Daniel Amos released their self-titled debut album in 1976. They originally had a country sound. By 1978 they had recorded their first full rock album HORRENDOUS DISC which ended up on Larry Norman’s Solid Rock Records. It did not, however, get released until 1981. Daniel Amos toured and performed quite a bit with Randy Stonehill in the 1970’s and appeared on a few of his albums. The band are known as Christian alternative music pioneers. Fans praise albums such as ALARMA! (1981), VOX HUMANA (1984), and KALHOUN (1991). It has been twelve years since their last album, the highly acclaimed double disc MR. BUECHNER’S DREAM. Their new release is DIG HERE SAID THE ANGEL (2013, Stunt Records). It was produced by Terry Scott Taylor, and engineered by Derri Daugherty and Mark Zellmer. Unless otherwise noted, all lyrics are by Terry Scott Taylor and music is by Taylor and the rest of the guys in the band. The record is dedicated to the late Tom Howard and is 55:01 in length.
‘Forward in Reverse’ is a soothing pop song. Terry Taylor has always had a unique way of speaking about Jesus and spiritual truths. Witness these lyrics: ”I saw a shepherd king freefalling/Off a throne of mud and straw/He landed on a bed of nails/Proclaiming ‘Love’s the only law’/I saw a dead man who’d been buried/Walk around outside his grave/The one’s we’re told are not worth saving/Are the one’s now being saved.” Next up is ‘Jesus Wept’. Of course, that is also the shortest verse in the Bible. We know that Jesus was acquainted with grief. This song reminds us that crosses must proceed crowns: “Another bad guy wins/More good friends die/They mounted up like eagles/Now they’re dropping like flies/I cry ‘Let me out’/You’re saying ‘No, not yet’/Before He danced, Jesus wept.” The song is musically upbeat pop.
The title track ‘Dig Here Said the Angel’ has a dark rock feel to it. It touches on our mortality: “’Dig here’, said the angel/I asked ‘My heart or my grave?’/’Maybe both’, said the angel/’Things can go either way.../’Here’s the catch’ said the angel/’You’re gonna suffer for a while’/’I’ll tell you straight’, said the angel/’Don’t plan to go out in style.’” ‘Our New Testament Best’ will appeal to fans of Pink Floyd. It has a classic rock sound and speaks of choosing to be compassionate: “You could go old-school on me/And not spare the lash/You could bash, smash me baby/Throw me out with the trash/But you thought better of it/Your love had mercy, mercy, mercy on me/Better of it/Mercy, mercy, mercy, on me/Better of it/Mercy, mercy, mercy/We got dressed in our New Testament best/And thought better of it.”
‘Love, Grace, Mercy’ makes uses of church bell and tambourine sounds. The song admits that God’s ways are higher and often opposed to how we would choose things to be done: “You’ve got Your methods/I’m done with trying to solve Your moves/I’m going where You want me to go/I’ve got nothing left to lose/Now I don’t wanna suffer/But that’s in fact the nature of the beast/If you want to get to higher ground/You got to get there on your knees.” ‘Now that I’ve Died’ seems written from the perspective of a believer already in heaven, but could just as well be a sarcastic song given Taylor’s angry vocal delivery: “I can’t hurt you now or harm anyone/I’m too busy helping people and having fun/I’m not a loner anymore since I joined the tribe/On the other side/And I love my neighbor as I love myself/I’m loved by God, I’ve got my health/I’m going strong and becoming wise/I couldn’t lie if I tried/Now that I’ve died!”
‘We’ll all Know Soon Enough’ is a song that many who are frustrated with God will relate to: “We were anxious for our prayers to be answered/But our angels were distracted and so slow/We were hoping for a few quick fixes/But we found ourselves still down in the hole/Now we’re thinking that our prayers/Aren’t answered/’Cuz when it came, the answer was ‘No’”. ‘Waking Up Under Water’ was penned by Jerry Chamberlain and Terry Scott Taylor. Musically, it is experimental and quirky. It is about fantasizing about utopia: “I close my eyes and she’s there for me/Our lucky number wins the lottery/I finish my book, turn in my masterpiece/Will wonders never cease?.../I close my eyes and I close the deal/The world quakes when my power’s revealed/Whenever I prayed, the answer was ‘Yes!’/I never tasted death.”
‘The Uses of Adversity’ is a strong song that reminds us that it is dangerous for us as humans to come to a place where we feel we have God all figured out: “You’re much too small if You’re not a Mystery/So don’t send me rain if I bloom in drought/No, don’t send me certainty/If somehow it’s best for me to doubt.../I found Your handprints in the pages of history/I said Your ways are past finding out.”
‘The Ruthless Hum of Dread’ is very subdued musically. It finds the band longing for eternal bliss: “Let me go deep inside Your safehouse love and light/Beyond the clang of the alarm/And imagine a long rest/Last kisses and a sweet death/Free to float above Your arms/Into the company of angels/A final turning of the tables/My old flesh a misery shed/Forever young and light enough/To dance among/The stars above/My head, my head (2X).” The album ends with the beautiful ballad ‘The Sun Shines on Everyone’ which effectively uses an 18 member Sunshine Street Choir. This song urges us to love everyone as God does: “The sun shines on everyone (2X)/The good, the bad, on everyone/See it shine/The rain falls on everyone/A common grace for everyone/On the human race comes rain and sun/Grace for all/Baby, don’t isolate them, no/Baby, don’t castigate them, no/Baby, don’t eradicate them, no/The angels will separate them, so/In the meantime, let it go.”
DIG HERE SAID THE ANGEL is a creative musical masterpiece with thought-provoking lyrics. It is miles ahead of 80% of what is being played on Christian radio these days. Terry Scott Taylor, born on May 24, 1950, still has plenty to say. The Christianity presented here is very real and down to earth, and not pie in the sky. I’m rating this album 90%. For more info visit www.danielamos.com.