Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rachel Kurtz is On Fire!

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.



  1. Anonymous9:26 PM

    Good on Ya Rachel! -Ben Tucker

  2. Jean Summers9:50 PM

    Couldn't agree more!!!

  3. Sam Ehrlich10:34 PM

    While I both support and concur with your raving review, I fully disagree with your Leonard Cohen remark and challenge you to reconsider. Both the revised arrangement and the updated lyrics take a beautiful and familar melody and somewhat sterile lyrics and incorporates faith and issues that ignites a large enough deep soul call to action that turns even the heads of the likes of Cohen himself. Thought provoking. Challenging. Inspiring. Leonard is left admiring the new lyrics, refreshed accompaniment and the incomparable vocal gift of Kurtz.

    In all honesty, a review must contain some ounce of criticism to remain I hear you, but it is difficult to find a dent on this solid masterpiece of an album!

    Summed up in the comment of a Super Dome employee not familiar with the work of Kurtz, "if she hasn't 'made it', she just did!"

    Well done our Rachel, now we must share you with the world!

  4. I did need I felt to include one criticism, not a major one. And it arises more out of my desire for songs to keep their original lyrics. I have never found the original song to have sterile lyrics. I do think her new version has merits. And btw, are you saying Leonard Cohen has heard and responded to Rachel's version? But mostly I'd hate to pay too much attention to the one quibble, and instead attend to how awesome the album is...


  5. Sam Ehrlich11:22 PM

    I'm guessing Leonard has not heard it, YET! If we speak with authority, perhaps we will it so! This album speaks for itself. In the words of Clint, "awesome..."

  6. You really are influential Clint. I just listened to the sample based on your recommendation and liked what I heard. Album downloading as I write. Thanks!

  7. Thanks all. I forgot to mention that Rachel in the liner notes to the album mentions that she considers this album her emergence as a song-writer. And that is definitely what it is. I can hear her voice, her style in these songs.

    The album cover happens to be gorgeous as well.

  8. Confession: The one time I wept openly during the gathering was when she led us in "Hallelujah" in the Lutherdome. Still can't put my finger on it but I simply was turned inside out by the 30somethousand singing of it. And the balloons :). Beautiful moments.

  9. I cry every time I sing that song. Every time. It is powerful!