Rock In a Hard Place: Top Ten Underrated Christian Rockers of the Past

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Mon, 06/15/2009 - 16:23

album promo image for Rock In a Hard Place: Top Ten Underrated Christian Rockers of the Past
Long before she married Jeremy Camp, Adrienne Liesching (now Adie Camp) fronted The Benjamin Gate.

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor,

Sometimes critical praise doesn't add up to commercial success, and even if an act is lucky enough to score some singles, its legacy can often be confined to strictly those in the know. Looking back over the past 10 years, there are plenty of artists who deserved to make major waves, and while many did for a time, some have been relegated to the bargain bin or have broken up all together. Regardless of the reasons, here are 10 immensely underrated blasts from the past worth rediscovering or checking out for the very first time.

1. Burlap To Cashmere
Nowadays, Steven Delopoulos may have carved out a name for himself on the solo circuit, but about a decade ago, he was riding high as frontman for Burlap To Cashmere. The group was one of the first to ever spawn a reverse crossover, initially signing with A&M before inking a Christian market deal with the now defunct Squint Entertainment. The group's live shows were absolutely incendiary thanks to a robust blend of ethnic instrumentation and alternative rock, but considering the band thought so far outside of the box when it came to jamming, Christian radio would only play its tamer tunes.

2. Over the Rhine
Though never marketed specifically to a faith-based audience, Over the Rhine's music is loaded with soul-searching qualities. But the husband/wife duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist are amongst the most eloquent across the entire music industry (even scoring a coveted slot as Bob Dylan's opening act), while providing a plethora of earthy arrangements and organic experimentation.

3. Seven Day Jesus
In late 1997, hardly an hour went by when this band's ultra-catchy "Butterfly" wasn't played on the radio, but that simple song really didn't represent Seven Day Jesus' genuine sound. Instead, the group could be compared to Jeff Buckley with a gasoline fire lit under him, scoring with the socially conscious, and also forging the occasional controversial topic (including a commentary on rape recovery from a Christian perspective). After just two stellar albums, the group broke up and has since pursued a variety of less prominent solo projects.

4. The Benjamin Gate
Long before she married Jeremy Camp, Adrienne Liesching was fronting the ferocious alternative rock act The Benjamin Gate (complete with a gas mask as a band logo). In 2002, the group released its final (and best) effort called Contact, which featured a complex cover of Men At Work's mainstream smash "Overkill" and was promoted heavily on newsboys' Festival Con Dios tour. Though the group is on indefinite hiatus, Adie continues her individual career on BEC Recordings.

5. Aaron Sprinkle
Every true Christian rock fan is no doubt familiar with producer Aaron Sprinkle, who's been behind the boards on major albums including Anberlin, Kutless, Jeremy Camp and Hawk Nelson. But many younger listeners may not even realize he led several bands (Poor Old Lu, Rose Blossom Punch, Fair) and even had a streak of solo CDs from 1999–2004. Each of these efforts is worth exploring to see the multi-talent's singer/songwriter side, which certainly deserved radio airplay despite being confined to mostly indie appreciators.

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6. Chasing Furies
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Sparrow Records signing Chasing Furies for its sole CD With Abandon. These dreamy alternative darlings truly pushed the envelope of melody and dissonance, stirring the waters within the critics' pool, but finding a tougher time connecting with the masses. These days, frontwoman Sarah MacIntosh is on her own and recently dropped the slightly more accessible The Waiters, The Watchers, The Listeners, The Keepers and Me.

7. Luna Halo
Long before signing with Rick Rubin's American Recordings on the mainstream side of the fence, Luna Halo was also inked to Sparrow, dropping the one and only faith-based full-length, Shimmer. The hypnotic disc was instantly heralded as a triumph, though members soon sought to spread their wings beyond the Christian world, since their ambitious musical ideas tended to break the mold. After much delay, 2007 spawned a self-titled mainstream debut, but many early fans felt alienated by the switch from ethereal alternative to garage rock.

8. Bleach
Bleach is perhaps the best example of a modern rock band that consistently improved with each album released, starting off as a somewhat sloppy pop/rock outfit in 1995 that became immensely respected by its 2004 farewell. Radio dwellers will probably best recall the youth group-friendly 1998 single "Super Good Feeling," but latter projects found the focus leaning towards Weezer-esque power pop with a Jimmy Eat World undercurrent.

9. Stavesacre
This group's three Tooth & Nail recordings throughout the second half of the 1990s are often regarded as its best, with less ability to reclaim its brooding brand of hard rock when switching to secular labels like Nitro and Abacus. To this day, 1999's cover of The Cure's "Fascination Street" remains a concert staple that seamlessly bridges the gap between believers and the group's unchurched audience.

10. The W's
Remember when Brian Setzer Orchestra was bringing back swing just before the new millennium? Around the same time, Christian music had its own rhythm kings in the form of The W's, a flagship act on the now-stagnant Five Minute Walk Records. The smashing single "The Devil Is Bad" doesn't get much airplay these days, but it's a quintessential snapshot of the era and points to the players' underappreciated instrumental abilities.


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, and He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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