It’s only been about 10 years now that I even knew there was this whole parallel Christian music scene that I was supposed to be a part of, and it’s taking me most of the past decade to catch up.
John Schlitt, former lead vocalist for Christian music’s legendary rock group Petra, releases his third solo album, The Grafting, on June 24.
OK, can I step in to the CCM confessional?
Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea who Petra was.
When the band signed with their first Christian label, Myrrh, in 1973, I was what … 9 years old? And when they had their first radio hit, “Why Should The Father Bother,” from their 1979 album, Washes Whiter Than, I was a sophomore in high school, where I was doing the Y.M.C.A during half time at the basketball game and practicing ‘The Hustle” in front of my bedroom mirror. (Gasp! Did I just admit that out loud?)
So save your “OMG, how can you cover Christian music and not know who Petra is?” emails. I’ve heard it all before.
Back to Schlitt’s new album.
I saw John Schlitt perform acoustic versions of two songs at The McCain Guitar Pull during Gospel Music Week. The event is an intimate setting where artists take turns singing, just them and a guitar. We journalist folks just hang out on the floor and listen, or even sing along.
At the risk of stating the obvious, John Schlitt’s clearly got a few musical miles under his belt. (The term “aging rocker” comes to mind.) And while I enjoyed the two songs he sang live, I was prepared for an album from some old guy crooning crappy 70s music.
Surprise! It’s a not-so-old guy, and he’s actually singing some catchy adult contemporary pop rock.
Sure, it clearly has 70s and 80s influences, and the recording process irons out some of the evidence that years of sing rock-and-roll can leave on vocals. (He’s pretty good acoustic, but let’s just say the recording process makes the vocals sound much more effortless.)
But there are some good songs on there (I especially like “Stand,” “Carry On,” and “The Grafting”) and there’s a vocal style and musical sound that carries through on the album that was appealing. It’s not cutting edge stuff, but the album is definitely filled with catchy melodies and meaningful lyrics.
It’s kinda cool, and if you’re a Petra fan or were raised on early Christian rock, I think you’ll like this.
The Grafting, from John Schlitt, releases June 24. For more information on John Schlitt and his new album, visit www.johnwschlitt.com.