My 5 year old and I took off for the weekend in “Our Lady of Disrepair.” “Our Lady of Disrepair” is our 86 VW Vanagon Weekender. We love her. (Her actual name is Gomer as in Hosea 1:2,3. Not the most faithful vehicle and I’m convinced plenty of others lust for her.)
Our first stop was Maplewood State Park. We’d camped here once before and it is one of our favorite MN parks. We biked around a bit. Pondered this sign:
And did a little wading:
It was perfect camping weather. Nice and cool. In the morning we went for a swim in Lake Lida. Still cool. Down right cold. Carpe Diem.
Onward to Walhalla ND and the Rendezvous Arts and Heritage Festival where I was playing and MC’ing.
We were poking along just fine. Then about 20 miles south of Grand Forks the gas pedal went loose and dropped down to the floor. Zero acceleration. Hazards on, I coasted to the side of the road. There’s a reason we refer to Gomer as “Our Lady of Disrepair.” Stranded on the side of the I-29 in ND with a 5 year old is not my dream situation. Unless of course that dream is a nightmare. I was a little stressed. Thankfully she took it all in stride:
Dad: “Looks like we need to call a tow truck honey.”
Daughter: “Oh goodie, I’ve never ridden in a tow truck before!”
I went ahead and bought her a pony.
If you need to wait for a tow truck, I recommend doing so in a Vanagon. We popped up the table, played Farkel, ate bing cherries, and chatted with State Troopers. There are worse ways to spend a summer afternoon.
In about 1/2 an hour Jason and his tow truck arrived and the folks at the Cenex on 32nd took fine care of us.
Thankfully no parts were needed. The accelerator cable had simply come loose and they were able to get us in right away, fix it fast, and barely charge us. I love ND.
We spent the next 24 hours in Walhalla. Not nearly enough time, but a wonderful time all the same. I got to play cards with my favorite mother in law, eat the best corn of the summer so far at the firefighters’ fund raiser, and the Art and Heritage Festival was great. Tons of local artists displaying their work, offering demonstrations, and inviting artists of all ages into hands on lessons.
As it wrapped up Saturday evening Elsa and I headed back to Fargo to spend the night. Sunday morning we headed east on 10 and I led music at Glyndon Lutheran where my friend Jeni is the pastor. One of the highlights was an infant baptism where they sat the naked baby right in the fount a la bath time. Apparently it’s a 3rd century tradition. Who knew? Jeni for one. And now we all do. I am a little curious how this translates into adult baptisms.
Back in the Vanagon again Elsa and I made the final leg of the journey. Stopping at Dunn Bros in Alec (Or as non-locals call it: Alexandria) the barista asked if I needed anything with my coffee. I asked for someone to drive me to St. Paul. She said no. I tipped her anyway.
The whole parenting-camping-driving-working-weekend thing is a bit exhausting, but we made it home safe and sound and all in all it was a great trip. Tow truck and all.
So a month ago or so I blogged On The Making Of and On The Title. Part 3 is On The Songs. I meant to post that before going to Guatemala and realized I hadn’t. So there’s like six of you out there who are totally ticked and feeling incomplete. And then there’s the rest of you. This is for you too. But just so you know, these are snapshots of what I was thinking of when the songs were written. The songs can mean something different to you. That’s just fine. The lyric police are on strike and no interpretations will be prosecuted. Nor will when interpreters be persecuted. Win win. My fave.
This segment as well as On the Title and On the Making Of are all listed under Reform Follows Function on the Music Tab.
So here’s a look at the songs:
On The Songs:
All We Can Do. I wrote this for my wife’s ordination into the ministry of Word and Sacrament as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She was ordained in her hometown in rural North Dakota. The congregation was full of pastors and farmers. Some draw life from the pulpit, some draw it from the dirt.
Heretics. Though by definition I’m not a big fan of heretics, by connotation I am. We need voices that challenge the church, push its buttons, and reform it.
Metanoia. It’s Greek for turn around or repent. My foreign language song. I’d like to thank Prof. Jastram for the tutelage.
Out On The Plains. I wrote this biking from Fargo to Grand Forks one warm August day. I’m pro farmer and I sing about it.
Heartache and All. After reading Woody Guthrie: A Life I was compelled by his life ending in hospitals that struggled to discern between his being sick or his being crazy. This is the era that Bob Dylan came around to visit. It’s a love song. Micah Taylor and I used to play this song a lot around the time we recorded the Rachel Kurtz CD, Fault Line. (Now available as free download) Micah wrote Levee for that album and it later came back on For Crying Out Loud. I’m not sure who came up with that bouncy hammer on riff but it has served us both well.
Ephemera. Ticket stubs, bulletins, wedding invitations – stuff (usually paper) that in of itself is worthless but when we attach meaning to it it becomes priceless. In this case I’m singing about the letters Jodi and I wrote to each other in the early days of our courtship. She in Idaho, I in Minnesota. We’ve since moved to the same state.
Our Way Out. War. Not a fan. Soldiers. Some of them are my friends. It’s gray and heartbreaking. I’m done with being against things and creating polarizing arguments. I’m for peace and I’m for loving my neighbor and that’s a Truth that guides my prayers.
Take Your Time. Inspired by an interview I heard with MN actor Kevin Kling. In short he said, “When you can laugh at something it no longer controls you.” I see that when people are freed up to give away those things that once possessed them. In church circles we speak of treasure, talent, and time as the gifts we give. Give it away. Go ahead. Do that. You’ll laugh.
Redemption. I don’t believe the world’s going to crap. I don’t subscribe to the Left Behind/Rapture doom and destruction take on end times. It doesn’t jive with the bigger story we’re given in the Bible. The bigger story is that God is about one thing. Love. Love for us, the earth, and all that is in it. A love that heals and makes whole. A love that redeems. And we get to join in that redeeming work. And if it cleans up lakes and makes fishing a more successful venture… well that’s a nice bonus too.
Your Work In Me. The scales are always tipped on the side of grace. It’s not what I do, it’s what God has done, is doing, will do. You and I simply respond.
My My. The bridge on this song speaks to my dealings with depression, the verses to the hardship and frustration of living out one’s calling and the chorus is a reminder that when God created the world God didn’t say, It is perfect.” God said, “It is good.” That gives me great hope.
In 2002 Myself, Martin Marty, Bill Singsaas, and Steve Abenth put out a CD of 9 of our favorite hymns for the season of lent. We called it “Saints and Sinners Volume One.” Eight years later it remains the only volume and it also remains out of print. This last Ash Wednesday I was playing with Marty and Steve and they gave me the go ahead to put this up for free on my website. So here it is.
I didn’t get the okay from Bill though, so let’s just keep this quiet shall we?
New: (Pre-order Music!)
I’ve been talking about it for a few months now and I’m pleased to say that early next week I’ll drive (or bike depending on the weather) over to Minneapolis and pick up 1000 copies of my new CD, Reform Follows Function. I’ll be giving all the details away soon enough but I will say here and now that this is the best CD I’ve ever put out. Though I’ve released a number of short run ep’s, children’s music, and liturgical music over the years this is the first full length full band singer songwriter release I’ve had in 10 years. Nuts. And it’s great. This CD will be available in a few weeks on CD Baby and at shows for $15 bucks but I’ve got a pre-order promotional deal for you faithful fans, readers, and relatives (hi mom.)
Pre-order Reform Follows Function for $20 and get 2 copies. You get to share one without becoming a thief and burning it for a friend. Friends don’t let friends burn CD’s. Unless its out of print or Derek Webb.
To pre-order e-mail me email@example.com and put preorder in the subject line. I’ll tell you where to send the check/cash too.
These pre-orders are hugely helpful for independent artists such as myself. I don’t take your support for granted. Thank you!
Borrowed: (Not Music Related)
I used my friend Jim’s arm warmers today on my bike ride. My forearms were delightfully comfortable. Thanks Jim!
Lu: (Someone else’s New Music)
Is it just me or did Lucinda Williams take a few tips from Nate Houge and Amy Grant? How so you ask? Well, if you don’t have Lu’s new album, Blessed, I’ll tell you what’s up: She took around a bunch of signs that said ‘blessed’ and photographed various people holding them. Who did that same thing 10 years ago? Kjellgren Alkire, when he drove around West St. Paul with a trunk full of cardboard stars and photographed all walks of life holding them. Then he put that on the cover of Folkstar. (You don’t have that album? Preorder Reform Follows Function and get it already!) But what about Amy Grant? Well, Lu made 8 different cover options for the deluxe edition. Same album, different covers = Amy Grant, Unguarded.
On behalf of myself and Amy Grant: Lucinda. You’re welcome. Anything we can do to help.
That’s right. You look at those and you say to yourself, “Wow Nate, nice buns.”
I’ve been baking a lot lately, challenging the quotable Jesus, “Man cannot live on bread alone.” I’m also trying to drop a few winter pounds. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Our camera’s been on the fritz and I know photos are essential to tricking people into reading so I’ve put off blogging for awhile. But now with a shot of my nice buns (the joke never gets old) I can see that you’ve been sucked into my typographical vortex. Suckers. I mean fan base. And Mom.
In my wordy absence I’m happy to announce I’ve got some great shows coming up in the next few months. For all the details checkout the Tour Page. For highlights:
The end of this month I’ll be on the bill with a veritable cornucopia of Lutheran artists as part of Lutheran Songs Today Live! I successfully weaseled my way on to this tour by co-writing a song with Jonathan Rundman. Yay for Nate!
In April I’ll be in the Fargo Moorhead area – I’ve got some openings in that schedule – book me!
And in June I’ll be on (drumroll) Bike Tour! That’s right, I’ve got two confirmed dates and a couple in the hopper. I tried doing a bike tour last year and it didn’t quite pan out. It was my bike tour by car tour. For this tour I’ll be playing at churches and coffee shops. For those of you tiring of liturgical Nate, this is your chance to hear me get my folk on.
And at the end of June I’ve been invited to join the Wild Goose festival in NC. For those of you sick of my folky side heres your chance to hear us get our liturgy on.
These are some pretty sweet shows and I’m honored and yes, giddy, that I get to play them.
This last weekend I had a chance to play in the Jonathan Rundman band at Shepherd of the (entire) Valley (SOTV) in Apple Valley. It was a blast. I got to play lapsteel, mandocaster, telecaster, and banjo and I got to play with Graham Peterson and Matt Pearson. Graham is a fantastic drummer as you will see when you buy my next album (marketing foundation) and Matt is a tremendous bass player that I played with for the first time but hopefully not the last!
About 5 years ago I worked at SOTV and so one of the bonuses for me was reconnecting with some old friends and seeing some of the kids that I knew before they were cool. Although even five years ago I had my hunches they would turn out awesome…
I also had a chance to see my friend Sean Johnson on Saturday night who is one of the worship coordinators at SOTV. I first met Sean when he and my wife were seminary students together and we were all members at Christ Lutheran on Capitol Hill. Since then we’ve also connected on a few musical endeavors as well as one trip to Fargo to sandbag for the annual 500 year flood. Sean is one of my church musician heroes. And wouldn’t you know he’s got a blog? So rather than read my dribble for the next 10 minutes I’ll cut my already too long entry short and send you off to Sean and friends and their blog-o-rific blog, Old Worship New.
Posted: January 24th, 2011
Comments: 1 Comment.
This last weekend was loaded. On Friday I had the privilege of playing a house concert and carol sing up in Mora, MN. In a few weeks I’ll be up there again to play at Calvary Lutheran – January 5th, be there! In Mora someone brought a copy of their boy.girl CD along. Who’s boy.girl? Read on. On Saturday Kjellgren and I went to see Tangled Blue (Joel & Aimee Pakan) at the new Dreamcoat Coffee and on Sunday River’s Voice (Rich & Trish Bruxfoort Colligan) played at Humble Walk. Then on Tuesday I got a flier in the mail for Outlaw Ranch in South Dakota and saw that in July and August all three of us are artists in residence. We went from three consecutive winter days in MN to three consecutive summer weeks in the Black Hills. And this got me thinking.
I’ve known Joel since 1995. We didn’t know each other well then, but we knew each other. He was a senior at Concordia and I was a freshman. He was (and remains) much cooler then I. He already had a band then that played real gigs and he was into fringy Christian rock like VOL and Hokus Pick and the Lost Dogs and Mike Knott’s 20 different monikers. He introduced me to Steve Knight who subsequently introduced me to Russel Munson. I believe Joel was at the Pierce Pettis show where I met Blaine Howard. Blaine and Russel were in the band Trace. A few years later there were looking for a bass player and I suggested Micah Taylor and the foursome (Leah Howard being #4) put out what remains one of the most beautiful albums I’ve ever heard. Not to mention last years Becoming Liturgy album was recorded at Russel’s studio, Small Circus. Back in 1999 Joel recorded one of my first bands, boy.girl featuring Rachel Kurtz (girl, now Kurtz May), Jason DeBoer-Moran (then just Moran) and Rev. Matt Mass (who at the time was, yes, part of the priesthood of all believers, but no, not ordained.) Rachel and I still have a few copies of that disc, but they’re getting rare and you probably can’t afford them, so we’ll just hold on to them for now. Who am I kidding? We’re independent musicians, name your price.
A few years down the road Joel moved up in the world when Aimee said yes and the two of them have been a full time musical duo ever since, touring as Tangled Blue. (There’s other stuff in there, but I’m not their biographer – this is just a tangential reflection on my relationship with Tangled Blue.) Two years ago I played one of their house concerts and last year I got to add slide guitar to a version of Amazing Grace they did. On Saturday I was reminded not only how incredibly talented this duo is, but how fortunate I am to call them friends.
I’ve known Rich since 1997. But he doesn’t remember. And that’s fair enough. He was recording an album for Youth Encounter and my teammate Tracy and I came in and sang three phrases on one song. Or more accurately, one phrase three times: ‘come alive, come alive, come alive.’ It took about 15 seconds. I wouldn’t remember me either. Since then we’ve been in each other’s peripheral circle through things like Outlaw Ranch and friends like Jonathan Rundman, but we’d never really officially met. So it was a great honor to meet Rich and Trish Sunday night face to face, to listen to a bit of their story and hear a bit of their music. And throwing food and pouring water into their son’s mouth from about 5 feet above him? That was just a bonus. (The other bonus of the night was that Jason and Rachel were at church and I got to tell them about the couple with the boy.girl CD in Mora.) Again though, what talent! Afterwards Rich and I swapped CD’s and I’ve been putting them in one after the other, getting caught up on all their great music, and I’m just at the tip of it – those guys are prolific.
I’m not a morning person so waking up at 4:45 this morning was not on purpose, nor was it welcome. But what kept me up was thinking about how amazing these relationships are. How deeply connected we become over time. I get to be part of this amazing musical community and it keeps growing.
Later this morning I’ll record the final touches for my next album. Justin and Angie Rimbo are coming over to do a little singing, bassing, and xylophoning. Then I’ll need one last harmony by Erin Deboer Moran (putting the Deboer in Deboer Moran since 2005) and then it’s off to mixing. Another album, another milestone along a not-so-independent Lutheran singer/songwriter’s journey to the… well wherever it takes me.
You know the dream where you show up at school only to realize you’ve forgotten to get dressed? I’m not sure if anybody actually has that dream, or if it’s just one of those dreams people can relate too because of it’s general sucky nature.
My wife (the Reverend) has the clergy version. She dreams she shows up as a guest preacher only to realize she can’t get her sermon to print and the whole congregation is waiting for her to get the service started.
It’s the one thing you need and it’s the only thing you don’t have.
As a working musician I shlep around a lot of gear. Sometimes guitars are in stands in the basement, sometimes an amp is at a friends house, most of the time stuff is in its case on a shelf. I try to keep an organized work space. Try.
This morning I got back from the bus stop and had 10 minutes to get ready for two preschool music classes. I was contemplating bringing the banjo along today because I like the kids to experience different instruments, plus we’ve been singing ‘I’ve been working on the railroad’ which has the line ‘strummin’ on the old banjo.’ So I got it out and tuned it and plucked it a bit to see if I could pull it off. Then I looked at my watch and realized I was running a bit late. I grabbed my guitar case, put my banjo in it’s case loaded them up on my xtracycle and took off.
My first music class is for 6 super young kids so I just brought the guitar in. It sounds funny, but I’ve found that banjos can be a bit intimidating for the under 3 crowd. We sat down in our circle, sang our welcome song and then one of the kids helped me unbuckle the guitar case and open it up.
It was empty. The one thing I needed was the only thing I didn’t have. The guitar was at home. In a stand. In my basement.
And me? I was living the dream.
The plan was to put clothes, tent, sleeping bag and instruments on my bike and do a 5 day tour culminating in a CD release concert for Becoming Liturgy. But that plan didn’t work out.
The catch with touring on a bike is that you greatly limit the distance between tour stops. If I was in a car and couldn’t get a show in Madison I could drive on to Chicago. If you’re on a bike and your show in North Branch falls through you call every other church within 10 miles of North Branch and try to make it happen. Trust me, I did. Then you have an opening on Friday night that you can’t fill. Again, you call everyone between Mora and Waconia and hope for the best. But truth be told I simply ran out of time to fill in the date. There wouldn’t have been enough time to promote the shows. That’s just the way it goes.
So do you bike anyways? Spend Wednesday a.m through Sunday p.m. pedaling your little heart out for two out of town shows and one back at home?
That’s when you hold your career up to the light and see that biking isn’t really part of the calling – it would add a little vacation to the vocation and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes down to it I can’t justify being gone five days without those two other shows. I’m also called to be a Dad and support my wife’s calling by being home with the kids on her work days.
I’m thankful that though this tour didn’t work out the way I planned, it’s still working out. And even though I don’t get to ride my bike I still had the opportunity to bike to almost 100 percent of my gigs this summer in the Twin Cities area hitting churches in St. Paul (where I live) Edina, Minneapolis, and White Bear Lake. And last week I biked to Humble walk with Elsa, Focaccia, a lap steel and a lap dulcimer all on the back of my xtracycle. I’m stinkin’ proud of that!
So folks, if you’re in the vicinity of Mora, Waconia, or St. Paul next week come check out my revolutionary new tour: The Bikeless Bike Tour. Now with less bike!
Full band concert with Jason & Erin DeBoer-Moran, Micah Taylor, and Jonathan Rundman. This will be Becoming Liturgy’s official release concert.
And if you’re wondering what the bike tour would’ve looked like here’s a picture of my bike fully loaded for church camp. I rode this 55 miles north to Wild River Sate Park as part of a training ride. It worked! Clothes, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Guitar and Mandolin. The only thing missing from the picture is how great I smelled by the end. Really great.