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bryan field mcfarland: Reviews

March 17, 2010

‘Musical and missional’

Musician asks for pledges to fund CD, in turn pledges percentage to Presbyterian Hunger Program


Bryan McFarland
LOUISVILLE — Independent folk musician Bryan McFarland is used to asking his friends, fans and family to help fund his albums.

But when he began thinking about recording his third CD, McFarland took a different route. A friend told him about Pledge Music, a company that allows fans to finance musicians through online pledges. The musicians can also designate a charity to which to donate a percentage of the funds raised by their fans.

The more McFarland learned about Pledge Music, the more his project began to grow.

“This project was bigger than just my music,” he said. “The Holy Spirit was saying, ‘This is bigger than you. Let it grow the way I want it to.’”

McFarland, hunger action advocate for Salem Presbytery, knew he wanted to involve the Presbyterian Hunger Program. He’s donating 10 percent of the record’s production costs and 20 percent of its profits to PHP.

“Most projects let you know about them at the end of production,” he said. “We’re asking folks to basically be the record label and be a part of the process.”

The pledge campaign runs through the end of May and aims to raise $15,700, which will cover the album’s recording, mastering, design and more. Pledges started coming in March 4, and as of March 17, more than $2,600 has been pledged — about 17 percent of the total needed.
“We talk the language of pledges in the church a lot,” McFarland said. “Here’s another way of making a pledge.”

The money from the project can definitely be used by PHP, said Coordinator Ruth Farrell. The program has two long-term partners in Haiti, and the money donated from the CD will help support the increased needs for long-term, sustainable agriculture.

“We were delighted to hear that (McFarland) was going to give a percentage to PHP,” Farrell said, adding that this is the first time the program has been involved in any such project.

Although final song selections are still being made, the album will include spirituals and hymns that evoke the sound of O Brother, Where Art Thou? while displaying the anthem-like universality of “We Are the World,” McFarland said.

And the songs won’t live just on the album. McFarland is designing the track list to follow the order of worship so that churches can use the CD as a liturgical resource. The album will open with gathering songs then move to confessional songs, songs of the word, communion songs and sending songs.

The versatility of the album is one example of how the project is about more than just producing a record.

“There is a way to be both musical and missional at the same time,” McFarland said.

Taking that idea even further, McFarland is working to generate a movement around the project, which he’s calling …until all are fed. That’s the name of a hymn he wrote and of the CD. On the … until all are fed Web site, fans can view video/audio updates and read blog posts about the project.

Another part of the movement is Jacob’s Join, the band that will record on ... until all are fed. Not a traditional band, Jacob’s Join is still taking shape. Its makeup will likely fluctuate, comprising studio musicians, a one-man band or musicians who live in the towns where McFarland will tour.

Jacob’s Join gets its name from a potluck held in certain areas of England. That ties in with the goal of ending hunger and with another idea McFarland has for the movement. The performances, discussions and events dealing with ... until all are fed will all be called Jacob’s joins. And they’ll all include at least one of the hunger program’s five focus areas: direct food relief, development assistance, influencing public policy, lifestyle integrity and education and interpretation.

Music will play a key role in these events, and it’s also important to ministry as a whole, McFarland said.

“If there’s any way to make a change ... on this or any issues, in this or any culture, it’s through music,” he said. “I’ve never seen that music is just something we do to entertain ourselves. Music is transformative. It’s not about performing.”
All That Matters

by Bryan Field McFarland (Sassafrasongs, 2007)

Bryan Field McFarland’s All That Matters sets a new standard for independent recordings. Strong lyrics, tight harmonies, catchy melodies, and a solid band lay the groundwork for an enjoyable ride through a variety of genres, while maintaining the theme that “God is love, and love is all that matters.”

The album contains bouncy songs like Open the Gift and Blacktop River, as well as reflective, heartfelt works, such as You Are, Help Us and Lyrica (Celtic Prayer). You’ll also find it hard to listen to What I Want without a smile on your face. McFarland, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), calls his compositions “sermon-songs,” and rightly so. Each of the 12 songs has a well-crafted message that could easily be used for sermon material.

A master storyteller, McFarland communicates with clarity and passion, obviously a result of many years of ministry experience. He keeps the vocals out in front, never letting the music overpower the lyrics. His uncluttered arrangements nicely complement the mood of each song.

McFarland is contributing a portion of the proceeds of two songs to charities. Enough for Everyone, which addresses world hunger, will benefit the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Lyrical Freedom Riders, whichtells about the 1961 Freedom Riders, who played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement, will benefit the We Shall Overcome Fund.

So whether you’re in the mood for a worship song, a thought-provoking lyric, or a toe-tapping upbeat tempo, just pop All That Matters into your CD player and get ready for an enjoyable encounter with McFarland’s creations. When it comes to music, isn’t that all that matters?
Re: All That Matters by Bryan Field McFarland

What matters to McFarland is the connection between deep faith rootage and current courage for faith in action. In cadences that bring the listener along, McFarland witnesses to hard issues that must be faced, but sings, in the midst of those hard issues, about healing, hope and finally about the divine “You.” Sung faith generates openness to freedom and obedience. The beat is just right for free obedience and obedient freedom.
₪ Walter Brueggemann (Sep 4, 2007)
"A few years ago, I wrote an article that got some exposure called "An Open Letter to Worship Songwriters." Since then, there have been a few people who have contacted me and said, "I feel the same way, and here are some of the songs I've written." When I heard Bryan's songs, I felt immediately that he was a kindred spirit and helping turn the tide with his beautiful lyrics and energetic music ....

Bottom line - I LOVE it. I love the lyrical content (what a relief to hear some good poetry and content, and not a rehash of the CCM cliches!) ... and the musical content.

Favorites were Help Us and Lyrical Freedom Riders and Blacktop River.

Great stuff, Bryan. There are so few people doing what you're doing ... especially songs that can be sung in public worship. Keep up the good work! "
- Brian McLaren, author of Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisis, and a Revolution of Hope
₪ Brian McLaren (Sep 18, 2007)
Bryan Field McFarland: All That Matters
Label: Sassafrasongs 2007

An ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA, Bryan Field McFarland is also quite the accomplished guitarist and songwriter. On this, his sophomore release, he tackles the spiritual side of the pop culture landscape, without coming across as overbearingly preachy or sickly sweet in his messages. The music is a nice amalgam of bluegrass and folk and features such standout tracks as the title tune, “Blacktop River,” and “Lyrical Freedom Riders,” the introduction of which is narrated by Rep. John Lewis, one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders in May 1961. For those looking for some tasty acoustic music with some good messages (as well as a good cause; proceeds from the CD’s sale go to both The Presbyterian Hunger Program and the We Shall Overcome Fund), you can’t go wrong with this 12-song collection, pristinely produced in Nashville with a stunning array of other talents like Troy Eagle, Todd Sholar, Shawn Conley, Dale Hardiman, and Geno Weatherbee.
The world needs more musicians like Bryan Field McFarland.

On second thought.

The world needs more people like Bryan Field McFarland.

On his newly released full length album All that Matters, McFarland touches upon the gamut of human emotion and registers an album of such emotional honesty and purity that it cant help but place a beaming, joyous smile on your face for the rest of the day.

As a musician in my own right, it is and has always been my quest to observe the simple joys and wonderment in life and hopefully, reflect those feelings in songs... and in turn hopefully help others to see that joy within themselves. It is the most important quest (in my estimation) for any musician or artist for that matter.

And McFarland does this with such ease that it is hard not to relish in delight over his talent. Take for instance his song "Blacktop River," a moving acoustic number (in the vein of John Hiatt or the later career solo work of David Crosby) that simply put, is a track about taking your car out and experiencing the glory of good drive. Simply put, McFarland's music is a celebration of life, and so much of that kind of musical magic is lost in today's music market.

At times, McFarland's CD hits too heavy with religious overtones, which has never been my forte per-se, but what I do admire about these songs is that they are not geared around changing the religious beliefs of the listener, but rather simply state the feeling that McFarland has about his own faith. And again, this is a testament of McFarland's gifted craft as a songwriter.

So please, take a listen to Bryan Field McFarland's new CD... it is bound to make you feel better about your day, and anything that has the ability to do that is something purely magical.
Bryan's fresh theological voice brings the Word into our World in a way that startles, challenges and inspires. His music will make you "hear with new ears."
₪ Marion McCollum, spiritual director (Apr 3, 2007)
~ A GIFT TO THE CHURCH ~ Bryan Field McFarland's new CD - All That Matters - is a wonderful blend of the old, the new, and the future in a musical proclamation of the faith for today's world. From the past Bryan draws not only upon biblical images but also familiar historical events from freedom riders to the perennial yearning of Cub's fans that someday the dream can come true. Towards the future he paints the hope for a peaceful world shorn of its greed and strife. Yet the references from the past and the future are blended in a folk style that lifts our spirits and give us courage for the present. Many of the songs act like parables. At first they seem quite simple but then you realize how they move you to a deeper reflection of your faith. Bryan is making a gift to the church that will reach across the generations and touch our common yearning for hope and healing.
I couldn't believe those words! Don't get me wrong, O.K. I liked the music. I thought he had a good voice. But those words were just so good. I know he wanted us to sing. I can't do that. But I have to tell you, it was like he was preaching a whole sermon in every song. All of them just meant so much to me.
₪ Barbara, Bethesda Presbyterian Church, Camden, SC (Nov 3, 2006)
When Bryan presented his latest gift, Lyrical Freedom Riders, I watched my most difficult-to-focus student moved to tears.... This student NEVER could have articulated his understanding of the experience of the Freedom Riders in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, but his stillness and silent tears evidenced true cognition. When questioned, he simply explained his reaction was "because of Bryan's song."

I've known Bryan for twenty-five years and was sure he was extraordinary the day I met him. Watching and listening to him these years later, it is plain that he has been growing his soul. He brings his bountiful spirit, his singular talents, his sometimes quiet and sometimes resounding joyfulness as well as his considerable heart to any context.
₪ Ciretta Carroll, Special Education Teacher & Curriculum Developer, Academy for Career and Living Skills, Bronx, New York (Jul 19, 2006)
Way is a wonderful sophomore effort by Bryan Field. His acoustic guitar runs the folk gamut, from lullaby (Lullaby For Meagan) to emotional love ballad (For Ever) to instrumental track (Planxty Irwin) and finally to mellow folk rocker (Way). This is no basement recording. Polished and professional, McFarland’s impressed my ear and will go on the shelf next to James Taylor. All lyrical clichés aside, Bryan Field has created a grand folk album, one that will be discovered and loved by those who hear it.
~ ABOUT THE JOURNEY HOME ~ [Bryan's] CD, Way, projects hope and prosperity of heart on a world that might not always seem hopeful and prosperous to many.
My favorite track has to be Lullaby For Meagan. Maybe it’s because I’m writing this review on Father’s Day but the thought of singing a lullaby to one’s own child just seems to be something I believe most of my readers can relate to.
"Way" is about the journey home. Take it anyway you like it but know it’s positive notes Bryan McFarland sings and plays on this album....
~ SOMETIMES RELAXING & SOMETIMES A BIT SPUNKY ~ Finally!—meaningful Christian music not produced by a Praise band! Bryan Field's Way refreshes with acoustic melodies and poetic lyrics. Sometimes relaxing and sometimes a bit spunky, this PCUSA minister will move you to thankfulness—one of Calvin's great themes—with his songs about relationships, children and prayer. Field explores themes of Christian spirituality that are being revived in churches across the country today.
Bryan Field's contributions to our worship experience have been varied, moving, and memorable. He has led multiple workshops featuring stimulating discussions that people continue to talk about weeks later. His music ministry has enriched our CoffeeHouse Worship Service with wisdom, wit, and strength of meaning that perfectly complements and enhances the liturgical message. His powerful lyrics and musical artistry pull people in and provide thoughtful inspiration during worship and long after the service is over. He is a force to be reckoned with in the most positive meaning of that phrase. His music and message will grab you and not let go, nor do you want it to. A wonderful addition to any service and a complete package unto himself. I highly recommend Bryan.
Never have I seen audiences consumed with music, as Bryan's music consumed us. With some performers the music passes by quickly like a rock skipping across the water. But Bryan's music doesn't skip at all. It sinks in quickly and moves to the heart of what life has done and is doing to us. It offers us the chance to experience ourselves and the "Other" at the same time. It seems then, that Bryan serves as a conduit of human spirit and divine Spirit. But, as he reminded us, "The music isn't about me, it tries to be an expression of you." Whatever he is trying in his music, it is working. As one who preaches for a living, let me just say that in his music I was deeply and profoundly preached to.
Way is a great album - a collection of songs from the heart, rich with life's learnings, values, and truths, and well supported by a fine cast of backup musicians!
Bryan has enough talent for several folks. His singing, playing and songwriting are full of spirit and lifted ours right through the roof!
Bryan has a true gift for songs with depth, heart, whimsy and melody.
Bryan Field, with flair and poise, graced the stage for two concerts at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Bryan's style, story, rhythm and his mood have a James Taylor like quality that makes you slip away into another world, praying he never ends. Bryan is a master with the six-string, has a splendid voice, and his gift of words leaves you stunned in envy. Bryan reveals through his music a certain and strong vision of humanity, embracing justice and hope, I recommend him to anyone who wants to hear good music.
Bryan's ministry through music, poetry, prose, humor and guided reflection provides an amazing blend of spirit-lifting and soul-searching encounters with oneself and with others. Backed by his careful and focused preparation, his deep knowledge of relevant content, his orchestration of interactive episodes and his non-judgmental guidance, our two-day retreat with Florida State University undergraduate students was a profoundly moving and joyful experience. Having worked with dozens of professional consultants over many years, I have not witnessed a richer blend of knowledge/skill, creativity, empathy, sensitivity and caring for individuals and the group as-a-whole than provided by Bryan. It was inspiring, on target and a two-day blessing for all of us.
₪ Dr. William Snyder, Professor Emeritus, Department of Education, Florida State University (Nov 15, 2004)
I first met Bryan at a weekend event at which he was providing the music. As I listened to his music and lyrics, I thought this man needs a much larger audience. He is a man of the Spirit who helps us listeners draw near and worship God. His manner is one of ease and gentleness. What he sings makes you want to know the One he sings about. I heartedly commend his ministry.
₪ Ben Campbell Johnson, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary (Dec 6, 2003)
A large part of the success of our event was Bryan Field's hard work, energy, and vision about the connections between music and vocation, not to mention the faith and personal journey he shares so willingly. Bryan has deep reserves of talent, wisdom, and creativity.
₪ Rev. Anne McKee, Campus Minister, Maryville College, Maryville, TN (Aug 6, 2003)
Bryan was awesome leading music for our Jr. High PYC Retreat. He has a gift of connecting to an audience through his music. I love how he used secular songs that the kids all know to envoke spiritual thoughts!
₪ Gray Wallace, PYC Coordinator, Presbytery of St. Andrew (Mar 26, 2005)