(The following appeared in the Alexandria Town Talk in 2000.)
If honesty were a hot commodity, Jolly Napier would be the stock to buy.
But before we can explore that possibility, we must answer that elusively essential question which, until now, has so riddled mankind: What's a Jolly Napier?
Geographically speaking, it's rumored to be a street in Shreveport, but for the purposes of this article, Jolly Napier is the most refreshingly honest band to make a good name for the genre of Christian music in a long time. In fact, their well-delivered message is so fixating that the secular fan can appreciate the songs not just for their spiritual value, but for their essential humanness. And if you're not the type to buy into that sort of thing, there's more: they're talented.
In fact, they're so talented that when I attended their recent concert at Louisiana College, my staying-no-longer-than-fifteen-minutes intentions gave way to the kind of please-don't-make-me-leave feelings that force one into embarrassing choruses of "encore, encore!" even after the stage lights have been shut off.
They're so talented that their songs hold merit and value outside the limits of Christian music, which, while a genre valid in its own right, is not an outlet to the mass musical population. And they're so talented that, as an industry fan who's been to Incubus and Live and back, they made me wonder what they were doing playing in Pineville, Louisiana.
Enter segue into the history of Jolly Napier. In the fall of 1997, lead singer Myles Roberts and pianist/guitarist/ Ross Githens were but fledgling, dorm-residing freshmen at Louisiana College when the powers that [would] be Jolly Napier began taking effect. The two, both from Shreveport, began writing songs and playing together, with various "guests," but informal intentions. To hear Roberts tell it, they were "songs written for nobody to hear." In December of '99, however, those songs became milestones in a changing course: Jolly Napier recorded a CD. By this time Roberts and Githens had added Lance Wilks (percussion), Ben Pirtle (drums), Brantley Stephens (guitar, bass), and Callie Roberts, sister to Myles and co-lead singer of the band. The band's debut CD, twentyone even, was released through Grassroots Distribution, and since then, Jolly Napier has earned a loyal following which deems them much more than the daydreams of two college freshmen. It's the stuff Behind-the-Music specials are made of.
On top of that, with recent 2000 addition Layne "Spike" Alexander as the band's bassist, Jolly Napier is anything but a typical "local" band. The CD hails of a professionalism that demonstrates the sincere aspirations of the band, and to hear Jolly Napier play live is to realize that the potential audience for talent of this magnitude stretches far beyond the local spheres of Louisiana.
And what do the band members think of that? Absolutely nothing. They are not only musicians, but people, which is where "refreshing" comes in. Because while Jolly Napier's music is reason enough to warrant a listen, the motivation behind the music is what defies the limits of Christian music: they write about reality, not ideality. Their intentions, like all great bands, revolve not around popularity but in the goodness and usefulness of their message.