Mormon Times columnist McKay Coppins
recently wrote about his longing for more "hip," "non-cheesy LDS music." He asked
readers to help him find some, since the closest thing he has to fill that need
is an 8-year-old EFY soundtrack. I'd like to help him out.
So what exactly is hip? For our purposes, let's define it as,
"current, contemporary, with a popular appeal." With that definition in mind, I
can comfortably say there is indeed some LDS music that fits the bill.
Keep in mind there are two kinds of LDS music artists: those
who perform for a broad general audience and those who cater to the LDS market.
The first group is not necessarily trying to appeal to a faith-centered crowdbut are musicians who happen to also be LDS. These include:
- Mindy Gledhill: A killer voice and a great songwriter.
Her "Feather in the Wind" album nails it on many levels.(mindygledhill.com)
- Kalai: This Alaskan-born singer/songwriter is
one-of-a-kind and can give Jack Johnson and Colbie Callait both a run for theirmoney. Check out "Acoustacism." (kalai.cc)
- Benton Paul: Though it seems he is trying to keep that
little "Mormon Music" sticker safely away from his identity, this guy is the
real deal. His debut album, "Grey," is well-performed, well-crafted, and inregular rotation on my iPod. (bentonpaul.com)
- Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband: If country flavors are
more your style, no one does it better than Ryan Shupe. With a band made up of
some of the best musicians in the state of Utah, they make great recordings and put on
an even better live show. Latest album: "Last Man Standing."(shupe.net)
- Ryan Innes: We haven't seen an album from him yet, but
his soulful voice and unquestionable stage presence make him one to watch for
inevitable future success. (myspace.com/ryaninnes)
The second group of artists chooses to "preach to the choir,"
so to speak. They write faith-promoting lyrics for the LDS audience, and it's
true, many often stay on the mellow side of things. That works for a lot of
people, but the question at hand is one of hipness. Here are a few who I thinkqualify:
- Jenny Jordan Frogley: She may just be the best singer
in our industry. She has produced two albums for the LDS market, both combiningfaith-centered messages with a mass-appeal sound. Try her album "Beautiful Life." (jennyjordanfrogley.com)
- Alex Boye: A convert to the LDS Church in England, he
has shared the stage with some big, big names ('N Sync, Backstreet Boys, Mary J.
Blige), only later to make his way to Utah. He has two new albums on the
horizon: one of mainstream pop/R&B and one of simple, classic hymns.
- Nashville Tribute Band: Led by Dan Truman
(songwriter/keyboardist for Diamond Rio) and producer/songwriter Jason Deere
(SheDaisy, Due West), this team put out an extraordinary LDS-themed album, "Joseph: A Nashville Tribute to the Prophet." The two are working on their
next installment of this series, a tribute to missionaries.(nashvilletribute.com)
- 'Nearer': This album, produced by Scott
Wiley (an incredible talent in his own right), will feature several indie
artists expressing their faith through their own unique versions of favorite
hymns. Set for release in September, this album will include modern, yet
reverent, versions of the hymns performed by some fresh, new voices.
Certainly, the notion of "pop" LDS music is not new (remember "Saturday's Warrior"?). There have been many who have tried, some
even successfully, to combine the current popular sound with the Mormon world
view. And I think some are succeeding at it right now. Do we need more? I think
we do. Are there enough people like McKay who want to spend their hard-earned
money on it? Let's hope so.
Bob Ahlander is sirector of A&R (Artists and
Repertoire) for Shadow Mountain Records, the music arm of Deseret Book Co.
He welcomes your comments at email@example.com.