Rachel Kurtz has for her entire career offered listeners outstanding blues-inflected gospel music. I love her stuff, listen to it often, and have even hosted her at East Koshkonong Lutheran Church a few years ago as she led our worship in Wisconsin. I plan to bring her down to Arkansas as soon as possible.
She's the real deal.
She also happens to work creatively with a ton of musicians in the "Lutheran rock musicians" constellation. Many of these musicians appear on her new album.
Her new album is a game-changer. Broken & Lowdown takes things to a whole new level. It's like a category shift, a taking flight. It's incredible.
If you only buy one album in 2012, make this one the one. Seriously. It's like a mashup of Grace Potter, Hugh Laurie, and Pink Martinis. It has the vocal awesomeness of Grace, the tight bluesy crispness of Hugh, and the clever references and humor of Pink Martini. Of course, the album is much more than the sum of these parts, nor is it derivative of these musicians.
It's its own unique thing, and it is a break-out album for Rachel. I'm so proud of her it gives me shivers.
Rachel headlined one evening of the recent ELCA National Youth Gathering. She sang the theme song of the gathering, "Make a Difference." She also offered a concert of songs from her new album Thursday evening of the gathering at the Marriott. To a packed crowd, including our Bishop Mark Hanson and other headlining speakers and musicians.
"Make a Difference" is a solid worship song. But if you have just heard this song during the Wednesday plenary session, it won't give you a complete sense of what the album is like.
Instead, you need to hear "Poison," "Holy Rollers," and "I Saw You" to get a sense of the rootsy gospel blues-iness of this album. Those songs all by themselves would turn in a great Rachel Kurtz album.
But then she breaks out into other forms and genres that lend a breadth and richness to the album. She adapts Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (one quibble--I want to hear Rachel sing that song with Leonard's words, which I find perfectly matched with the song itself), mixes it up with folk-rocker Nate Houge on "His and Her's" and "You Fooled Me," turns in a great hip-hop indie number with Agape on "Suffering," and offers a theologically rich worship anthem with "We say that God is Love."
This is what Christian rock is supposed to be like. This is what Christian rock can be. And it is by our very own Lutheran gospel-rocker, Rachel Kurtz.