In keeping with a recent Facebook meme, these are 10 albums, listed by artist in alphabetical order, that had a huge impact on me, changed the way I experienced music, expanded my horizons, and maybe even saved me. They’re not necessarily the best albums or even my favorite albums by the respective artists, though there’s some overlap. But without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
This is a concept album about the end of the world where Texas is the Promised Land, and a trio of good ol’ Texas boys have been tasked by the Good Lord Himself with bringing God’s people home in exchange for rock n’ roll stardom.
Yes, it’s kind of ridiculous. The band’s sense of swagger and Texas-sized attitude are often tongue-in-cheek, and they occasionally veer into sacrilege with wild abandon. But here’s the thing: this is also a glorious, ambitious, sprawling album that combines massive walls of sound à la My Bloody Valentine with a U2-like sense of religious drama, topped off with a lead singer who (not unjustly) has often been compared to Jeff Buckley. And the lyrics are a beautiful blend of the profane and the profound, steeped in mysticism, charismatic Christianity, and end times imagery.
This is also an album that got me through some pretty dark times back in the early ‘00s. I’d say there was a good solid 6 months where this album was a constant companion during a long period of heartbreak and doubt, and I often found solace in songs like “Falling from Cloud 9” and “With Crippled Wings.” If nothing else, I could just drown out my problems for awhile by turning up the music really loud and losing myself in Josh T. Pearson’s cyclone-like guitars. To this day, I still get chills when Pearson intones “We shall be free” during “Into the Storm.” There’s something so profound in the hope and yearning that’s conveyed by those four simple words.
Put simply, when Pearson sings “Follow me over the Jordan/Across the desert sands/Follow me into Texas, into the Promised Land,” I’m ready to pull up stakes and march right alongside him.
Here’s a fun bit of trivia: I booked Lift to Experience to play a show in Omaha back in the day. My friends and I were giddy to meet these guys, who’d become pretty much legends to us by that time. And there was no mistaking them at the venue, especially Pearson, who stood well over 6 feet, was dressed all in black with a huge cow skull belt buckle, and looked like a desert prophet with his long, unkempt beard and dreadlocks. Their bass player asked if I knew where he could get some pot (I didn’t, but I’m pretty sure he scored some by the night’s end), they played an absolutely mind-blowing set, and then we all went back to my house where we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning drinking Jack Daniels and talking music and theology. Truly a night to remember.