Nervous Laughter—Andy Gullahorn’s “Reinventing the Wheel”

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Andy Gullahorn is funny, but he’s also one of the more serious lyricists I’ve come to enjoy in a while. Listening to Reinventing the Wheel, you come to understand that he is more than a good songwriter. He is a craftsman. He knows what he’s doing, where he’s going, and where he’s taking his hearers.But as I said, people say Andy Gullahorn is funny. They say that, I think, because he makes them laugh. But as for me, I’m calling it nervous laughter.

gullahorn-reinventing-the-wheel.jpgRecently I was at a concert where Andy played a song I had heard before—one that presents itself as funny—”Holy Flakes” from his previous record, Room to Breathe. The song is about the Christianization of breakfast cereal. But I had heard the song already, and I knew in the end it was not funny. It was serious business, ending with these words:

The Holy Flakes sold so well, they couldn’t keep them on the shelf

So they diversified

Soon there were sacred chips, and Virgin Mary chicken strips

And Prince of Peace apple pie

It don’t matter if it has no taste, cause it’s all in the name

Soon they had a one brand town with pantries all the same

And it left them with no appetite for stuff that broke the mold

And a faith that was as shallow as the milk left in the bowl

Of Holy Flakes

So naturally I felt a bit sorry for the guy behind me hearing it for the first time, laughing along. I thought to myself, “Laugh it up, Chuckles, but this is about to get unfunny in a hurry.”Well, I just acquired Andy’s new CD, Reinventing the Wheel, and there’s a track called “More of a Man”, where he talks about how he killed a deer and rubbed its blood on his face when he was in second grade, but now he watches Dora the Explorer in the morning, and he wonders if he was more of a man back then.

And I think to myself, “No way I’m falling for it. This ain’t my first rodeo.”Then he talks of how he used to watch Jean Claude Van Damme on th silver screen, but now he watches Gilmore Girls on DVD. Still, I’m holding my ground, not laughing. See, I’ve been down this road before. He’s going to pull the rug out from under us all and get serious. And guess what? I was so right. He ends this way:

So I suck in my protruding gut

On our monthly dinner night

You’re saying something about the kids

As I watch these young men pass me by

I remember I was just like them

I was lonely but I called it independent

And if lonesome is what manly is

Baby, I was more of a man back then

Reinventing the Wheel is a rich record. One song that took my breath away is called “How Precious Life Is.” I don’t know the story behind it, buy I take it to include either a miscarriage or something like it. He sings:

I thought I knew what pain was, but I really had no proof

Until the hope was disappearing

There was nothing we could do

I was too tired to shout in anger, too scared to run and hide

I just stared there at your mother

Thanked God she was alive

We couldn’t see it til now, you were teaching us then

How precious life is.

And as sober as this is, he also sings a brilliant and hilarious ode to Andrew Osenga’s toe, which he lost to a lawn mower a couple years back. It’s called “Roast Beef,” and if you think about it, you’ll not only figure out what that title has to do with Andy’s toe, you’ll also figure out which toe it was that he lost. (And especially funny is that Osenga provides percussion for the track by tapping his foot.)

I am glad, truly glad, to have come upon the fine work of Andy Gullahorn this year.

Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003). Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.


15 Comments

  1. Jodi

    I saw Andy Gullahorn at the BTLoG concert in Wausau, WI. He sang “More of a Man” and “That Guy,” the latter of which has been played for every single friend who has entered my house or vehicle in the past two weeks. No doubt about it, his lyrics leave you breathless.

  2. John Michalak

    In my opinion, Andy is the patron saint of all of us dry, irreverent chaps who are trying our feeble best to submit to the Savior. I agree, RTW is a great addition to his purposely unassuming collection.

  3. Bill Beaton

    We saw BtLoG in New Milford, CT on 12/8. My wife and I loved “More of a Man” and loved his intro almost as much. I purchased the album at the show look forward to enjoying the music and unpacking the lyrics.

  4. euphrony

    I first heard Andy’s music at BTLOG a few weeks ago. I’d have to agree with John that his dry humor reflects my life so well. He sang “Roast Beef”, and Andy O gave background vocals – so nice. I’m planning on getting this CD.

  5. Jim A

    Russ,
    You are right on the money here. After hearing RTB a few months ago, I found myself wanting to be very very angry at someone for not introducing him to me earlier.
    I couldn’t wait to pick this album up at the Sugar Land BTLOG concert. I had been through “Room to Breathe” so many times with several repeats of the CS Lewis inspired “If I Were” which was written after he read “The Screwtape Letters”. If ever a movie were made off this book, this song would be the no-brainer theme song!
    RTW picked up where RTB left off and offers some real gems! I went through a phase over the past week or two in which I could not play “Holy Ground” and “That Guy” enough. To your point Russ about Andy G kicking the wind out of your gut out of no where, “That Guy” does so not just at the end of the song but right in the first verse. I don’t want to put a spoiler in here if you haven’t heard it yet but lets just say, you can’t tell from the title where he’s necessarily going with it. And when he gets there after describing the first “guy”, wow does it have a sucker punch that will absolutely leave you with NO room to breathe.
    It may also be worth noting for any guitarists out there, Andy G includes video’s for all 11 tracks in which he video tapes the fretboard while the song plays. Unfortunately, the sound you hear is the mix so it’s sometimes a little hard to see exactly what he’s doing. But between that and the Lyric Charts that are on the cd (yep, PDF’s of every song with chord notations) one can figure it out given talent and time.

    peace,
    Jim

  6. Stephen @ Rebelling Against Indifference

    When the Square Pegs were playing weekly shows at the Radio Cafe here in Nashville last year, my favorite new song that I heard was Andy’s “Holy Ground”. So as soon as I saw it would be on this record, I knew I had to get it.

    The song is about an old abandoned church that is discovered by the homeless. Here’s the 3rd verse:

    The local priest soon got word / of the vagrants in the empty church / He was told to go to the house of God / And clear them out because after all / It was holy ground // He was met at the door by a man with open arms / Saying “welcome to the one place we belong” / He saw the shiny floors beneath the sleeping bags / He could hear the sound of laughter down the hall / Later on that night / As they broke the bread / He asked them if there’s room / for an extra bed // It was holy ground / It was holy ground / It was holy ground //

  7. Nate

    As Andy Gullahorn’s number one fan (number one), I feel that have to weigh in and say that he is simply and amazing songwriter and an incredible guitar player. The latest album is just incredible. I really like “Desperate Man.” But the lyrics are rich on so many of his songs. I may write more later (I have a Neuro final to take in a few minutes) but I felt that, as Andy’s number one fan (number one, OK I’ll stop now) I had to go ahead and give it 3 thumbs ups.

    – Nate

  8. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    I learned later that this was probably available at the Elkhorn show. I could kick my own butt for not thinking to look. Not that I had to be convinced; I’m a Gullahorn fan from way back and have both of his CDs, but I want it now!

    It was fun reading your take, Russ. I also slightly cringe a little when I hear uninitiated audiences going over the cliff of laughter early in Gullahorn’s songs, with little idea that they are going to hit the ground hard before they know it.

  9. Ruble

    Wow…what a great CD. I bought it on itunes because I am impatient. I guess I will have to buy the CD to get the videos and charts…it will be worth it.

    Chris

  10. Adam Hutchison

    We’ve loved Andy’s music for several years, and I was thrilled to get my hands on “Reinventing the Wheel.” A terrific review, Russ – right on the money. I just wanted to weigh in on one song — “God Loves That Guy.” All of the songs are great, and, like Russ, I listen to them waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. But “God Loves” spoke volumes to me. And in holding up the mirror to himself, Andy shows us our own reflection in it, reminding us how unlike the Father we really are. It is easy to love the loveable, but much more like God to love the ‘unloveable.’ The reality, however disturbing, is that I am that unloveable – and He loves me still. Andy’s latest album is true and sincere, well-played and well-produced. And all of the “extras” make it even better. Thanks, Russ, for bringing it to everyone’s attention.

  11. Aaron

    I’ve been in so many places that this CD goes. I agree that while their may be some tongue in cheek humor at the surface, there is an undercurrent of amazing depth to the songs on this album. Without question one of the best albums I have purchased in a long time. That and I’m just pleased and relieved that I’m not the only guy who watches Gilmore Girls after we get the kids in bed.

  12. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I’ve been meaning to post ever since I read your review. This was another CD I thought of doing a review of, but am grateful that you did. Nervous laughter is the perfect concept to bring to Andy’s music, and I think of it now every time I listen to RTW, which is often. It’s a great record, and a great review!

    If readers haven’t seen this, they should click on the link to see Andy’s “advertisement” for the new record on Youtube.

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