SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Marilee Houston’s budding career as a Christian singer was brought to a screeching halt two years ago when, for the first time in her life, she experienced a crisis of faith.
Bare ruined terrarium where late the dime-store turtle splashed.
“I bought one of those dime store turtles,” she says as she sniffles into a tissue. “Then not more than a week later God took him away from me, and I had to ask myself, ‘What kind of supreme being would kill a baby turtle after I just spent $34.95 on a terrarium with a little palm tree and turtle food and all the accessories?’”
“Feelings–whoa, whoa, whoa–feelings”
A long period of soul searching followed, during which Marilee hit the Holiday Inn circuit, playing cocktail lounges and fending off the advances of men who “didn’t even bother to take off their wedding rings,” she says with disgust.
After eighteen months that she calls her “personal equivalent of the children of Israel wandering 40 years in the desert,” Marilee is back with a new album of spirituals targeted at agnostics and people who are “too lazy to get out of bed on Sunday” she says with a winsome grin.
Music industry executives are cautiously optimistic that Marilee has hit upon a new genre to jump start sales of CD’s that have been hurt by illegal downloads. “The one music category where you don’t have a lot of piracy is spirituals,” says Phil Gewertz, an “artists and repertoire” man for Christian Life records of Nashville. “In the Book of Leviticus, it says ‘He that shall download the song that belongeth to another, him shall I smite until his iPod explodes in his pants pocket’.”
“The Paschal Lamb is just plain mutton, that’s why I hit the damn snooze button.”
Marilee is in the studio today to put the finishing touches on her album, “Songs of Faith For Those Who Don’t Give a Damn”, featuring a mix of songs aimed both at doubters–such as “I Sometimes Wish There Were a Heaven (Until Brunch Time, Around Eleven)”–and those who have never had religion in the first place. “A holy man to heaven climbs,” Marilee hums as she reads from a “head sheet” containing last minute changes in one arrangement, “while I flip through the Sunday Times.”
“This will be big in New York City,” says Bob Endicott, her producer. “Sodom and Gomorrah,” Marilee adds scornfully. “They charged me ten bucks for a bottle of water in my dressing room at the Sheraton Hilton.”
Once the album is released, Marilee plans a seventeen-state tour to promote the brand of music she likes to call “Agnostic Gospel.” “I can’t go back to the way I was before,” she says with a far-away look in her eye. “I’m too sophisticated for that Old Time Religion, but I’m not ready to forsake the Lord’s music, which has made so much money for me over the years.”