Friday, April 23, 2010

New Music with Local Ties

(News-Heralds, April 22) One of the marvels of modern technology is that anybody with some simple equipment can record music and sell it to the masses. It used to be necessary to convince some suit at some record company to give an act a break, in part to help fund the expensive business of studio recording. While the traditional route is still traveled, many artists can create entire discs at home. Of course, anybody can do it. Actually talent is not a requirement, and music buyers in the new digital age must beware.
But amidst this new wealth of great, nearly-great, and not-remotely-great music, some real gems often appear. Here’s some news about two singer-songwriters with both technology and talent at their disposal.
Ami Sandstrom Shroyer graduated from FHS quite a few years ago, but she was a musical powerhouse even then. Since those days she and her husband have embarked on a career in ministry, which includes (but is not limited to) her recent cd release 40,000 Days.
This disc collects unabashedly Christian music that showcases both Ami’s singing and songwriting skills (recordings of one of her previous songs garnered a prestigious Dove award). Her voice is bright and light, clear and clean as a bell. Several of the songs have a nice pop sound, and many use a piano-guitar blend familiar to fans of early seventies folky pop.
Some of the songs here (“I Lift My Hands,” “Holy God”) are ready for prime time as praise songs, easily sung along with by a congregation. That’s no small feat; it’s not easy to write a song that is both effectively moving and approachably simple.
The top song of the disc is “Home,” a song with sophisticated changes that are not only clever songwriting, but also powerfully evoke longing, release and strength.
While a few of the songs are peppy and upbeat (the title track is cheerily, gracefully optimistic, and “Your Secret Place” wants to be a 1971 radio hit, in a good way), the majority of the disc is soft, slow and meditative. Taken together, these performances give a picture of a loving and uplifting God who walks with the singer through marriage, parenthood and even death.
You can order copies of this cd by going to the Shroyers’ site,
While Shroyer has been in the music biz for a while, Amy Porter (who graduated from FHS more recently) just released her first album. Love Will Come is a collection of six (seven if you act quickly) of the many songs she has written over the years. The collection is emotional and very well-produced, moving through a progression of the heart.
Porter opens with “Lament,” and dense and driving setting for the serenity prayer, followed by a trio of beautifully sad songs. “Favorite Wine” and “Dream” capture the essence of a yearning and broken heart, while “Grandpa” is a song in which Amy and her brother Mark share memories of the grandfather who has passed away. Unlike a more typical grief song, there is no pat relief in the final chorus. This trio of songs carries heavy emotional weight.
But next is “Love Will Come,” a song that promises relief for a variety of burdened people. One of my favorite Porter lyrics appears here: “When we see her face, we won’t believe the lies that say it’s too late.” After this song raises the Hope stakes, “Only” provides further encouragement, with a guitar-based hook reminiscent of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Act soon and you get a seventh bonus track, “Not With You” which offers an upbeat banjo-laced tune and Porter at her most Karen Carpenteresque. The closing trio of songs offers the promise of hope, love, and strength.
The set (an EP, not a full disc) is lushly produced with a mix that ably supports Porters smokey rich voice (she sounds most like Sarah McLachlan), complete with aching strings and crunchy guitars. These are personal songs, and that shines through clearly.
To order the set, go to . Half of the money made goes to the orphanage in Haiti where Porter works.
Both sets are easy on the ear, enjoyable to listen to, but with a bit more soul and substance than the typical top forty offering. Each of these exceptionally talented young women has produced some beautiful and rewarding music, and both have roots right here in Venangoland. Give yourself a musical treat and support some musicians with local roots.

1 comment:

Matt and Steph Bell said...

Having just recently moved back to Australia, I just wanted to post a comment of thanks for the work that you do.

I went to Church with Amy, and her mom back in franklin. I knew that she put out an album and was happy to see a local article on it -local as in 'back home'.

Anyway. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for keeping up with your former students!

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