Jerry Rice and Joe Montana are two of the greatest football players of all time. Each is arguably one of the greatest–if not the greatest–as his position. Rice is in the conversation for the best player ever. Period.
Both Jerry Rice and Joe Montana have sons. Rice’s son is Jerry Rice, Jr. Montana’s sons are Nick and Nate. Rice, Jr decided to play wide receiver like his dad, went to school at UNLV and then bounced around the league–including a sort stint with his father’s former team, the San Francisco 49ers–before signing with the Washington Redskins and tearing his labrum. As of this writing, Rice is on the Redskin’s IR. Nate and Nick Montana decided to play quarterback like their dad. Nate walked on at his father’s alma mater of Notre Dame, before playing college ball at Pasadena City College, Montana and West Virginia Wesleyan, the latter being the only place he ever played a full season. He never made it to the NFL. Younger brother Nick is currently sitting at third on the depth chart at Tulane University behind a sophomore and a freshman.
All this to say: it is not often that sons of great athletes become great athletes themselves. This is also true of others who are great in other areas, be it music, art or really anywhere. The pressure is often too much for these kids, and the Rice and Montana situations are not exactly stand-outs, but the greatness of the fathers makes the not-so-greatness of the sons stand out even more.
But there is a further point. A few years back I discovered that Steven Curtis Chapman, one of the greats in the Christian music scene when I was growing up, had two sons who were in a band together, at the time called Caleb. The band released two solid EP’s–2005’s Caleb EP and 2011’s To The Ends of the World along with the 2010 single Trouble–before changing their name to Colony House in the time between 2011 and the release of their 2014 debut When I Was Younger.
The album came out a few weeks ago and it is safe to say, at least for me, When I Was Younger surpasses anything that SCC ever did. The album is nuanced, thoughtful and honest. Lead vocalist/guitarist Caleb Chapman manages to weave lyrics that are true to his Christian upbringing (and apparent continued faith) without being technically “Christian” in their content–although he does make a few nods to his faith throughout the record. The drummer is Will Franklin, Caleb’s younger brother, who holds down ever-changing rhythm section, driven further by a strong sense of bass line and Scott Mill’s meandering lead guitar riffs. The album feels intentional, which is rare these days, especially in the way that it moves from its sparklingly poppy opener–and lead single–“Silhouettes” to slightly darker, more vulnerable territory. The music has a jangly, British feel to it, but is wide open enough to give each member a chance to shine. Caleb’s vocals are closer to a baritone than his father’s, but if you listen carefully and are familiar with SCC’s music, you can hear small hints of the older Chapman’s signature tone.
Colony House are a different kind of band than SCC ever tried to be, however, so I suppose it isn’t fully fair to compare the two. The younger Chapmans and Mills are working towards a different audience and, to their credit, haven’t taken the easy route of going down the same road their father did. They’ve trekked out on their own, which is to their credit as musicians. For my money, they’ve created an album that is contention for my favorite of 2014, all the while not succumbing to the same fate that Jerry Rice, Jr and Nate and Nick Montana have. The trick, I think, is the willingness to do something different and allowing themselves to be great in their own right because of it.