A few weeks ago Jasdye at leftcheek issued a “blog-a-thon” challenge for bloggers to write posts on the subject of Albums by Christians that Rock that he could compile. As a Christian & a music fan this endeavor intrigues me because I too am one of those people who, more often than not, doesn’t find music labeled as “Christian” all that inspiring. While, on the other hand, when I discover that an artist that inspires me IS a Christian and allows their personal beliefs to influence their craft without going down the “CCM” path of mediocrity, it excites me.
One such artist is Ben Harper; particularly the first album of his that I purchased, Diamonds on the Inside. I started checking Harper out because of his affiliations with & endorsement from other musicians that I liked & respected. I was initially impressed by his obvious talents as well as how eclectic & diverse the whole album was. From tight reggae rhythms to southern gospel to powerful funk grooves with rock, county, blues & folk in-between, Diamonds is an exercise in diversity held tightly together by undeniable rock & roll sensibilities & his trademark Weissenborn lap steel guitar.
The diversity just makes sense when you consider Harper’s heritage & upbringing. He grew up in East LA and is descendant of various degrees of black, Cherokee Indian & Lithuanian Jewish. But the unifying element of his childhood was music. His whole family growing up seemed to be musicians. From age 6 he followed Taj Mahal faithfully & grew up around musicians David Lindley & Chris Darrow who happened to be friends with Ben’s parents. His maternal grandparents, Dorothy and Charles Chase, owned the Folk Music Center, a national museum & music shop filled with a variety of traditional world instruments. From an early age Ben hung out in the center & eventually worked there repairing & restoring all sorts of stringed instruments; from Zithers to Ukuleles.
As far as his faith goes, well, I will just let Ben speak for himself: “I don’t like religion, I just love God. Religion is often an insult to God. Spirit is the fulfillment of being, while religion divides humanity and I don’t want to support that… Spirituality is my motor, my oxygen, it’s present in each of my actions. Each breath I take, each movement is a prayer, including putting on shoes or picking up a guitar. Spirituality is much more important to me than any rocking guitar chord, more important than a killer and vengeful line written at two in the morning!“
My main problem with including this album on the list was the word “rock”. I debated with myself for a long time on what category it best fits into. But I ultimately settled on Rock because that’s how AllMusic, Wikipedia & iTunes categorize it. After all, if it’s on the internet, it must be true right? But when it comes right down to it, at least in my opinion, Diamonds on the Inside is definitely one of my favorite Albums by Christians that ROCK!