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  Long Road Round
Artist: Dan Wheeler  
Label: Alliance 
Length: 10 tracks

Dan Wheeler is the most pleasant of surprises. The last shelves in the great super market of music that I would head towards to find something intriguing and fulfilling, even in a spiritual way, would be that aisle tagged UK contemporary Christian. In the last twenty years the pop-star-worship phenomena has disenfranchised most songwriters who have a Christian faith and art-view. Anything left has been dumbed down and blanded out both musically and more fearfully perhaps spiritually. And then along comes Dan Wheeler with an album whose humanity will reach the general experiences of the widest audience and at the same time for anyone thinking with their soul will give very specific Christian insight, inspiration and provocation. 

Wheeler has been a session musician for the aforementioned Christian industry for some years and that he was a guitar player first and songwriter later might be one reason why his arrangements and production are of such high quality. He has also been shrewd in not rushing, this, his first official album, until he had found his voice and honed his craft. On his web page, he name checks Shawn Colvin, Elvis Costello, and John Mayer as influences and certainly the smooth accessibility of Colvin and interesting word play of Costello are evident but he is a whole lot less contrived and popped out than Mayer. As someone who has been taken by The Finn Brothers’ Everyone Is Here album just now I feel it will sit nicely beside that in the CD changer. 

These are not songs about high ideals and cloud 9 ideas. Ultimately it is a search for belonging, meaning and healing and the answer is always love whether that is God’s love or the many ways that God allows us to experience and give love in our every day living. You always feel that you are getting the joys and struggles of a real flesh and blood life. The title track a co-write with Cathy Burton is all about persistence, a diminished virtue in our third millennium hurry, and he lets us know that I don’t know the answers so I won’t pretend. There is falling and there is forgiveness. There are blind alleys and a groping to finally find the right road again. The radio friendly “Bringing You Round Again” another co-write this time with Paul Field sees that over riding belief and reality of love finding a way through. 

What we have is an authentic journey of life. These are the thoughts of a man with the compass of faith in his hand, trying to read it and then honestly share it to help all of us read our own compasses better. It is a sharing of authenticity. As he concludes in ”Washed Away,” “In this world you find the best still fall on troubled times/Faith can often be called into question/So with the road behind we follow where the river winds/Try to find the lessons/Maybe there’s the answer to your question.” 

Steve Stockman  11/21/2004

Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He has just finished a book on U2, Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2, is the poetic half of Stevenson and Samuel who have just released their debut album Gracenotes, and he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster (listen anytime of day or night @ He has his own web page--Rhythms of Redemption at He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.  



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