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November 13th, 2003 · No Comments

[Editor’s note: apologies for the long entry but I really like this album!]

We had sandwiches and apple juice
On that sweet afternoon in the summer
And you only wanted me to play
You had no time to waste in the summer
So you only ate half
I had to laugh….

“Summer” by Christine Dente from her CD Becoming

Becoming is Christine Dente’s first solo album . She and her husband Scott have made many recordings in the past decade together as the duo Out of the Grey(OOTG). The CD Becoming came labelled with a big sticker: “The Voice of Out of the Grey”, and I suppose that is one way to describe Christine. Scott, then, could be called “The Guitarist of Out of the Grey” but to me, neither of those simple titles captures the essence of either Dente. They write their own music, but, as far as I can tell, more than that, they live it.

For years now I’ve been captivated by Christine and Scott- certainly by their talents, their unique sound and style, her voice and his guitar (and his occasional vocals too).

But what has drawn me to Out of the Grey most of all has been the depth of their songs, the meaning beyond the music: the intimacy, the honesty that gives me both conviction and encouragement, the lyrics that ask for a second listen, a twist or turn of voice and word, a playful picture that speaks simple truth, their questions and declarations of faith.

In some sense, I feel it’s a shame that the Dentes aren’t more popular or more-played on the radio, but they have made their choices to keep their family and marriage first, to be true to what they sing. One of my favorite OOTG songs is “To Keep Love Alive”: We won’t live a lie and say it will be easy to keep love alive… Watching them in concert, as I’ve been able to do twice, I enjoy their banter and fun together, but also the deeper sense of two people deeply in love with each other, dedicated to music sure, but even when tired from a plane ride, snapping strings or forgetting a lyric line, they are dedicated to each other and God, living Love.

To summarize: what I love about the Dentes/Out of the Grey, is their music, their lyrics and their marriage.

I confess that my big fear, when I first heard Christine was doing an album by herself, was that this strength of Out of the Grey, the way they speak, sing, and live out what it means to love each other in marriage, would be gone. My other concern was: what would an album sound like without Scott?

I was pretty sure I’d still like the lyrics, since Christine writes most of the OOTG songs. Sure enough, the lyrics on Becoming unfold beautifully. What she likes to do is take a word or two, a phrase, that can have more than one meaning, and gently transform it, turn it through the song, so that you think about it. She likes to play and paint with words.
For example, in the title track “Becoming”, she uses both meanings of the word:
I am becoming
Your love becomes me

She paints pictures in “Summer” of apple juice and sandwich lunch (see above) and the chorus again plays with word expectations:
How short the days are long
How fast the days of slow go away

Christine also finds creative ways to depict everyday struggles. I liked how she described what happens when working out troubles in a relationship:
I guess I wasn’t so smart
Didn’t have a map of my own heart
I thought those old roads were just dead ends
“Gotta Go Through”

I shouldn’t have worried about the music either. Christine’s voice is as real and ethereal as ever. I can’t imagine a better voice to sing about ” whimsical gauzy pink dresses that spin in the wind when you twirl…” in “Becoming”.
Or the soaring in “To send me flying from this earthly place.” in “Echoes of Heaven”. Yet she’s strong and steadfast in telling her “Bigger Story”:
All my life
I was waiting for an invitation
To be a part of the conversation
Living in a bigger story

Christine’s voice is tender and confessional, poetic and proclaiming, comforting and clear.

I don’t have much of a music vocabulary, but I think I can say the album in general ranges from piano-based Karen-Carpenter-style feel on a few tracks (I think I read in an interview somewhere Scott comparing her to this singer) to mellow pop to hints of country and jazz, a bit or two that reminds me of something from a Pat Metheny album. For OOTG fans, this album in musical tone may sound a little like tracks from the previous recordings although no vocals or fancy solos from Scott. I thought that “piano-based” as I had heard it described, would mean quiet tunes, but I’ve even woken up in the mornings with the rhythm from some lyrics in my mind, such as “How Far How Much”

And I will never really understand the kind of love that lasts so long
I can only stand and wonder how your love for me can be so strong

And I didn’t need to worry what it would sound like without Scott. He’s still there, playing guitar and even doing background vocals here and there. Plus he’s the producer! Charlie Peacock, their first producer, stops by to play keyboards, as he used to do on their first few albums, and sneaks in a background vocal too. I thought it might be bare piano, but the sound is simple and rich at the same time, with guitars, percussion and strings included on the album.

As I listened to Becoming and read the liner notes, I realized that this album still spoke strongly of their marriage. Christine’s lyrics and liner notes speak of her passion for Scott. Scott’s skills as a producer on his wife’s album – how wonderfully he helps her sound! – speak of his heart for her. The album reads like a love letter: from Scott to Christine, from Christine to Scott, and from both of them to God.

While it may sound a bit like OOTG, I feel there is more intimacy, simplicity and feminity on Becoming than on their other albums. I am grateful for how Christine is sharing from her heart and life on this CD. I’ve always liked OOTG lyrics for their honesty and perspective, but Christine in this album seems even more like a friend. What she’s revealed in her songs and stories has meant a lot to me recently. After going through a time of turmoil this fall where I’ve realized the limits of my own human love – seeing how little I knew of my own heart (didn’t have a map!)-, I found much reassurance and hope in “Gotta Go Through”, “The Only Thing That Counts” and “”How Far How Much”. “Bigger Picture” helped me find bigger perspective on my past and on my present troubles. As a girl, I too “fled the garden for the tower”, running away from relationships, as Christine writes in the title track about her childhood and growing up. “Echoes of Heaven” and “Goodbye” comfort me with their truth and beauty, as the anniversary of my brother’s death, and his would-have-been-30th birthday approach. “Summer” and “Becoming” encourage me to celebrate and embrace all God has done for me as I grew up from girlhood, and all He has for me in this moment right now with my own little girls and husband.

On her new web site , Christine Dente has a journal (check out yesterdays post about what life on the road is like – “bus head, bus breath…Is it worth it? Am I up to this?”) and I particularly liked this interview with Christine, a favorite of mine.

This album is one of my favorites. It speaks to me at this stage of life, and in this season where the Lord has placed me recently. Although I think Becoming would particularly encourage any young mom, wife or woman, I believe the songs speak strongly to anyone at any stage of life. My husband has been playing it in his office. Our girls like it too. “I like Mrs. Dente’s CD,” proclaims our three year old daughter. “Play Mrs. Dente,” asks five year old Abigail, and the two dance around the room.

Becoming reminds me of a box of chocolates: sweet surprises, smooth and treasured. It’s a beautiful (shades of pink and purple come to mind!) scarf to wear wrapped close to keep warm on winter days. It’s a photo album with precious pages from the past and present, memories to remember and make. It’s a gentle breeze on a summer day. It’s a cup of tea with a friend.

Now this is not music to blast while cleaning out the garage or running on the treadmill. No, this is music for reflection, refreshment, and getting off the treadmill. This is music to enjoy in the kitchen while preparing vegetables for dinner, with the kids coloring pictures at the table. It’s music to play while waltzing with your baby around the living room.

How short the days are long
How fast the days of slow go away
So I’m wading right in
Playing your games
And I’m running the full length of summer
By your side

P.S. To listen to some of the songs and to hear and read about the stories behind about them, go to her web site – check out “about” and the ecard (home page list). To buy Becoming check out Grassrootsmusic.com price of 11.98 or buy the songs for 99 cents a piece on-line at Rocketown Records Songs from Out of the Grey’s most recent album are also available there.

Tags: music