The Lower Lights (A Hymn Revival)

Ever heard of the musical group The Lower Lights? I really love what they’re doing: taking old hymns and refreshing them. The goal, they write on their website, is “to connect with these beautiful old songs on a deeper level, to have a new and personal experience with them.” They have three albums out: A Hymn Revival, vols. 1 and 2, and Come Let Us Adore Him.

I appreciate the variety represented in the song selection: it’s a balance between well known and lesser known; penitent, petitionary, and celebratory; slow and fast; quiet and loud. The style is folk/bluegrass, and in addition to traditional, mostly American-born hymns, the albums include African American spirituals (“Go Down, Moses”; “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”) and classic country songs (“I Saw the Light”; “Calling You”). The sound of these songs is beautiful, but even more so their spirit, their theology, and the rich tradition(s) they represent.

The group’s name is derived from the nineteenth-century hymn “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy” (or “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning”). The songwriter, Philip P. Bliss, was inspired by a sermon he heard by Dwight L. Moody, in which Moody recounted a contemporary news story about a ship that was trying to sail into Cleveland Harbor during a storm; the light at the top of the lighthouse was working just fine, but the lower lights on the shore, which were needed at that particular location to direct sailors more precisely into the harbor, were out. As a result, the ship crashed, and all but a few died. The exhortation? “Breth­ren, the Mas­ter will take care of the great light-house: let us keep the low­er lights burn­ing!”

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor struggling, sinking sailor you may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled, loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing, for the lights, along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave!
Eager eyes are watching, longing, for the lights, along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother, some poor sailor tempest tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor, in the darkness may be lost.
Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave!
Trying now to make the harbor, some poor sailor may be lost.

You can purchase songs by The Lower Lights directly from their website, or from most other music vendor websites. You can also have a listen on Spotify, if you’re a member.  (See playlist below.)

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2 Responses to The Lower Lights (A Hymn Revival)

  1. jwebsd says:

    To make them more personal why not just change all the we’s to I’s and the us’s to me’s and our’s to my’s. Like “all the good ole hymns” since 1850. And “refreshed”? Sorry. Give five people in a church in the boonies anytime.

  2. Pingback: “The Lord Is My Shepherd” (19th-century hymn) | The Jesus Question

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