Pull Up A Chair
Music From Eden
When a DVD arrives in my mail unbidden, it’s usually not a good sign. Most often, I bury the disc deep in my to-watch pile, and usually it never rises to the top.
Such would have been the fate of Pull Up A Chair: The Story and the Songs, with Nathan Clark George—had the package not also included a CD of the songs featured in George’s concert performance at Epworth United Methodist church in Franklin, Tennessee. I’m much more likely to casually pop a CD in, you see, than I am to sit down and watch a DVD for review purposes.
The good news is that George’s music easily earns much more than a casual listen. There’s something instantly arresting about it; his string-and-percussion quartet arrangements seem grander, somehow, than ordinary folk music—and anyone with much knowledge of Scripture at all will soon recognize a good deal of George’s lyrics. After two or three times through the CD, listening closer each time, I decided it was time to check out the DVD.
The first feature on the disc is “The Story,” a half-hour documentary through which we learn about George’s single-minded devotion to his artistry and calling. A traveling musician, George spends his life on the road, sharing an RV with his wife and five young children.
Last summer, I reviewed Surfwise, a documentary about Dorian Paskowitz, a surfer who did much the same thing in pursuit of his own artistry. “The Story” is not so gripping because there’s only the first act: George’s children are still children, after all, and have not suffered conflicts that would naturally arise from adolescent and adult attempts at integration with society; and as there is as yet no conflict, there’s no stunning third-act denouement of reconciliation, as in Surfwise. But if there’s a budding Michael Apted out there, this is a family to watch, for I’m sure a fascinating feature-length doc will be made about the Georges some forty years hence. Young Jonathan, for instance, quotes his dad’s line about the RV being “an incubator for sanctification,” going on to clarify: “it’s nice, and it’s hard.” Indeed.
In the meantime, “The Story” feels initially like a fawning home movie—rather like much of Beyond the Gates of Splendor. There’s too much information of too personal a nature far too soon; but about ten minutes in, when we start learning more about what makes George’s music unique, this short feature settles into a very satisfying experience.
Which then brings us to “The Songs,” a concert film of warm intimacy. George, you see, doesn’t play arenas, county fairs, or concert halls. He mostly plays to small and middling congregations in our nation’s rural churches, places that welcome traditional music, sung Scripture, folksy humor—and high art. “When something’s honest and common to real life,” George says about the obvious appeal of his music, “it connects.”
Drawing on everything from The Psalms to everyday events like crying infants, George—who is an untrained but gifted, intuitive musician—draws on an eclectic range of influences, from Mozart’s clarinet concertos to 1960s counterculture singer Donovan. The effect is charming and captivating, at the very least, and electric at its finest. George’s music is like bottled fireflies.
The concert itself is nicely—and subtly—captured by CCM veteran Ken Carpenter, who recently brought us the equally fine production John Tesh Alive. In a small space, Carpenter uses hydraulic camera lifts to provide a sense of intimacy without being intrusive. If you watched Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert film Shine A Light last year, you’ll be familiar with the techniques—and pretty impressed that Carpenter employs them about as well as Scorsese, just on a smaller and quieter scale. I’ll be watching for future projects from Carpenter.
And what is George’s passion with his music? Praise of God’s creation, and a desire to see men “look to your home and not avoid it.” My personal taste in devotional music is something a little more heavenly-minded and abstract; but in being so happily and concretely earthbound, George has found a way, I think, to bring us something like the music of Eden. It’s a family-friendly approach that is of the best kind—one that even adults without children can enjoy, and one that I can heartily recommend.
The DVD is available through George’s website at Indieheaven, and also online through DeeperShopping and the Franklin Springs site. Indieheaven also carries the CD and a DVD/CD set. If you’re really interested in supporting this unique artist, consider going direct through Indieheaven.
Pull Up A Chair is unrated. Unless you’ve got a serious problem with Scripture, this DVD is about as G-rated as you get. Even grade-school kids will likely stick with it, too, given the unusual and freewheeling homeschooling lifestyle of the George family.
Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional DVD of Pull Up A Chair.