TobyMac did his best to expand the musical horizons of evangelicals.
TobyMac did his best to expand the musical horizons of evangelicals. (Emi Music)
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jeremy Camp and TobyMac

Entering the Patriot Center's stage with a Bible held above his head and lights blazing behind him, Christian rock star Jeremy Camp read from Psalm 34 and peppered his banter with effortless recitations of Scripture. Sometimes his oversharing got tedious, but his tale about losing his first wife to cancer, which he followed with a chorus of Matt Redman's worship-music hit "You Never Let Go," was a powerful moment.

As a rule, though, Camp follows an epic power ballad with an epic mid-tempo rocker, then repeats. You almost welcomed the times he interrupted songs to talk about the children he's sponsoring in Ecuador or the time his 2-year-old helped him clean the kitchen, since his stories, at least, weren't entirely predictable. Camp may be simply taking his audience's tastes into account -- a brief excursion into acid funk prompted a few audience members to hold their ears and assume a position usually reserved for airline passengers about to crash.

Fairfax native TobyMac's old group, dc Talk, introduced Christian music to grunge and rap, and since its breakup, TobyMac has tried to get evangelicals to love hip-hop, reggae and R&B as much as he clearly does. His well-drilled, multiracial band was awash in good intentions, bolstering TobyMac's shout-outs to what he calls "Diverse City" with beat-boxing, turntable-scratching and vocoder solos in a varied set. His pop-punky "Gone" was followed by the reggae-salted "Irene," and when, after a medley that included snippets from the Sugarhill Gang, Wild Cherry and the Ohio Players, TobyMac fell to his knees, doffed his newsboy cap and sang to the sky, it didn't feel obligatory. Nor did the rousing set-closing version of dc Talk's "Jesus Freak," during which Camp jumped around like a goof while TobyMac rapped about not caring whether anyone thought his evangelism was weird.

-- Andrew Beaujon

Patty Larkin

At the Rams Head Tavern on Thursday night, singer-songwriter Patty Larkin said that she's particularly proud of her new CD, and with good reason. The mother of two young children, she managed, somehow, to write, produce and record the music "during nap time."

"Watch the Sky" is a solo release in the truest sense: A gifted musician with an inquisitive nature and a soulful voice, Larkin plays all the instruments on the album (one of a dozen or so she's released since the mid-'80s). Now that she's promoting the CD with a solo tour, she's made some alterations -- no lap steel guitar, no banjo, for example -- but not enough to rob the music of its percussive thrust and insinuating charms. During two hour-long sets in Annapolis, she used an acoustic guitar and various tunings to juxtapose resounding chords with shimmering tones and droning pulses. When she picked up her Stratocaster, haunting soundscapes and quirky interludes often came into play, along with electronic loops, bottleneck slide and tremolo bar. The most distinctive songs on "Watch the Sky" also stood out in concert -- the surreal scenario "Beautiful" and the ghost tale "Walking in My Sleep," among others. "Traveling Alone," another highlight, slowly and whimsically morphed into an impromptu salute to "ye olde" Annapolis.

"Watch the Sky," however, is mostly a collection of musings, more to do with poetry than passion. So Larkin wisely punctuated her new tunes with some older ones, including terrific versions of "Johnny Was a Pyro" and the still searing "Metal Drums."

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