Barry McGuire, et al.: For the Bride. In the mid-70s, Christian rock radio didn’t exist. One of the local rock stations had a one hour Christian music show one night a week. That must be where I discovered Barry McGuire, who had been in the New Christy Minstrels, had a hit with “Eve of Destruction,” and performed in “Hair” before coming to faith. This collaboration with “Second Chapter of Acts” and “A Band called David” was my introduction to the first generation of Christian rock. These days McGuire sometimes performs with John York (formerly of the Byrds), doing acoustic versions of 60s hits.
Buck’s Stove and Range Company: North on the Highway. A banjo in my hands makes noise, not music. I’m a hack on the mandolin. And I don’t have the chops to play bluegrass leads on the guitar. But I love bluegrass music. This album, released in the late 70's or early 80's by an Indiana-based band, was the first real bluegrass record I owned. Would I have eventually loved Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Jerry Douglass, New Grass Revival, or the Nashville Bluegrass Band if it hadn’t been for Buck’s Stove and Range Company? (This is probably out of print; but you can find it on YouTube.)
Grateful Dead: American Beauty. The Grateful Dead began as a jug band (think banjos, acoustic guitars, and a doghouse bass), and returned to their folkie roots after experimenting with blues rock, free jazz, and psychedelia. American Beauty is my favorite album from their largely acoustic, country/folk/rock (think Crosby Stills & Nash) era. “Ripple” and “Friend of the Devil” are two of my favorite songs ever. Is it weird that “Friend of the Devil” is one of a pastor’s favorite songs?
Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Spinning Round the Sun. You might know Jimmie Dale Gilmore from his appearance as “Smokey” in “The Big Lebowski,” or from his musical collaborations with Dave Alvin of the Blasters. Even if you’ve never heard of him, you owe it to yourself to listen to Gilmore’s 1993 “contemporary folk” album, “Spinning Round the Sun.” This is probably Gilmore’s most commercial recording, and contains so many finely written tunes I won’t even name one because that wouldn’t be fair to the others. This is still one of my daughters’ favorite albums.
Pat Green: Wave on Wave. Pat Green is a brilliant Texas songwriter who never got the attention or success he deserves. CMT tried to put him over in the early and mid 2000's, but his sound was a little too traditional, old fashioned, country to gain mass appeal. One of my clearest musical memories is sitting in my third traffic jam of the day while hearing Green sing “But I’m stranded in Los Angeles.” Green is an Episcopalian, but when you hear the Christian imagery in the title track and other songs on this album, you might assume this Texan is a Southern Baptist.