Tag Archives: John McCutcheon

Carrying tunes

One of my former work colleagues and friends posted the following on Facebook:

In your status line, list 10 albums that have stayed with you. Tag ten friends including me. These shouldn’t be the critics list, but records that mean something to you. Do it fast. Don’t research it.

I don’t often do this sort of thing but I decided to give this one a try. I suspected  that because of differences in our ages and tastes, my list would be quite different from his. It was. Both lists contained amazing music.

It also proved an interesting exercise because it allowed me to consider the tunes I carry in my heart and my soul. These are the soundtrack of my life. Each recording played a role in my life. They associate with moments and experiences, transporting me back across time and space. Many smiles accompanied the process.

Here’s my list. The significance to the order is the order they occurred to me.

  • Derek and the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
  • Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland
  • Jackson Browne – Late for the Sky
  • Eric Bogle – Scraps of Paper
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Exodus
  • Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
  • Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview
  • Black 47 – Fires of Freedom
  • Carole King – Tapestry
  • Warren Zevon – The Wind

This proved far harder than I expected. Here’s a second 10 – actually 11 since I sneak in two by Brother Neil.

  • Seeds – the songs of Pete Seeger
  • Mountain – Nantucket Sleighride
  • Neil Young – Prairie Wind / Harvest
  • Arlo Guthrie – Amigo
  • The Band – Music from Big Pink
  • Bruce Cockburn – Nothing But a Burning Light
  • Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad
  • The Temptations – Puzzle People
  • Archie Roach – Charcoal Lane
  • John McCutcheon – Live at Wolf Trap

And many, many more crossed my soul as I worked on this.

What tunes do you carry? What music would be on your list?

See you along the Trail.


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Christmas songs

Two Friars and a Fool looked at “Christmas songs that are actually good” yesterday. They tend to focus on songs used in worship services. Their lists include a shout-out to the Chieftain’s version of St. Stephen’s Day Murders.

Two Christmas songs I have to hear over and again at this season are Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon and The Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne. They rarely appear in worship services, but each song speaks of the radical turning-of-the-world made possible in Jesus. They speak of peace and possibility, alternatives and hope, compassion and justice. Those themes emerge as we gather each year round the manger. Jesus embodies those themes in his life. He invites his followers to live into them as well. Sometimes we do.

How about you? What Christmas songs speak to you?

See you along the Trail.


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Christmas music 2012

Every year about this time, I post about Christmas music. Here I go again.

I like Christmas music. I manage to refrain from playing it on my iPod until Advent begins. Once that first Sunday of preparation and waiting dawns – away I go!

IMG00078-20111212-1925This year, after attending the Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012 Concert that he co-hosted with Pete Seeger, I purchased my first Harry Belafonte CD – a CD of Christmas music. I had known of Belafonte’s incredible commitment to social justice. Now, through the lens of Christmas, I appreciate him as an artist.
Two Christmas songs I have to hear over and again at this season are:

Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon

The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne

How about you? What music speaks to you at Christmas?

See you along the Trail.

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Something to ponder

A large Celtic cross stands on the edge of old quarry near the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in County Wicklow, Ireland. The cross itself comes as no surprise, such crosses are found across Ireland. What makes this cross worth a comment is what lies below.

Below the  cross, at the foot of the rock wall, is the German Military Cemetery. Here lie the remains of fifty-three German air and naval service men killed during the Second World War. Some fell into Ireland from the sky when their planes went down. The sea deposited others on the Irish coast.

Forty-six German civilians rest with them – detainees being shipped from England to Canada upon a ship torpedoed by a German U-boat. Six soldiers from the First World War are also buried there. They died while prisoners in a British prisoner of war camp in Ireland. One person has an individual memorial – Hermann Gortz, who served as a spy in Ireland and committed suicide after the war to avoid deportation that he feared would put him in Soviet hands.

Smaller crosses and gravestones fill the cemetery itself. A “Hall of Honour” provides a place for reflection and prayer.

The cemetery’s stark simplicity  combines with its beauty to provide much to ponder about the human cost of war and the common humanity of the men and women who serve in the military of every nation. As John McCutcheon puts it in his song, “Christmas in the Trenches“:

the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we’re the same.

See you along the Trail.

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Christmas music

We hear Christmas music everywhere. We have heard it since before Thanksgiving – we often rush the season.

Some Christmas music is certainly vapid and insipid. Fortunately, much of it is profound and moving.

My friend Shannon recently posed the question on her Facebook page:

If you were to record a holiday album, what 2 songs would you include? (traditional or current)? And no “Grandma got run over by a Reindeer”

Many come to mind, but the two I would choose are:

Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon

The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne

How about you? What two songs would you include?

See you along the Trail.

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A search for “Storm” in the song title brought the following playlist on my iPod. Clearly the timing on some of them makes a difference to a true playlist. This is simply an alphabetical list.

After the Storm – Bill Miller
The Great Storm Is Over – John McCutcheon
The Lightning Storm – Flogging Molly
Orphan of the Storm – Black 47
Riders on the Storm – The Doors
Shelter from the Storm – Bob Dylan
Singer in the Storm – Holly Near
A Storm Is Coming – The Return of the King
Storms in Africa – Enya
Weather out the Storm – Figgy Duff

See you along the Trail

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When you can be found – Ascension Sunday

I preached today at St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem.

It was my second time.

In March, I remembered with joy and humility that St. James Presbyterian is where the Rev. Dr. Lenton Gunn served faithfully and well for many years. I had the privilege of working with Lenton on the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Advisory Committee. It was an honor to be in the pulpit where he had stood.

Today I returned.

Again I preached – and I led the service welcoming a member into the congregation by reaffirmation of faith. It was a moment of joy. I had forgotten how great a blessing that aspect of ministry is.

Very early in the service, came the prayer of adoration (I did not write the prayer although I truly wish I had). The prayer included the sentence: We gaze at the sky looking for you, when you can be found in the laughing play of children; we wonder where you have gone, while you are all around us in our sisters and brothers.

I prayed those words with the congregation and realized immediately that they summed up what much of what I wanted to say about the Ascension.

Almost at the same moment, I remembered a song by John McCutcheon – Picture of Jesus – that reminds us we see Jesus in everyone we meet (a theme echoed by many others through the years including Leo Tolstoy in the short story Where Love Is, God Is.)

I scrapped the first two pages I had written and rewrote on the fly. I started with the lines from the prayer. Then I retold a version of Picture of Jesus.

I noted that the Ascension tells us what not to do: we are not to look for Jesus in some indefinite future; not to look for him in heaven; not to focus our attention away from this world and the places we live (I mentioned the corner of W. 141st and St. Nicholas in Harlem and I also mentioned Argentina, France, and Italy – the places where some of those visiting St. James this morning live).

I also noted what the Ascension is. It is an invitation to see Jesus we encounter every day in all the places we find ourselves. It is a call to discipleship – to follow Jesus – to live as Jesus lived – to love as Jesus loves – to be his witnesses to the end of the world. It is a promise that we will receive the Holy Spirit who will gift us and accompany us in our living. It is the proclamation of God’s amazing grace and unshakeable love for each of us – for me. And that amazing grace and unshakeable love allow us to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit and live into the adventure of discipleship with all its challenges and perils as well as its wonders and blessings. Thanks be to God!

For the record, it seems like there is something going on with St. James Presbyterian Church, hills, and me. In March, the gospel lesson was the Transfiguration. Today the lesson from Acts was the Ascension. Both of those events take place on hills (mountains).

Also, when walking up Amsterdam from La Salle (where the Shire on the Hudson is located) to W. 141st (where St. James is located) there is something of a hill to climb. This seems a tad odd, since La Salle is located in Morningside Heights. But there you have it.

Of course as one of the members of St. James pointed out, the way back home goes downhill. And as another member told me, the walk on St. Nicholas is pretty level. And as a third member said, “If you came back more often, you would get used to the walk!”

See you along the Trail!

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