It's one of rock'n'roll's most worn-out cliches that the Devil has the best tunes. But as this selection highlights, Jesus has his fair share of great songs too.
There's something slightly menacing about this song, the second track on Neutral Milk Hotel's masterpiece In The Aeroplane Over Sea. In fact, I've found that singing the opening aloud after a few pale ales does indeed scare people.
I remember seeing the BFB some years ago and singer Steve Adams saying that their next record would be all covers of their favourite songs about Christ. As it turned out Jesus Songs only had one cover, Neutral Milk Hotel's King of Carrot Flowers Parts Two & Three. The other songs aren't all about the Lord either though this one is.
Jesus is never far away in Jim White's world. If you've never seen his wondrous film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus, stop reading and purchase or rent the DVD immediately. You will not be disappointed. I'm sure I've read that the Jesus in this song is actually a real person in White's old hometown of Pensacola, Florida.
The most obvious example of Woody Guthrie's combination of Christianity and socialism. See also Christ For President on Mermaid Avenue, Billy Bragg & Wilco's superb album of previously unrecorded Guthrie songs.
Like Jim White, there are no shortage of Jesus references in Tom Waits' songs. It was a toss up between this and Jesus Gonna Be Here, but I opted for Chocolate Jesus to share the humorous preamble. This version is from VH1's Storytellers in 1999. Note: Wikipedia has a fascinating article about Abba-Zabas (see also Captain Beefheart).
At Hayes Carll's recent gig at the Luminaire the Texan seemed genuinely surprised by the enthusiastic response that met this wry song. He might even have called the assembled baldies "heathens". There's a nice acoustic version of the song on the Later... with Jools Holland website by the way.
Here endeth the lesson. I hope you enjoyed the songs. As usual, comments and suggestions for further listening are most welcome. Amen.
Buy These Artists
Neutral Milk Hotel: Amazon | 7digital
The Broken Family Band: Amazon | 7digital
Jim White: Amazon | 7digital
Woody Guthrie: Amazon | 7digital
Tom Waits: Amazon | 7digital
Hayes Carll: Amazon | 7digital