Artist:  The Choir
Title:  Burning Like the Midnight Sun
Label:  Galaxy21 Music

After twenty-five years and little commercial success, alternative Christian rock band The Choir gracefully continues on its own terms, still making the art of thoughtful lyrics, fine melodies, and interesting music sound easy on this twelfth album, Burning Like the Midnight Sun.

First cuts "Midnight Sun" and "That Melancholy Ghost" uphold the group's established style—driving rhythms, atmospheric guitars (think early U2 or Australian underground mainstays The Church), and occasional gusts of saxophone. "Between Bare Trees" and "The Word Inside the Word" showcase a pure Beatles influence that never overshadows The Choir's true originality.

Indeed, the songwriting team of singer Derri Daugherty (music) and drummer Steve Hindalong (lyrics) is a rare brotherhood that finds great spiritual depth in everyday happenings. On this especially biographical record, there are poetic tributes to fellow band mates Dan Michaels (saxophone), Tim Chandler (bass), and Marc Byrd (guitars) that seek forgiveness ("I'm Sorry I Laughed"), celebrate laughter ("Mr. Chandler"), and simply honor friendship itself ("Legend of Old Man Byrd"). Just as compelling are the parent-child stories that shine on the aforementioned "Ghost" and "Trees," whether dealing with a broken heart or an ailing pet.

And if you really want to get pithy with it, try having a conversation with friends and family around the spiritual warfare-based "Invisible." Or check out "It Should Have Been Obvious," an ethereal-edged pop song comparing American Christendom's past stains (slavery, segregation) with whatever social injustices may or may not be overlooked today. Like something out of Derek Webb's notebook, when Daugherty boldly sings, "Yeah that was me / the self-appointed judge of your own orientation / I studied law at the blind man's school of cruel indoctrination," it's a challenging thought that burns as deep as this music is bright.

However, such hot-button issues, along with a couple of cigar smoking references, may keep The Choir on the outskirts of wider conservative acceptance, where die-hard fans know to find them.


**This review first published on September 2, 2010.