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MUCH (2001)
Much - Click to view!"Sure, whatever, worship isn't just singing." One disadvantage to praise music being a fad is that we look on it a little lightly, missing the art our passion could create. Lamont Heibert, Tommy Lee, and Austin Morrison learned Much when God sent them to study worship hands-on... at Yale University. That meant leaving their accustomed Texas surroundings for the politically charged student environment of New Haven, Connecticut, where the sonic garment Ten Shekel Shirt was first tried on.

With its world-views of searching for another reality and throwing off old standards, college seems a perfect fit for presenting the Gospel. Biblically grounded as these men obviously are, Ten Shekel Shirt soon took on a presence beyond their years, capable of engaging audiences with the drama and authenticity that a Heavenly friendship can have. That surrendering spirit seeps into their sound as well, consistent in the essentials (rational rhythms via drummer Morrison, melodies that merge Lifehouse and Caedmon's Call sensibilities) but freely straying off as specific musical format goes. "Meet with Me," opener of their Vertical Music debut, shows a God encounter existing on several levels, as the line "You fill this place" is followed by "Won't You come?" Marveling poetry washes up on the shore of "Ocean," the Much single that has flowed around the world on its own wondrous, acoustically brisk current. Bass-heavy and guitar solo-filled, "Sweet Embrace" has the guys taking on the roles of minstrels to the King, singing a simple "La, la, la." Seeing the good news in light of a new dawn, "Healer" enumerates God's many guises ("Healer...Savior...Lover..."), yet remains knelt and unsatisfied until these are seen on a personal level ("Heal me...save me...love me..."). Led by its "Worthy, You are worthy" pre-chorus, track five uses an unheard-of lyrical structure to engross listeners in kissing the ground the Lord walks on: "Of a holy life and ~ Of my sacrifice ~ Of my unashamed love."

Luke 7:36-50--translated by Ten Shekel Shirt in "Much"--may be one of the most difficult, even agonizing passages in the Scriptures, simply because most all of us stand accused by it. "Do you see this woman?" asks Jesus in verse forty-four. "I entered your house; you gave me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head." Violin by Milo Deering and Bart Elliot's percussion add even more layers to this rich, sweet-sounding offering. "Peace with You" holds truth in its world vs. Spirit focus, yet the throwaway line "nice to be" sounds uncommitted and Lamont's electric guitar plays somewhat hollow. This contrasts remarkably with "Come Away," a cut that actually clashes with all other Much material. Walls of guitar, an earsplitting snare beat, and vocal stylings with true verve lead listeners on a rough road to deny relativism, strip off lies, and trust the Savior: "So don't just lay there." Family life comes into focus on "House of Memories," while "Great" uses the strings quartet to an exorbitant, superb extent in the record's closer.

No question that Ten Shekel Shirt (or Someone else) couldn't have timed this debut's release at a more lucrative time. But this CD works because the band knows their message, and it is communication over conventions. They use music for its highest purpose, as a gathering place, or forum, for God/man relationship. "I hope that you will forget that I'm here," frontman Lamont Heibert often says to audiences, "that you may experience what every human spirit longs for-spiritual communion." Get "lost in love again," swept off your feet by the only One who has eternally pursued humanity with Much holy love.
- Josh M. Shepherd
September 2002
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