Calling All Sinners: liner notes
Several Psalms in the Bible encourage us to “sing a new song unto the Lord” so here are 12 of mine. It was fun and spiritually rewarding for me to write “Calling All Sinners" and the other Gospel songs on this album over the last few decades. It has been a challenge trying to share them though.
THANKS CHARLES WADE
How do you pitch your original gospel songs if working hours preclude joining your church band or choir? You can’t play them with a bar band on a Saturday night. Church music ministers are busy and already have lots of great music to choose from. Strumming your latest song on a guitar and singing it is not going to fire them up enough to make the effort to learn it and teach it to others. This method only ever worked for me once, thanks to the kindness and patience of the late great Charles Wade. He and Polly Torrence, the youth choir leader, did an arrangement for me with the children’s choir at Golden Hill United Methodist Church in Bridgeport, CT to play “Greet the Risen Lord” on Easter Sunday 2007. My daughter Elizabeth sang with the choir, I played the new guitar my mom had given me for my birthday. My dad had died a few months earlier, so that was a rough Easter for my family. My Mom was visiting, and was in church to hear the song. She was 92, and it was her last Easter Sunday before she passed on to greet the Risen Lord herself. Not long after that, Charles Wade was gone too. I will always be thankful that he and Polly gave me that memory.
GREG PACKHAM: A WORLD OF MUSICAL KNOWLEDGE
Last year, I took these 12 songs into Greg Packham’s studio, and he helped me come up with these great-sounding recordings of my songs to showcase here on my website. His wealth of knowledge on world music styles helped me put meat on my barebones arrangements. For instance, I knew I wanted “New York at Christmas Time” to be a bossa nova, and I knew how to strum the rhythm on the guitar, but Greg knew exactly how to structure the drum, bass and percussion tracks, and he coached me on my trumpet solo. He also found me the amazing saxophone player Josh Goss, who played great solos on “Star Over Bethlehem” and “Citizen Cog.” The value of a good producer: Topic for a future blog.
HERE’S THE PITCH
Here is the rundown of all the songs on the album. Some of them cover specific times of the liturgical year. I have been sending it around to pastors, music ministers, liturgical dance group leaders and others, but that gets time consuming. The blog gives me a permanent spot to put this online and then direct people to it. If you see something here that piques your interest, you can listen to the track for free at www.davegregorio.com/music ... If you think you want to play the song in church, please leave a comment here with contact info or email email@example.com for lyric sheets and chord charts. The songs are:
1. "Solid Ground" is a straight-ahead rocker with lyrics taken from Psalms 26-31.
2. "I Saw My Savior" was written for Holy Week. I have played this acoustic folk style but I love how this reggae version turned out.
3. “New York at Christmastime” could work during Advent. The lyrics are not strictly religious, but near the end I tried to address the tension between commercial and spiritual aspects of the season. The bossa nova is a fun style that you don’t hear in U.S. churches very often. Instrumental soloists like the chord progression.
4. “Star Over Bethlehem” could fit anytime from the First Sunday of Advent to Epiphany. The lyrics include verses in John that many Christmas songs don’t use: “for God so loved the world that He gave us His only son.” Check out the great sax solo by Josh Goss!!!!
5. “Our God Is Able” is for Martin Luther King Day. The lyrics are adapted from my favorite sermon in Dr. King’s book “Strength to Love.” Musically, I went for a Curtis Mayfield vibe.
6. “Dusty Streets” is for Palm Sunday. The style is bachata, from the Dominican Republic. Thanks to Greg Packham for turning me on to the Dominican bachata star Prince Royce.
7. Some Bread, Some Fish: Gospel in the style of the Staples Singers, with lyrics dedicated to Dorothy Day and the Catholic worker movement, and all soup kitchen volunteers everywhere.
8. “Living Water” is a ballad inspired by the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.
9. “Greet the Risen Lord” is for Easter Sunday. I have played it solo acoustic and with orchestration and the children’s choir. Here, it’s done zydeco style.
10. “Calling All Sinners” is based on the story of Saint John the Baptist that is always read on the second Sunday of Advent. The style is traditional Gospel.
11. “Sometimes I Wish (Happy Birthday Jesus) was meant for an adult to sing the verses with a children’s choir on the choruses. Unfortunately, I could not get a children’s choir during the studio times I had booked.
12. “Citizen Cog” is a rock and roll paean to the labor movement. It is not really religious, but it does reference the story of Cain and Abel, and a lot of pastors do preach about social justice. Maybe it could fit sometime around Labor Day.
Thanks Greg Packham, for drumming, bass playing, keyboards and percussion, recording and production. Thanks Josh Goss for the jazzy saxophone solo on “Star Over Bethlehem” and the rocking break on “Citizen Cog.” Thanks to my four fearless friends from Golden Hill for agreeing to sing backing vocals on songs they had never heard before. Melodye Merola, Chanel Francis, June Sibley-Prusak and Pastor Tisha Branch did a great job.
--Dave Gregorio, Milford, CT
CALLING ALL SINNERS: Here is my photo of a sculpture of Saint John the Baptist on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I guess the sculptor wanted to remind us that he was beheaded by King Herod...