1997 Writings

December 2, 1997

Dear friends,

For all of the nice things that we say about thankfulness, it seems a rare virtue. In my own life, i’m painfully aware of how little gratitude i sense. A bit of bumper sticker wisdom was recently brought to my attention, a sobering reminder of how different my character is from that of the Lord: “God gives … and forgives. … Man gets … and forgets.” Any person can set himself or herself apart from the masses by simply expressing gratitude on a consistent basis, for little things – to a waitress in a crowded restaurant, to the cashier at a busy store, to the person who calls on the phone or sends a letter, to the child or parent that gives us their attention, to God for His “small” graces to us. Try it for a week. No complaining. Only gratitude. You’ll be amazed. … i read somewhere the simple truth that “he enjoys life most who is thankful for least.” Lord, make us thankful. … That said … i often tell people how much i enjoy and am blessed by the work i get to do. It is because of those who have been so generous with their encouragement, their prayers, their friendship, and their hospitality that i am able to carry on. So, lest i’ve been remiss in sharing my thanks with you, can i tell you now how much i appreciate you. Some of you i know well, some not at all. Still, i know that you’re out there and that singer-songwriters like myself don’t exist without ears that are listening.

 Thanks and more thanks to all of you for your kindnesses to me. It is largely because of you that i can say i have seen Him, my Lord Jesus. … If anyone doubts that hospitality is a dying art, you should stay with the folks who have put me up in their homes this past year. Promise you, it’s alive and well. Tyler is at my feet as i write this letter. He’s been busy this morning composing a new song called “Animal Attraction,” in response to a letter that he received not too long ago from a girl dog that was clearly infatuated with him. We both think it’s puppy love. The song should appear one of these days on a new Tyler project. i’ve deliberately scheduled December to allow for some time to rest, write, maybe record. The relative stillness should allow for some song ideas to incubate and will also allow me opportunity to read, which i find one of the most inspiring and helpful things i can do as a writer. Any songwriters want a tip: read good books. All for now. Blessings to all of you for the holiday season. i do pray that, more than ever before, we might see Him, our Savior, in ways that will move us to love and adore Him as we should this season.


PS – Click here to view an interview I did for Spud Alford.

November 7, 1997

Dear friends,

It’s hard to believe that November is already here. My month’s long intention of taking October off for time to rest, write, read, and relax hardly came to pass as I put in some long days to complete “We Have Seen Him.” I’m thankful to have gotten the project finished and hope that those who get a copy of it find it useful. You can read a description of the songs and hear some sound clips on the recordings page of this site. Many of you perhaps know by now that I was privileged to receive and invitation to record a Christmas project with Ed Cash and Bebo Norman, two of my musical mentors and very good friends. The finished project, entitled “Joy,” is a collection of traditional Christmas songs which have been refreshingly, beautifully, and interestingly arranged by Ed Cash, who continues to amaze all who know him with his musical versatility and skill.

Basically, Ed did the arrangements for the songs and, with other instrumentalists, recorded all of the music on the project. Once the music tracks were down (including choir parts by the Salem Baptist Church, a wonderful gospel choir from Charlotte), Bebo and I flew to Ed’s studio, at the Cash farm outside of Charlotte, for 4 long, intense days of vocal recording. Ed, Bebo, and I have talked of doing something together for the last 2 or 3 years and it was a joyful realization for us, as we rode from the airport to the studio, to know that dream was becoming reality. What a time we had. As different as our voices and styles are, Ed had come up with arrangements that accommodated all of us and allowed us to be our musical selves. I’m honored that these two young, talented guys were willing to let me be part of the project and highly recommend it. Since I had so little to do with its production, I can brag on it without seeming egotistical. Folks, it’s GOOD. Dare you to listen to “Go Tell It On The Mountain” without getting happy.

Both “We Have Seen Him” and “Joy” are available from Awakening Records by phoning toll-free, 1-888-552-9253.

I am hoping that, before Ed and Bebo get too much in demand to let me hold onto their coattails, we might have opportunity to do a project of original music together.

My brother Gary, who many of you know, will be returning home from Sarajevo, Bosnia on November 13. He’s been there for about 18 months and has seen some wonderful things take place during his time there. Especially during the last 5 or 6 months, many have come to faith in Christ. I look forward to hearing more from him when he gets home. Last weekend (Nov. 1,2), I was very privileged to take part in a weekend camp at Sharptop Cove near Jasper, GA. Sharptop is the newest Young Life property and, while not now what it might someday be, is a gorgeous setting for a YL camp. Last weekend’s outreach camp was the first ever at the new property. What a joy to have been part of it, to know that a long, hopefully fruitful ministry has begun on that piece of ground.

Busy days ahead for me. Do plan to be at home for thanksgiving and really look forward to that time with Gary, my parents, Tyler, and whichever of my sisters and their families will be down this year (I hope all of them will be). Don’t we have so, so, so much to be thankful for. I pray that God will make us all able to see His goodness and fill us with thankful hearts, most of all for the life that He gives to us through the grace of our Lord Jesus. I’m grateful for all of you.

In Christ’s love,

October 21, 1997 — New Albums

During his month home in October, Allen has been working toward completion of two new recordings, one a solo project and another with good friends and fellow singer-songwriters Ed Cash and Bebo Norman. Both recordings will be available in early November. The solo project, entitled “We Have Seen Him”, is thirteen songs which are musical interpretations of encounters that Jesus had with people during His earthly ministry. Starting with two original Christmas songs about the shepherds and Simeon, the seclections move through the memorable stories of Bartimaeus, Zaccheus, the Hemorhaging Woman, Malchus, the demoniac, and then to the Cross (Dirt Beneath the Nails), to Stephen’s dying vision of Christ, and to the Second Coming (Among Us He Shall Stand). Soft, acoustic music, and picturesque, thought-provoking lyrics invite reflection on moments from Christ’s life. Though the project will probably appeal to an already-Christian audience, Allen hopes that it might be an effective tool for introducing non-Christians to biblical accounts of Jesus’ earthy ministry. (Original plans of publishing this project with a book by Ty Saltzgiver have been put on hold but will be considered at a future date.)

The second project, entitled “Joy”, is a compilation of traditional Christmas songs performed in wonderfully fresh, if not so traditional arrangements. For the last couple of years, Ed, Bebo and Allen have talked of working together. This project fulfills that desire and captures three musicians, unique but who are thoroughly enjoying their work. Each of the three is featured vocally in solo and backup roles. This recording will be available through Awakening Records (1-888-552-9253). The theme is “Christmas” but the music is “all year long”. Christmas – special price for orders of several discs. More information to come soon.

May 26, 1997
Notes about Rivertown

Allen’s enjoyment of history, his affection for the South, and his penchant for storytellling all come together in “Rivertown”, a collection of songs and monologues written in 1996. The project was underwritten by benefactors in Columbus and was done in anticipation of Olympic competition (women’s softball) in Allen’s hometown of Columbus. One of the songs, “the Way We Are Down Here,” was performed at the Columbus Welcoming Ceremony before 15,000 listeners and will be the ad slogan and focal point of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau tourism campaign for the next three years. “There are stories all around us here.” Columbus’ first bridge, BBQ and sweet tea, days of steamboats, and a young soldier who trains in Ft. Benning, GA are but some of the subject matter musically remembered in the songs of Rivertown. Of special popularity is “Angel of Mercy,” a song written in tribute to Allen’s deceased friend, Ocie Harris, who began a still strong ministry to the homeless in Columbus. The songs was recorded live at a Sunday morning service of the Friendship Baptist Church, and features the choir and instrumentalists of that African American church. Allen and the Friendship choir, his favorite, performed Angel of Mercy in January 1997 at the Columbus Unity service in which Tony Evans was featured speaker.

In November 96, Rivertown was performed for four nights for the Synovus Corp., a financial services company headquartered in Columbus. Synovus is now presentation sponsor of the project. In June 1997, Public and corporate performances of Rivertown will be done at the historic Springer Opera House, Georgia’s State Theatre, in Columbus. Tickets are available for $10.00 and may be ordered by calling 706-324-5714.

May 22, 1997
“Random thoughts and work in progress”

Was in Liberty, MO recently. Walked throughout the town and saw a nicely kept yard. Flowers, bird feeders, rocking chair under covered porch with open book on table next to the chair. It all suggested to me that I’d like the person who there. They say we can’t judge a book by its cover. Can’t we sometimes? The cover is, after all, part of the book. “I am sure whoever lives here is someone I’d like to know.” Sounds like a song to me.

Idea for a love song. Girl gets off plane. Expects boyfriend to be there. He’s not. Or, she can’t see him. He hides nearby to watch her face. What does he want to find there? Something he wants to be sure of, something that maybe her eyes and expression will make clear.

Where do balloons go when they die? A question I heard attributed to a young mentally retarded boy.

Am working on a new Tyler project. Some titles so far: “Animal Attraction;” “Law of Lighten Up;” “If I Catch It (The Car Song);” “1-800 Man (The Computer Song);” “World Without a Word (The Raindrop Song);” “Can’t Run With The Pups No More”…. Stay tuned.

Am working on a collaborative project with Ty Saltzgiver, regional director for Carolinas region of Young Life. He’s writing text for a devotional reader and I’m doing songs which will be packaged together. Songs and readings are about encounters that Jesus had with people during His earthly ministry. Included are Bartimaeus, Legion, the Bleeding Woman, the prodigal, the harlot, Zaccheus. Stay tuned.

I love misused words, malapropisms I think they are sometimes called. 3 year old Andrew May of B’ham recently told me all about his “mokersytal”, you know, one of those two wheeled things that police ride around on…..

… etc, etc.