Track 1: Freedom’s Slave

Glasgow, 2016, The wettest, darkest summer for years.
Someone kindly left this on a wall for passers by to cheer us up.
We thought it was the perfect album title!

Welcome to KDMusic

Some of these songs have been in the locker for a long time. You know the score, marriage, home, work, kids, church youth work and music… if your life is full and rich, something has to give, so no regrets, playing in bands for live events took a bit of a back seat.

You can’t have a healthy marriage or Christian faith without times of passion and intensity and captivation. Consistently songs have grabbed me by the throat and possessed me with the same intensity. So here they are, birds gotta fly, singers gotta sing.

And the subject matter, well, it’s my life. I’m not outstandingly unique, so I’m hoping they don’t just serve as some sort of personal fix, but resonate with other ‘slightly unique’ people! but I’ll not delve into the specifics right here, we can tell some stories song by song as we go. Ready?

1. Freedom’s Slave

Kingston Jamaica & Newry, Co. Down

Can you remember where you were during there first gulf war? I was working in a church community project the, Mel Nathan institute, Hannah town, Kingston Jamaica. I loved Hannah Town. It was like the Shankill Estate with sunshine by day , street food & pumping music at night. By the orange street lights it was edgy, like a scene from Dante’s inferno. Half derelict due to political gerrymandering, three letter tribal markings on the walls, a tired sort of intensity, lazy fat cops sitting in the station & ‘gangstas’ shooting each other up on the streets outside the church project, scaring us and the kids, it was so like 90’s high density Belfast.

The people were kinda great. Everyone was an aspiring poet or songwriter. Community concerts would just ‘happen’ at night. I wrote songs with a guy called ‘Chan Chan’ Nevada Thompson, who made a living doing lignum vitae wood carvings. We were a mini hit, the white guy on guitar beside the local hero. Every day was a 90 minute bus journey each way from the suburbs to Hannah Town. I ended up bringing a spare shirt (and a guitar) on the bus, it was just so hot. And packed into those Jamaican mini busses, you get really up close and personal. I used to write home to my sweetheart (now my wife) that I’d been closer to some Jamaican women on those busses than I had to her!

Bullet holes in a Hannah Town yard gate

By the time I got home, after a shower and dinner each night was watch the oil flares in Kuwait on TV at night. The news was ramping up the size of the Iraqi Army, & the western forces were talking about shock, awe & overwhelming force. And overwhelm they did. In two successive wars, the first justified as a liberation, the second infamous for the murky motives and lack of clear recovery plan. It was car crash TV, you couldn’t help but watch and be appalled by war at the same time.

It struck me so forcefully that the way God achieves victory is so different from the way human powers do it. It brought to mind the Thomas Moore Irish folk song ‘the Minstrel Boy’, but as you read the lyrics that doesn’t fit how God does thing either. It’s full of pathos all right, but it’s all about the heroism of the lost cause, being willing to go down with a sinking ship, – typical of the numerically small, fighting Irish! We can’t win, but we’ll make a scene you’ll remember as we lose!

So I started thinking, we need a song that captures that heroism, but takes us away from the notion of the noble lost cause, and debunks it. Jesus, was not some military mascot dying beside a flag for posterity. Heroic, noble, yes, but this was the king of the universe! He had all the power at his disposal to act like the western forces in Kuwait and obliterate his opponents. By stark contrast He was neither of these notions of what heroism or victory looks like.

The lyrics below are full of deliberate juxtapositions of how the bible describes Jesus’ death and ultimate victory, against the romantic tragedy of the minstrel boy. It’s a beautiful tune, that has been used by Irish, British & American regiments as part of their military identity. But I think think the bible tells an even more magnificent story of victory and hope in the darkest of circumstances. God’s ways, are not our ways!

For the musicians among you, we’ve tried to reflect that high contrast in both the instrumentation & syncopation. Starts of verses are empty, ends are rich. First lines are straight, second lines are dotted or rushed to give the melody a bit more edge and drama. Hope you like it, do let us know what you think. (PS – This song won’t be online until August or September 2019. So you’ll have to pick up a CD at Keswick, Portstewart & wherever else decides to shift them over the summer).

#Moreen, #Thomasmoore, #Minstrelboy, #irishfolktune, #modernhymn, #freedom, #sacrifice, #humility #resurrection, #joy, #hope

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