Chrematizo Label Group

Everybody & Their Brother is the first solo record by the popular Minneapolis singer/songwriter Tom Hipps. The album's updeat ditty "Tears In A Bottle" sets a bright and cheery mood, but the subject matter belies the musical tone by dealing with the sadness in the world. Tom uses a sort of musical irony to leave the listener curious and wanting to dig deeper to root out truth. Although this is Christian music, it is refreshingly honest. As with most of Tom's folk rock musings, he offers hope in the midst of the trials and storms we all must endure in life. "11th Day of May" is a power-pop nugget with a driving drum loop groove that almost hides the fact that the author is wondering "who is God?" and "why does he live so far away?" Yet still the hope of heaven seems to be a thread that winds through much of his material and perhaps binds his faith together. Raw, honest, and emotionally presented, this is a fine first effort by a unique talent. Step inside... Everybody & Their Brother is here.

The MinnyApple

"211 Degrees" Tom Hipps has been recording music as a solo artist since 2002 with the release of Everybody & Their Brother, followed by Then Went the Demons four years later. In 2010 Hipps teamed up with Jarrod Schroeder (lead guitar), Christian Dady (drums) and Kevin Schuyler (bass) to form From Ordinary, a “Spirit-fueled rock band.” 211 Degrees is the debut release from this group and, like most albums, it’s a combination of bright spots and, well, not so bright spots. “Oh! Jesus” doesn’t break much new ground, but the ground it does cover is couched in a rocker reminiscent of Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” The title track, “211 Degrees,” approaches the boiling point from a slightly different perspective. I liked the subtle nod to the Rolling Stones, “Got a brush full of blue but I paint it black,” and was pleasantly surprised by the unusual ending, evidence of a songwriter putting some effort into his craft. “Words Unspoken” reminds us that our “problems aren’t always heaven sent,” and has a catchy chorus arguing that sometimes things are not better left unsaid. “Time is passing/say what you need to say/words unspoken/forgotten fade away.” With “Progressive Message Rock,” there’s always the risk of racing headlong into cliché. 211 Degrees falls into this trap a few times, most notably on “Help You So Much.” While less than thought-provoking lyrics can sometimes be buoyed by a strong arrangement, this tune about surviving loneliness and grief sounds more appropriate for a cruise ship dance. It might be comforting to those who are actually lonely and/or grieving, but on the whole it doesn’t work. The song I have the strongest reaction to is “Blue Haze,” a remake of the acoustic version on Then Went the Demons. I’m drawn in by the moody bass line, melody and mysterious lyrics: “It’s time for the saints to accept what they know is in store.” The problem is that I can’t decide if I like the song or not. A TV evangelist breaks in part way through, preaching hellfire and brimstone the way only TV evangelists can. If “Blue Haze” is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to examine the legitimacy of its subject matter, then this is my favorite song on the album. If it’s earnest, then it drops into “Help You So Much” territory. Overall, From Ordinary is a capable band. Hipps won’t claim male diva status anytime soon, but he’s pitch perfect. The boys in the band provide solid backing vocals, especially on the chorus of “211 Degrees.” Kevin Schuyler keeps the bass line moving and on schedule. Jarrod Schroeder is necessarily more Harrison than Hendrix; I found his work tastefully executed. Christian Dady’s chops only begin to bubble to the surface on “Come Hear,” but I get the sense he could rip it up given a green light. 211 Degrees is a hopeful and optimistic album, a glass half-full. Just know that it’s stained glass we’re talking about here.

Chrematizo Label Group

Then Went The Demons is the sophomore effort from Minneapolis-based artist Tom Hipps. His latest offering is a bit edgier than his debut record Everybody & Their Brother, but like its predecessor, remains true to Tom's folk rock essence and is steeped in melody, well-placed harmonies and deep lyrical passion. The album title, inspired by a stained glass window in a small-town Minnesota church, alludes to the pervasive theme of the album - fighting and conquering our demons through the blood of Christ. With jangly guitars and a counter melody weaving through the wistful chorus, the first track "Take You Down" takes you back to a time when R.E.M. and Matthew Sweet were dominating the musical landscape of the times. Tom uses modern-day language and pop culture imagery to translate the messages of God's word to a culture full of distraction and passivity. In "Back To You", Tom symbolically uses physical fitness to illustrate the need to stay "spiritually fit" by emphasizing the Apostle Paul's comparison of life to an athletic event. Tom uses his gifts to explore the condition of human life through the eyes of someone who's "been there and done that". By using the wisdom gained through difficult and trying times, he is able to demonstrate that the trials we experience in life ultimately produce a stronger, more beautiful version of what we once were. As Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, experience is the vehicle by which it travels. Join Tom as he sings songs of and to the Savior and discover that, as Jesus died and was raised from the dead, Then Went The Demons.