Rockin Your Grandma’s Hymn Book

January 28, 2009

Hey everyone. Last week, I was blown away by the response you gave to our celebration of irrelevance, and our list of irrelevant hymns.

Honestly, I was really blown away at how many of you knew of ‘Little Brown Church in the Vale.’

Now I love hymns; I grew up singing them. I also love new music. It pains me to see hymns pushed aside in favor of new music though, when they can peacefully coexist side by side, just like the senior ladies’ quilting club and the youth group at church…Match made in heaven.

But let’s be straight. Some hymns are starting to sound as if they’re about to fall out of their wheelchair right in the middle of the third chorus. The worship leader needs to whisper to the pastor that this hymn has gone to be with the Lord so he can pray and end the service.

But some things, like denim jackets or U2, keep coming back no matter how many times you think they’re dead. They come back into style for a new generation. There’s some hymns out there, even though they seem dead, are about to come back like Lazarus.

Yep, there are some great musicians who are bringing sexy back when it comes to rocking your Grandma’s hymn book, or at least bringing back the lost art of hymn writing. I’m talking, soulful, intense music, not hip hop worship tunes fit for a mix tape. Not every hymn has to be turn into an irrelevant, kitschy relic of the past, and unlike some fashions, chances are you’ll be glad these songs are back again. These guys are doing a sweet job of making all things old new again.

Three Bands Rescuing Hymns from Irrelevance

Robbie Seay Band

Robbie Seay does make these kind of lilting moaning sounds in the mic to fill the empty space in his songs, but man can the guy sing. I heard ‘Jesus Savior, Pilot Me’ and was blown away. What an incredible, original song! Then I look it up and find out it’s over 150 years old, and the original tune is nothing like it’s new incarnation. They effectively rescued this song from the obscurity of the antique hymn pawn shop. Then there’s the new stuff on top of that, namely ‘Beautiful Scandalous Night.’


I’ve got to plug this band, not just because they are a Kansas City original, but they’re dat gum great musicians. They write plenty of non-hymnal worship music. I wouldn’t be surprised if your church has this band’s music in its rotation, even if you’ve never heard of them. Although they don’t really reinvent old hymns, they are prolific when it comes to hymn writing. We’re talking singing the blasted Psalms – it doesn’t get more old school than that! Back when Beethoven was composing his ‘sacred music,’ the old folks in the church said, ‘Bah! The only music God hears is the Psalms, you punk!’ So the Psalms predate the music we think of as ‘old fashioned!’

Jars of Clay

I had written this band off years ago. Seriously, they were the kind of band you’d sort of get teased for listening to in my youth group. Don’t know what it was, they just seemed kind of lame. Then they throw down with ‘Redemption Songs.’ If you think an antique like ‘Nothing but the Blood’ can’t be dusted off and made to shine, think again.

I in no way claim this to be an exhaustive list. If it were, and there were only three bands out there working to resurrect our hymns, I think it would be a losing battle. As anyone who knows me can attest, I am the world’s last authority on music. So let’s hear it. Who else is bringing back the hymn book in a fresh way? What hymns are you still attached to, even though no self-respecting ‘contemporary’ church would be caught dead singing them?

One response to Rockin Your Grandma’s Hymn Book

  1. Personally, the one I think could use a serious makeover is What A Friend We Have In Jesus. The syllable count is about right to sing it to the tune of I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.

    IMO those sloooooow, contemplative hymns need a good dose of pep.