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Avalon's Sound & Spirit

  • Published Oct 12, 1998
Avalon's Sound & Spirit
In the legendary days of Camelot, Avalon was a place where King Arthur went after battle for healing and restoration. Today, {{Avalon}} is a Christian music group whose listeners will also find comfort for the soul -- but not rest. If the hot, progressive pop sound of this group doesn't at least get your toes tapping, check your pulse: you may have died.

The members of {{Avalon}}, currently touring with {{Crystal Lewis}}, have a vocal blend so smooth you imagine they've been singing together forever. The group actually came together in 1995, at the urging of Grant Cunningham with Sparrow Records, who had an idea for a new sound in Christian music. Cunningham knew Michael Passons, who knew Janna Potter. Potter knew Jody McBrayer from their days together in the music group {{Truth}}. And McBrayer knew Nikki Hassman from other music work he had done. Cunningham hooked the newly formed quartet up with legendary producer {{Charlie Peacock}}, who was deemed right for the sound of the group, and {{Avalon}} was born. Almost.

The group's current press kit stops just short of apologizing for their self-titled debut album -- even though it earned them a "best new artist" Dove Award -- saying that "the group regrettably admits that with their first album, they didn't have as much time to sit down and focus on the song selection process."

McBrayer notes, "The second record (==A Maze Of Grace==) is much more streamlined, and the songs have more of a common sound." That sound has been described as "Euro-pop" and "techno," with heavy gospel and R&B influences. Much of the album would sound right at home on the dance floor of any trendy downtown night spot. "I don't think any of us have ever looked at it as dance music, but certainly some of the songs have a beat you could dance to if you felt comfortable doing that," notes McBrayer. "It's a progressive pop sound, with a little bit more of an edge than traditional Christian pop."

The Avalonians left the writing to experts. "We came to the realization after the first record that we are not writers. We leave that to people who know what they're doing, and we select from those songs that best communicate our heart. When you're taking songs from other people it's important to pick ones that really say what you want to say," explains McBrayer.

So {{Avalon}} is a group put together by a record company executive that records other people's songs with the help of a hand-picked producer. Does that make the group less genuine? "Most groups today are manufactured, just in different ways," explains McBrayer. "It's obvious to us that {{Avalon}} is God's providence for us, and that we are fulfilling a specific calling. When you look at it that way, who cares how you got together? The bottom line is that we're seeing people's lives change, and it's because God has put us together to do a special thing."

The spiritual thrill of Christian music ministry is a recently acquired taste for members of the group. "I tried a lot of different things. I did the pop thing and the nightclub thing. Through all of it I knew God was calling me to do this, but I avoided it because I thought it wouldn't be 'cool' or 'fun,'" admits McBrayer. "I ran from God. I think we all did."

Like Jonah finally reaching Ninevah, the members of {{Avalon}} know they've arrived where God wants them. "God is faithful and He continues to make us aware of the fact that He has called us to this, whether it's through winning a Dove Award, which was an encouraging thing for us, or whether it's a 12-year-old kid coming up to the autograph table after a concert and saying, 'I accepted Christ tonight.' That's the ultimate."