Date Night: The Joshua Tree Live

the joshua tree

by John Ellis

This evening, U2 stops in Washington DC on the band’s The Joshua Tree tour. Released thirty years ago, en route to selling over 25 million copies, The Joshua Tree propelled U2 to superstar status. Containing the singles “With or Without You,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “Where the Streets Have No Name,”[1] The Joshua Tree is one of the greatest albums in rock history. Depending on the day, it’s also my favorite album of all time; it’s biggest competition being Achtung Baby, another U2 album. In fact, when asked, I usually name U2 as my favorite band of all time. All that combined has left me as giddily excited as a ten-year-old on Christmas Eve as I impatiently count down the remaining hours before tonight’s concert.

Continue reading

Music to Play for Your Baby While She Naps

sleeping-baby-girl

by John Ellis

If you are a new parent, you should be terrified! Raising your new baby is a one-shot deal, and, statistically speaking, you are going to mess that one shot up. Every choice you make from here on out is going to help determine whether your cute baby will end up as a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company or sporting a face tattoo while doing time in a federal penitentiary. Considering that there are far more people sporting face tattoos inside of federal penitentiaries than there are who are CEO’s of Fortune 500 Companies, there is a much, much greater likelihood that your new baby is going to end up a felon rather than a CEO. Thankfully, I’m here to help.

Continue reading

David & Goliath: A Tale of Two Songs

DavidAndGoliathGettyImages-91727886

by John Ellis

If the Old Testament stories were to be ranked based on popularity, the story of David and Goliath would undoubtedly rank in the top-three. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people’s list didn’t rank the tale as number-one. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Sunday School or VBS is familiar with the story of the young Israelite who was destined to become king taking down the Philistine giant with only a sling. The Biblical story is so ubiquitous, in fact, that “David and Goliath” has become a cultural colloquialism used to refer to any underdog tale. Sadly, though, the story of David and Goliath is as misunderstood as it is popular.

Continue reading

The 10 Best Hymns of All Time

hymnal

by John Ellis

Ranking hymns was supposed to be easy. When the idea first came to me, I assumed that minimal effort would be required (both in thought and in execution), and that the end result would yield high reward (page clicks and discussion). While I have yet to discover if the second half of my assumption is correct, the first half has proven laughably wrong. There are several reasons for that: 1. There are a lot of excellent hymns out there. 2. Choosing what I believe are the best hymns of all time seems weighted with far more import than when I’m ranking the pop music released during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, for example. 3. Every single person I asked, listed different songs than those I was considering. 4. I don’t hold to as clearly defined and strict of a definition of “hymn” as hymnody nerds do. Strangely, the opinions of hymnody nerds actually matter to me. And, 5. My pastor (boss) reads what I write, and if I choose incorrectly, he will be sure to let me know. Probably over and over. In front of people. I am risking scorn by ranking the best hymns of all time.

Continue reading

Lead Me Home by Jill Phillips: A Beautiful Collection of Hymns

jill-phillipsby John Ellis

I love hymns. However, that wasn’t always the case. I’ve always loved listening to music, but, more often than not, over the course of my life, that music was far afield from the hymn genre. While I’m not sure if it’s a product of having reached middle-age or my sanctification (probably both), I find myself listening to hymns more and more. Not only is the artistry in hymns rich, but the message of that artistry is often directly connected to a robust theology. While recognizing that all good art glorifies God, there is something satisfying about drinking from the majestic artistic well filled with songs written for the explicit purpose of magnifying the name of God.

In order to feed my growing appetite for hymns, I remain on the lookout for albums that feature mostly hymns. Which, oddly, has proven more difficult of a task than I would’ve guessed a few years ago. Thankfully, this past December, at Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert, I was introduced to Jill Phillips who had recently released Lead Me Home, an album of hymns and gospel songs.

Continue reading

The Best Country Songs of the 90s

garth-brooks

by John Ellis

In high school, there were essentially two types of music that I liked – the music that I liked when whatever girl I was dating was not around, and the music that I liked when whatever girl I was dating was around. Generally, the second classification included lots of country music, and the first included lots of grunge and metal. Looking back, I now realize the truth of Dream a Little Dream. Starring the two Coreys, the movie contains a scene in which the tension between the different high school factions comes to a violent head. Before the violence can extend past undoing, Corey Haim’s character pleads that one day, they will all look back and forget that they were enemies; they will one day view each other as high school friends. In other words, the John Ellis that loved grunge and metal was friends with the John Ellis that loved country music and Richard Marx. I can see that now.

Continue reading

Album Review: Red Sea Road by Ellie Holcomb

ellieholcomb2

by John Ellis

Three years after Ellie Holcomb released her successful debut LP, As Sure As the Sun, the Nashville based musician delivers a sophomore album, Red Sea Road, that delivers on the promise of excellence embedded in her debut album. Matching its aesthetic excellence, Red Sea Road has a thematic solidity that is rarely found in pop music.

Continue reading