When I heard that Stephen Langston's EP was an "alternative Christian" release, I had something specific in mind. Relient K, perhaps, or something in the Tooth and Nail tradition. Alternative as a genre is pretty well defined.
But stylistically, Langston has more of a Michael Card meets Glass Harp sound. You can hear the classic rock influences throughout the CD, especially in "Behind The Scenes," which only makes sense as Langston lists Grand Funk Railroad, Cream, and the Beatles among his early influences. So where is the "alternative Christian" sound?
Langston is striving to provide an alternative to popular Christian music in general — a genre that has become as over-commercialized as its secular counterpart. At a time when popular Christian music seems to be revisiting the "If you like Motley Crue, you'll like Stryper" days, Stephen Langston is creating music, not copying someone else's style. While you can certainly hear his influences, the way he puts those influences to work is completely unique.
And then there are the lyrics. Back in the day, you could measure how "Christian" a song was by tracking it's JPM (Jesus Per Minute). The more often Jesus was mentioned, the more Christian the song was supposed to be. But Langston's lyrics are much more spiritually mature — there's no preaching, and you won't be knocked over the head by a Bible when you listen.
But you can tell that it's Christian music. Lyrics like "Yeah the force of water is a powerful thing/A symbol of the power and the force of the King ... So dip me in the water — Cleanse me in the water" from "It's A Powerful Thing" are pretty clearly Christian, but there's no bumper sticker sloganeering here. This is a faith that's meant to be lived, and shared, not plastered on the back end of your Ford.
At a time when so much of what passes for Christian music is incredibly shallow lyrically (and usually theologically as well) and derivative musically, Stephen Langston is a breath of fresh air. Singer/songwriters like him are reclaiming the heritage of Christian music, and providing a great alternative to cookie-cutter music in the process.
Unfortunately, Langston's EP isn't available on Amazon yet. I've included links to a few artists that are also providing a welcome alternative to overprocessed, overcommercialized Christian music.