We are exploring the issue of faith in music, and music in faith, every month in my new online publication, TheBluegrassSpecial.com. On the surface it may seem odd that a bluegrass publication would have such a department. However, I have noticed an increasing number of artists dealing with matters of faith in their music, especially those working in the traditional music we cover--meaning country, bluegrass, blues, jazz, and classic pop (yes, we consider all of these "traditional" music, but that's another story). Also, no good bluegrass show is complete without a gospel segment, hence the name of our department, The Gospel Set. If you log on to thebluegrassspecial.com, you'll find a most interesting subject this month--a young New York City musician and Jewish scholar, Jeremiah Lockwood, who is steering his band The Sway Machinery into some interesting directions as he couples turn of the century Cantorial music--much of which he learned from his grandfather, Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, one of the most revered Cantors in American Jewish life--to a rock 'n' roll beat. He's drawing packed houses to his shows, too, some attending for the spiritual experience this music offers, others to, shall we say, rock the night away. Jeremiah is a most eloquent young man, as you will learn in the feature story about his work. Also, check out our archives for the first issue (we've only had three so far, as we launched in April) for a feature on one of the great contemporary songwriters of our times. Beth Nielsen Chapman, who has cut two stirring albums back to back: a collection of the Catholic hymns she learned in her youth, called "Hymns," and, newly released, a double-CD set of songs of various faiths. Titled "Prism," this album finds Chapman immersing herself in the worlds of religions other than hers, as she continues to define her own spirituality; she is so deeply invested in these songs that she even sings them in their native tongues--thus the album finds her singing in nine different languages, almost all of which she had to learn for this project (including Gaelic). You will find both of these artists to be articulate and thoughtful people who know the history informing their art and are engaged daily in the process of spiritual growth. Chapman recently survived a bout with breast cancer, and a couple of years prior to her diagnosis she lost her husband to cancer, so she's been thinking hard about God, religion and spirituality for many years in the wake of her personal travails. Let me add that the idea for The Gospel Set sprang not only from gospel music's importance in bluegrass music, but from my deep admiration for "Speaking of Faith"--no question that I was inspired by Krista's inquiries into faith to find an entry point for same in the musical world. I even have speakingoffaith.org listed in our Links section in hopes of drawing new listeners to your show. Maybe we can help--our first issue registered 1,000 readers, according to Google, but the second has already logged more than 5,000 readers, with no marketing or promotion to speak of. Someone's tuning us in, you might say.
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