What better for the holiday season than an actual piece of gospel? Nothing against silly and/or sentimental Christmas songs but how much sturdier and more appealing is this homespun, Christ-supporting hoedown? And I say that as someone with no attachment to (or, to be blunt, faith in) Lenny Smith’s particular views of who the Lord may or may not be. But this is a heartening song—more fun than hymns or carols usually are, and as such more inclusive than it might initially sound. Someone having a good time, singing a catchy melody, with spirited, front-porch accompaniment, describing his idea of a happy world, without bad-mouthing anyone but an unspecific group of people called, simply, “the wicked.” (And even those folks seem to be approached with compassion by the kindly Mr. Smith.) This is a rollicking good time, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why anyone is offended by the reality of someone expressing a different belief system or celebrating a different religious holiday. How insecure in one’s own spiritual life does one have to be to be intolerant of someone else’s?
Oh, don’t get me started. Just crank up “How Blessed is the Man,” and see if you can’t feel a little bit blessed this holiday season yourself.
Lenny Smith is 70 years old and has been writing Christian music since the 1960s, all in the so-called “folk mass” style. His 1974 song “Our God Reigns” was a big hit with churches around the world who were embracing folk worship at the time. Family life intervened—Smith and his wife have five children—and he taught school and worked as a carpenter and sang his songs at his church and was very happy with his life. Eventually his son Daniel grew up and became a musician himself—he fronts the quirky-earnest, gospel-inflected indie art pop band Danielson—and sat his father down to record some of his songs, which became Lenny’s 2001 album Deep Calls to Deep. “How Blessed is the Man” is from Smith’s long-awaited follow-up album, Who Was and Is and Is to Come, released in November on Smith’s own label, Great Comfort Records. MP3 via Great Comfort. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.