Album Review :
Ten Shekel Shirt - Live at Soulfest (July 30, 2008)

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Artist: Ten Shekel Shirt
Live at Soulfest, July 30, 2008.
Label: Rounder Records
Review by the Headless Horseman.

Setlist:
1. This Story*
2. Risk
3. Spark
4. Wartime Lullaby
5. It’s Slavery
6. Jubilee
7. Fragile
8. You Rescue
9. Daylight*
10. Ocean
11. Peace With You

* – I’m not positive about these songs, but they’re my best guess.

Lamont Hiebert is an abolitionist. And no, I’m not speaking figuratively. Ten Shekel Shirt frontman Hiebert is also a co-founder of Love146, an organization dedicated to ending child slavery and exploitation. This makes for some interesting stories inside the world of Ten Shekel Shirt beyond even the band’s transformation from a praise-and-worship powerhouse to a purveyor of Brit-pop serenades.

I hadn’t heard much from Ten Shekel Shirt since Much, the band’s CCM debut. (Not that it was bad. There is some good CCM, and Much was definitely among that number.) I knew they had put out a second effort, but it appeared they’d shed their previous style, and I never got around to picking it up. But I figured it would be cool to see them again, especially as, having paid for the festival, the concert was free. Life’s little blessings.

Lamont opened the concert by telling a story about a time when he — not yet a Christian — skipped a rock concert to go to church with his girlfriend, where he had a premonition that he would be called up front. And indeed the pastor called “the boy in the white ten rows back” up to the front and told him he would one day be a missionary, as, in a way, he now is. It was cool to hear the way God worked out his plan for Lamont’s life. And then the music started.

Ten Shekel Shirt opened with “This Story” — I think. I was walking down the hill trying to get up front, so I sort of missed the details there. But my mother liked it, which is a tough sell. They launched immediately into “Risk,” the excellent title cut from the band’s sophomore CD. As Hiebert sang lines like “To be loved and to love is what everything is all about…I’m allowed to live to make the Maker smile…” over the Snow Patrol-esque music, I realized that my iPod has been missing these guys.

Hiebert took a pause to talk about his work with Love146 and how it affected the forthcoming third effort, entitled Jubilee, and then played “Spark,” the band’s new single about forgiveness releasing us from the bondage of hatred and bitterness and the subsequent light that fills us. The lyrics about slavery and God’s intervention continued through the aggressive confrontation “It’s Slavery,” “Fragile,” an encouragement to those being exploited that it isn’t their fault and that healing is possible, and “Jubilee,” a touching and uplifting ballad about a girl rescued from child prostitution who, upon seeing a picture of Jesus, burst into tears and told her new host family that she had always wanted to be a Christian but felt too unclean because of the lifestyle forced upon her. The passion the band put into these songs was unmistakable, the music behind them is evocative, and the results were beautiful and often chilling.

After this, Ten Shekel Shirt stepped back into worship with “You Rescue,” a song thanking God for his redemptive work in our lives. They even brought out a couple of standards from Much, which was cool for me. I was hoping they wouldn’t totally ignore the CD, and they didn’t, soaring through album highlight “Ocean” and closing with “Peace With You.” Looking at the beautiful hills of New Hampshire as Hiebert sang “Something about the heavens makes me stand in awe again” was an awesome experience. We have a great God.

Here are some things that it would be good for you to do:

1. Check out Love146. Find out about what’s going on in the world. It’s the 21st century, and more people are being sold and exploited now than were at the height of African slavery. Start talking about the problems, and find out if there’s any way you can get involved.

2. Head to the band’s MySpace and check out some new songs like “Spark” and “Jubilee.” If you want more after that, look into Much, Risk, and some thirty-second clips of Jubilee.

3. Jubilee drops August 19th. Mark this one on your calendars. Ten Shekel Shirt are back, and they have some amazing stories to tell.