i have always liked sinead o connor. she never takes a preditable path. her voice blends a beauty, a frailty and has a passionate anger that rails against injustice that can only come from someone who has suffered. i remember seeing her at glastonbury several years ago and when she sang famine feeling like i was listening to a prophet.
she has suffered abuse at the hands of religion and famously ripped up a picture of the pope on stage and has vented her anger in public at her abusers. but she has also sought refuge in the solace of spiritual traditions and the mercy, grace and healing that come from finding a god of compassion, mercy, justice and kindness who is unlike those who claim to represent him. she calls god jah or U, and seems to have found inspiration and comfort with rastafari. there is a whole tradition of setting the old testament to music in reggae and sinead aligned herself with that tradition in her last album musically.
her latest album theology is just out. i bought it on impulse not having heard anything on it, intrigued by the dedication on the sleeve to a theology professor for his classes on jeremiah who suggested to sinead that she set some scriptures to music. well thank god he made that suggestion. because theology is pretty much that - a range of old testament scriptures woven tenderly into song. it's pretty, beautiful and powerful. i'm sure sinead must have read walter brueggemann in her classes? at least she fulfills the two roles of the prophet as he describes it - to evoke grief/lament about what has been lost and where we have become numb and to evoke amazement about god and the new world that is possible of healing, justice, and mercy.
the album has two CDs - one session recorded in dublin with just an acoustic guitar and the other in london with a wider range of musicians. i love the acoustic one. i don't listen to much music like this either. but this has so much soul it almost brings me to tears when i listen to it. it will be hard to beat though i kind of hope people do some remixes of some of the tracks too.
sinead seems to have stolen a bible from somewhere in desperation one christmas eve (judging by the lyrics of something beautiful) and found healing in the pages and poems of scripture. she thinks god agrees with her that it should have been free anyway... fair point! and it makes perfect sense that she has found a companion in jeremiah as he walked a path of suffereing in his own life out of which his message was hewn. there are songs that draw on psalms (33, 91, 137 and 104 i think) and songs of songs as well. as well as tender lament and love songs celebrating god's mercy she still has a few choice lines as do all the prophets for the oppressors who distort the name of god for their own ends.
i've heard religion say that you're to be feared
but i don't buy into everything i hear
and it seems to me you're hostage to those rules
that were made by religion and not by U
you can listen to a few tracks on sinead's myspace pages if you want to check it out. as well as her own songs she covers by the rivers of babylon and i don't know how to love him, as well as a curtis mayfield track.
the album opens with the lines
i wanna make
for U and from U
to show U
i adore U
you succeeded sinead - thanks. and may you continue to find the healing and mercy of god. [i'd love to hear what you make of the new testament and the person of jesus sometime as he carries forward the traditions and wells of spirituality you are drinking from and they 'broke his windows' for it]
heard a rumour that she was invited to greenbelt but sadly can't make it as there's something else in the diary. i hope she makes it another year.