Bill Mallonee rose to prominence in the 1990s with Vigilantes of Love, an indie rock/alt-country band out of Athens, Georgia. (Their breakout album was Killing Floor, produced by Peter Buck of REM and the amazing Mark Heard.) Paste magazine ranked him #65 in their 100 Greatest Living Songwriters poll. Mallonee’s music is dark, honest, and full of bleeding love. In other words, he is a Christian. That is, he is breathtakingly blunt about the excruciating suffering life entails, and through it all he hangs by his fingernails to the cross. His records should be on the shelves of all Gospel-lovers. I’ve been a fan for a long time and just want to “share the love.”

Many of Mallonee’s songs tell biographical stories, also, from lives of people that have been crushed by rejection, the Law, and the weight of existence. Some of his best in that genre are “Eleanor,” about Eleanor Roosevelt; “Skin,” about Vincent Van Gogh; and from his critically-acclaimed release Audible Sigh comes the song “Hard Luck and Heart Attack,” about Jack Kerouac, which includes these lines:

Arms around me if I’m going through the ceiling
Service stations of the cross, yeah the doctors they need healing
Things clear for a moment when you’re coming off desolation
Between nothing and the atonement it all bleeds behind your cadence


Can you stand it?! But Mallonee’s song, “If I Should Fall From Grace With God,” has captured me recently with its depiction of Romans 7. The lyrics, especially the last two stanzas, speak for themselves. Mallonee recorded the song in his home, and it sounds appropriately raw. From his 2007 Circa, here it is:

I’ve been sober for nearly forty winks
Beating those odds ain’t one of my strengths
When your faith’s a beat dog howling chained in some front yard
If I should fall from grace with God

Sonnets of love and Gethsemane carved deep beneath my skin
Hometown gatekeepers didn’t like it much so I never did get in
Somewhere between strawberry fields my backyard full of stars
If I should fall from grace with God

Now I have stood in large places, but mostly they’ve been small
I’ve ventured into spaces where I shouldn’t have been at all
Remove your shoes figuratively this is holy ground we’re on
If I should fall from grace with God

Well faith has its thorns ’cause faith she is a rose
You can still smell the scent if you lean in real close
Make them pry it from your hand after you’re dead and gone
If I should fall from grace with God

Judas was the traitor, Peter the cowardly man
Which one I most resemble, the thirty pieces the silver in my hand
My eyes were always set on high, the heart so deeply flawed
If I should fall from grace with God

For those in the Pittsburgh area, Mallonee will be playing at St. Stephen’s Church, Sewickley, PA, this coming Wednesday, Feb 18, 2009, at 7 PM. $8 at the door. You can see his tour dates on http://www.billmallonee.net/. You can find his (and Vigilantes of Love) stuff on amazon and iTunes, but you can also buy all his albums (25 and counting, some self-released) at http://www.volsounds.com/.

PS–I highly recommend this article about Mallonee from October’s Christianity Today.