Fountain of Love (July 2015)
I want to say something about David Brauner’s new CD…the character of his message is captured in the title track, “Fountain of Love”— “Fountain of praise, fountain of love, flowin’ down from our Lord above. …That fountain never runs dry.” Sometimes the world’s staggering brokenness, or our own, impinges on us in such a way that tears cannot help but come to our eyes. But the fountain of God’s love never ceases to flow over us, providing the refreshment we need.
The CD’s first track, “Hallowed Ground,” invites us to “look up… look down…” because we’re “standing on hallowed ground.” It is a simple but roiling reminder that with each step of our life journeys, God’s holy presence hallows every place we may be, wherever we may look, whatever may be the circumstances.
The example of “Nicodemus” lifts up the fact that “You and me, my brother, we are all born the same: instead of tryin’ to get home, we go chasin’ the brightest flame.” We can all too easily forget that God has “lived among us” (John 1:14)—a verb connoting emphatic action whose effects continue to be felt in the present. Nicodemus is “just like us,” says David—“with some new eyes, we are born again.”
“What Do We Say” explores our habits of blame, fear, times when communication breaks down between people, the question of “how do we pray when we don’t believe the words we say?”
The variety of David’s musical styles and his blend of instrumentation and back-up vocalists continue to amaze, and the spiritual insights of his lyrics provide unforgettable phrases that stick in the mind and lift the human spirit. These musical offerings include the genres of folk music, country/western (“Devil Wind”), social protest (“Immigrant’s Dream”), Rock (“Test of Time”), hints of reggae (“What I’m Livin’ For”—here you have to love the lines, “hard times they will come, good times they will go, most times the time just rolls on by, we don’t even know.”
My deep gratitude to David for his multiple talents and his generosity. I invite everyone to buy and enjoy his music. We look forward to hearing these songs many times in worship. - Rev. Dr. Tony Wolfe
Talk to David Brauner and you quickly learn music is both his inspiration and an important expression of God active in his life. On his new CD “Fountain of Love,” one song caught my eye because of its many questions. The songwriter knows what will drive a person like me to seek answers, resolution or at least a response. The song is What do We Say? What perfect questions for one to use in examining their life with Christ. When we talk about “Christian” behavior, we are talking about the behavior of those who have accepted, by faith, Jesus Christ as their Savior and thus are indwelt with His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), making it possible for them to serve God.
Say, what do we say, when there is nothing to say? Do, what do we do when there is no light shining through? Proverbs 18:21, Ephesians 4:20, but perhaps James 1:19 sums it up with “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Blame, who do we blame when there is no one to blame? Hebrews 10:14, Romans 14:12 and James 3:1 with encouragement from James 5:16 which says: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much.”
Fear, why do we fear? In 1 John 4:18 we are told “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Try, what do we try when we can’t look each other in the eye? We can find guidance on what to try throughout the Bible, consider Ephesians 2:9-10 says: “not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Talk to God each day, know His words and you will know what to try, what to do, what to say.
Pray, how do we pray when we don’t believe the words we say? Certainly Psalm 23, Matthew 6:9-13 are well- known prayers. Other prayers that may be useful to know are:
Exodus 33:13 – Moses asks for God’s favor
Philippians 1:9 – Paul prays for believers
Psalms 51:1-8 – David prays for guidance
Jonah 2:2-9 – Jonah prays thanks and commitment
Habakkuk 3 – Habakkuk rejoices
2 Chronicles 10:5-12 – Jehoshaphat prays for deliverance
Daniel 9:1-19 – Daniel’s prayer of confession
1 Samuel 1 – Hannah’s prayer for a son
- Suzanne Carlson
Spokes On a Wheel (Summer 2014)
David’s new recordings incorporate a delightful blend of musical genres and address a wide range of spiritual experiences including the miracle of a changed life (Water to Wine), the dark night of the soul (Praying for Relief), confidence in God’s healing presence (Roll It on The Lord) and the cleansing that accompanies confession (We Come Before You Lord). A great mix! -Rev. Dr. Tony Wolfe
When you ask him about his music, Brauner is apt to paraphrase the famous Blaise Pascal quote, “There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
In his third CD in two years, Spokes on a Wheel, Brauner provides the uplifting and “witnessing” message found in much of Christian rock but with sounds and ideas that are grittier, more effecting and more universal. The music is at once familiar and infectious but with ideas that mine deeper territory than most. This makes for an interesting listen, but because his words buck the simple formulas, Brauner’s music may find a hard time breaking through on Christian radio- though many of these songs deserve to.
He taps a Universalist theme in the title track, Spokes on a Wheel where he sings: We are all together like spokes on a wheel. He explains that when a spoke breaks, even one, the wheel won’t turn and you get nowhere. “You need all the spokes to move forward. I learned that and other valuable lessons five miles from nowhere on a mountain bike,” Brauner says.
He continues in Spokes, We’re moving toward the center, He’s moving back toward us. We are all together, riding on this bus. Later in the title song Brauner focuses on following Jesus’s message during our time on earth. This theme surfaces many times in the CD. Again from Spokes, So let us not love with words but with action and in truth. Not to judge or hold a grudge but let love be our fruit. In Raise Your Head, Brauner speaks more directly about filling that God-shaped hole: Now He don’t text, and He don’t phone, but you can bet you’re never alone. So when your faith’s a bit rusty, lean on Him, He said, ‘you can trust me.’
Brauner personalizes this message in Roll it on The Lord, which would feel right at home on Staples Singers CD. He is shouting out about turning to the Lord for strength in times of trouble. Now when I am low down, in that deep dark place. When I need forgiveness, when I need a little grace, I roll it on my Lord. In the last verse, he explains why, Now on that black Friday, He went died for our sins but come Sunday morning, you know, He rose up again, so roll it on the Lord.
In the Garden, one of the CD’s standouts, we transport back to Gethsemane, walking with Jesus in the last few hours of anguish. It’s a swirling, feverish soundscape of gritty guitars, angelic backing vocals and Brauner’s soulful lead. The introduction sets a tone of time slowed down. Jesus is thoughtful and hyper-attentive to the things around him. Then after a musical break that feels supernatural and psychedelic, Jesus emerges reinvigorated : Now I will rise again. I tell you my friends. And the last they will be first, a blessing not a curse. The Son of Man will rise again. And finally: My time is almost through. Forgive them for they know not what they do. This is an Easter song like few others.
In Feed My Sheep, like many songs on this CD, Brauner seamlessly weaves scripture with his own words, dropped into a toe-tapping sing along. From Feed My Sheep: Do you love me’ Jesus said. Yes, Lord you know it’s true. Well, if you love Me feed my sheep and if you love Me tend my lambs. If you love Me walk with Me and do my work in all the lands. If you love me, feed My sheep. The message is simple: Christianity is a verb: following Jesus means following his actions.
In another standout, the rockin’ Water to Wine, Brauner reinterprets the parable and brings it up to date for all of us: He took my life, turned water into wine.
In I saw my Lord and Savior, Brauner retells the real-life story of a San Diego police detective, who faces death after being wounded by a deranged shooter. As he lies on the ground bleeding in what he imagines are his final moments, he sees Jesus, who hands him a note saying “Forgive Your Brother.” In this case, the forgiveness is for the person standing over the detective about to pull the trigger again. Brauner says he saw a snippet of the detective’s court testimony on the local news by chance one evening. “When I saw his testimony in court I could feel the room vibrating- the experience was that powerful, like an out of body. People don’t believe miracles happen anymore, some doubt they ever did happen. Well, here one is. This is a detective, trained to state the facts. To observe. I carried his words around with me for weeks and then one day, I sat down and the song spilled out.”
In Garden of Eden, Brauner conjures up Adam and Eve and Cain and Able, among others, to highlight the good choices we fail to make and many bad ones we choose all too easily. Darkness and Death spilled over the light. When Eve picked that apple and Adam took that bite. He sings in the chorus: We all know what happens next, someone says no when they should say yes. What happens next is very well known, someone says yes, when they should say no. Summing up the result of bad choices, Brauner declares: You are forgiven, God says you’re blessed, but in the morning light you still wake up in a mess.
In the prayerful We Come Before Your Lord, Brauner enumerates the many ways we hurt each other that to many may not feel like “sins” or anything very serious but run counter to how God teaches us to live. When we are our own God. When our world narrows to one. When we don’t remember, this is Your Kingdom Come. When our words are too careless, when we forget how to feel. When our love we damage instead of heal.
About halfway through the disc the mood pivots with Early One Morning, a “praise” song about all that is “right.” He sings, Early one morning I went out a walking. Under a blue sky and sweet morning breeze. He talks about an accessible God, always present and always available and the peace the relationship brings. The protagonist has found something right in his own backyard that he spent a lifetime searching for- God’s peace: Climbing up mountains and crossing great seas, now here in this garden, in the soft summer breeze. The song has a Celtic feel with a striking female backing vocal.
In Praying for Relief the protagonist is up, walking the floor in the middle of the night, unable to resolve his issues. There are things we can’t forget, some things we can’t control. And even though we try, some things we can’t let go. He turns to God, prays for relief and in the end, we find him in bed next to his wife, drifting off to a peaceful sleep, better dreams in my head. “That song is about prayers answered,” Brauner says.
In the CD’s very personal closing track, Right Where I Want to Be, Brauner invites us to his five year old’s birthday party which he uses to offer some parental advice, that presumably, will be here when she’s old enough to understand. It’s a sometimes touching, sometimes preachy “time capsule.” Brauner sings: Now if you have two, you have one to give. And if you’re angry, you have the power to forgive. And if you’re sorry, find the words to say you’re wrong. It’s like sunlight and blue sky after the darkest storm. A road map for his daughter for some time in the future when, as he imagines, You turn to me and find I’m not around. Just peek over your shoulder, that’s where I’ll be found.
Brauner is perfectly backed by a band of crack musicians and some idiosyncratic production that give these songs a good home and makes them interesting and listenable. Spokes on a Wheel weaves scripture and plain English seamlessly into a rocking good time to deliver a strong message of faith, despite life’s ups and downs. – I. Peck
Brauner has a new CD, Spokes on a Wheel, and he has settled on a winning formula from the earlier discs…the tracks lack gloss and don’t need it, since Brauner’s long suit is his heartfelt message. The songs have a beat that seems to make them the all-body, all-soul experience he intends. -Frank Kocher, San Diego Troubadour
God is Love
Each of these songs has a message we can all understand. The initial cut, Happy New Year, is a reminder that every day of every year is ‘OK’ because at the turn of each year when ‘the Christmas lights …are coming down… it’s OK He’s still around.’ The single note on the triangle at the end of the song is like a Zen call to meditate on the power of the preceding words and feast of sounds. Or maybe it’s a single jingle bell ringing.
We Live By Faith offers a driving Johnny Cash-style beat which sets the appropriate pace for the uplifting lyrics: We live by faith and not by sight; we are walkin’ steady toward the light. You will see later with your eyes so bright what you know down in your heart is right. There’s a certainty in this song that is communicated like an appropriate spiritual sneer at the values of the
principalities and powers of this world when we hear: Who is this man that wind and seas obey? ‘Follow me,’ He said, ‘Follow me and see.’
The title song, God Is Love, echoes the guitar riffs of the Byrds and while it acknowledges the sometimes
wobbliness of our faith, it affirms the trustworthiness and teachings of the God whose love steadies us along life’s journey.
Shout It could have been written by Woody Guthrie and simply makes you want to sing along. We Gather Here begins with the tone of a quiet prayer, moving to a guitar bridge that carries the sharp inner cry for help we sometimes want to express but too often hide behind the calm exteriors we think we should project to others. At the end we are back to a quiet affirmation of the worth of worship: We gather here with our hearts open wide to the place where love abides. The simplicity of Put It in Your Mind to be Kind couldn’t be more poignant; we are reminded that When you are kind your little light shines.
These songs show David’s consistent talent for the kind of storytelling that communicates spiritual insights. The rhythms of the music are perfectly paired with the lyrics. You can hear the influences or overtones of a singular artist like James Taylor, the folk trio of Peter, Paul and Mary, the Blue Grass earthiness of the dobro, banjo and Appalachian fiddle, and a beat that always carries you forward and makes you want to dance even if you can’t. All this reflects David’s musical complexity coupled with the ability of each of his songs to put a finger right on the heart of some aspect of the life we seek to live with Christ. - Rev. Dr. Tony Wolfe