Hymns Volume III


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I’ve heard hymns sound staunch, anachronistic, pharisaical, sappy, and above all comically glorious. In pop culture the singing of hymns represents a special brand of puritanical escapism and a retreat to “the good old days” of hard-headed faith.

I’ve also heard hymns sound sleazy, shallow, frivolously syncopated and sloppily paired with an alternative rock band (only churchgoers know this horrific reincarnation of the classics).

Between these two evils, I choose the hard-headed version, as it is at least slightly dignified.

Mostly, I conclude that the hymn played and sung with subtlety and meekness of style is best of all. That way, no brazen human calculations drown out the sweet poetry and theology that I love, that feeds me.

Jon Green’s latest volume of hymns, however, belongs to some new and exciting realm of possibility. It’s not that he avoids tradition or innovation; he doesn’t dodge the mistakes that others have made with interpreting hymns. Instead, it’s as if he were the first to pull out the dust-covered hymnal in a hundred years. And as he reads these songs, sings them, studies them, he is unburdened by the creative strain that they’ve undergone. In them he sees heart and logic; he doesn’t worry about dressing them up. He sees something both godly and human in them, something universally resonant, and something essentially folk-oriented. His variations on these works are so true, that although I’ve never heard them before, they often become the hymn for me; they are written back into musical and spiritual tradition, they are revealed like artifacts.

It’s been a long journey for Jon to live comfortably with hymns. He’s argued with them, fell for them, negotiated with them, and occasionally bashed their brains out. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Volumes I and II started solidifying his approach, but still wavered widely in terms of style, production, and arrangement. They represent his appreciation for hymns, vocal experimentation, folk music, electronic instrumentation, minimalism, polyrhythm, texture, and drama.

Volume III benefits from all of these realms of interest, but they serve together now, to always support the ideas and impressions that Jon wants to communicate. And the album inhales and exhales beautifully, weaving subtlety and energy throughout. Take for instance the re-voiced “Come Thou Fount.” With no awkward stretch of the sound pallet, we are led from gentle plucking rhythms, to a fervent pulse and tasteful trills, to triumphant stamping of bass and crunching guitars. Such thoughtful, organic progressions appear in many of the songs, showcasing Jon’s knack for orchestration and patient development of themes.

The album is both expressive and kind to the listener at a level that Jon has never before achieved. Jon has made the kind of progress as a musician that P.T. Anderson made as a filmmaker from Magnolia to There Will Be Blood. All of the dissonant, spectacular skills that made Magnolia thrilling and confusing made There Will Be Blood articulate, singular, and comfortably earth-bound.

The album satisfies with robust, forthright emotion in “Such Great Love” with its crystal strings and proud horns, and stretches the listener with dissonance and longing in “Two Families,” which opens with a purely auditory “wake-up call” and moves into a bare, pleading shape that sticks to the gut. The album is tribal, folksy, and it rocks in that spacious, gritty way that’s been largely lost in mainstream music, especially in tracks like “Come Thou Fount” and “Just As I Am.”

There are also plenty of pure originals which escape classification. “Joseph” is both hilariously colloquial and thematically profound. The instrumental based on 2 Corinthians provides space and strong instrumental communication. In “3 Years,” acoustic sound and computed manipulations team up nicely to create a meaningful atmospheric space for a striking vocal statement.

The melodies are surpassingly strong whether they are traditional or original, and Jon’s vocal interpretations border between birdsong and gravel. The instrumentals and production are smart and warmly blended. Jon has brought new weight and joy to an old tradition, not only re-clothing but re-embodying the life of hymns.

--Brian James, 2010


released August 28, 2010

All instruments played by Jonathan Green, except the bass on Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove, as well as the vocal harmony on Come Thou Fount, sung by Rebecca Green. Mastered by Carl Saff.



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JG HYMNS Edinburgh, UK

Jon Green lives in Edinburgh.

He works with old hymns and writes new songs.

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Track Name: Come Thou Fount
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’ve come.
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Track Name: Just As I Am
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Track Name: Such Great Love!
I know you want us,
I can be sure ‘cause of how you
Left your throne and became poor.
Oh, maybe more.

I know you love us,
I can be sure ‘cause of how you
Touched the sick and healed the sore.
Oh, maybe more

Jesus, it’s a wonder the way you came on down.
Jesus, it’s wonder the folks you hung around.
Oh, such, such, such great love!

I know you know you us,
I know for sure ‘cause of all those things you say we can’t ignore.
Oh, maybe more.

I know you‘ve saved us
I know for sure ‘cause of how you
Took the nails to win the war.
Oh, maybe more.

Jesus, it’s a wonder you know us way inside.
Jesus, it’s a wonder you ever gave your life.
Jesus, it’s a wonder how much we fail to pray.
Jesus, it’s a wonder how much we always run away.
Track Name: If We Were A People Who Really Believed
O my brothers be steadfast,
O my sisters be immovable,
Always abounding in the work of the Lord,
Always knowing that in the Lord,
Hey! Your labour is not in vain.
Don’t you remember?
You know that Christ was raised again,
You know that death has lost its sting, mm, mm, c’mon.

Keep on working, keep on working, keep on working.

And when I think of all that what we could do
If we were a people who really believed we’ve been given eternal life.
Track Name: Joseph
Well you could say I was a spoiled, little, bratty boy,
Wrapped in cash, while God showed me the stars.
But when my brothers skinned my coat like a man skins an animal,
I guess my God just gave me scars.

If but one grief and smart had its full career,
My heart would slowly sink, and soon disappear.
But here these griefs are made to sing.

Let’s cut to it: everybody knows I got that job
Giving grain to starving folks in town
And we could say this justified my sufferings,
But I’ve seen something more profound.

When all my brothers came, looking for some loaves of bread,
I could have thrown them straight into that jail,
But retribution can’t heal those broken roots of your heart.

If but one grief and smart had its full career,
My heart would slowly sink, and soon disappear.
But here these griefs are made to sing.

Lord, we are made like you, and like you we rise
Ours is the cross, the graves and the skies
Track Name: Jesus, Lover Of My Soul
O Jesus, O Jesus, lover of my soul,
O Jesus, while the nearer waters roll,
O Jesus, while the tempest still is high,
O Jesus, let me to thy bosom fly.

O Saviour, hide me my saviour, O hide.
O Saviour, guide me safe into your haven, O guide,
Till the storm of life is past.

O Jesus, I don’t have any other home.
O Jesus, I don’t ever, ever want to be alone.
O Jesus, O I hang so helplessly on you,

O Saviour, hide me my saviour, O hide.
O Saviour, guide me safe into your haven, O guide.
Track Name: Two Families
Lyrics by JG
Track Name: 3 Years
Well I’d work three more years, and then
I’d quit. I’d give up on them.
But you God, your love never ends, I know.
Track Name: Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove
Lyrics by Isaac Watts (1707)