Many societies have survived without gas, electricity, literacy and modern technology, but no society has ever existed without stories. Integral to our human ontology is the need for stories. It is often a challenge for us to learn from the abstract but truth comes alive when it is donned in narratives. Stories have a way of putting flesh to didactic lessons when they are acted out in life situations. Further, stories help register life-lessons not only cognitively for us but they create indelible images in our hearts. This is why 77 per cent of the Bible is narratives and Jesus himself is the quintessential storyteller par excellence. God knows we are story-telling creatures. So, something is amiss if our songs of worship are scanty of any narrative elements. In a genre where we have relatively few story songs, Art Wheeler's "Six Minutes After Seven" feeds a lacuna. Wheeler joins the lofty heights of Christian story-telling artists such Michael Card, Carman and David Phelps in reviving great story songs. Nevertheless, for those of us who are not familiar with Wheeler, a word of introduction is in order. Hailing from Jackson, Tennessee, Wheeler has been involved in music all of his life. Perhaps what is most impressive about Wheeler is that he not only writes his own music from bar one but he plays all the instruments on record. However, for the major portion of his life he had been writing novelty songs many comic in nature. It's only after 1998 after the birth of his third child, Wheeler decided to write more his faith and Bible-based songs.
"Six Minutes After Seven" invites us to walk with him through some of the stories found in the Bible. With only 11 cuts, Wheeler has to be selective about which stories to tell: some are expected such as "The Belly of the Whale" deals with Jonah and the "Tree of Life" re-tells how our first parents rebel against God. But there are a couple that are out of the box extraordinary. Who would have ever thought that the apocalyptic images from the book of Revelation could become a story song? Few Christians today have even read the first three chapters of Joshua lest to even set them to music as in "The Promised Land." Another of Wheeler's strength is that he doesn't just sing these stories verbatim. Rather, he adds in his own creative interpretation to them. "Son of David' finds Wheeler stepping into the shoes of the blind man from Mark 10:46-52 waiting for Jesus to pass by. You can feel the excitement, the angst, the joyful expectation surmounting as Wheeler in his characteristic ways draws us into the story.
Categorically speaking, it's hard to tag the music of Wheeler. Like Michael Card or John Hiatt, Wheeler defies being domesticated into a specific genre; though he isn't exactly pop, yet he has a folkie-rock cum country shade to his music. In fact, Wheeler never allows the genre brand to domesticate him; and that's beauty of this record. Rather than slavishly following the dictates of a particular style, Wheeler allows the song to take him whatever he wants to go. Take the album opener "Walk on the Water" as an example, the song starts off with some heavy metallic electric guitar riffs before the song gives in to some Jerry Lewis 60s sounding rock n' roll romp. While "You Are Blessed" transports Wheeler to country-folk terrain as he sets the Beatitudes of Jesus from Matthew 5 to music.
But Wheeler doesn't just sing these stories like they were fairy tales. These stories are more than myths they are God's life changing words to us. And Wheeler is careful to make that connection right through these 11 cuts. "The Promised Land," for instance, is more than just the Israelites being guided into their land of milk and honey. Rather, it's also about us that God will guide us into the hope of heaven after death. And "It's Gonna Rain," a song that Wheeler wrote for a middle school talk, is more than just a story of Noah's ark. Rather, it speaks of God's favor in our lives. In short, "Six Minutes After Seven" is a spiritually piercing album --- there are lessons here that God can use to teach us again from the stories in His word. Pick up your copy today, soak in these Biblical truths, and let these stories change us till we become more like the Greatest Storyteller ever.
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Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer, Storyteller