Western Centuries’ ‘The Sentinel’ Questions the Limits of Faith [Exclusive Video]
Roots music fans, your moment of enlightenment is at hand: Western Centuries are premiering a live take of their new song "The Sentinel" exclusively with The Boot. Press play above to watch.
In this live take of "The Sentinel," Western Centuries' Jim Miller offers listeners multiple perspectives on the ripped-from-the-headlines story of John Allen Chau, who died on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal in 2018. An American evangelical missionary, Chau attempted to make contact with the Sentinelese, an indigenous tribe that is one of the world's last group of uncontacted people, and was shot and killed by arrows when he attempted to land on the island to do his work. Chau's parents compared him to Saint Thomas Aquinas, who was killed in 52 AD while attempting to bring Christianity to coastal India.
"The Sentinel" is an exercise in Rashomon-like storytelling, providing multiple views of a single murderous incident. "The first verse of "The Sentinel" was written from the perspective of the islanders, who wonder why John Chau is trying to bring them soccer balls and other useless gifts in an attempt to disrupt their already rich and deeply spiritual lives," Miller explains. "The second verse refers to the missionary work of Thomas the Apostle, who was killed in India; his body parts have since been enshrined in various sites around the world.
"The bridge section switches back to the perspective of John Chau, who made several attempts to land his kayak on the beach, with arrows whizzing past him each time. Finally, his resolve won over," Miller adds. "In the final verse, there is an obscure reference to a painting by Caravaggio, who portrayed Doubting Thomas touching the wound of Christ."
Listeners are reminded that one person's crusade can be another's mortal threat -- and that collaboration, as presented by Western Centuries' plaintive harmonies, is the key to progress.
Western Centuries are a Seattle, Wash.-based supergroup comprised of Cahalen Morrison, Ethan Lawton and Jim Miller, are releasing their third album, Call the Captain, on April 3 on Free Dirt Records. If those names ring a bell, Miller is the co-founder of the jam band Donna the Buffalo; Lawton worked with Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers; and Morrison leads his band Country Hammer and was half of the duo Cahalen & Eli. The three joined forces on a basis of mutual respect and admiration and, three albums later, continue to be generous enough to share the product of that joy with the rest of us.
Western Centuries' third album, Call the Captain, will be out on April 3 via Free Dirt Records. Visit WesternCenturies.com to learn more about the band and their forthcoming new record.
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