Ten Shekel Shirt
Official Web Site
Ten Shekel Shirt Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Ten Shekel Shirt lyrics)
Ten Shekel Shirt Biography
What does the term "risk" bring to your mind? Perhaps it's a synonym for taking a chance or going out on a limb. Maybe it's the refusal to be contained within a comfort zone. Quite possibly, it's the realization that a decision or action may yield damage, loss, or even complete failure. When it comes to musical territories, the "risk" factor encompasses all of the above terrain, though between a band's freshman and sophomore recordings that element reaches its zenith.
Enter melodic rockers Ten Shekel Shirt, whose worship-driven 2001 national debut Much spawned the number one single "Ocean" and the top ten charter "Meet With Me". Following radio hits, a 2002 Dove nomination and boatloads of critical acclaim you might think that a band would rest on the safety of their laurels, basking in the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" mentality. Ten Shekel Shirt's sophomore release, the appropriately titled Risk, makes it clear that they haven't.
Not afraid to chart a different course or venture outside of previous boundaries, The Shirts have taken to exploring new lyrical and musical landscapes, while staying true to what matters most. "The band's goal in making music has always been to create a place where people feel the safety and freedom to meet with God," says singer/songwriter Lamont Hiebert. "So often we think that meeting with God has to happen in worship, but it can happen while reflecting on a loved one, spending time with good friends or reaching out to those in need. That's what this record is about." From the opening chorus, "I'm allowed to live to make the Maker smile, I vow to give the best years of my life", listening to Risk you quickly find yourself challenged, inspired and a little less comfortable with your ... comfort.
"This past year, both as a band and in our personal lives, we've felt compelled to take some chances. And although it's not been easy, even scary ... painful at times, we've seen blessings we would have never known otherwise," continues Hiebert. "I'm really excited about this project because there's change and growth on all levels." Produced by Brent Milligan (Paul Coleman Trio, David Crowder Band) with one track covered by Grammy winner Monroe Jones (Third Day, Ginny Owens), the ground breaking songs on Risk couldn't have been in more able hands.
"The Ten Shekel Shirt album was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I've had as a producer," says Milligan. "Their level of talent combined with a vision for connecting with people and being relevant to culture challenged me for the whole process. I hope many more lives are impacted by them living out their calling, but mine already has been."
Musically, the group has infused its traditional acoustic rock base with stylish organic grooves and electric sophistication influenced by the recent Brit Pop invasion among others. From the classic partnership of Lennon and McCartney to the radio immediacy of Travis, inspiration abounds as shiny guitar hooks and rich vocals confidently drive the tracks. Acoustic guitars, piano and strings fill out the arrangements, reminding us that although this band has grown, they haven't strayed too far from home. "It was fun exploring new ideas, looking at what musically moves us," says Hiebert. "Both Brent and Monroe did an amazing job of guiding that process while throwing in some brilliant ideas of their own."
On a lyrical note, the vertical focus of Much has been infused with more traditional topical ponderings written in a language that works hard to avoid the typical cliches so common to the genre. Clearly, that genuine conversational tone is the fiber that ties the vast array of Risk's subjects together. This goal is executed beautifully on "Cheer Up," one of the first radio singles from the project. A fitting follow up to the number one hit "Ocean," "Cheer Up" continues where the previous left off, exploring the truth that all God has created was made to draw us closer to Him. Lamont explains, "In Romans chapter 8 we're told that all creation eagerly waits for the children of God to be revealed. As I pondered that idea, I was more and more moved by the fact that we're waited for, even cheered on, by all that God has made around us." The song closes with the almost irresistible challenge, "Wake up, it's time to dream bigger."
Dreaming has played a big part in carving out the new territory where Risk touches down. Hiebert explains, "I've always felt moved to do something with my life that helps those suffering injustice, especially women and children. A few years ago I began to have dreams of kids being rescued from terrible situations, but I wasn't sure how I fit into the picture."
That was, until he discovered International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org). IJM is an international Christian ministry devoted to being a voice and agent of change for oppressed people all over the world, regardless of their situation, faith or background. During a trip to Thailand last September, he witnessed firsthand the organization's efforts to help children escape the enslavement of forced prostitution. "One night on that trip, investigators from IJM took us on an awareness tour for a glimpse of just how bad the child prostitution situation is-we actually saw a room full of young girls with numbers on them displayed behind glass, like a store window."
Since returning from Thailand, Ten Shekel Shirt have started Justice For Children International, a growing organization in New Haven, CT, that assists IJM though raising awareness and resources for the rescue and after-care of exploited children. While on that trip, Lamont was compelled to make a promise to God. "I vowed to no longer just tell people about the love of God without physically reaching out to show His love and compassion for the world at the same time."
Risk's musical tribute to the work of IJM, "Over the Room," is framed around the idea that "the greatest celebration takes place when someone is rescued from great peril." Based on a true story, the first verse of the moving tale talks about a girl who has literally been rescued from a life without sunlight, held captive in a room. The song goes on to celebrate the freedom, healing and transformation that follows. "It's a salute to everyone that came from a dark place in their lives and are finding their way out," Hiebert relates. "There's something beautiful in that phase of healing and the song is really about honoring and celebrating all those who have overcome adversity."
Equally striking is the spine chilling balladry of "February," which in the tradition of "Over the Room" deals with the unexpected curves that life tends to throw. "I wrote it about the death of my brother and my mother," says Hiebert with a somber tone. "They both died in February, eight years apart, and this was my way of remembering them. It can be such a challenge when you lead a busy life to have that necessary quiet time for reflecting on those you love and admire. I hope anyone in the same situation can use this song to prompt a conversation with God."
Not to be forgotten is "Poorest King," the album's first AC single. The sole track produced by Jones, it begins sparsely, a lone piano and vocal, patiently building to an epic climax. While the verses solemnly explore the irony that God would come to earth as what appears to be the poorest, most vulnerable king of all time, the chorus proclaims the reminder that one day we will "see Him as He is, without a veil between, face to face again, for all eternity."
Regardless of where you are in your walk of faith, Risk will be an inspiring soundtrack for change. Even truer to its title, the album promotes Hiebert's idea that "God created us for relationship, and one requirement of any genuine relationship is vulnerability. Living a Christian life is bold and not merely self-preserving, it's about reaching out in love and taking the necessary risks to fulfill our primary calling, to love God and love people."
Ten Shekel Shirt's Risk has clearly paid off with a stunning collection of songs that will without a doubt inspire and empower others to do the same.