Friday, April 3, 2009

Pat Terry, Laugh for a Million Years

Pat Terry
Laugh for a Million Years
Horse and Sandwich Productions

Let’s just get it out on the table to start with. “Christian Music, as a general rule of thumb, SUCKS!” Whew, I just got that off of my chest, but as a long time Charter Member of the “Classic Christian Music Club,” I have paid my dues, I have earned the right to say that. I started working in Christian Music shortly after my salvation in the mid 1970’s. I promoted my first Christian Music Festival in 1978; I started working in Christian music full-time in 1983, and up until that point, had been doing reviews, promoting concerts, managing bands and much more. I worked hard in this industry; some say I was the first to put Christian bands into non Christian venues successfully. I take honor in knowing that in 1988, one of the bands I managed and worked for, The Rob Cassels Band, (AKA Rob Castles) was according to Poll-Star and Performance Magazines as the top grossing band in North America in theaters 2,500 and under, (Blue Oyster Cult was #2 and The Judd’s was #3 in that particular year.) NCM Services, the agency I managed was named as the top new agency in North America by one publication and one of the top 10 new agencies in North America in another. This not from Christian publications, but popular non Christian publications that had a dramatic impact on the industry.

Now don’t get me wrong, to say that Christian Music sucked is a general rule of thumb, not a blanket statement that included all bands, in fact, many of the early pioneers were, and continued to maintain their integrity, not just as musicians, but as people living in the real world, and living a real life. Pat Terry was among those original Christian Artists that was laced with quality through and through.

Pat Terry started out with The Pat Terry Group, one of my favorite early Christian Folk Rock Bands. Pat as it seems hadn’t been around much over the last 20+ years or so, that is unless you consider some of his work with people like Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker, Confederate Railroad, John Anderson, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, and the list could go on and on. The fact is, Pat Terry had inspired many contemporary legends with his songs, and with his talent. It was some years ago when watching him and his band at a concert in Upper East Tennessee that I learned to appreciate the man whose music I listened to so much on the vinyl records of the day.

A few years later I got to know one of the people Pat dedicates his new CD to, Mark Heard. Mark was another filled with quality, and to know that Pat would dedicate his first project in almost 25 years would have made him proud. Mark was one of the top song writers of all time and it is obvious when you listen to Laugh for a Million Years that these two could have been considered brothers.

I have longed for a brand new day in the world of Christians involved in music, a day where the quality and talent would shine through. Pat Terry with Laugh for a Million Years starts off in an appropriate way with a wonderful acoustic tune titled, Brand New Day. This wonderful Americana style song starts off with a riveting mandolin rift and is somewhat autobiographical. The song in a wonderful way can be listened to by the old Pat Terry fans in a way that causes them to reflect on not only the life of one like Pat, but those who enjoyed this era, and meaning seemingly lost by a new generation of musicians focused more on business than they are on meaningful songs that can touch the soul.

Laugh For A Million Years is a song that features a talented song writer. This song as many other songs on this CD will remind you of the importance of quality song writers. While this country styled song reminded me of how many in life progress and how if we aren’t careful we lose those relationships and friends. While the song addresses life, it is also filled with hope of eternity. Laugh For A Million Years is a fitting tribute to long-time friend Mark Heard.

Outrun the Wind is a simple ballad with some really nice mandolin work laced with some wonderful viola. This song reminds me a lot of the style of Mark Heard. It not only shows some quality musicianship and ability, but giftedness in the delivery of a lyric. This song, co written by Pat Terry and the late Randy Vanwarmer shows the talent of these two men. In many ways, this song is like a prayer, but not the kind we hear in church, the kind said from a sincere heart filled only with the wisdom that comes with years of life. The song beautifully illustrates the marriage that can take place between the lyric and music.

Open Windows is a song that features some really sweet production that brings out the guitar chording and keyboard/piano work. I really appreciated the crisp drum sounds on this song. Open Windows is another ballad that has a country feel to it. The song illustrates struggles and faith. It can be a reminder to all of us of the need to keep on hoping, and believing.

Jump On It is one of the first kicking tunes on the album. The tempo picks up and we can hear the versatility of Pat Terry that has existed for a number of years. The song reminded me of the new country that is out there, somewhat similar to the styles of such artists as Craig Morgan. This life affirming song drives home the importance of family. This song features some nice steel and slide guitar along with some fun piano work.

Someplace Green starts out with some nice acoustic guitar work. This allegorical song caused me to think about the complications of life. It is a reflective song using color as a metaphor. This song is really an exploration of hope. It is beautifully written and although a simple song musically, it illustrates the importance of the lyric.

If Jesus Was Like Me is one of my favorite songs on this album. This reflective song is a thoughtful exploration of who we are in comparison to Jesus Christ. In reality we can all find faults in our actions. The song builds and has a strong country feel. It seems as if Christians often have a ton of focus on themselves, yet If Jesus Was Like Me illustrates more so the accomplishments of Jesus and where we would be if we were in fact more like Jesus.

Yearning to Live starts out with some really nice guitar work. While some often reflect on the complications of the guitar, they often forget about how to play the instrument with feeling. This song illustrates the importance of using the instrument to express feeling. The song is an exploration of suicidal thoughts and the reality of a desire to live. Yearning to live builds very nicely with some nicely mixed mandolin work. The production quality is appreciated from the driving influences to the use of well crafted and mixed in supporting vocals. This song is a triumph of the spirit not just in the message content, but for those seeking hope.

The Gift of Mercy is a ballad that reminds me of an old movie by William A. Wellman titled Heroes For Sale. It is a story of tough times and bad decisions. The song understands that even though one may not be as bad as they perceive themselves to be, they still have the need for mercy and it is ultimately mercy that will be the salvation of us all. Even bad people have access to mercy. This soft ballad reminded me of some of the top Americana Artists out there, artists who have a story to tell. I love the lyrical allegory here, lines such as “Love is like a candle, blazing in the wind.” Like most of the other songs, Pat Terry is trying to get us to think, not just about the stories we hear, but the stories we have experienced.

Rivers of Hope is another song driven by lyrical content. For those who are fans of the old Pat Terry Group, you will love the harmonizing vocals here. It is extremely well crafted and understands how to get an emphasis across. Pat Terry understands the difference between religion and faith or a deep rooted spirituality. This song illustrates that difference. It illustrates how we forget to practice the things we know, things like making sure we spend time with our creator. This song helps illustrate why it is Pat Terry is so well respected among popular performers which seem to have latched on to so many of his songs. This is a song that could achieve commercial success if given the chance, but that could be said about many other songs here.

The first time I heard the song Forgiveness I was deeply moved. I had just returned from a trip to Tennessee where I had to offer forgiveness and love to a person who had sinned against me some 35 years ago. This was a sin that will impact my entire life but one I knew I had to forgive the person for because I didn’t want to be held captive to their sin. I don’t know what has happened in the life of Pat Terry to write such inspiring words, but there is an understanding on forgiveness that I have seldom heard. There are beautiful songs, memorable songs, but then there are songs that can change a life if applied. In many ways, this isn’t just a song; it is a sermon that can change lives. Forgiveness is a fitting end to a wonderful, enjoyable CD that grows and grows with each listen.

It has been far too long since Pat Terry did an album. I can only hope it isn’t as long before we hear from him again. This is an album that not only fans of Pat Terry will want, but any fan of Americana music will want. Pat Terry has had a lasting impact on the world of music, not only as one of the first Christians to popularize the style known today as Contemporary Christian Music, but as a writer who has had his songs recorded by many of the top artists in the world of Country Music. He is a musician’s musician, and a song writer’s writer. You simply can’t go wrong with this wonderful album. It is possible that Pat Terry may be the best song writer alive. In an age when Christians seem to forget about the quality God expects, it is nice to know that a few still produce quality, quality that can be appreciated not just by people who are like minded, but by anyone who enjoys a good song and a well crafted lyric.

Now coming soon will be my interview with Pat. Until then, check out the following link where you can go and listen to some of Pat's new music.

The following is a dedication photo to old friend Mark Heard, one of the people this CD is dedicated to.

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