Looking back at the road so far, the journey’s left its share of scars…
This line rather aptly opens the Self-Titled record. I have to admit, it is one record I’d all but forgotten about until Geof asked me to write something for its 15th anniversary. Over the years and my journeys around the world – both literally and figuratively – my CDs slowly became replaced by a collection of digital files. The CD jackets I’d once treasured so dearly – worn out and faded from pouring over them for every last lyrical detail – now only a myth I’m reminded of by tiny thumbnails in my iTunes library.
Caedmon’s Call was not my introduction to the band. In fact, by the time the record came out in 1997, it was a long-anticipated event among a group of eager and devoted fans spread across the plains of Texas.
But I do remember the first time I ever heard a Caedmon’s Call song. I was in my freshman year of high school, a wee lass of 15, sitting in the front row of a nearly-empty cavernous Lubbock, Texas church sanctuary with 300 classmates. The chapel band, including my at-the-time-devastatingly-amazing high school crush, had tucked into an earnest-but-green version of ‘April Showers’. I was hooked.
I followed said group down to a little coffee shop on 19th Street a couple of months later where college kids – much older than I at the time – sipped on huge Friends-sized coffee cups and played cards. When the band took the stage in their deliciously unpretentious uniform of grotty t-shirts and worn out and holey jeans, I was hooked for good.
I never liked the song ‘Lead of Love’ particularly, but these lines so aptly capture the past 17 years. There was a time when I didn’t hesitate for a second to cross state lines in order to catch Caedmon’s Call once, or thrice, on their latest tour. I recruited friends and even family members to camp out on a freezing, dewy East Texas field for the first-ever Guild concert. I waited patiently after concerts just to get five minutes chatting to the band.
Over time, the members of Caedmon’s Call graciously accepted me – one of their most devoted and stalkerish fans – as a friend.
Over time, too, the band came to represent, more than its music, a group of like-minded people. To meet a fellow Caedmon’s Call fan in those heady early days was a rare treasure. An instantaneous friend. A companion who understood just how good the band was. Like any true grassroots following, it was a cult effort.
Just like so many of their fans, my love of Caedmon’s Call stemmed out of their approachable lyrics. They called me to question the world of pop-Christianity I was surrounded by at the time and begged me to remember that music, above all, should be provocative and a cause for questioning, rather than a result of a record label’s “Jesus count”.
All these years later, Caedmon’s Call is still regularly on my playlist. The rich layers of the band’s sound – from the trio of Cliff’s, Danielle’s and Derek’s such different vocals to the unique percussion of Garett Buell and the driving drums of Todd Bragg – can still hold its own against the rest of my music collection. No small feat. They are a band I never hesitate to introduce new friends to, and several of my closest friends and family are now ardent fans themselves.
I wouldn’t call Self-Titled Caedmon’s Call’s best moment, nor its worst. For me, many of the songs are better rendered on other records (especially the epic Just Don’t Want Coffee EP, a record by which I still judge any new speaker system). But what it represented was a watershed moment when Caedmon’s Call went from a small Texas college group to a band following their own journey and leading us along with them.
For me, the various records in Caedmon’s discography were at one time each connected saliently to memories of high school, college, road trips, first loves and first heartaches. And while those memories still linger in the melodies and lyrics, the songs have followed me ‘round the world (a couple of times) and carry ever-new meanings all the time.
I’m coming home, I’m coming home.
But I’m still a long way off.