Thursday, August 23, 2007

the Trumpet Child

Last Thursday a wonderful package arrived in my mailbox at the seminary. Quivering with delight to receive anything in a media mail envelope I tore through its adhesive tape to find Over the Rhine’s latest studio album: The Trumpet Child. Ever the artists, this album is no different. That is to say it is an artistic beauty. A wandering through American music…folk, jazz, and alt-country. OTR has released 2 live albums, a Christmas album and a greatest hits album since their last studio set Drunkard’s Prayer. Drunkard’s Prayer was an amazing album of confession and truth telling describing the reclaiming of Karin and Linford’s marriage its honesty and weight is palpable. TC, their 10th album carries a welcomed lighter and more playful tone and exploration of their craft. But again, this is no pop album. It is a poetic and musical wrestling with topics ranging from sexuality to eschatology.

Despite the wonderful variety of songs on the cd, the title track to the album was the one that caught my attention. In the liner notes of Films For Radio, the pair picks up on Flannery O’Conner’s phrase describing their music as “Christ haunted.” While their music is definitely that, some songs are a little more explicit…like the Trumpet Child. It is eschatology in a musical key. The creative pairing of Gabriel and Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) to beautifully announce the return is captivating. In the second section we see a present reality to what will happen. The third tells us why…God’s love for creation. They also continue on with the musical theme by referencing Thelonious Monk, the well known jazz drummer. And this kingdom to come moves by a different cadence than this one. OTR seems to be a pan-millennialist (i.e. that it will all pan out in the end), cherishing mystery over certainty. Their vision of the return certainly shows a social re-orientation where the rich exchange what is lesser for what is greater and the hunter rests with the hunted. And again, the two return to the theme of love and joy for God’s greater purposes in spite of humanity’s destructive tendencies. A beautiful song.

the Trumpet Child
The trumpet child will blow his horn
Will blast the sky till it’s reborn
With Gabriel’s power and Satchmo’s grace
He will surprise the human race

The trumpet he will use to blow
Is being fashioned out of fire
The mouthpiece is a glowing coal
The bell a burst of wild desire

The trumpet child will riff on love
Thelonious notes from up above
He’ll improvise a kingdom come
Accompanied by a different drum
The trumpet child will banquet here
Until the lost are truly found
A thousand days, a thousand years
Nobody knows for sure how long

The rich forget about their gold
The meek and mild are strangely bold
A lion lies beside a lamb
And licks a murderer’s outstretched hand

The trumpet child will lift a glass
His bride now leaning in at last
His final aim to fill with joy
The earth that man all but destroyed