Tuesday, 15 July 2008

stumble into grace (1)

Stumble Into Grace is an album by Emmylou Harris released in 2003. I came across this album at the suggestion of Jonathan Evens and it has become a favourite play on my ipod. For most of her recording career Harris has recorded other people's material but this album and Red Dirt Girl which preceded it are comprised of her own material. The music is haunting, the singing has an ethereal beauty and the lyrics reveal a real depth of reflection on life and love.

I also love the title: Stumble Into Grace. There are signs, tokens and images of grace all around us but they are so easy to ignore until we almost trip over them. Commenting on the opening track from her album called Here I Am Emmylou Harris says:

I'm not a particularly religious person. But I thought, "What must God be feeling when people just completely ignore Him?" It's as though this is about unrequited love on the part of God: "I'm right here. I'm everything you need. Why won't you heed me?" Julie Miller had been reading this book that contained the phrase, "You are from the dirt of the earth, the kiss of my mouth," so we put that in there. I wanted to put her on this as my co-writer, but she would have none of it. She did bear witness to it. I still didn't have it finished when we were setting up in the studio. I went, "Well, what am I trying to say?" And I just went, "Well, here I am."

I thought I might use the theme Stumble Into Grace for some posts and if anyone wants to join in then please feel free.


Jonathan Evens said...

'Stumble into Grace' is a great phrase which makes be think of the way in which we are often reluctant to come into grace with our stumbling into grace seeming like a gracious accident.

'Here I Am' is a wonderful song which, for my money, is a complement to Daniel Lanois' 'The Maker' (which Emmylou recorded on 'Spyboy'). 'Here I Am' is written from God's perspective towards a recalcitrant prodigal world while 'The Maker' pictures the recalcitrant prodigal returning to the hands of the Maker.

Buddy Miller, husband of Julie, has regularly featured in Emmylou's band and Emmylou recorded a great version of Julie's 'All My Tears' on 'Wrecking Ball'.

I blogged on some of the links between a whole range of Americana artists with Christian influences at http://joninbetween.blogspot.com/2008/02/american-music.html. Many of those links (incuding with Emmylou) are apparent in Julie Miller bio at http://www.buddyandjulie.com/biojulie.html.

Philip Ritchie said...

Thanks Jonathan, I hadn't heard The Maker so I'll check it out. I was rewatching the Later with Jools Holland featuring Plant, Kraus, Burnett, Harris etc. last night and its still great. At the same time I was doing some reading up on Burnett and his wife Sam Phillips. Fascinated to discover that she played the dumb (literally) blond terrorist in Die Hard 3 and stopped recording as a contemporary Christian artist because of her dismay at the Christian right represented by Pat Robertson et al.

There were a couple of excellent articles on the theme of writing as a Christian rather than writing overtly Christian songs, fitting in with the theme you explore on our Big Picture 2 course. You may have seen them already:

Jonathan Evens said...

Hadn't read these articles before, so thanks for pointing me in their direction. Hadn't realised either that Sam Phillips had been in Die Hard 3 until I watched a video of her performing at Borders where she talked about the experience. Finally, I think that she and T. Bone are ex's in terms of marriage, having separated or divorced. Her new album is the first for a long time that he hasn't produced (not that that in itself is evidence that they are no longer together).

Dave Faulkner said...


I - er - stumbled across your blog via Peter Kirk. Greetings from another Chelmsford Christian blogger. I have loved this Emmylou CD since it was released. I have previously used it in a sermon. I wish I'd known about your quote from Emmylou about the genesis of 'Here I Am'. What you quote fits with what I thought. I'm grateful for such a thoughtful post.

Philip Ritchie said...

Thanks for the comment Dave and glad to hear from another Emmylou fan. By the way your sermon link didn't work, can you check it out or let me have another link for it.