Monday, December 27, 2004

The Songs of Zion

This is what I’m going to call a new segment of my blog. I really enjoy following the trends in LDS music, and I’d love to share that with you. As I get new CD’s, I’ll review them and then if you get them, you can tell me if I’m full of it!

“Change” by Stephanie Smith
Produced by Jonathan Shults and Stephanie Smith

Even though Stephanie and I are not what you’d call “old friends”, we’ve known each other a few years. I think we first met on the yahoogroup. Anyway, I’m always excited to get a chance to see her play live. In fact, I even had the chance to promote one of her concerts. I remember once about a year ago, one snowy winter night, that another friend of mine and I went to American Fork, UT to hear her play in a small bookstore on a sort of “double bill” with Greg Simpson (another one of my favorites), and Shane Jackman. At the time, she was working on a second CD, and she brought with her some of the scratch mixes that she and Jonathan had recently finished.

I was just blown away by them. The two tunes she played were energetic and edgier than her first CD, and I was way excited.

So, then, a few weeks ago, she sent me a copy of the final release of the CD to review here in Mo’ Boy! I was pretty stoked to crack it open and hear the tunes. And I’m not disappointed at all.

“Change” is kind of an appropriate title for her album, as she’s been going through a lot of it since the last CD. This one is edgier than the last, which was good, but I felt a little held-back. Now, don’t for a minute think that “edgier” means “hard rock”. That’s not her style. It’s an “alt/pop-post-lillith-fair-singer-songwriter” kinda groove. With intelligent lyrics. And cool surprises for chord changes. And heart. Don’t tell anyone, but a couple of times I teared up listening to this. Ok, I’m old and sentimental…

The lyrics overall deal with a positive outlook on life, but not rose-colored at all. This is a work that acknowledges trials and difficulties, but takes the high road. One of the best of that sort is “Let Me Know”. It’s about God leading you to the promised land only to find that it’s barren. Then you plant the seeds He gives you and it blossoms. God may lead us there, but he doesn’t expect us to rest when we get there. It made me think of the wagon trains heading west to finally arrive in the dusty valley by a dead and salty lake.

She did a cover of her own song, too, in “Better Off Alone”. Originally on her first CD, the newer version is bigger and with more intensity. It’s one of my favorites of hers live, and it was cool to hear it again, new on this CD.

“Sidewalk Pictures” is about the fragility of art. And yet, somehow, we keep on doing it. This one has some really cool chord changes in it. Very fresh things you don’t expect.

There were a couple of tunes that I didn’t get, like “Save Your Own”. That one made me wish I knew the story behind the song. I might have understood it if I had. Still, melody and the tune carried me through. “All I Find” was another one”.

She just recently got married (one of the changes I was referring to), and that threads through several of her songs. I like hearing love songs that are very clearly about being married. Most love songs are so vague they can be about any kind of love. But committed and documented love is somehow different than “living together” love, or even “just dating” love. And it’s nice to hear that reflected in song. And even though she’s only been married, what, a couple of years, and I’ve been married over 15, these songs still spoke to me, as well. The best of these is “Anywhere”.

Go to her website for song samples and gigs. If you live in the Utah County area, she gigs a LOT, and travels some, too.

Mark Hansen


  1. Thanks for the sweet comment on my blog! Its nice to know that someone out there is reading. I will be adding you to my favorites on my homeschooling blog and look forward to reading yours frequently!


  2. Oh yes and I was also wondering if you would be able to recommend some good LDS artists albums for my daughter - she is turning 13 on the 16th of January and I would like to provide her with some uplifting yet cool (of course!) music for her birthday.


  3. The real answer to that question is: "That depends on what your daughter likes."

    But here's some suggestions anyway: Of course, Stephanie Smith ( (either CD), Maren Ord ("Waiting" or especially "Not Today"; Julie De Azevedo's "Hello Sky" is great, but a 13 year old might not like her other CD's ( Jennifer Lemon is great urban dance stuff ( Her site is cool for more than just the music.

    And, of course, my own at


  4. I just got this from Stephanie's camp:

    "Mark, Better Off Alone actually was not on her first album, it was however featured on a preview short for this album.

    "Just an FYI 'All I Find' was written for a Candle Light Vigil for victims of drunk Drivers.

    "It speaks to anyone who has lost someone that they love only to see the rest of the world moving on,... When she performed this for the vigil they were scrolling through all of the victims names who were lost to drunk driving accidents. It was a difficult heart felt performance."

    So I checked on the first CD and now I have to wipe the egg off my face. But I swear I've heard it recorded. It must've been just live stuff... Hmmm... Bad journalist! I should have checked my facts better!

    But the song's still exceptional, and one of my favorites!

    And thanks, also, for filling us in on the story behind "All I find"


  5. Well, ever since someone recommended Lisa Cannon to me, I've been careful ...

    But, I like Felicia Sorensen, any recommendations for similar artists? It is really too bad that her solo career did not go better.



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