. Paul Says:

    Just changed the picture (apparently it’s a “gravatar”, not an “avatar”) to one of me in my christening robe, self-assessed as X-rated. I wonder what effect that will have?

  34. Paul Says:

    Now I’ve got the swastika back – it seems it won’t display an x-rated picture! (Might there be X-rated blogs on which it will display? – Well, that’s one line of enquiry I’m not inclined to pursue any further!)

  35. cburrell Says:

    Yes, I’m seeing the swastika again. It might be that when I set up this blog I specified “no X-rated gravatars”. I don’t remember. Anyway, thanks for carrying out this experiment.

  36. cburrell Says:

    That’s better, Paul. I like the picture.

  37. Paul Says:

    Thanks! (although, I’ve been messing around with them so much I’m not sure which you mean)

  38. Janet Says:

    I don’t know, Paul, I like the one with the blue hat.


  39. Paul Says:

    Janet: just for you …

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