I visited my mother in Iowa Saturday and yesterday and went to church with her yesterday morning. She is a long-time member of a large Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation. My sister, brother and I were all raised in that church.
Since leaving the Lutheran Church when I was saved years ago, I’ve come to expect much apostasy from it. The Bible has always seemed optional there, in no small part I suspect to their having taken so many positions in opposition to what God teaches and commands in it. But I was surprised with the preaching in the early service yesterday.
The senior pastor, a man I’d guess to be in his mid fifties, preached on transfiguration. The text which was the starting point of his sermon was from Exodus.
Exodus 34:29-35 (KJV)
29: And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
30: And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
31: And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.
32: And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
33: And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.
34: But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
35: And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
He used a different translation, but that’s not critical. During the sermon, this pastor talked about how Moses’ face shone after he came down from speaking with God on the mountain and how Moses would go back to talk with God whenever the shine wore off. As if God were some sort of on-demand service for Moses – or maybe that Moses was using God for his own benefit – neither of which are described in the Bible.
Actually, I don’t recall the Bible ever describing Moses as going up on the mountain again to talk with God. Maybe I’m mistaken there, but the people of Israel built the tabernacle right after this event and God spoke to Aaron and Moses from there.
That’s not the odd, sad sinful part of his message, though.
The pastor then compared Moses’ behavior in replenishing the shine on his face with a girl who goes on spring break in Florida taking one last opportunity to work on her suntan on the beach before returning home.
Let that sink in for a minute.
The number of ways this is wrong are many. First, the pastor was prompting those listening to his message to think of a young woman in a bikini bathing suit laying on the beach. He didn’t say bikini, but I rather doubt you sunbathe in any kind of modest swimsuit, if there even is such a thing.
Second, he was prompting those listening to his message to think about spring break and the kinds of activities that frequently go on there.
Third, the pastor was comparing the effects of being in the presence of the purity and holiness of God to being in the presence of sin.
Fourth, he was comparing a vain, selfish act that serves the wants and desires of that person with an act of obedience to God and service to God’s people.
And fifth, in making this comparison in a positive way, he was not only not condemning this type of behavior, he was in effect promoting it. Moses did something that was of God and was good, so, by positive comparison, this other behavior must also be good.
Paul wrote this in Romans 14:13.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
Jesus himself said this in Matthew 18:6-7.
6: But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
7: Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
As I mentioned, I’ve come to expect apostasy from the Lutheran church. But deliberately putting stumblingblocks in the paths of people to whom you’re responsible seemed new to me. Given many of the positions the ELCA has taken and preached to its members, maybe it shouldn’t have been.
Woe to the man by whom the offence cometh indeed.
Dave Barry, former column writer for the Miami Herald, noted author and owner of a very wry sense of humor, has written his annual year in review – cleverly enough for 2015 this year. Go and read. You’ll enjoy it, I’m sure.
As you might imagine, there is a lot of scripture about the birth of Jesus Christ. This scripture can be split into five sections.
- Prophecy about the coming birth of Jesus.
- Mary is told about the coming birth of Jesus.
- Joseph is told about the coming birth of Jesus and what he should do about it.
- The actual birth of Jesus.
- The angels praising God, telling the shepherds about what had happened, and the shepherds seeing for themselves and praising God.
Here is scripture from each of these sections. I believe it is well worth reading this Christmas season.
1. Prophecy About the Coming Birth of Jesus
A. A son will be born of a virgin and named Immanuel.
14: Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
B. Jesus will be born in Bethlehem.
1: Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.
2: But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
C. Jesus will be born in the lineage of Judah. (Shiloh in this verse is the Messiah.)
10: The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
D. Jesus will be a descendant of Jesse and will rule the earth through a
1: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
2: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3: And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
5: And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
6: The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7: And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8: And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
9: They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
10: And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
E. Jesus will be a descendant of David.
5: Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
2. Mary is Told About the Coming Birth of Jesus
26: And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27: To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name [was] Mary.
28: And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, [thou that art] highly favoured, the Lord [is] with thee: blessed [art] thou among women.
29: And when she saw [him], she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30: And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31: And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32: He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34: Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35: And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36: And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37: For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38: And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
3. Joseph is Told About the Coming Birth of Jesus and What He Should Do About It
18: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19: Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
20: But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22: Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24: Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
4. The Actual Birth of Jesus
Luke 2:1-7, 21
1: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2: ([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3: And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4: And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5: To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6: And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7: And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
21: And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
5. The Angels Praising God, Telling the Shepherds About What Had Happened, and the Shepherds Seeing for Themselves and Praising God
8: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9: And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10: And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12: And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15: And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16: And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17: And when they had seen [it], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18: And all they that heard [it] wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19: But Mary kept all these things, and pondered [them] in her heart.
20: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
The prophecy section was adapted from 100prophecies.org. The other sections were adapted from A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ, by A. T. Robertson. The scripture itself is from the 1769 King James Version of the Holy Bible, also known as the Authorized Version.
Another part of the process of selecting a new webhost and moving my WordPress weblogs to it that I’d have loved more help with was the process of selecting the webhost. My needs for a webhost aren’t huge. I run three weblogs, all on WordPress, each with their own SQL database, all under one domain name. My needs for hard disk space and bandwidth are low. Customer service responsiveness was important to me, as that’s the reason I left my previous webhost. (More on that below.)
The webhost needed to support the minimum requirements for running WordPress and my preference was for site management through cPanel, as I am familiar with it. And I do this as a hobby so I didn’t want to tie up a bunch of money supporting it.
I learned that those are very manageable requirements. There are a LOT of choices for webhosts and I had no clue how to go about picking a new one.
I started my search several weeks ago when I saw an article on PC Magazine entitled The Best Web Hosting Services for 2015. That seemed like a good start. I guess it was, but I learned a lot while searching that led me to question that article.
My typical search for information about a webhost was a Google search for hostname reviews. That frequently led to sites who post reviews of webhosts, but earn referral bonuses from those sites when people sign up for their service through the “review”. That seems less than objective to me, to say the least. The other thing I noticed with searches was that pretty much noone who is reviewing a webhost identifies the website they have – or had – hosted there. That leaves something to be desired too, I think.
A general trend with many webhosts that stood out to me, however, was a frequent and significant decline in customer service quality at some point in the last two years. I may have learned why from this next article.
One post I found that was of some use was this. It appears to have been written in 2013 and updated since then, most recently in September. One of the most useful things from it was a large hosting site called Endurance International Group (EIG) that has apparently been on a buying spree, purchasing several webhost companies. This article suggested that customer service quality degraded quite a bit at sites after they were purchased by EIG. I did see a lot of comments on the review sites about how customer service got a lot worse and expect it was tied to that.
I don’t believe my webhost was purchased by EIG, but they were sold a couple of years ago by the individual with whom I had dealt. I believe it was sold to another person as the original owner mentioned that in an email. I reached out to him with some support issues before learning that he no longer owned the service. Customer service dropped horribly. I ended up sending a letter through the US Postal Service trying to get an issue resolved a few months back.
Ultimately, I landed on a webhost named TMDHosting. I can’t recall how I first found them but they seemed to lack the breadth of customer service complaints that many of the other webhosts had. I couldn’t find anyone who identified their website and said they either liked or disliked them, mind you. The biggest complaint I found was from someone who had a billing challenge with them and its details weren’t anything that were close to mine, so I wasn’t all that concerned about it.
Last weekend, I sent an email to their sales service asking a few questions. I got a response back in less than 30 minutes, which I thought was pretty good for a Sunday afternoon. The response suggested I use their live chat feature for further discussion. I did that and they were able to quickly answer all of the questions I had then. Among my questions was whether they were part of a larger company or independently held. The representative with whom I chatted said they were fully independent company that had been in business since 2007.
Yesterday, also a Sunday afternoon, I got back on chat with a few more questions. They answered all except one and I was actually pleased with their reason for not answering that one. I asked if they could share website names of a few current customers on the hosting plan I was considering to see how responsive their websites were and to ask the people running the site questions. They wouldn’t share names due to privacy concerns. I was okay with that.
One other thing in TMDHosting‘s favor was their cost. I had found a link on c|net for a special deal for a package that met my needs with an introductory price of $1.99 per month. The regular price was $5.85 per month, which is about what I’m paying now. Pay no attention to the countdown clock on the page at that c|net link, by the way. I’ve checked on the page for several weeks and have always found it to be close to expiring, but it never has. Marketing, I guess.
I signed up yesterday.
The signup offer had three pricing tiers. The $1.99 per month was good only for one year. The price for a three year commitment was something like $2.85 per month and the price for a two year commitment a bit higher per month. I picked the one year plan to see how they worked out. They also have a 60-day money back guarantee.
I received an email with information on how to connect and get started a few seconds after completing the sign up process. I’ve had no issues since.
They have a lot of tutorial videos and articles on their website, which have helped. I have found some contradictory information in them – a video pointed to cPanel to change the overall site password but the link they showed didn’t exist in their cPanel, for example. A knowledgebase article had the process correctly explained. I plan to point out inconsistencies like that when I find them in hopes of making the information a bit more accurate for others.
So far – and keep in mind that I’m one day into using their service – I’m pleased. I’m running my countrykeepers.com website and WordPress weblogs there and have had a good experience so far.
Disclosure: I do not receive anything from TMDHosting for this review. I didn’t ask them if I could post it and was not asked by them to do so. I don’t know whether c|net gets a referral fee from the link above.
I believe that the move of this website to a new webhost is pretty much complete. I learned some things through the process and believe it might be useful to capture them here, both for my use in case I go through this again and for others who might find it through searching. I’ll explain why I chose to change webhosts and how I chose a new webhost separately. This post is about the move itself.
The WordPress site offers some help on the topic, as you might imagine. I found this article there to be useful. Read it first.
I think the biggest surprise I got was why my strategy of signing up for a new webhost and restoring my weblogs to it from a new backup before switching the domain name server information ultimately failed. Within seconds of signing up with my new webhost, I had an email from them with instructions on how to access the new website before the DNS information pointed my URL there. They gave me an IP address which worked perfectly to access the new site, get into cPanel and start organizing things. Through it, I was able to use the software loader to install WordPress.
I found that I could not do much with the new installation, however, as it referenced pages using my URL and not the IP address they gave me. So my new weblog started looking for information at the current site located at my old webhost. That, as you might imagine, didn’t work all that well.
I fiddled with it for a while, trying different things, but couldn’t get it to work, so I caved and submitted the DNS switch. Three or four hours later, I was ready to get going at the new site.
It was about then that I got my second biggest surprise. Once my DNS information switched over, the link I had to the cPanel login at the old webhost no longer worked, as it was based on my domain name. Whoops! Hadn’t considered that. Fortunately, I had saved the URL where it redirected to and was able to get it, but I never could figure out how to connect via ftp to the old site. I ended up using the file manager built into cPanel to delete all the old files.
From all of this, I have a few suggestions for this process.
- Make darn sure you’ve got full backups of your SQL databases and all of the weblog files. I ended up not using most of the blog files, but it was handy to upload themes and plugins by ftp.
- Check for URLs to connect to the old and new sites without the benefit of using your primary URL so you can manage to connect to both locations before, during and after the DNS switching.
- Write down the table prefix you defined at the old webhost in your SQL database. I don’t know whether it would have mattered if I’d changed it, but I used the same one for each of my blog databases and importing the SQL files worked without a hitch. Specify this when you configure the new WordPress installation.
From start to finish then, here’s the process I used.
- Download a backup of your SQL database from your old webhost. The cPanel at my old webhost had a backup feature but this can be done in phpMyAdmin as well.
- Download a local copy of all of your blog files from your old webhost. I use the FileZilla ftp client for this.
- Write down the table prefix you use, if any. This is in your wp-config.php file and also visible in phpMyAdmin. It is the characters at the start of the table names. If a table were named wp_commentmeta, for example, the table prefix would be “wp_”.
- Update the DNS information for your URL wherever you have your domain name registered. Wait a few hours for the change to propagate through the name server system. It took about three hours before I was able to access the new site. Note that you might need to clear your browser cache for your domain name.
- Once the DNS information has propagates, launch the WordPress installer from cPanel at the new webhost. At my new webhost, it is under the Softaculous Apps Installer section of cPanel, shown below. It doesn’t matter what you name your weblog in the setup configuration screen, near as I can tell. This will get overwritten when you import your SQL database into the new installation. Make sure you define the installation directory the same as you did at the old webhost. This is in the In Directory field near the top of the setup configuration screen. Keeping it the same should help to keep links intact, both within your site and at other people’s sites.
- Enter the table prefix you used in your SQL database at the old webhost. This is in the Advanced Option section of the WordPress installation screen.
- Click the Install button once you have everything configured as you want it.
- Once the WordPress installation process completes, go into phpMyAdmin at the new webhost. Export and download the SQL database. If something goes wrong, you can always drop the tables and import that backup to get back to where you are right now.
- Still in phpMyAdmin, select all of the tables in your new SQL database and drop them using the drop-down menu at the bottom of the screen. This empties out the database, cleaning it out for the import of your old data.
- Still in phpMyAdmin, click the Import button near the top of the screen, select your archived SQL file from the old webhost and wait for it to be imported into the database.
- Once this is done, you should be able to log into WordPress at the new webhost.
- Using a ftp client, upload files from the backup you downloaded from the old webhost to load any plugins and themes you had installed. Follow the directory structure from the archived backup.
- Upload any other files you had on your website that were outside of the WordPress file structure. I had a media folder where I stored images before that was built into WordPress, for example.
- Log into WordPress, check for any plugins that need to be activated or updated (I had to reconnect Jetpack, for example) and poke around to see if everything is working. And I’ll need to confirm later this week that my once-a-week automated backup of weblog files to Dropbox via a plugin is still working.
That process worked for me on all three of my weblogs. The key was waiting for the DNS update to propagate. Once that happened, everything when smooth as I could imagine.
The move also fixed two problems that had cropped up at my old webhost, both of which I came to suspect were driven by some change my webhost had made. That was good news, too.
I hope this helps. Let me know in the comments if you have questions or find something that doesn’t work.
If you’re reading this post, the name server change for this website has processed enough that you’re able to find it at the new webhost. I was able to import this blog’s data from the old site. I still have things to fix, but the bulk of the data is here. I’ll keep working on cleaning up things over the next few days. Please let me know if you find problems.
I am starting the process of changing webhosts for this blog. I expect the process will happen over the next few days. Once I switch the domain information, there may be a day or so when the blog isn’t accessible. Please bear with me through the change. Thanks, Gary
Our Internet service at home has been absolutely HORRIBLE for the last ten days or so. I went through several calls to our ISP, a new cable modem, two technicians in the home, the first technician dissing what the support people on the phone had told me for being wildly and uselessly incorrect, a tier 3 technician with whom I spoke on the phone dissing the first technician for not doing some checks he thought he should have, and the second technician – a lead technician specialist – finally figuring out what was going on, proving that EVERYONE to date had missed the diagnosis.
Turns out the problem wasn’t my ISP. It was my hardware. Or rather software running on my hardware.
A few days before our Internet access slowed to a crawl, showing up as lousy ping times, many dropped packets, traceroutes with steps where it couldn’t connect, and generally unusable access, I upgraded my desktop PC from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. That wasn’t the source of the problem, at least not directly. The day before it became unusable, I also upgraded my laptop from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. That also wasn’t the source of the problem, again at least not directly. There was a common issue, however, that was the source of the problem.
Windows 8.1 had a problem that I couldn’t live with. To use the Microsoft OneDrive app and sync files from a Windows 8.1 computer to the OneDrive cloud, you needed to log into that computer with a Windows Live login. I hated that. Absolutely, positively without reservation HATED that. So I wouldn’t do it.
Then I learned about SyncDriver for OneDrive. It is an app that negotiated between Windows 8.1 and OneDrive and let you sync without forcing a Windows Live login on the PC. It worked great.
When I upgraded to Windows 10, however, I discovered that Microsoft had wised up and removed that restriction, so I could login to my PC with a local login and still connect to OneDrive. So I uninstalled SyncDriver on both my desktop and laptop PC. Or at least I asked Windows to uninstall it from the Add/Remove Programs screen and it told me it had. But it really hadn’t.
SyncDriver stayed installed and resumed running on a reboot of each system. That’s a problem, but not the one that knocked our Internet connection to its knees. SyncDriver was stuck in some kind of a loop trying to upload the same file over and over. And over. And over. It keeps a log file in TXT format and archives a log file when it gets to be 1 MB in size. SyncDriver was writing four or five log files a day on my PC. The ISP technician who was in our home today said that we had more than 60 GB of uploads in the last ten days. That’s more than we downloaded in that time.
SyncDriver was the culprit. At least I’m certain it is, I guess I don’t have full proof. My son and I were on the desktop PC trying to figure out whether it had been infected with a rootkit or virus when we looked at the network resource monitor, part of the Windows 10 Task Manager, and saw the SyncDriver utility still running, despite having been uninstalled. Or so I thought. There was no longer an entry for it in the Add/Remove Programs screen. I was able to uninstall it by downloading the installer, running it again and immediately uninstalling it.
The network was running well while the technician was here as the desktop PC had rebooted itself after what I presume was an automatically installed update and I hadn’t logged in yet. I was also out of town visiting my Mom so my laptop wasn’t connected to the LAN or Internet.
When I booted my laptop this evening, my son pretty much immediately called down asking me to check my connection to the Internet. That’s when I discovered SyncDrive running on it, too. The second I stopped SyncDriver, the network came back and was usable again. Installing and uninstalling the program appears to have removed it this time.
I sent a couple of emails to the support account at SyncDrive late this afternoon but haven’t heard back from them yet. I wanted to be sure they knew of the issues.
I also wanted to write it up here in case someone else runs into the same trouble. Hopefully, they’ll find this through a search and learn one possibility for getting their Internet connection working again.
Thanks to James, the technician who visited us today, for getting us on the path to figure out what was going on.
A friend at work told me the other day that he enjoyed bluegrass music and said that he learned of it through the Pickin’ On series of albums by CMH Records. They are covers of music done with bluegrass instruments. I’ve not listened to many of them, but told him that I didn’t care for the albums I had heard because they weren’t rearranged into bluegrass style, just redone with bluegrass instruments.
That got me thinking about how I’d introduce bluegrass music to someone who wasn’t really familiar with it. I’ve been pondering what ten songs I’d use to do that and why. There wasn’t anything special about ten songs – it was just a nice round number and a manageable number for someone to listen to.
So I decided to think through it and write down the songs I’ve chosen so far and why. I did put one constraint on this list. The songs needed to be available on Spotify so I could share the playlist with others. My playlist is here. They songs are not in priority order, but were rather arranged in something of a story line. [If you see a large blank space below, the Spotify player is likely being blocked by a browser extension, Ghostery in my case. You also need to have a Spotify account to play it.]
I open the playlist with Steel Drivin’ Man by Dailey and Vincent. It is a hard driving train song that opens with a strong banjo lick and features brief fiddle, mandolin, guitar and banjo solos between verses.
Kentucky Borderline by Rhonda Vincent and the Rage is second. It keeps in the train theme and introduces both a strong female vocal lead and strong harmonies in the choruses.
Bluegrass music is founded on its roots and they are highlighted in the third song, Down the Road by Flatt & Scruggs. This song includes Lester Flatt on the banjo, which I think is necessary because of how he changed the music through his innovative and revolutionary playing style. This song also speaks of relationships which are a common theme in bluegrass music.
Paying homage to the past is up next with I’ll Go Stepping Too by The Earls of Leicester. The Earls of Leicester released their initial and self-titled album last year with fourteen covers of Flatt & Scruggs songs that stay faithful to the original sound. (Leicester is pronounced Lester, by the way. Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt – Earls of Leicester.) This song also talks about relationships, but broken ones in which one partner is unfaithful and hurts the other. That’s pretty common in bluegrass music, too.
1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Del McCoury is up next. It is another relationship song, but also brings two additional themes common in bluegrass music to the playlist – story telling and death. There are many great bluegrass songs whose lyrics tell a story. This is one of my favorites. James, one of the two main characters in the song, dies at the end of the song and story (sorry, I should have labeled that as a spoiler alert).
Caney Fork River by Balsam Range is next and continues in many of these themes. It is also a story song and includes relationship, unfaithfulness and death. This song could also be an entry in the You Know You’re a Bluegrass Fan game. You know you’re a bluegrass fan when you know the answer to the question, “How many times must I cross that old Caney Fork River, traveling through the state of Tennessee?”. I think the answer is five – at least when you’re on I-40.
Toy Heart by Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby and Kentucky Thunder is an interesting song in that it both pays homage to the past and shows that bluegrass music can embrace new ideas. The song, and entire collaboration between Skaggs and Hornsby, brings a piano into bluegrass music! A piano! Oh, the horrors!
Don’t think that the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe, is spinning in his grave over that, however. Bill himself included drums in his music from time to time. Bill himself is up next with his Blue Grass Boys and Uncle Penn. I don’t think any introduction to bluegrass music would be complete without including Bill Monroe. Uncle Penn features a story, great fiddle playing, crisp singing and great ensemble playing.
Bluegrass music isn’t just about singing. Instrumental songs have long been a staple of the genre. The Crow by Steve Martin is a shining example of this along with really outstanding banjo picking. It also demonstrates how people not normally known for bluegrass music can come into the genre. Steve Martin was named as one of the fifty greatest comics of all time by his peers and has had a long and successful movie career. He knocks it out of the part with his banjo playing and has had a wonderful collaboration with the Steep Canyon Rangers the past few years.
Speaking of people not normally known for their prowess in bluegrass music. Country music superstar Alan Jackson finishes out my ten songs with Blue Ridge Mountain Song from his bluegrass album, simply and cleverly entitled The Bluegrass Album. This song tells a story about a relationship, a lifetime-long faithful relationship in this case. It is the best example I can imagine of the weeping fiddle playing style.
So there you have it. As it stands now, these are the ten songs I’d use to introduce bluegrass music to someone new to the genre. I may change them as I continue to ponder this and think of things I want to include.
If you want to suggest changes to the list, do so in the comments. Include the song, artist, why you’d add the song to the list and which song you’d take off of the list to fit it in. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
For what its worth, the last few songs I cut from the list to get down to ten were Blue Side of the Blue Ridge by Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice, Jason’s Farm by James King and Dixie Road by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.
[25-Jan Update: I figured out it was Ghostery that was blocking the embedded Spotify player in this post, so I updated the paragraph right before the player to reflect that.]
I’ve been publishing a daily Bible study reading following a plan to read through the King James Bible every calendar for the last several years. All of that time, I’ve used an email distribution list service called Topica to send the daily email messages. A month ago, Topica announced that they were shutting down their email distribution service tomorrow.
I’ve implemented a solution that coordinates that directly from the weblog and made the switch to it today. You can now sign up to receive the daily Bible study readings on the weblog itself, in a subscription form currently in the right column of the blog.
I think I’ve updated all of the references to the soon-to-close Topica service, but if you find one I’ve missed, please let me know.