Behind the ‘Unless the Lord” Album by Matt and Joanna Black

This album was born out of a really difficult time that we walked through together. Joanna and I had just come out of leading worship at a Christian missions camp called M-Fuge. We had been a part of team that was not that cohesive, which made the summer difficult to some degree, and we were ready (believe it or not) to make it back home from West Palm Beach, FL to Kentucky. Near the time that camp was winding down, Joanna learned that her Mother, Genny, who was being treated for cancer was becoming too sick to take care of herself and Joanna’s 40 year-old brother Dan who had Downs-Syndrome.

Almost immediately after coming home we found ourselves living in a full house with her mom and brother. I hit it off really well with Jo’s brother Dan, and I became his caretaker as Joanna concentrated more on caring for her Mom along with her sister Sara. The next few months weren’t easy, but in the midst of the hard times we made some great connections with one another and had many sacred moments and conversations.

On December 30th, 2004, Joanna’s mother passed away. On that same day we received a call from Dan’s adult day care, and I left to meet him at the hospital. We soon learned that he had an enlarged malignant tumor in his chest. One month later, 15 minutes shy of a month to the day, Dan went on to join his Mother and the Lord.

Unless the Lord captures a lot of the emotions we experienced and lessons we learned through this period of our life. Although it is at times contemplative, it is also an album of hope and celebration. It is an encouragement to others to allow the Lord be the chief builder in their life, because it is when storms come that our foundations are truly tested.

Psalms 127

1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.

Matt

The Power of a Song

Songs have been instrumental at different times in my life. When I was young, I remember hearing Billy Joel. He was the first pop artist I remember hearing that actually had songs that made sense and had a point. Some of his songs were fun, but a lot of them were profound, like “Honesty,” “She’s Always a Woman,” or “Goodnight Saigon,” to name just a few. For some reason, his songs connected with me and pointed me down a path of wanting to write songs that were well crafted, not abstract, and that would connect in a deeper way with the listener. That’s probably why I later connected well with country music in the 90’s.

In the late ’90’s I’ll never forget hearing Chris Rice’s song, “Deep Enough to Dream.” The song was like the best picture of heaven I’d ever heard. That song marked a turning point in my desire to become an artist for the church as opposed to a mainstream country artist. It also showed me that in the same way that Chris expressed his himself in a way that was unique to him, that I could genuinely be the unique artist that God created me to be. I was actively trying to become a country artist at that time, and pretty soon after hearing that song I began to seek to discover what type of artist I was naturally. Chris Rice helped me learn to be myself because of writing that song.

When I heard Switchfoot’s song “Meant to Live” I was able to begin to see that Christian influenced art didn’t have to target the church alone. As a Christian artist, I could reach out through my music in a way that could be received by others even if they disagreed with my worldview. Maybe more songs like these could start a person’s movement toward coming to know Christ when we as Christian writers take away some of our restrictions of what is and isn’t acceptable for us to write about.

The artists you will discover on this site have some powerful songs on their albums. Most of these artists aren’t even touring right now. For many they’ve chosen to live a life based around family, the local church, and service to God, as opposed to pursuing a major label contract. This doesn’t diminish to me the power behind the songs they’ve written, and fortunately they don’t have to tour or be signed to be heard with the advent of the internet age. We hope you find some inspiration here, maybe find songs that will impact your life in ways similar to the way they’ve impacted mine.

Matt Black

Welcome to Sweet Communion

Welcome to Sweet Communion! ¬†Our artists’ fellowship consists of a small group of interdependent artists that are writing what we hope are songs that will make a difference in the lives of listeners.

We call ourselves interdependent because we are supported by our listeners-not labels, and also because we want to help one another succeed in creating and distributing great songs rather than compete against one another. We desire to come closer to the full potential that God has in store for each of us as writers and composers by working out our creative process in the midst of community, and hope that outside of the boundaries of Christian hit radio and the Christian music industry that this site will help give people a fresh perspective on what it means to be an artist/songwriter who is Christian.