Saturday, December 17, 2011


     Randy Stonehill truly is a legend of Contemporary Christian Music.  It's been an amazing forty years since the release of his debut album BORN TWICE.  In this span of time, he has given us such memorable songs as 'King of Hearts', 'Shut De Do', 'Turning Thirty', and 'Great Big Stupid World'.  Of his latest album SPIRIT WALK (2011, Stonehillian Records) a press release states: "In whole SPIRIT WALK, strings together songs that only a veteran of a steady walk with Jesus over many years could sing with such conviction."  It also states: SPIRIT WALK is the second album Mike Pachelli has co-produced for Randy Stonehill-after PARADISE SKY (2008).  His contribution of bluesy guitar and authentic American production complements these songs and gives a quality of authority to the wisdom Randy sings."  I would agree on all counts!
     SPIRIT WALK starts off with 'Blood Transfusion and a Coca Cola' which features Dylanesque vocals by Randy.  The song begins with these words from a seasoned performer: "I got a touch of arthritis in my hips/Got a bird's eye view of the apocalypse/I got blisters on my fingertips/From tryin' to hold my life with a real tight grip/My ears are still ringin' from the gibberish and lies/These shifting sands have worn a lot of tread off my tires."  'Remember the Devil' features mean guitar playing by Mike Pachelli, and Baba Elefante on bass.  Baba has worked with Michael Sweet and John Elefante.  The song issues a spiritual warning: "Careful of the company you keep/Might be a wolf dressed up like a sheep/Remember the devil/He remembers you/He never makes a fair deal/Believe that's true/Know that His best trick is this-to make you think he doesn't exist/Remember the devil/He remembers you."  The title track has Ronnie Ciago on drums and paints a vivid picture of temptation and the spiritual state of society today: "The devil slid up to me/He said 'Why don't we have a little chat?'/I got a bit suspicious when he refused to let me take his hand/He said 'I know about your unfulfilled desires, I can help you out with that'/I said 'That's awfully tempting/I guess that's the business that you're in/What would you need for payment?'/He just looked down with a sheepish grin/I said 'I think I'll pass'/He said 'That's okay but I'll be back again'/It don't take Nostradamus to tell you how the chips are gonna fall/Open up your Bible, you don't need some gypsy's crystal ball/The way things are these days/Even Ray Charles could see the writing on the wall."
     'Life is Tough, God is Good' has a raw, bare bones feel to it.  Mike and Randy play the wood case, tray table, tambourine, African Cloves, shaker, finger cymbals and kalimba.  These words of wisdom are shared in the song: "Life is short, truth to tell/And it's not a dress rehearsal so live it well/Life is short, don't you blink/It isn't going to work out the way you think/It's a broken world with broken souls/We might not always be happy but we can be whole/And Jesus hung on the cross to make sure we could/Life is tough, sure enough/But God is good."  'Try Havin' Some Faith' is the most pop sounding track.  I would've like to have heard Larry Norman, Randy's deceased one time mentor, on background vocals.  The song tells the story of a modern prodigal: "He left home to be a star/He went and sold his soul right after he had to sell his car/Oh poor brother/Guess nobody told you for goodness sake/Try havin' some faith."  Lyrics like these point to hope: "Love will prove that doubt's a lie" and "You'll see when you open up your eyes."  'Broken Places' is written with Rob Crosby.  It has a worshipful feel to it, with just Randy on vocals and acoustic guitar.  It has God calling out to the prodigal: "You might think it's been too long, the road that leads back home is gone/But love's a thing that don't keep track of time/And you can't ever leave My love, can't ever leave My love/You can't ever leave My love behind/I'll meet you in the broken places/In the shadows of your pain/In a sea of stranger's faces/I will find you, stand beside you/Anytime you call My name."
     'Pray for Me' has Mike Pachelli playing some absolutely sizzling guitar work.  Lance Abair is on B3 and Wurlitzer, and a choir is also used.  The song includes this revealing plea: "Pray for me/I'm feelin' so weak/Pray for me/I can't get no sleep/Temptation won't let me be/Won't ya pray, won't ya pray for me/Darkness all around me/Of the world that's lost in sin/But the thing that I fear most/Is the darkness here within/Pray for me."  'That's where the Devil Lives' has creative, dark, demonic sounding background vocals by Randy and Mike to go along with these descriptive words of the devil's home turf: "Some say the devil isn't real/That makes him laugh out loud/He'll happily agree with you/And melt into the crowd/He smiles like an angel, but a serpent lies beneath/When he comes up close/You'll see the blood stains on his teeth/That's where the devil lives."  Stonehill's lyrics also make it clear that the devil loves unbelief and pride.
     Fans of some of Randy's lighter fare such as 'Christmas at Denny's' will appreciate the softer sound of 'Last Time I saw Eden' which includes these poetic, well written lyrics: "The last time I saw Eden I was standing in the rain/Down among some broken railroad tracks/I met a fallen angel waiting for a northbound train/He said 'I fear it's never coming back'/And now even in these crowds I feel alone/An orphan always aching for home/I'm longing for the mystery I had known/The last time I saw Eden."  'Finish Well' is another tender tune with Mike on lap steel and accordion among other things, and John Sferra of Glass Harp fame on drums.  Randy offers these words of advice: "They're a million shining highways that take you down to Babylon/Oh but it's the road less travelled that leads you from the darkness to the dawn/Folks will say you're just a simple fool/As they chase the fickle butterfly of cool/And everyone has some agenda they're trying to sell/Point your heart like an arrow/Walk the straight and narrow/Finish well."
     SPIRIT WALK is definitely one of my favourite albums of 2011.  Musically, lyrically, and artistically it trumps much of what is popular on CCM radio stations today.  This just may be the best album of Stonehill's career!  I'm recommending it to fans of bluesy acts such as The Rolling Stones, the 77's, Glenn Kaiser, and Larry Howard.  Those who enjoyed Stonehill's 2002 project EDGE OF THE WORLD should also give this a spin.  I'm rating SPIRIT WALK 90%.  For more info visit or go to to purchase.  Also, to learn more about the artist Ray Ware, who is responsible for the front cover, "The Spirit Came Upon Him", visit