Welcome! I’m Yankee Gospel Girl (formerly Southern Gospel Yankee), but you can call me Esther O’Reilly. I’m an old soul with many interests, and I promote southern gospel music along with everything else good, true and beautiful. If you’re a first-time visitor, thanks for reading! Check out my “About” page, follow me on Youtube, and browse around in the filing cabinet for my musings on all genres of music, movies, faith & culture, and old stuff. Whether you’re a fan of gospel music or just another old soul like me, I hope you like what you find! God bless.
The Gold City Quartet will have a bittersweet Christmas, as this week their publicist reported a devastating fire that swept through their bus barn and product warehouse. Both buses were destroyed along with performance wardrobes and most of their product. However, nobody was hurt, and they are grateful that if a disaster like this had to happen, it happened while they were on break from touring! In a typical week, they might have been on the bus ramping up for a trip and gotten caught in the fire themselves. As of now, the cause of the fire is unknown. The quartet thanks the fans for their prayers and support. All details so far have been posted on their Facebook page here.
So last year I did this thing called “The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas,” and people seemed to like it, so I thought I’d add a few more every year. I can’t guarantee there won’t be fewer than or less than twelve more, hence the open-ended title. Anyway, these are more tunes without which my Christmas still really isn’t complete. They were brutally cut out of the final edit for The Twelve. So, consider this the expanded edition.
This installment might be considered cheating, because it’s a threefer. From Amy Grant’s first Christmas album (simply titled A Christmas Album), these three songs are strung together in a continuous sequence: Michael W. Smith’s hit “Emmanuel,” a different take on “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and a joint collab between him and Amy on a modern “Christmas Hymn.” The editing is so seamless, and all three so good, that I thought, heck, why not just find the gapless version on Youtube, feature that and call it a day? My personal favorite is “Christmas Hymn.” It’s an underrated, beautifully written classic not unlike something the Gettys might craft today.
A note on “Emmanuel”: Every single year we pull this one out, my family and I can’t help noticing its rather embarrassing (awesome? embarrassingly awesome?) similarity to the soundtrack for Ladyhawke. We couldn’t get through a workout to it yesterday without adding a running commentary of quotes from the movie. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, neither you nor your parents grew up in the 80s. Or if you did, this essential piece of 80s pop culture somehow flew (*cough*) under your radar. Here, let me fix that for you…
Have some more 80s kitsch lurking in the attic of your memory that you can’t quite identify? Call now at 1-800-PLACETHATSYNTH. That’s 1-800-PLACETHATSYNTH. Our operators solemnly swear to spin nothing but Mannheim Steamroller for your Muzak-listening pleasure while on coffee break.
I started this series to showcase some of my favorite Christmas albums, but it fell off a couple years ago. Since I have some all-time faves that I didn’t even begin to get into, I’m going to revive it this year. (Feel free to catch up with the first five I wrote, which have been neatly sorted for your reading pleasure here.)
We’ll start with A Very Veggie Christmas. Yes, Bob, Larry and Co. are having a Christmas party. Unfortunately, Oscar the Polish caterer is inexplicably a no-show, so while they’re waiting, the Veggie crew puts on a Christmas production like nothing you’ve ever heard. The theme is Christmas Around the World. As Pa Grape describes it, “Kinda like Missionary Week. Without the food.”
This is definitely one of the most original Christmas projects I have, and I’m not joking when I say it’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s constructed as a running series of skits, interspersing the songs with off-the-wall banter and typical guest/party chatter, Veggie style. (“Larry, where’s the food?” “I dunno, shoulda been here by now.” “Bob, where’s the bathroom?” “Down the hall, first door on the left.”) Connecting tracks are literally labeled with titles like “Talking,” “More Talking,” and “Vegetables Talking to Sheep.” Like Pet Sounds or The White Album, this one has to be appreciated as a whole.
“Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” — Dylan Thomas
Since this film is still showing in IMAX theaters, and since it’s still my favorite film of the year, I thought it appropriate to put out my review of Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar. Grappling with Big Questions about Life, the Universe and Everything, with characters I cared about, set against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of astrophysics geekery… what more could I ask for? As my dad said on our way out of the theater, “I might come up with something to dislike about it. Next year.” But in truth, that’s not quite accurate. I do have some criticisms of the film. They’re just outweighed by the positives.
In brief, the premise is that some time in the near future, Earth’s crops are plagued by blight, and the atmosphere is slowly becoming unbreathable. In this 21st century dustbowl, we’re introduced to former NASA pilot/engineer turned farmer Joseph Cooper (“Coop”), played by Matthew McConaughey. Coop is a restless soul, a man born out of due time. In the words of his father-in-law, he “was good at something and never got a chance to use it.” He can’t pretend to like farming. But the world needs farmers, not engineers, and he’ll do anything to carve out a life for his two children.
His daughter Murphy is preternaturally smart. So when she starts to report some paranormal happenings, Coop is puzzled and skeptical. Books are falling off her shelf by themselves, she says. A small ship model is found inexplicably broken on the floor. Her theory? “I looked it up. It’s called a poltergeist.”
“That’s not very scientific, Murph,” murmurs Papa with mild disapproval.
“You said science is about admitting what we don’t know.”
The kid’s got a point. And a knack for foreshadowing dialogue.
“This is Christmas chaos, reminding you that you COULD take a day off and relax. But then you’d be a jerk, and everyone would hate you.”
(This video is brought to you courtesy of Igniter Media, whose video player is sadly un-embeddable. So take a peek here and thank yourself later.)
This Christmas I… uh, I mean the Grinch thought he would get a few complaints off his chest about people who mess with the lyrics of old Christmas carols. To be clear, the Grinch is not unhappy with these carols themselves. The Grinch loves Christmas carols. It’s just that the Grinch doesn’t like what some people have done with them.
Sometimes there’s a not-so-subtle agenda at work, as when a lyric is truly mangled to be more politically correct (removing all references to men or the male pronoun, for example). Sometimes it’s a more innocent but still painful attempt to be “helpful” when it comes to a slightly archaic turn of phrase. Some more contemporary adapters have mistakenly thought they understood grammar better than the original writers, so, bumblingly, they actually make things worse.
One of Grammar Grinch’s pet peeves is a verse in one popular set of lyrics to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Unfortunately, some of his favorite musical renditions of this carol, from the Annie Moses Band to the Cathedrals, have a sadly corrupted version of one of the verses that hopelessly scrambles the grammar. The problem line is bolded:
In Bethlehem of Judah the blessed babe was born
And laid within a manger upon this blessed morn
To which his mother Mary did nothing take in scorn
Oh tidings of comfort, etc.
No, no, no! You’re making Grammar Grinch cry.
I got all my finals out of the way in one fell swoop this week (graph theory in the [early] morning, advanced calculus at noon, advanced linear algebra in the afternoon, yeah baby), and it sure feels good! Here are a few inspiring tunes that got me through this trying time. They’ve spoken to my heart. May they speak to yours.
The Morning Of
“Don’t Stop,” Fleetwood Mac
One Down, Two to Go
“Stayin’ Alive,” the Bee Gees
Oh yes, I did so do an epic walk between buildings to this one. Thanks Mom.
“Sanity’s Side,” Little River Band
(But seriously now folks, this one is a GREAT tune. File under “most underrated pop gems ever.”):
“Roll With the Changes,” REO Speedwagon
“Gentlemen, shall we attempt this one?”
*Note: Studio track mixed with crowd roars. Still awesome.
Attention, southern gospel fans in the vicinity of Monroe, MI: I’ve been informed that some artists are holding a benefit concert this Friday the 12th to raise support for SG promoter Victor Seaton, who’s had some health problems recently. From the press release:
For well over three decades, Seaton has been one of the main promoters of not just Southern Gospel concerts, but numerous Christian Events in the state of Michigan, as well as in regions throughout Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and West Virginia. Through Seaton’s efforts and support, audiences spanning generations have enjoyed the artistry of legendary groups including The Cathedral Quartet, Gold City, The Kingsmen, and Bill Gaither; the region has also come to know such talented artists as Greater Vision, Legacy Five, The Booth Brothers, and many others active in the industry today.
The venue is Liberty Missionary Baptist Church. The trio formerly known as Declaration (now official as Allegiance since a rock band nixed their old name) will be performing. Michigan SG blogger Brian Fuson is helping to organize the event and will also be performing with his wife and their group the Sammons Family. If you have not seen Allegiance Trio in concert, I highly recommend them. They have an excellent blend and a great future in southern gospel. I can also say without bias that Brian holds down a rock solid baritone!
Admission is free, love offering will be taken. Call Brian at 734-626-0376, or visit http://www.sammonsmusic.com for more info. If you’re a Michigander who loves good old-fashioned gospel singing, check your calendar and check it out.
“What are we gonna do about the tree?”
Much ink has been spilled about the grand jury verdict in Ferguson that was handed down last week and its violent aftermath, as black citizens took to the streets and commenced rioting, looting and burning their own town down. It would weary me to enumerate every instance of smug talk-talk that was churned out, hastening to remind “white evangelicals” that racism is still a Problem and they shouldn’t “use the riots as an excuse” to “not listen to their African-American brothers and sisters” about it. (What’s that, the evidence overwhelmingly implies that so-called systemic racism was a non-factor in this case? Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts.) Reformed pastor Thabiti Anyabwile even tried to dispute the verdict with his own legal analysis of the case. I can only conclude that Rev. Anyabwile should stick to his day-job.
The most nauseating thing about it all was that while these opinion-makers could fill paragraph after paragraph with concerned noises about how their “African-American brothers and sisters” might have had their feelings hurt by the verdict, they seemed incapable of sparing more than a couple lines for the “African-American brothers and sisters” whose livelihoods were being destroyed by their fellow black men as the presses rolled. But for most people, that was apparently too uncomfortable to think about for more than a couple lines. The best thing “white evangelicals” could do right now, apparently, was to “stop talking and listen.” Because presumably, talking volubly and forcefully about the evil of the rioters and the need to stop them with force if necessary would be “insensitive.” Or “poorly timed.” Or something. As for the innocent people of Ferguson, yes, yes, of course, everyone agrees that burning their businesses down is bad. Now, hastily moving on to spend the next two pages blathering about white privilege.
Meanwhile, I’m listening to sound bites on the radio of one of these mobs screaming obscenities and death threats. “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” Over and over and over again. Continue reading