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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

All I Owe: "Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing"

This is the first in a ten-part series of posts about the songs on my new record, All I Owe, available here and at iTunes.

"Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing"

Before we started recording, I knew that I wanted to bookend the album with the traditional versions of “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” and “Nothing But The Blood.” I had been playing “Nothing But The Blood” in concert for several years, so I had a general idea of how I wanted it to sound, but I didn’t know how we should approach “Come Thou Fount.” On the day we tracked it, my thought was to make it as short and simple as possible, almost as a prelude at the beginning of the album.

After the tracking sessions were done, Cason [Cooley, producer] and I were thrilled with how the songs turned out—except for “Come Thou Fount.” The “short and simple” idea hadn’t worked at all, and what we ended up with was painfully boring, and certainly no way to start the record.

Over the next few months we worked on the other songs, and I nervously wondered what we were going to do. Should we scrap “Come Thou Fount” entirely? Re-record it? Did I need to write a different hymn to replace it? If so, where would we get the budget and players to do another session?

Cason decided to try and work with what we had, and spent a few hours chopping up the existing track, moving sections around and extending them. While I liked that idea in theory, the result was kind of a mess and didn’t solve our problem.

A few days later, after we had recorded a vocal on another song, Cason pulled up the “Come Thou Fount” track and tried an idea on piano. The section you now hear in between verses quickly emerged. Cason then suggested we add a second drum kit on top of the existing one (we had done this on Even When My Heart Is Breaking’s “’Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus”). Donnie Boutwell, whose studio we used to track the Even When My Heart Is Breaking record, had emailed my wife to let her know he’d like to give us some studio time as a baby gift (our son was due in October). Conveniently, Donnie is also a drummer, so Cason and I stopped by one day and knocked out the additional drums in a couple of hours.

I love the end result (we call it a “Frankenstein track”), which is so much better than I had originally envisioned and is a fitting start to the record, musically and thematically.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above.

That lyric says so much—it’s honest about who I am and how often I want to run away from God, yet it doesn’t suffer from the delusion (as so many Christian songs do) that it is up to me to fix the problem. It cries out to God to seal my heart, knowing that only he has the power to save me from myself.


Blogger Duda Mano said...

Hey Matthew.
My name is Eduardo, and I'm from Brazil... I've posted a couple of times here.
I think "come thou fount" is one of the greatest hymns ever written. I have recorded it myself for my band's CD, and we didn't want to change the structure of the song, so we did it almost as it is sung everywhere, only in a slower tempo.
I also did a theological analysis of the hymn, using both the original Robinson lyrics (which are, of course, in English) and its Portuguese version.
Well, God bless you and your family! Happy new year.

Eduardo Mano
Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

6:40 AM


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