not only one of the best Christian bands of the
90s, but one of the best rock bands period."
It wasn't a conscious thing, they say, it was only obvious in retrospect. You finish recording a project, you get away form the studio, you live with the songs for a few weeks, and what's been swirling around in the undercurrents of your own hearts and minds the very tensions, longings and exhalations that gave birth to the songs in the first place are suddenly laid bare and made visible. When they're finally all spread out on the table in front of you, you can at last take an objective look, determine the connections, and give them a name. For the members of Third Day, ruminating on the completion of their third record, their first
for Essential Records, that name is Time.
"We just started writing songs with a notion of
whatever comes out, comes out," says Mac Powell, Third Days
sandpaper-and-grit vocalist. "But when we were done and we looked back, this diverse
theme of time just kept recurring. Time in the sense that, as
Christians, we hope the return of Christ is soon. But also time in the sense
that its time to be bold about our faith, to start living out the Christian walk, to
be who we say we are. Scripture tells us to redeem the time, to make the most of every
opportunity. In response we want to encourage Christians to begin to live like the Gospel
Crafting a musical framework to undergird the urgent
passion of their lyrics, Third Day intentionally gravitated toward a rootsier, looser, more "southern" feel for Time than was evidenced on their previous
"On Time we finally found and captured our sound," says Tai Anderson, the
groups bass player. "In the past we might have felt like we had something to
prove, but this time we just wanted to be ourselves and make a great record. We recognize
that growing up in the South has effected our musical style. Whats most natural for
us is a very straightforward, what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach, as opposed to
something with a lot of overdubs and productions tricks."
Opting to record in Atlanta at Southern Tracks studios
(Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Black Crowes), Third Day set up their amplifiers in a
circle and recorded all of the instruments simultaneously in an effort to capture their
dynamic live chemistry.
"Some of the coolest stuff we do is unplanned and
off-the-cuff anyway," says Third Day drummer David Carr. "Recording the way we
did opened up more space for those inspired moments to happen. Our producer, Monroe Jones
(Chris Rice, Margaret Becker, Wes Cunningham), was instrumental in setting the tone. He
wasnt so much concerned with musical perfection as he was with capturing the mood of
the songs and the spirit of what we were trying to do."
Blending elements of rock n roll, blues, country, rock-a-blilly, and gospel, Third Day sought with Time to further
refine the personal, honest evocative, no frills sound that produced nine #1 singles, garnered three Dove Awards, a Grammy award nomination and career sales approaching 500,000
form their first two records.
"Weve always just written songs from where we were as
Christians in our relationship with God and with each other," observes Mark Lee, co-guitarist for Third Day along with Brad Avery. "Our first record was very
blatantly about our faith but it was simple faith. Over the years weve grown
spiritually and musically. On the second record we wanted Christians to dig beneath the
surface of their faith and search for meaning. This record combines the best of both; its very up-front about our faith, but its not at all surfacey. There are
lyrics that are obvious, and others you need to hear a few times and wrestle with."
Times melody-driven opening cut, "Ive Always Loved You," serves as a good case-in-point. Acoustically
framed and more musically subdued than typical Third Day fare, "Ive Always
Loved You" pulls listeners in with an air of tender urgency.
"It was with a measure of fear and trembling that we
decided to kick the record off with that song," says Mac, "because its so
laid back. The song is a love song from God to us. The Psalms tell us that God knew us
while we were still in the womb. Romans says that while we were yet sinners Christ died
for us. We sometimes run from God, but God has always known and loved us, even in light of
Third Days tendency to dwell on matters of faith and
relationship with God has served to create an ever-present, underlying sense of worship in
their songs that audiences have been quick to connect with.
"Worship has to come from the heart and be
sincere," says David, "so weve been really wary about jumping on a
worship music bandwagon. On the other hand; especially in our live shows, its a big part of what we do and we want to make it even more so. Some of our songs
we never thought of in a worship context until we began performing them live and saw
people raising their hands and worshiping. It surprises us and makes us realize that what
we do is sometimes more worshipful than we know."
One of the standout tracks on Time, "Your Love, Oh
Lord," falls unapologetically into the worship vein. "Lyrically its a
praise song straight from the Psalms," says Mac, "but musically its very
different. It uses loops, two drum sets and unusual guitar tones to create a rhythmic, ethereal, universal world-beat feel."
Several of the more aggressive, forward-leaning tracks on Timesuch as "Took My Place," a song about Christs unfathomable sacrifice
on the cross, and "Never Bow Down" ("a hard edged, line-in-the-sand
proclamation"), draw from more familiar Third Day sounds musically. "Never Bow
Down," while based on events in the Book of Daniel, has specific meaning for the band
in light of more current events.
"Its not something Ive talked a lot
about," says Mac, "but God has been dealing with my heart in a secret way about
the persecution of the saints around the world. Here in the West persecution usually just
means being ridiculed, but there are believers all over the world who face torture, imprisonment, loss of property, and even death because of their refusal to turn from
Christ. "Never Bow Down" is a song that weve dedicated to them."
The records musical center emerges most clearly in
the tune "Dont Say Goodbye." Rootsy, spacious and minimalistic, this song
of encouragement and challenge captures in a four-and-a-half minute span the collective
personality and current sensibilities of Third Days respective members.
"Even up to the day we mixed this song I was
terrified," says Mark, "because I didnt think we had recorded enough
tracks to pull it off. That turned out to be the beauty of it though. You hear every
little part and texture coming in at just the right time. It hit the bullseye of the
hybrid we wanted to create between a stripped-down southern, and a mid-American rock
sound. It also hit the bullseye lyrically, because one of our goals as a band has always
been to challenge Christians to dig deeper and to know what they believe and why they
believe it. Thats still something were about."