I grew up getting dragged to church, something that leaves me with conflicted feelings on religion as a whole these days — but that’s another post. One thing I am thankful for is the context of so much of Western culture which often requires some semblance of a working knowledge of Judeo/Christian/Muslim teachings and stories.
I remember as a kid my parents talking about a pastor in the town I grew up in, a big barrel of a man with a booming voice. He had apparently been “saved” in “The Great Welsh Revival”, and I thought there was something interesting in playing with this idea of revival as it pertained to Christianity, and particularly finding a way through song to juxtapose it against what, if you’ve had a certain upbringing, you’d first think of when you heard that song. I mentioned the title to my girlfriend, who kinda looked back at me indifferently; one of those moments where you decide to trust your instincts as opposed to the feedback you’re getting.
I had the line “When they come to claim me, hand on a gun and a hand on a bible, you’ll see me dressed in my Sunday best, but tonight I’m in need of a heathen revival” already, I don’t know where it came from. I particularly liked addressing the intolerance that so much of religion has come to represent, that sense of being forced into viewing the world a certain way. I was also interested in playing with the duality of that idea, the cleansing of sin versus the indulgence in sinning, and I wondered what it would be like to be in a small town that revolved around a church, where lip service was paid but something inside you was dying to get out.
After figuring that out, it was just a matter of setting the scene. A small town, the preacher, his daughter being the object of affection, damnation and redemption wrapped up in the same thing. Saturday night being the perfect foil for a Sunday morning, a preacher wondering where his daughter has been, and assuming it was with the boy he didn’t like in the first place. In my mind this was always set somewhere in swampy Louisiana, so borrowing from the tropes of New Orleans music was obvious place to take it.
Jeff’s organ rounded out the gospel overtones the song needed, but Mike Sailors’ trumpet took it to a place that was much more juke joint than than the Bourbon St most experience. I knew I didn’t want just another guitar solo, and as we got into it we fell in love with the idea of the trumpet and guitar dueling, heaven and hell wrestling until it all falls together and you can’t tell one from the other. At the end you’re not quite sure who has been saved and who has been lost, but then that’s life isn’t it?
We won’t know until it’s too late to tell.