Music with Soul


Matt Labash considers "the question that has haunted Christians for centuries":

Proto-Jesus rocker Larry Norman actually crystallized it in song once, asking "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?"–a question that purportedly dates back to Martin Luther, who asked it concerning his own hymnody when he was attacked for appropriating tavern songs. The understanding of Christian and heathen alike has been that when God banished Satan, He kept all the key stuff: the clouds, the mansions, the streets paved with gold. But as a sop for assigning Lucifer to an eternity in fiery darkness, he gave him most of the good music. Satan got the Rolling Stones and Robert Johnson. God kept Debby Boone and George Beverly Shea.

But a new six-CD boxed set, Goodbye, Babylon, shows God may have been slyer than originally thought–having held in reserve long-forgotten and recently discovered gems that have been dusted off by Lance Ledbetter, a twenty-seven-year-old Atlanta software installer and former deejay. Having become obsessed with sacred music from the early part of the last century, Ledbetter scoured the bins and collections of knowledgeable musicologists over a five-year period, enlisting help from everyone he could lay hands on, including his father, who pulled appropriate Scripture passages as companion notes for songs. He financed this labor of love on his credit cards.

What he came up with is 135 songs and 25 sermons–the largest collection of American sacred music ever assembled. Instead of relinquishing control to some major label, Ledbetter put the whole thing out on his own start-up label, Dust-to-Digital.

It's a fun article: part memoir of Labash's evangelical upbringing, part putdown of "Contemporary Christian" pablum, part review of what sounds like a terrific collection.

[Via Terry Teachout, who also offers some sensible thoughts on the differences between Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Like Teachout I'm a Keaton man all the way.]