Dogs of Peace
is a musical collective consisting of Gordon Kennedy, Jeff Balding, Blair Masters, John Hammond and Jimmie Sloas, a group of musicians with a staggering array of musical experience to their name. Heel
, their second collaborative album, follow twenty years after their first-- and proves that they've in no way lost their unique musical chemistry. Gordon Kennedy took the time to share the stories behind each song on the album.
"One Flight Away"
This was actually the first track we began recording for Heel
. The whole song really materialized when the first verse materialized. The first verse is a story that Jimmie Lee had told me years ago about being an 11-year-old kid riding bikes with a friend, the son of a preacher who was pursuing him to pray the prayer of salvation. Jimmie Lee told me that at some point he surrendered to the idea, threw his bicycle down and said "okay, let's do this."
He told me that as he approached the house and the staircase they would climb to pray together, he had this feeling that whatever was about to happen was already happening, and he saw a vision which appeared to be an angel sitting at the top of the stairs. The idea became that salvation was just one flight away, one flight of stairs. Eternity is but one flight away as well, the one on which we depart this world. The second verse is about my mother, who left this world at age 50.
Once we knew we were going to actually record another album together, Blair and John got together and started developing song ideas, and I believe they had four separate great ideas on their first day's effort. This song began in that writing session. When I heard this piece of music they were working on, it settled with me immediately and inspired me to pursue the lyrics for it. The idea behind this song is a war scene. The singer, the soldier, is lying on the battlefield. He knows that he's made a mistake and it has cost him. But there is someone coming back for him to rescue him, not leaving him behind. In the second verse, the soldier realizes that he is covered in blood, but he recognizes at some point that the blood belongs to someone else: a Savior.
This song pre-dates our deciding to do a second album. Blair and I had developed this riff while pursuing a different project. This other project never materialized, so when we started the Dogs of Peace record, this one was already halfway done. This became the first song of many written for the record dealing with light and darkness. This would become a theme throughout the record.
The music is a bit ominous sounding, so I wanted the lyrics to convey what the music was invoking. It actually sounded a bit scary to me, and it came to me how dark and scary everything is in the absence of Christ. The verses are merely snapshots and examples of what happens with the absence of that light: the Holocaust, school shootings, the Van Gogh painting where the church in the middle is the only building with the light off. And finally, the moral compass fades into night... when there is no light.
"If It Weren't For You"
This song is an honest proclamation and acknowledgment of how empty and void of any good gifts we would be if it weren't for the Almighty. It delivers a short list of shortcomings to be experienced apart from the grace of God. The music, which is so wonderfully played by the band, suggests that the singer has tried all of these things without God and has humbly realized this after-the-fact...
"All This For A Piece Of Fruit"
This one song was written when the first record was being made. I had heard Pastor Scotty Smith say in church one day that the wages of sin, simply put, started with a piece of fruit. This one is a bit more tongue in cheek, which I think is the nature of the humor of the guys in this band.
"Only The Gold"
This song is another one that saw its inception during the making of the first record. It was a jam that Jimmie Lee, John and myself played, and we had developed a good bit of it musically. John contributed the title back then and we weren't sure where to go beyond that, so it went dormant.
I was watching an old black-and-white movie a few years ago based on a short story I had read in high school called The Devil and Daniel Webster
. That inspired the lyric for this song. We assume the role of Jabez Stone and are looking for an advocate while in a battle over the soul with "Mr. Scratch," the Devil, in that famous short story.
"Friend Of The Groom"
I was standing in the lobby of the church a couple of years ago, waiting to go in for the second service. The entire second service congregation seem to be piled into the lobby together waiting for the first service to adjourn. It dawned on me that there should be an usher standing at the door as we were filing in, asking us where we wanted to be seated. I thought my answer would be "friend of the groom."
This is another piece of music that Blair and John started together and at some point passed along to me to see what would happen. I finished the music that they started, and I had this phrase that I had heard a pastor friend of mine, Phil Bennett, say at a Bible study one morning when trying to explain how although we pray for people not to leave us in this world, ultimately they do. He went on to say that while we may not leave this world cured, we can leave it healed.
"He's The Light Of The World"
Here again, the theme of light shows up. Once I had the image of standing and seeing my own shadow on the ground, knowing that the light causing the shadow was coming from Him and that the shadow represented the person I used to be before He saved me. I knew there was a song.
"Light Into The Darkness"
Jimmie Lee brought this great bass riff in one day, and we were off and running on this song. By now, realizing that we had the thread running through the record depicting light, we took this opportunity to drive it home even more. Some playful lines like "in our brilliant minds we say we're too far gone
" and yet how nothing can outshine the sun whose love goes on and on. The chorus describes creation, light into the darkness. In the same way He created the world from chaos, He can look at the good, the bad, the ugly of our lives and say that He can work with it.
This song would keep its working title once the track was recorded, and it had been determined that it would be part two of a three-part medley beginning with "Light Into The Darkness." It seemed like it wanted to continue on the theme of light yet again. It's almost as if by now we are saying "we're coming to the end of the show, and this is what we have been saying to you folks all night!" We'd rather be a salt of the earth dog.
This is the final piece in the three-part medley. When I listen to this piece of music, which contains the verse John 3:16 as its only lyric content, I feel the message contained in the entire project being catapulted out into the world and on up to the heavens. The scripture is so powerful. All we hoped to do around that was to play. I hear such a beauty and a peace coming from the heads, hands and hearts of the band, and it is very moving.