Summer Music: Soulrocker

MFS.Soulrocker.R04.submittedThe album of my summer is most definitely SOULROCKER, the new release from Michael Franti & Spearhead, the globally-conscious, awareness-provoking, justice-crying, love-believing artist & band that have been the creative soundtrack of the Gospel for me since I was first introduced to their music during seminary.

“Soulrocker,” as the album jacket defines it, is “one who lives from the heart, with compassion for all, and possesses a tenacious enthusiasm for music, live and the planet.” The album has all of the great Franti/Spearhead hallmarks of “soulrocker” spirit: a woke examination of injustice in its many forms & places, a determined love for all life & creation, a knack for singing right to the heart of things, and an infectious spirit that cannot be kept from dancing.

Longtime fans of Michael Franti will find delightful hints of previous albums and tracks hidden throughout SOULROCKER: references to rude boys, a new take on “I Got Love For Ya” (All Rebel Rockers 2008), and — at least to my ear — echoes from the rhythmic track of “I Wish That I Could Be You” (Love Kamikaze 2005) undergirding “Do You Feel The Way That I Do?”

SOULROCKER is a pick-me-up album:

“Shine your light until the break of dawn,
and shine your light if you’re all alone.”

It’s a fall-in-love album:

“There’s not a worry in the world
when I’m rollin’ with you girl.”

It’s a standing-in-the-need-of-prayer album:

“There’s a part of me that always
needs to pray; there’s a part of me
that wants to run away.”

It’s a lament-the-world album:

“I’m hearing all the time about another Brother
leaving life far before his time.”

It’s a change-the-world album:

“Could you ever give more today?
Or could you give a little
to help love find a way?”

It’s also, with the surprising but artfully-infused addition of techno, a dance album, quite likely to inspire hip-swaying and hand-raising whether in the kitchen or the car or the club.

From start to finish, SOULROCKER is an album that grounds and uplifts my spirit as Franti is always able to do, for which I’m especially grateful this summer. I commend it highly for your summer too — or winter or spring, or vacation or workday. Check it out!

Lent 12

If I am but a drop of water cascading from a mountain and reflecting the rainbow of your beauty, I am delighted and deeply satisfied.

Photo by r.g.h.

Photo by r.g.h.

If I am but a leaf that has served its time and has nothing left to do but drift & fall on the gentleness of your winds, I am glad and grateful.

Photo by F.J.

Photo by F.J.

If I am but one step along the journey, unable to see beginning or end but only to greet travelers for this one moment, I am humbled and joyful.

Photo by R.G.H.

Photo by r.g.h.

If I am but one note in your eternal song, O God, singing my slip of a grace note while celestial bodies trumpet their chorus, I am thrilled and at peace.

Photo by F.J.

on Psalm 95:1


Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
bye bye we say this day.
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
bye bye along your way.

O brothers, all, see how death falls;
let anger be displayed,
and to this child wrapped in a shawl
sing you lully lullay.

Dear sisters, too, might we undo
the violence and dismay
for peace and love to yet break through?
Bye bye lully lullay.

Herod in rage across the age
steals life as though from prey;
his love of pow’r becomes a plague
and God he thus betrays.

Woe to the child and woe to we;
raise our lament today.
May Christ preserve our spirits free,
bye bye lully lullay.

Based on the Coventry Carol and Matthew 2:16. The Coventry Carol came from a series of medieval plays that brought bible stories to life — in this case, the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents. In the play, mothers of the children murdered at Herod’s command sang a last lullaby to their children.

Day Song

The sun rises as the day’s ostinato.

The juncos interject
their staccato.

The clouds soar in descant,
whistling from the west.

The fox barks out a tempo,
the squirrel chatters out of time.

Melting snow pings out its melody
along the roof and down the rainspout.

A few lingering dry leaves rustle their counterpoint.

The Christmas rose lifts its face
to greet the strain.

And the river

Each day the song
is the same. Each day
the song is brand new forever.

Glory be to God.

on Psalm 96:1

Lent 32 (Vinyls)

My heart skips — 33 —
not the wild leap to express joy
but the weary limp to avoid a pain
the wince — 33 — the accommodation
of a long-standing scar
Like scratched vinyl
and a track that misses its beat
so — 33 — familiar that I sing along
with the flawed syncopation
as though
this is the way
the song was intended
as though — 33 —
the lyrics make perfect sense
when that needle skips
the occasional
— 33 —
I learned to dance to broken records
so long ago
that I hardly notice any more
and really — 33 — it’s okay
but sometimes
when the day’s music is turned down
and there’s only
the off-rhythms of my heart
dodging and dancing with the shadows
— 33 — I confess to wondering
how vinyl is really meant
to sound