By David Werther.
Bill Fay, Life is People (Dead Oceans, 2012)
In his new biography of C.S. Lewis, Alister McGrath contends that Lewis, rather than offer arguments in favor of Christianity, gives a vision of it, one so powerful that a desire for God follows. The same can be said for Bill Fay's Life is People. Furthermore, just as Lewis did not set out to write a story about a lion, divine or otherwise, when he began writing the Chronicles of Narnia, I doubt that Fay consciously set out to show the beauty of Christianity. In an NPR interview Fay was clearly taken aback when asked how he thought his music would be received. He replied that he does not think about that but focuses on the songs themselves.
Fay's gentle, fragile-sounding voice and a piano are at the center of many of his songs. The Vulcan String Quartet adds to the beauty of "Big Painter" and "The Healing Day." The lyrics are not drawn, in whole or part, from the Bible, but reflect a mature Christian mindset. When I first heard "There is a Valley," the transition from military mayhem and child sacrifice to the crucifixion took me completely by surprise. The crucifix climax was unexpected but nonetheless fitting. "The Never Ending Happening" reflects Fay's astonishment and gratitude for the fact of his very existence. "Cosmic Concerto" celebrates the goodness of humanity and its infinite variation, the latter a theme also found in "Be at Peace With Yourself." Fay does not ignore the grimness of life (cf. "Big Painter" and "City of Dreams"), but holds out hope for "The Healing Day." The power of Fay's vision is evident in comments on "The Healing Day" posted on YouTube: "This should be played in all the corridors of hospitals at sundown every day," "One of the most mellow religious songs about. Not bad, chief, well done, from an atheist."