Enter melodic rockers Ten Shekel Shirt, whose 2001
national debut Much spawned the number one single "Ocean"
and the top ten charter "Meet With Me". Ten Shekel Shirt
hails from New Haven, Connecticut and includes Austin Morrison
(drums), Jake Carey (guitar), Lamont Hiebert (lead vocals), David
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.
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
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 Colman 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 clichés 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 through 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
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
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.
Ten Shekel Shirt (INO / EPIC Records) merges melodic
college rock with Brit pop/rock. Their acoustic driven 2001 debut
album Much sold 130,000 units and featured the #1 hit Ocean. The
new project Risk is a "radio-ready" rock album with
a soul, featuring solid organic grooves, electric complexity, and
Risk - Ten Shekel Shirt's 2003 Release
Their discography has become a subtle description
of the elements that characterize their lives off stage - they
are willing to Risk Much. After Lamont returned from a visit to
South East Asia in 2002, he and the guys helped launch Justice
for Children International.
JFCI raises awareness and resources for the prevention,
rescue and after-care of sexually exploited children. "I
was shocked to find out that girls and boys, some as young as
five years of age, are trafficked into the sex industry,"
Without support from their record company, management
or booking agency Ten Shekel Shirt has decided to launch Benefit
/ Awareness tours across the North America. "We are just
a small part of a growing movement towards justice for children.
And although It's challenging trying to make it as a band and
pioneer a foundation at the same time we wouldn't trade in our
involvement for anything," adds Morrison.
If the new album's alpha is risk, its omega is certainly
hope. The marrow of this collection of songs is infused with hope,
because risk and hope are immutably joined. Whether in bereavement,
celebration, confusion, despair, worship, or boredom, Risk says,
"There is more."