Tuesday, December 2, 2014

#93 HERE I AM - Shawn McDonald

NOTE: Andy's Extras updated with Flyleaf (HT: Cat)

This is one of the very few songs on the list that may have snuck by my loyal, faithful readers. And by loyal, faithful readers, I mean that if you are reading this sentence right now, you count - the bar is pretty low. The reason it may have escaped your notice is that, quite simply, it's not very popular.

Here I Am was released 10 years ago on Shawn McDonald's debut album, Simply Nothing. If you check the iTunes popularity, this song is one of the least popular songs on that album. In general, I think iTunes popularity can be pretty spotty, but usually when you're talking about the 'greatest worship songs ever', you'd think it would have made more of a mark.

Also, I don't know much about Shawn McDonald, but his music seems like perfectly fine contemporary Christian light pop, the place where most Christian artists start out. This hinders his chance at worship greatness because he's not from, or affiliated with, any of the worship music factories of the last few decades - Tomlin, Hillsong, Passion, Jennie Crawford, etc.

Shawn McDonald Fun Fact: He is married to Bethany Dillon's sister.

So, there really aren't a ton of good reasons why Shawn McDonald should end up on our countdown, but there is one good reason: Here I Am is a GREAT song. There is this awesome beautiful simplicity to it, a simplicity that is often times lacking in the overproduced world of modern worship music. I can't hear and identify instruments like people who know music can, but I think the only ones on this track are an acoustic guitar and a cello.

I also love it in a song when you can hear the guitar player's fingers sliding on the strings. I didn't know what this was called, so I fired up my Commodore 64 and opened up my Netscape Navigator to do a search to find out what this was called. Unfortunately, my Netscape Navigator search yielded only this result:

So, after I got all the taken care of, I searched something called 'gooooooogle' and found what I was looking for. By the way, that goooooooogle thingy is handy, I'm thinking of investing before anyone else catches on. Anyway, that sound you hear when the guitar player's fingers slide along the strings is called 'fret squeak'. Hey, you learn something new every day. 

Fret squeak is a funny sounding term. When I first heard it, my mind immediately thought of a bunch of other things that 'fret squeak' could be:
*A member of the Manson family
*A scared mouse
*A Ugandan delicacy (best served with puss modules)
*A problem with your washing machine. As in the phrase, "Well, ma'am, you've got a little fret squeak in your lower quadrant, we're gonna have to replace the whole fuselage"
*The name of the band formed by the remaining members of Nirvana after Kurt Cobain killed himself

So anyways, there's all this stuff on the Internet about eliminating this annoying fret squeak. I get that if you're a musician, it might suck. But on this particular song, I'm pretty sure that it's intentionally left in. Leaving it in just enhances the idea that it's a bare bones production meant for edification rather than entertainment value.

The message of Here I Am is as basic as it gets, it's an offering, simply saying to God, "I'm here, I'm open, come meet with me". That's about it. Another interesting tidbit is the backing vocals, done very nicely and very subtly by a woman named Cara Flory. The interesting thing about Miss Flory is that, according to the music databases her name is linked to, this is her ONLY credit. Ever.

In that I guess she's sort of like Doc Graham in Field of Dreams. You know, the kid they picked up who only had one plate appearance in the majors, and then went on to become a doctor. The older version was played by Burt Lancaster and the younger version was played by one of the all-time I know that guy but I don't know his name actors, Frank Whaley.

I have no idea of the relative popularity of this song among my readers. I certainly don't remember hearing it when it came out. The first time I ever heard of it was just a few years ago on an Internet worship station, where it was played quite frequently. I'd be interested to know if there is anyone out there who's never heard this song before; or, conversely, if someone could say that they've been doing it in worship for several years.

One of real hidden joys in life is to be able to introduce someone to something that you think is great, but the other people haven't seen or heard before. I think that's what a lot of what social media sharing is all about. Except that social media sharing is WAY too immediate, as in, I just found this thing at 10:03 am, and I must share it with everyone by 10:07 am.

No, I'm talking about older stuff. Here's an example: A few weeks ago I was hanging out with a few friends, whose names I will blur for anonymity's sake. Let's call them Ashlxe Andersxn and Anxn Brynerx. Anyway, seems neither one of them knew much about the great 80s show, Cheers. So, we watched the first episode, and then we ended up watching a bunch more.
I think we all just wanna go where everybody knows your name
Anyway, seems like the ladies pretty much enjoyed Cheers, so that made me happy. I'm not sure what this sharing gene is, and I'm not totally sure that it doesn't point to some sort of deeper emotional problem; but I'm not going to worry about that now, because I just found an adorable cat video that I think all my friends should see.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'd really love it if just one person said that they never heard Here I Am before, and that they really like it. A girl can dream.

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