Idol Chatter

There’s more than one moment on Third Day’s retrospective album “Chronology: Volume One,” that so masterfully combines pain and hope, delicate lyrics and anthem rock, that you ask yourself, “How do they do that?” And then you remind yourself: “Oh yeah, they’re a Christian band.” That is, they tap into the rich store of good stories, hard characters, and stark images that come out of the Christian tradition and charge it all up with dark, grunge-inflected Southern rock.

This isn’t how we’ve come to think of the music that comes out of Christian Nashville, where faith and rock often fight to a prim compromise. Third Day, which erupted as a Christian take on grunge in 1997, have always played with a freedom other bands lacked. But this album, by updating a few of their early hits and laying on live versions of some of their best work, showcases their unique talent of how they let their joy in good ol’ barn burning rock serve the faith they sing about.

Though the album celebrates Third Day’s 10th year as a band, the tunes hold up in all manner of ways. A crackling live version of “Blackbird” (“Blackbird, fly up to heaven today and be saved”) from 1998 has the feeling of a country-church hymn memorialized by a blues champion like the Allmans. “Wire,” the title track from their 2004 album, is unmistakeably modern. Even the remake of “Thief,” sung from the viewpoint of the criminals who were crucified with Jesus, benefits from its new overblown strings-and-bombast treatment.

As an introduction to what Christian rock can be or a look back for long-time fans, “Chronology” is great document of what Third Day has achieved.

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