Which came first, lyric or melody? No need to pose that classic songwriter query to Glen Galloway about any tunes on his band Soul-Junk's new album. In the beginning were the words, to paraphrase John 1:1. Yet the Biblical refs on 1959, Soul-Junk's tenth full-length, go back farther. 1959's 23 tracks involve Galloway singing the Old Testament's Book of Psalms' first 23 chapters -- verbatim.
"I really end[ed] up writing the song around what [would] rock that chapter instead of picking my favorite bits and pieces to arrange in a song," explained Galloway. "I sang most of these voice-only on a microcassette and listened to them for about a year before trying to record them in a studio. Musically, past S-J recordings were more about sound experiments and weird chords..."
Soul-Junk was launched in the mid-1990s when Galloway reduced his central role in Trumans Water (who soon after migrated to Portland). While celebrated globally by underground music heads for its scripturally informed guitar rock, lo-fi acoustic strum, and hip-hop, Soul-Junk mystified many -- including fellow Christians.
"Just got kicked off the lectern at a worship song summit," rapped Galloway on "3PO Soul" off S-J's 2000 CD 1956. "My hymns all plummet, cuz church ladies still can't hum it/ But the Kingdom of God? Yo I'm from it/ Man's religion gave me a fake red light so/ I'ma have to run it..."
"I think Soul-Junk is in the process of leaving a legacy that will probably be more valued after they are gone," summarized Brian Flechtner of the Oregon-based label Quiver Society! that released 1959. He appreciates S-J's ongoing evolution as well as an ability to remain diverse and experimental on the new record. "I used to go to a church that sang from the old 'Psalter' -- the Puritan approach to singing the psalms can be quite somber."
"I like that it's different from anything I've ever done before," concluded Galloway, 1959's sole performer, except for some charming vocals from four-year-old daughter Mila. "It's also very deep in terms of the Spirit for me. After hearing these songs 300 or 400 times, I still hear the inspiration behind them much louder than the mechanics of recording them.
"I'd love to eventually record the whole Bible in a way people could listen to over and over. I've already done it for myself on microcassette/mp3, but it's chipmunk ultra-midrange voice-only-phonic -- reminds me of stuff I recorded when I was 14, ping-ponging back and forth between two Radio Shack portable cassette players. Sounds good in concept, but I'm looking to make this whole thing melt-in-your-mouth yummy rather than hard work in any way. My gauge is if listening seems like work or fun. While I was recording the Psalms, everyone who heard them asked for a copy. That's what it's supposed to be."