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But this is far from Chris Brown’s second recording; he has been making great music for over 20 years. Chris was a member of the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir (1985-1995), a Canadian alternative rock band that formed in Toronto, Ontario. Since then, he has recorded and performed steadily with singing partner Kate Fenner as Chris and Kate (1997-present). In 2004, Chris formed “The Citizens’ Band” as a vehicle for his solo material. Joined by Kate Fenner on vocals, The Citizens’ Band features Anton Fier (drums), Tony Scherr (bass), and Teddy Kumpel (guitar). Chris has played with numerous other musicians, including Ani DiFranco, Barenaked Ladies, Broken Social Scene, Crash Test Dummies, DJ Logic, Po’ Girl, Rheostatics, The Tragically Hip and Tom Jones.
My wife Michelle discovered Chris Brown for us. He was a student in one of her Yoga classes here in Brooklyn, and had given her one of the Chris and Kate CDs to listen to. One day, I heard the most beautiful, powerful, soulful music coming from our living room; “Who is this?” I asked. It was Chris and Kate, from the CD, O Witness. I was blown away.
Chris’s songwriting is stunning. His are not the oh-so-typical “she broke my heart, and I want her back” songs. Not even close. Chris writes poetically, philosophically, and strongly about life, love, frailty, family, duty, God and politics, all from a spiritually human standpoint, not a self-centered one. Even I, who never “listens to the words” in songs, am moved by Chris’s lyrics. Supporting his lyrics are wonderfully crafted songs (acoustic folk, funk, rock, blues and/or gospel inspired ), which deliver the perfect aural context for his words.
OBLIVION is much more than a collection of 10 individual songs–it is a true album. OBLIVION’s songs combine to create something magical and unified as a whole; you’ll definitely want to listen to this record all the way through in one sitting.
“Amen” from OBLIVION
Was it the old sun that turned you around?
Did you begin to love the river’s sound?
What woke you up? What changed your plans?
Who knew beneath all your success and failure
lay a different man…
Seeds in the old husk, put them to use
It’s time to build useful things
It’s time for the truth
You feel the danger in living free
But now every stranger opens his heart
and presents a key
This love exists
Now hope does too
This thought insists
You follow through
It might be silence
It might be space
It might be the end of you
and the dawn of grace
When the architect of light
To the birdsong, gives reply
It was the old sun that turned me around
Then I began to love the river’s sound
It woke me up and it changed my plan
And it knew beneath all my success and failure
lay a better man.
“The Return” from OBLIVION
The door is open wide and you step in–
Shake the snow and ice outside, leave it to the wind.
Feel the warmth and kind relief
As all the fear that was love’s thief rescinds
There’s a quiet light around you and me
On this quiet night
Winter frozen like a lock
Beneath the ice the old lake knocks
Wind is weaving through the trees
Moonlight on the snow agrees
With this quiet light
Around you and me
On this quiet night
Oh the falling snow
As gentle as your breath
Moments come and go
You tell me we’ve met before
But not this night and not this shore
And not this conversation’s spark
To hold your profile in this dark
Not this quiet light around you and me
On this quiet night
I’ve been holding out
Waiting for some spring
To melt this wanting into giving
And melt this longing into living
The door is open wide, and you step in.
“The Gates” from OBLIVION
The rapture came, and it only let them down.
Questions remained in the cities and the towns
What had they wanted? An end to everything they scorn–
Now nothing’s over, but capacity to mourn
The lie was total- society was spent
We did as we pleased, while the soldiers came and went
I took a lover, but all she wanted was my fear
I know to some people, it’s the only thing that’s clear.
Did you march here, or were you dragged here on your knees?
Compelled by orders, or the shackles at your feet?
Was it in a dungeon, or on the highest floor,
that you received these sacraments of war?
The streets were filled, long before the towers fell,
and most presumed that it was meant for us as well.
Kind people pray, poor people do what you must do–
What’s really wretched in this world is letting others sin for you
Freedom came my way in the form of nervous friends
who felt they had less to betray than to defend.
Love is no burden, love is no sentence, love is no trial–
Love is the final freedom
So did you march here?
Or were you carried by the chain
that links every stranger’s cruelty to every martyr’s name?
Satan and St. Peter tend to dress the same.
Through these gates–
everything and nothing are exchanged.