Last week I downloaded a new album from iTunes — well, by “new” I mean “old” but new to me. It’s 1981’s “Troubadour of the Great King” by John Michael Talbot, a humble Franciscan monk and leader of a Catholic religious community in Arkansas. The album is amazing, a mixture of folk, worship and orchestral bliss. For those of you who don’t know, John Michael is the best-selling artist in the history of modern Christian music. A pop/rock artist before he converted to Catholicism in the late 1970’s, once he converted Talbot started writing songs and singing them en masse, producing over 50 albums the past 35 years. His songs are simple compared to today’s modern singer-songwriters. He chooses to sing passages of scripture — especially the psalms — and various prayers of the saints. Mix in various elements of Catholic liturgy and you have his catalog of art. His acoustic guitar picking and smooth folk voice produce praise and peace, celebrating simplicity and beauty. He worships, and I worship along with him.
I always knew Brother Talbot existed in the Christian music community, but since he wasn’t a “pop” artist like Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith, his songs never got played on Christian radio. His Catholic faith probably also hindered his popularity here in the Bible Belt. But ever since I discovered his music in 2005, no artist has ministered more to my soul than Brother Talbot. When I’m down or sad or melancholy I just turn on his albums, close my eyes and am immediately transported into the peaceful refuge of God’s word and prayer.
Yesterday I listened to “Troubadour” while I hiked a local trail. The weather was beautiful, the spring air was fresh, and the music amazing. “Troubadour” explores themes of creation, dedication and simple praise. It is Talbot’s voice and acoustic, nylon-stringed guitar set against an orchestral backdrop. When walking through nature — God’s creation — it is stunningly moving.
Here’s a video of one of the album’s songs, “The Pleiades and Orion,” produced a long time ago. It shows its age. BTW…I totally recommend checking out John Michael’s music. You may not agree with all aspects of Catholic theology but you cannot argue with hearing the truths of God sung with beauty and majesty. When he sings of creation, the psalms, or the words of Christ, it penetrates the heart and sinks to the soul. At least it does for me.
And a more modern song (one of my favorites), “Only in God,”
His official website can be found here.