Tuesday, October 14, 2008

McKendree Springs Eternal

“God You Search Me,” Fran McKendree (video by “mulkwolf”)
In the early 1970s, when I was a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, a folk-rock band called McKendree Spring performed on campus. The same year, we also enjoyed Michael Kamen’s New York Rock And Roll Ensemble and Tony Williams’ Lifetime, featuring Cream’s Jack Bruce and guitar master John McLaughlin. The Andover administration was then offering us prep school boys fine music in lieu of coeducation.
franMcKendree Spring was on tour (with a fiddle and no drums, roots music before the term was coined) backing the second of its seven albums, “Second Thoughts,” which had a wonderful cover of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” as well as an original, “No Place To Fall,” that was my favorite song for about two years — or so I burbled over the weekend when I got to share a dinner conversation with Connecticut-born co-founder Fran McKendree at a clergy conference in Palm Springs. An Episcopalian since young adulthood, Fran appears regularly at clergy and youth retreats around the country while continuing to perform concerts and record. His new album, “Rise,” is praise music for the thinking person. During an impromptu after-dinner concert last night, he performed a 12-bar blues about the three-legged stool of Anglican theology:
Scripture, tradition, and reason/That’s where I take my stand
Accompanied by photos assembled by a YouTube philanthropist, Fran’s song above, “God You Search Me,” is based on Psalm 139, the composer’s favorite. A McKendree Spring live reunion album, “Live at the Beachland Ballroom,” came out in 2006 and is available at iTunes, but it doesn’t include my old favorite, and Fran’s composition, “No Place To Fall.” I still have the LP somewhere, but I mislaid the turntable in 1995. He’s going to check and see if he has a digital file to send me. God is good!
This post orginally appeared at The New Nixon on October 14, 2008.