IVP - Strangely Dim - March Music Madness: Spares Me

March 7, 2011

March Music Madness: Spares Me

Continuing our series on March Music Madness.

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I wish I were the type of guy who follows a local music scene. I bear all the markings of such a person: I listen to a lot of music, I regularly thumb my nose at the mass-consumption music on offer, and despite having not played a musical instrument for about fifteen years, I still fancy myself a musician. I watch American Idol, but I only like the weirdos, like this guy, or that guy. So yeah, I guess you could say that I'm that type of guy.

And yet I don't typically follow the local music scene. I blame it on two factors: (1) I'm cheap, so I don't like to pay cover charges; and (b) I'm sedentary, so I don't like to leave my house. I occasionally part from my normal behavior, however, particularly when I'm allowed to take center stage.

This was the case when the good folks at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Park Ridge invited me to give a talk at their monthly Reimagine Worship event a couple of years ago. Sharing the bill with me was a local two-person Americana band, who very kindly accommodated my request that they learn the song "40" by U2. I got to talk with both of them during the break and after the show, and we did what I suppose you might call an "artisan barter": copies of my books for copies of their CDs. By the end of the night I was a raving fan, and even though I've not caught a live show since, I'd gladly hop out of my recliner and throw down some money to see them again, if anyone's interested.

The Spares are Jodee Lewis and Steve Hendershot. They've been described as "hauntingly gorgeous," which I think is apt and thanks mainly to their willingness to be spare and selective with the sounds they pull together. Jodee's voice is shockingly clear, penetrating every barrier between her lungs and your soul. Steve's a highly disciplined guitarist, concentrating on riffs and rhythms that keep songs moving without veering off into self-indulgence and without distracting from the vocals. He's also got a lovely voice that complements Jodee really nicely. They remind me more of the Cowboy Junkies than anyone, although they've drawn comparisons to Gram Parsons and Alison Krauss. If you like Over the Rhine you'd probably like the Spares, but they're really nothing like one another.

No, the Cowboy Junkies are the best comparison, as the Spares can put together a driving rhythm and the end result will still work as a road-trip song. This is late-night music, melancholy-mood music, life-is-what-it-is music. I suppose that makes it, generally, good Lent music, which may be why this week I'm into the Spares.

Lent is a late-night, melancholy-mood, life-is-what-it-is sort of celebration of the church. For forty days leading up to our commemoration of Jesus' resurrection, we consider why Jesus died in the first place: because he so loved the world, because the world so loved the darkness, because we were made to live in the light. Lent is a time of confession, most fundamentally a collective confession that we don't understand Jesus or a divine ministry that includes suffering and death. As the apostle John puts it, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it." Whatever Easter is, it's anticipated by the acknowledgment that life is what it is, and what it is, without a God who conquers death and brings good news, is melancholy.

Forty days of melancholy is a pretty long road trip, so you better pack some good music. If you want a taste of the Spares go to their Myspace page, or better yet, download a couple of tracks: I recommend "Waiting for the Smoke to Clear," "Not Break Just Overflow," "Center of the World" and "Jesus I Long for Thee." They're cheap (like me) and they may just get you out of your chair and onto the road set before you this season.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at March 7, 2011 8:32 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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