The Vicar recently sent me a CD, produced by local folks, Micah and Michelle Woody, whom the Vicar knows. We are game to add something to our eclectic music shelf, so we had no difficulty popping this into the CD player on the way to work, and then a couple more times at home, where we could listen more carefully without the hum of the engine and wheels. A common response we have, when he listen to musicians with whom we are not familiar is to associate them with someone we know. Linda proclaimed, “Aztec Two Step”, I, “Pete and Maureen Kennedy.”… Okay, you’re not into folk-rock groups for the past 30 years, so those references did not help much…
Other than the album notes, I do not know more about this duo, Micah and Michelle (http://micahmichelle.com/), who bring together a variety of friends who fill the tracks with standard acoustic and electric instruments for 10 songs. While all of these have some degree of Christian themes, the first half are more in the style of love songs (whether you chose for “you” to be a lover or God), and the other half appropriate for various parts of a worship service, with obvious reference to God, salvation, etc. Also the first half lean more toward a string-band sound with guitar, mandolin, and banjo, and the later half praise-band style with more electric instruments and drums.
In my third listen through, I thought that a dobro would be a good complement to their sound, then I heard the lap steel guitar on the tracks “Inkling” and “Shapened In Time”. Many of the tunes have surprising sounds, which sent me back to the liner notes to check. There are bells, foot taps, a tonewheel, an omnichord, a mellotron, a toy piano, and a glockenspiel. When was the last time you heard a glockenspiel!? (We actually saw was played live at a percussion and chorus concert last year at the Burton Church in Colonial Williamsburg.)
While all of these instruments are played with technical skill, the instrument that stood out most to me was Michelle’s voice. From the first track, “Undivided”, I heard the clear sound of water splashing in a mountain brook. And, with all the subtlety of the change of that stream from season to season, so does she change from song to song. At times, fresh with the reflected sparkle of Spring sun light, later languid as a eddying pool under the green leaves of summer, again floating with colorful leaves of autumn, and finally filling with the crystals of winter frost. For one listen through, disregard the words and just listen to the sound of Michelle’s voice.
But, come back and consider the words, for other than meditative purposes songs are a means of communicating emotions and ideas. Three songs particularly stayed with me. “Undivided”, contrasts the desire for “a hearts that’s not divided” with so many distractions that make up our days. “Orphan Cry” questions, “But how can there be the love of God in me if I refuse to be His hands and feet”. We should be reminded that getting a good buzz on each Sunday relishing in divine worship does not add up to much if we are doing the good work the rest of the week. I am not much of a praise-band oriented guy. My kind of gospel music is the Blind Boys of Alabama singing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun” with quite conscious awareness of the irony of singing the gospel to a tune about a brothel. Jesus would have been right there ministering to the ladies and rebuking the men who exploit them. “Low” does me well though, “Break down my pride… Let me get out of my own mind. Help stop thinking of my own life, I need to get low, low, low, low, low.”
Though Aztec Two Step is a duo singing secular folk songs about Beatnik poets, urban life, and our addiction to automobiles, I think they might enjoy hearing Micah and Michelle. On their most recent CD, they have a tune, “I don’t believe in Jesus, but I sure do dig his tunes”. Pretty good for a couple of Hebrew Children (their term). The Kennedys? There are into Buddha and would probably find their own sense of the divine in these melodies and lyrics.