By the looks of them -- scruffy beards, long hair, an affinity for plaid shirts -- contemporary Christian band Reckless Mercy has more in common with The Avett Brothers than a typical church band.
With the exception of the lyrics, their songs are indistinguishable from their secular counterparts -- Christian in content but not in style.
"We're being more influenced by Bob Dylan, Neil Young and bluegrass stuff," said vocalist and guitar player Stephen Jeffrey of Beaufort. Although the biggest influence, of course, is Jesus.
"We try to channel the parts of being human and being Christian into our lyrics. Some of it comes straight out of the Bible, and then some of it we've taken the Bible and paraphrased into today's language. Some of it is from our own testimony, but it's all about how God brought us through that experience," Jeffrey said.
Reckless Mercy will play the first concert of the Port Royal Street Music series beginning May 17 in Port Royal. The series is free and open to the public. The series also will feature Lauren Mitchell Band, Mac Arnold & Plate Full O' Blues and Bart Walker Band.
Reckless Mercy formed nine years ago when Jeffrey started playing in a band at church with friend Alex Castillo on vocals, guitar and banjo. On their website, the band defines the name as "mercy that is headstrong against the enemies of your soul and flesh that try to keep you from the good plans that God has planned for your life."
Jeffrey and Castillo added Adam Brinks on bass and vocals, and Tony Cox on drums and vocals. The additions enabled to the band to expand its sound and its message, but still be accessible to everybody.
"Within Christian music, there are very few bands you can name that are a little edgier and rootsier, like what we're going for," Jeffrey said. "That allows us opportunities to play nontraditional venues, not just churches."
One night Reckless Mercy might play at a biker bar or a festival, and the next at a church, but the guys and the music will be the same, Jeffrey said. "We don't compromise to make it fit a certain venue."
And they don't have to. As a mix of Americana and Gospel -- sometimes a little country, with a Hank Williams cover thrown in for good measure -- Reckless Mercy isn't so overtly religious to turn off secular listeners. On the contrary, some fans will see the band at a bar and follow them to the church to hear them play again.
People who would never set foot in a church can go in there and not feel like the roof's going to cave in, Jeffrey said. "That barrier between the outside and the church has been torn down."
Although all four band members have day jobs, they hope to be able to play full-time one day, he said. And even if that doesn't happen, they aren't going to throw in the towel.
"Unless God tells us otherwise, we're going to do it until we're as old as The Rolling Stones. It's a calling."
Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.