- Bryon Harris
Bible Belt Blues - 'The Only Way To Heaven'
Harold and Paula Vega Vondenstein are Bible Belt Blues, an award winning husband and wife music ministry duo from Gulfport, Mississippi. Their music is reminiscent of early Mississippi Bentonia blues with a focus on full-fledged repentance and church revival songs. In 2019, Bible Belt Blues released two Christian albums, I’m Not Ashamed to Be a Christian and My God, My God, which won the coveted Josie Music Award for Best Gospel/ Christian Duo. 2020 looks just as promising with 24 songs having already received radio airplay, extensive media coverage, and numerous finalist nominations including: Duo of the Year for the Josie Music Awards, two Intercontinental Music Awards Finalist Nominations for Gospel Christian/ America, Song of the Year for the Gulf Coast Gospel Music Awards, Ministry of the Year for the Best of Mississippi Awards, Finalist in the Christian Songwriting Contest, and Finalist for Song of the Year Songwriting Competition. Bible Belt Blues recently signed with Bongo Boy Records to have four of their songs featured on two separate compilation albums to be released within the next few months. Bible Belt Blues is currently working on their 3rd album. Their latest single, "The Only Way To Heaven" is a moving song that turns the tables on the belief that you can earn your way into Heaven.
A deep bass note strikes an assured tone on the first beat of "The Only Way To Heaven." A soulful harmonica solo follows. Harold Vega Vondenstein enters singing, "Why do you work so hard to earn your way to Heaven?" Harold's voice has a nice gruffness to it that gives the duo their authentic, colorful blues sound. In this song, Harold sings sweetly. The melody of "The Only Way To Heaven" is truly beautiful, and Harold pours expression over every note. One of the most moving moments in the song is when Harold expressively sings the last verse from depths of his soul:
"JESUS, please rescue me, Save me for Your very own. Ohh...rescue me...rescue me Save Me Save me for Your very own. Ohhh Your very own."
The guitar moves forward playing arpeggiations in 6/8 with chordal accents that create a gentle swaying motion. Harold's guitar playing is both bright and muddy as he captures both the finesse and the earthiness of the blues. The song ends with a return to the tuneful harmonica. Harold's performance is extraordinary.
We are often taught that hard work is the ticket to success. If we work hard in school, we can expect good grades. If we work hard at our jobs, we expect a raise. We get what we earn. In "The Only Way To Heaven", lyricist and producer, Paula Vega Vondenstein, is saying something very different. "Don't you know..oh don't you know, Don't you know? There's nothing you can do to save yourself. No amount of good works will ever get you into Heaven. So let it go, and let God Yes, you must let it go and let God."
Paula's lyrics say that you can't earn your way into Heaven. She takes it a step further and invites listeners to "let go" and "let God" and she says this twice. It's a hard concept to understand, given the material lessons we are taught. You work for a few hours, and you get paid. You do something nice, and you get a 'Thank you' card. You wake up early...and the early bird gets the worm. These lyrics show the difference between earthly concepts of earn and receive and the Divine concept of letting go. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Paula goes on to write that," Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life." She then describes what letting go is: laying down your burdens at His feet, walking away from sin, letting Jesus rescue you. The word "let" is used often in this song, and it is significant. Paula chooses her lyrics very carefully. "Let" is an action and a choice that requires your own will. And with this concept, Paula ends on the words that describe fully letting go, "Jesus please rescue me....and save me for your very own."
The title of this song is "The Only Way To Heaven." At first, you may think that "only one way" is limiting. Aren't we all programmed to think we should be given multiple options for everything? Then the song dismisses the belief system that good deeds are a golden ticket into Heaven. Aren't we also programmed to believe that you get what you earn?
In "The Only Way To Heaven", Bible Belt Blues shows just how unlimited the only way actually is. You do not have to earn it. "Letting go" and "letting God" is a door that anyone, at anytime, anywhere, has complete access to. It's not a narrow door. It's a door that invites all. And you don't have to spend your life accumulating enough points like getting into a Country Club or earning a gold watch at work. You can lay your burdens down, repent, and let Jesus rescue you. Bible Belt Blues is more than music; they truly are ministry through music.
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