Originally created 02/11/00

Christian music gets Celtic twist



Rebellion in the music industry is not limited to punk bands and rock 'n' roll stars. Christian folk favorite Michael Card, long known for spurning contemporary notions of canned Christian music, strides farther from the crowd with his latest album, Starkindler: A Celtic Conversation Across Time.

Mr. Card will spotlight his Celtic sound in concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church of North Augusta, 602 Georgia Ave.

"He's not your typical contemporary Christian artist," said the Rev. Mark Powers, the church's associate pastor for music ministries and worship. "He's more of a theologian; his songs are very thought-provoking. The Celtic influence in the music and depth of the words makes for a fresh, unique sound."

Starkindler is Mr. Card's 20th album in a long line of maverick recordings. Mr. Card said producing his own albums has helped him stay true to the music and avoid pressure from record executives who tend to "manufacture an image."

"In the past -- from 20 years ago and on back through the centuries -- what was central in Christian music was the songs," Mr. Card explained. "It was irrelevant who wrote it or who sang it. Today, the artist is central. The artist is a celebrity -- they're actually celebrated -- and that goes against what this is all about."

While Mr. Card is well known, he does not consider himself a celebrity. He attributes this to his no-frills style.

"I'm a songwriter," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Nashville, Tenn. "I'm not really a vocalist performer. I'm kind of a holdover from the old days when you played your songs because no one else would -- they had their own songs to play."

Of the 10 songs on Starkindler, only the title track was written by Mr. Card. The rest are Mr. Card's arrangements of old Irish hymns, which he performs with Irish musicians.

Onstage, Mr. Card leads a simple show. He'll be accompanied by a drummer, bassist, guitarist and an Irish fiddler. The group will treat the crowd to five or six Irish jigs.

"Yeah, it's more instrumental than usual," Mr. Card said. "Really, though, what inspired me to do this was the notion of a worshipping community over time -- and to become part of a continuum of this worshipping community.

"Through the words of these old Irish hymns, we can link with a community from the third or fourth century. The idea that something that moved someone 1,700 years ago can move me today is just amazing to me."

Though Mr. Card has dabbled with the Irish sound in the past -- his albums have been well-received in Ireland for more than 12 years -- this is his first effort devoted completely to Celtic music.

"Someone in Ireland dared me to do a legitimately Irish album," Mr. Card said. "A dare is a powerful thing to a weak mind, so ..."

A true rebel never shirks a dare.

On stage

Who: Christian songwriter, singer Michael Card, in concert

When:7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where:First Baptist Church of North Augusta, 602 Georgia Ave.

Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Call:279-6370

Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3217 or jbanks15@hotmail.com.