Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eyes of the Beholder, Ears of the Listener

Well, my intention has been to discuss C.E.B. Cranfield’s Romans: A Shorter Commentary, a book that has given me a fresh and, dare I say, “revolutionary” perspective on Paul’s epistle. Maybe one day I’ll get around to it. But if too much time elapses between hectic writing projects at work I might have to re-read the thing before I can get my thoughts back together.

Meanwhile, on the heels of my last post about the two Knoxville bands – we finally went to see Standing Small in Greenville, SC on August 8th. The four-hour round trip was well worth it, not only on account of the band but because we discovered Greenville to have one of the most charming center city sections we’ve ever explored. The Falls Park on Reedy River, situated right in the middle of downtown, is an oasis of waterfalls, grassy knolls, gardens, footpaths and a pedestrian suspension bridge.

As for Standing Small, the early Sunday evening gig was the last of a three-day stand that began with a CD release party in Knoxville. The band opened for another indie Christian group, This is Luke, in the gymnasium of St. Matthew Methodist Church. As gyms go the acoustics were unsurprisingly lousy. Corey Goins’ cymbals ricocheted off the concrete block walls. Nevertheless, Standing Small’s set was tight and studio-perfect, including six songs from the new album. To my delight they performed “Covered,” an intricate, four and half minute universe of a song.

We discovered that the band has no permanent bassist. Cousin Ben overcomes that challenge by having the bass tracks pre-recorded and loaded onto his Mac laptop, which sits astride his keyboard. He dials up the right accompaniment which is heard by the rest of the band through earbuds. Lead singer Ryan Fletcher experienced a technical glitch during one of the numbers when his wiring came loose. He managed to sing the entire song without missing a beat while reaching behind his back to re-route the wire.

This past week I noticed on the IndieVision web site (distributor of the free album download) that a couple of listeners found fault with the vocals. They aren’t flawless; but then, neither are Jim James’ or Wayne Coyne’s or Jeff Tweedy’s. If any of these fellows went on American Idol incognito they would be booed off. Mass media seems to have attenuated how acceptable vocals ought to sound for the general public. Fortunately, there remains a non-general public that listens for something else, including a capacious musical experience. With these new compositions and arrangements Standing Small stretches the limits of their abilities. At worse there might be a few beautiful shortfalls along the way. I’ll take that over playing it safe.

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