THE KINGSTON FESTIVAL organiser Bryan Mills filed this report on Kingston's ninth fest.

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One of the outstanding rock albums released in the last year is by America's COMMON CHILDREN. Tony Cummings reports on the trio.

When Mike Rimmer reviewed Common Children's second album ' 'Delicate Fade' in CR44 he understandably waxed lyrical calling it a "top album, so nearly an absolute classic." But the album elegantly produced by the Choir's Steve Hindalong is of a darker hew than many a CCM album. Death, disappointment, suffering, broken relationships, all are themes explored on the billowing, richly textured soundscapes of 'Delicate Fade'. "When Jesus said, 'I've come to give life, and life more abundantly', he did not say, 'and to remove all suffering from the chosen few,'" says the band's vocalist and guitarist Marc Byrd.

"Life is a bittersweet experience," he says. "It is a beautiful, beautiful thing. But it is painful, too. We have to learn to look at suffering through the eyes of Scripture... to say, 'Lord, help me to get what I need out of this.' A lot of people tend to judge their life by their circumstances. They think if things are working out, then it must be good, and it must be God's will. Tell that to the disciples who died for their faith! It didn't quite work out for them; you know what I mean? There is a price you have to, pay and we are called to count the cost."

"We've all had some pretty heavy things happen in our lives," injects! Hampton Taliaferro, the band's drummer. Recalling a year that was marked by the exquisite high of his marriage and the desperate low of his father's death, Taliaferro says, "God is kindling a fire. It's like for all three of us, all we have is God." "I think it is up to us to trust and let go of our fears and stop trying to figure it out," adds bassist Drew Powell. "You can sit and analyze things all day, but I think God wants us to be able to wait. Maybe he is doing something in our lives, and maybe he's not ready to give us an answer."

"What we are all saying is that we have faith," Byrd sums up. "In this last year we've had a record contract, had a record come out, had dreams and aspirations, had things fail. I mean, the owner of our record company died the first day of our tour with The Choir! Our record company got bought out, our A&R guy was let go, and we didn't know if we were going to fall through the cracks or even get to make this record. Then there is the financial pressure of being in a band and keeping the band going. Coming in from the road and finding your phone turned off is not a pleasant thing! It's a lot to deal with and it's a bit overwhelming. We really had to re-evaluate ourselves and what it all comes down to is, we have faith."

With all the trials and tribulations Common Children have endured in the past year, you might expect this band's latest project to be dark and depressing. But while the premise for 'Delicate Fade' is that we are all in the process of dying, the recurring theme of hope is deftly woven throughout the album and is the thread that ties it together. Instead of dwelling on the morbid, Byrd and company celebrate the wonder, the joy, the delicate gift of life, bestowed by a just and loving God. Sporting a more mature, mellow sound that seems aimed squarely at the college market, 'Delicate Fate' nonetheless manages to maintain all the intensity of the act's 1996 release, 'Skywire'. The band is supporting the new album with a US tour with Eric Champion, Everybodyduck and Rich Young Ruler.

"Common Children have always strived to be musically challenging," Byrd explains. "We want to help people understand that Christianity is more than a simple Sunday school lesson. It's a way of life and it is a worldview that encompasses everything - your relationship with your wife, your kids, your job. Everything you do is something that is to be done as unto the Lord. That can be sitting on a hill watching a sunset or that can be playing music. And music itself is a noble thing. It doesn't have to be a three-point sermon. We would like to open people's minds to see that all of life is a gift from God."

"There is a hope and a redemption and a grace," Powell adds. "You can live the next year of your life and not be haunted by the demons in your past. But there is also a frailty of life and I think the album reflects that. I know I'm dealing with that right now because my grandmother passed away this morning. I've been at the hospital for a week and I had a lot of time to think about life and how precious it is. It's really starting to hit home."

While Powell and Taliaferro had to deal with the very real grief of the death of a loved one, Byrd was experiencing the pain of a broken relationship. "I lost my best friend in a fire when I was 18 and I've had a grandmother die of cancer," Byrd says, "but this is the worst pain I have ever experienced. Broken relationship, death, the fragile nature of life. We're learning to see our suffering as the thing that will either drive us to the point of despair or drive us to the feet of Christ. Suffering can be the way God works all things together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose. I believe that," he muses. "And I have learned that, not only as theoretical knowledge, but by experiencing it in reality. My suffering has taught me a lot, humbled me, made me more compassionate. It has caused me to reflect on life and see it as a gift from God."

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.