Kerry Patrick Clark releases Easter albumWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kerry Patrick Clark has struggled with his professed musical identity in the past, but his latest album unapologetically embraces his Christian soul.
Just in time for Easter, “His Story — My Story” chronicles Jesus’ resurrection tale in the Bible, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Jesus rising from the dead. The second half of Clark’s album is a response to the story, comprised of songs that reflect on the impact Jesus’ sacrifice has on Clark’s life.
Clark’s professional musical career dates back to the 1980s. His music has been woven into a PBS special about reclaiming hope after Sept. 11, 2001, movie scores and various theme songs, including ESPN’s “Bob Mann Celebrity Sport Styles.” The new CD marks his sixth. Although raised Catholic and having truly connected with God at 29 years old, Clark didn’t call himself a Christian artist until 2000.
“The Bible and God have been used to start so many wars and bang people over the head so many times that some people have been so profoundly hurt by believers — by Christians,” Clark said.
But in Clark’s case, the Bible and God inspire songwriting. On stage at Maumee United Methodist Church on March 24, Clark sat before the pews packed with more than 400 people. Bending toward his guitar, he sang as if he were conversing with an intimate group. It was a conversation that often caused broad grins but sometimes drew a deep frown on his face.
That night, you’d have no qualms about classifying him as a contemporary Christian folk artist. But he takes care to refer to himself as a musician who believes, and even that description came after years of playing country songs about relationships, sorrow and joy.
Looking back to his first albums, he considers the work amateur at best. In the 1980s, he played music on boats that traveled up and down the Maumee River and sold 1,000 records in four months. He then joined the New Christy Minstrels and traveled around the country with them.
But something was missing; he began to ask more questions about how the world worked.
He had always wondered, ‘Why me?’ because he was an unlikely survivor of extreme premature birth. Born in 1963, he weighed only 5 pounds and had other health issues that led the doctor to tell his parents he wouldn’t live. But he did.
Becoming close with God helped him find answers. After he quit the New Christy Minstrels, he spent about six months inactive and then auditioned for as many televised national talent shows as he could.
The album he released in 1994, “A Simple Man,” marks the first step on his spiritual journey.
In 2000, when he finally decided to label himself as a Christian musician, his music dried up, he said. He told his friend Shawn Taylor that he thought God was hesitating to bless his songwriting.
Taylor asked Clark what made him think God wasn’t present in his folk music.
“He was struggling with what I perceived to be a black-and-white issue, like should I be or should I not be (a Christian artist),” Taylor said. “My discussion with him was, ‘Kerry, I don’t think God is that limiting.’
“The discussion we had was that Christians tend to box things into nice, neat boxes, where everything can be acceptable or not acceptable. I believe the quote he likes to quote me on is, I said, ‘Why would you want to limit God like that?’”
That conversation commenced a new dawn of creativity for Clark. He released “911…Songs to Heal a Nation” in 2001, “On the Road to Human Being” in 2010 and now “His Story — My Story.”
You can hear that creativity in this Easter album. But Taylor points out that this is no ordinary account of a story told millions of times. Clark tells the Biblical tale through a few different perspectives. The Palm Sunday song, for example, is shared through the eyes of a child who is too small to see over the crowd. He asks his father to hold him up to see Christ parading through town.
Another nuance of Clark’s collection is that he does not make obvious statements to ensure the listener knows he or she is hearing a Bible story. In “One Kiss,” he shares the passage about Judas betraying Jesus by telling it mostly through Judas’ voice. But he does not use the name Judas or Jesus anywhere in the song, nor talk of the cross or God. Instead, he makes allusions to the story by describing the “forces of good versus evil and the power of love against rage” and continues by singing about “one kiss to say how much I love you; one kiss to say goodbye.”
“The generation that I live in is tired of being told what it looks like; truth is truth no matter how its presented,” Taylor said. “Its not a matter of ‘It’s not true unless you quote Matthew 10 whatever;’ it’s truth because it’s true. I think Kerry has a greater audience because he doesn’t come across preachy.”
And Clark certainly doesn’t want to come across that way, either.
He said it’s not his job to save sinners — that’s God’s job. Clark’s responsibility is to sing songs and show his neighbors kindness and love and tell them where these qualities come from only if they ask, he said.
“Do you go out and talk about ‘You’re not right, you need to repent of your sins and you need to live the way I do?’ I disagree with that,” Clark said. “Jesus went into bars and he talked to sinners, he talked to prostitutes, so who am I to look at somebody and say, ‘You’re not thinking, doing, being what I’m thinking, doing, being so therefore you’re bad and you’re wrong, but if you come over to my camp I’ll love you.’ No, I’m going to love you anyway and if I don’t have the capacity to do that then, Lord, change my heart — work on me because I’m the problem here.”
One of the songs on Clark’s album addresses what it means to “Walk the walk,” or live like Jesus. Clark sings he wants to live how Jesus lived, love how Jesus loved and talk the way he talked. It can be as simple as sharing love, hope and kindness, he said.
The album sprung from the desire to make something more of Easter than an Easter egg hunt. He was later handed a book by Adam Hamilton called “24 Hours that Changed the World.” Although Clark admitted he’s not much of a reader, he said when he picked up that book he could feel God telling him to pay attention.
After much soul searching and talking with Taylor, “His Story — My Story” was created.
“It’s an ugly story; as an artist I’d like to change it and make it prettier like Christmas — we can do that with Christmas and get away with it,” Clark said. “But you can’t with Easter. It’s a pretty severe, ugly story and beautiful all at the same time.”
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