Hymns and Sacred Songs
Leigh After a successful career with rock/pop act Sixpence None the Richer and fresh off her own solo release, the lead vocalist Leigh Nash brings her lovely and unique talent--recognizable to even the most...
The Other Side
No Other Name After a successful single with “Lead You to The Cross” and a Dove Award nomination already to their name, Curb Records’ newest adult contemporary act, No Other Name, brings us their comfortable...
The Waiting Kind EP
The Waiting Kind Since The Waiting Kind’s beginning back in 2005, the indie/rock worship band from Boise, Idaho, wanted to write songs about “the heaven we will go to... the God who will take us there... and...
After a successful career with rock/pop act Sixpence None the Richer and fresh off her own solo release, the lead vocalist Leigh Nash brings her lovely and unique talent--recognizable to even the most casual fan in hits such as "Kiss Me" and "There She Goes"--to a new heartwarming collection of classic songs that make up Hymns and Sacred Songs.
The album kicks off on a high note with two of the most beloved hymns, “Savior, Like a Shepherd (Blessed Jesus)” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The full fledged folk take on “Savior, Like a Shepherd (Blessed Jesus)” could possibly be the best three-and-a-half minutes of the entire album, not only is the blend of string and percussion enjoyable but it fits effortlessly with Nash’s unique, mature vocals.
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is so sweet musically and vocally, it easily outshines every track that follows, and it’s difficult not to feel a sense of warmth alongside the heartfelt Nash.
This is then followed with a take on Katie Gustafson’s “Isaiah 55,” bringing the song to new heights. “Oh Heart Bereaved and Lonely” slows things down but lacks interest, and gets lost in the mix. Nash’s adaptation of “Power of the Cross” proves the album needed a little more piano and a little less string, although the string feel that drives the album seems to overpower Nash’s vocals at times while the piano not only suits her, it compliments her beautiful vocals.
All else seems to fall in-between. The pop-tune “Give Myself to You” feels out of place, as if it would fit more appropriately on Nash’s solo release Blue on Blue rather than a project like this; perhaps Nash just couldn’t help herself. The album then closes with “Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above” and “Be Still My Soul.”
“Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above,” originally released on the project Love Divine: The Hymns of Charles Wesley in mid-April, may just be one of the most moving adaptations recorded. While “Be Still My Soul” is simpler, musically compared to most of the tracks that came before it, the strings still overpower Nash a little too much in the mix; however, the whole thing comes together well enough to still standout and close the album nicely.
Closing Thoughts: Overall this is a wonderful project; it does have its low points but nonetheless, it’s easily the best cover album released this year. Leigh Nash is better than ever. The beautiful new melodies and arrangements are not only refreshing but heartwarming. More than half the time the lyrics are sung so sweetly and poetically it’s difficult to imagine that most of these songs were written more than a hundred years ago.
After a successful single with “Lead You to The Cross” and a Dove Award nomination already to their name, Curb Records’ newest adult contemporary act, No Other Name, brings us their comfortable but pleasant debut project The Other Side. The trio consists of brother and sister Sam and Laura Allen, and longtime friend Chad Smith on lead vocals.
The album begins with a cover of Evan Wickham’s ballad “He Lives”--itself an adaption of the hymn "I Know That My Redeemer Lives". Though Smith’s vocals mesh wonderfully with the softer musical tone, it’s difficult not comparing this rendition to Wickham's more emotionally gripping version.
“He Lives” is then followed by a take on former FFH member Michael Boggs’ “The Other Side". The song reminds us that though we may suffer loss, pain and sorrow here on Earth, when we finally make it to Heaven (the other side) we’ll at last be whole and complete with our Lord and Savior: “On the other side / The blind man will open up his eyes / The first that he sees will be the face of Christ”—a perfect picture of the Heaven we all eagerly anticipate.
The trio’s first original track to be featured is “Even Angels", inspired by the verse 1 Peter 1:12 (…in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the Good News to you by the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven, things into which angels long to look).The song reminds us that though the angels are constantly singing praises to the Lord, like us humans they cannot sing the song of the redeemed. Though they are beautiful and wondrous creatures, they have not experienced the grace of God that we human beings have. They cannot sing of God’s grace like we humans can, and therefore our songs are set apart.
Next comes “Lead You To the Cross", undoubtedly the highlight of the album. The song speaks of a life of service and devotion to God’s work and plan. When the first lyrics are uttered--“This is my story / This is my song / My passion and purpose / The mission I’m on / The heart of the matter / When it’s all said and done / I want to lead you to the cross”--it not only emotional grips Smith but the listener as well. The song is a tremendous reminder of something every Christian should aspire, and that is to save the world by living out God’s purpose and plan for each one of us.
Sam Allen then effortlessly takes the lead on the trio’s inspirational “Let It Start with Me”, a plea to be an instrument of God, to love more like Jesus loves, and to live a life that reflects His. The trio closes with a recording of Gordon Mote’s “Maplewood Methodist Church", an original arrangement of the hymn “Christ Arose", and an acoustic adaptation of Alvin Slaughter’s “Midnight Cry".
Closing Thoughts: Overall this is a pleasant album, however it lacks new, original material. The trio shows promise in their arrangements, harmonies, and original songwriting and it would be nice to hear more of that in the future. Chad Smith has a fine voice, as does Sam Allen--and it would be nice to hear a little more of him. At times, the trio fails to capture the emotional depth and grip that the original versions effortlessly achieved so a few more original tracks could have made this project stand out a little more.
Since The Waiting Kind’s beginning back in 2005, the indie/rock worship band from Boise, Idaho, wanted to write songs about “the heaven we will go to... the God who will take us there... and the struggle along the way.” The four guys--Derek Henbest, Dustin LaMont, Justin Newell, and Jeff Bully, Jr. -- that make up The Waiting Kind have accomplished just that with their indie release In The Land of Hope (2009) and now their official debut project EP.
The EP kicks off with “Love Rises,” an upbeat statement of God’s love and majesty. The song is then followed by “Greater, Stronger,” a declaration of praise in the midst of despair and trial. The song reminds us that even in our darkest hour God is right there with us; he is stronger and greater than any pain, sorrow, or hardship we may be experiencing.
“Heaven Calls My Name” is a sweet song of grace and salvation but sadly, it blends in and nearly goes unnoticed. The catchy piano/drum blended “Cross of Love,” co-written by Phil Wickham, is perhaps the standout track. It’s an invitation for the lost and weary to come to the cross: “Come, come to the cross of love/ Come see what He has done for us/ He’s bringing our hearts to life...” It also takes a lyric from the ever wonderful hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." EP then closes with “Trust in You,” a proclamation of trust and faith.
Closing Thoughts: Overall this is a solid project. Fans of Luminate, Building 429 and The Afters’ most recent effort will find this enjoyable, as Henbest’s slightly raspy vocals are reminiscent to that of Jason Roy with a twist of Josh Havens. Lyrically, the band has some room for growth, but their music certainly conveys their passion for worship.
A New Direction for Mat Kearney | Posted August-15-2011
After making a name for himself in both the Christian and mainstream scene, chart-topping Mat Kearney returns to us fresh off the "All Things Bright and Beautiful Tour" with Owl City to present his fourth studio project entitled Young Love. While Young Love falls short of the standard Kearney set with his previous releases Nothing Left to Lose and City of Black & White, it would be a mistake to overlook this album on that merit alone.
The album opens with what is perhaps the most memorable track on the record; the catchy handclapping, “Hey Mama”--a song inspired by the first meeting between Kearney and his wife. Other standouts include “Count on Me,” with a Regina Spektor-like intro, the track also features the vocals of a four year old little girl. This could have easily been awkward or annoying but it works and manages to make the track quite fun. The upbeat lighthearted “Young Dumb and in Love” tells a cute and quirky little love story: “Under the weeping willows and a sea of fireflies / With your gypsy necklace on and my big brown bowtie / You kissed my lips like I was catching a flight / I said if I'm honest I fell for you that first night.”
However, the true gems are “Ships in The Night”, “Down”, and “Rochester.” “Ships in The Night” offers a slight hint of the familiar hip-hop Kearney flair, and the piano and drums blending effortlessly with Kearney’s vocals as he tells about the relational struggles in a busy life. The song is something to behold. “Down” is evidentially the most spiritually influenced track; it paints a picture of struggle, pain, hope, and forgiveness. The final track, “Rochester” is undoubtedly the most emotionally gripping and moving piece on the album. Inspired by Kearney’s father, Michael P. Kearney, it tells a story of abuse, war, love, and family, that is nearly heartbreaking. Unlike every other track, it’s stripped down to nothing but Kearney’s vocals and an acoustic guitar; ending the album perfectly.
Fans hoping to see/hear Kearney go back to material like Nothing Left to Lose won’t find it here. The usual themes are present: love, pain, redemption. However, the album’s lyrical content is very different than in past albums, exploring the intricacies of romantic relationships rather than the general questions of life. I’d say three-quarters of the album is enjoyable enough to make the album a solid effort worth a listen.
Burlap To Cashmere: the name may be unfamiliar to most, but the band is by no means new to the music scene. After a successful debut in 1998 with the album Anybody Out There?, Burlap To Cashmere decided to go on an indefinite hiatus.
After more than a decade, it seemed like there wasn’t any hope for a return from the Dove Award-winning artists, who took home Best Rock Album of The Year in 1998. After a near-fatal car accident in 2005 that left guitarist John Phillippidis in need of full facial reconstructive surgery, the core members of BTC, Steven Delopoulos (vocals, guitar) and Theodore Pagano (drums), along with recovering Philippidis (guitar, vocals), decided it was time to for a reunion.
Thirteen years after their original debut, Burlap to Cashmere brings us their self-titled sophomore album, a project more than worth the wait.
The band focuses on a number of subjects throughout the album; themes ranging from trials and struggle, to joys, love, and a commentary of life on the road in the classic folk number “Live in a Van.” Other highlights include the Spanish influenced opener “Don’t Forget to Write,” the dramatic ode-like “Tonight,” the short-but-moving “Closer to The Edge,” and the powerful ballad “Orchestrated Love Song.” But the true gem here is the poetic “The Other Country.”
Approached with the opportunity to write a song for the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise, Delopoulos found inspiration in the original story told by C.S. Lewis in The Voyage of The Dawn Treader. While “The Other Country” may not have made it onto the official soundtrack of the film, it finds its true home here as the closing number. It also includes a direct reference to Psalm 23: “I see the other country / I see the other side / Do not be afraid of this earthly city / Do not be afraid when the pharaoh's nigh / Even though I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death / Even though I sink through the ocean / You will rescue me.” With its hopeful, encouraging lyrics and gentle music mixed with Delpoulos’ emotional tone, the track paints a pretty picture that ends the album both passionately and beautifully.
While Delpoulos’ vocal has transformed a good deal since 1998–into a pleasant, if not average, voice now matured with a more memorable tone so often associated with folk–it may still be an acquired taste. This may be the reason why the band has downplayed the Greek/Mediterranean flair that so heavily influenced their debut this time around; with a voice like Delpoulos’ there’s no need for all those bells and whistles. That’s not to say the album lacks anything musically--far from it. Between the flamenco guitar, the Spanish twists, pan flute and Greek folk fusion, there’s more than enough to keep the listener intrigued.
Any spiritual aspects that were clearly evident on Anybody Out There? are not quite so obvious here, but if you’re willing to take the time to dig a little deeper, you won’t be disappointed. These are good songs--no, great songs that deserve an intent ear.
Hello Somebody is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 by Youth Pastor Ben Pirtle. The organization provides meals to the starving around the world. They have provided, and continue to provide meals--through generous donations from people like you and me—for countries such as Haiti and Japan, in the midst of their recent crisis. Earlier this year Hello Somebody released its first compilation album, featuring their artist partners.
Highlights of the album include the opener “For Eternity” by The Wedding’s front man Matt Shelton, a sweet change from the harder Shelton fans are used to. It starts soft but picks up as it progresses, and with the catchy chorus, it is perhaps the most memorable track on the album: “I confess, I'm a wreck without you to call/And time is running, running out on us all/It's so amazing how, we're so quick to run out/You know I need you, I need you, I need you now…” For me, this is Shelton at his best, I love this softer side and would love to see it, or rather, hear it, more often. Next is The Rocket Summer’s acoustic driven rendition of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps”, musically stripped down from the original, but delivered with far more passion and enthusiasm vocally, easily making it a far better version than the original.
Three more stand out tracks include “Mystery” by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes, “I Will Go” by Dara Joy and “Hello” by Ryan Edgar. “Mystery” is a piano driven ballad that speaks of love and grace. Lyrically, “I Will Go” is what you’d expect, it’s about serving and obeying God, but what makes this song stand out from the rest is Dara Joy’s unique, soulful vocals, and the way it meshes so beautifully with the piano. The only thing holding back this track is the underlying acoustic guitar, which takes away from the beauty of just Dara Joy and the piano. Last, Ryan Edgar’s “Hello” serves as an excellent theme song for the organization: “Hello somebody, hello?/Are you out there?/Is anybody listening?”However, it’s just a little too upbeat for my liking.
The album also features artists such as The Almost, Group 1 Crew, and Star Go Dim. Overall, this is a very solid effort, and perhaps one of my favorite releases for the first half of 2011. I look forward to Volume Two. You can pick up the album at Hello-Somebody.com. Every purchase feeds one hundred hungry people.
A Solid Effort | Posted December-04-2010
Fourteen months after releasing their debut project, The Honest Love EP (on Facedown Records) and touring with artists Deas Vail and label mate The Ember Days, Abel, the four piece indie/rock act from Poughkeepsie, NY that consist of: Kevin Kneifel (vocals/guitars), Dan Bishop (guitars/keys), Alex David (bass), and John Rell III (drums), bring us their first full length project (on Come&Live!); Lesser Men. An album front man Kevin Kneifel says is “…about how we often lose focus on the things that are truly lasting and important in this life. It’s about discovering that forgiveness is real, and that no matter how far away from God we wander, he always takes us back.”
The album opens with the short and simple “Silver”, a song that reminds us God is worth so much more than anything, and there is nothing in the world that could ever compare to Him. The song is then followed by the catchy and upbeat “Saints”, one of my personal favorites; it’s the kind of song that makes you want to stand up and sing and shout at the top of your lungs.
While there are no direct references, the title track (“Lesser Men”) seems to be about the price Christ paid for us, the ‘lesser men’, there’s also a clear reference to the classic song “You Are My Sunshine”. That could have gone horribly wrong, but I think it gave it a nice little twist. “Take Me Home” is a plea to Jesus to take full control of our lives. “Standing Still” is undoubtedly the standout track of the album (in my humble opinion), not only are the anthem-like lyrics catchy (“So I'll stand still to know You/When I just want to be loved/And You are the air that I breath, when I just want to be loved/You are the ocean on my feet, when I just want to be loved…”), but the music is quite infectious, I was instantly uplifted and couldn’t help but sing-along. “Standing Still” and “Saints” are the kind of songs I’d like to see the band stick to.
The album closes with “Atlantic: The Broken Hearted King” and “Atlantic: The Voice in The Tides”. While “Atlantic: The Broken Hearted King” isn’t quite as intriguing as its title, it’s still an outstanding track! Arguably the most emotional and original song on the album. The song speaks of transformation and rebirth, the only kind that comes from God Himself, it also speaks of the second coming of Christ, and the desire we as Christians have to tell the world of God’s love. The bands guitarist Dan Bishop gets some time behind the mic on “Atlantic: The Voice in The Tides”, which ends the album just as it began; short and simple: “We think this world won't end/But nothing's the same since we cast our memories away/Though I know there's an ocean between you and me/You still light my way”.
Overall; this is one of my favorite Come&Live! releases this year. At some points the album gets a bit tiresome, and at thirty-four minutes in length, it shouldn’t feel like a drag. Lyrically it’s positive, but it’s also dark at points; I would have liked a few more songs like “Saints” or “Standing Still”. Kevin Kneifel has a good voice, somewhat reminiscent of This Beautiful Republic’s former front man Ben Olin; I really enjoyed listening to him. Musically the album is a bit repetitive. Lesser Men is by no means perfect, even so, it’s a very solid second effort, and I enjoyed it enough to recommend. However, in the future, I would love to hear more of Dan Bishop. I think if he and Kneifel went back and forth on vocals they could really compliment each other beautifully, Marc Martel and Jason Germain (Downhere) are a perfect example of this. These are a great bunch of guys, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.
Nearness - Lovelite | Posted October-14-2010
Lovelite is an indie rock/worship four piece act from San Diego, CA that consists of: husband and wife Andrew and Jen Polfer (vocals/guitars/keys), Adam Taylor (guitarist/keys) and Brandon Burr (bass). After nearly two years since releasing their first full length album, All Color on www.comeandlive.com, the band that brought us songs like “There You Are”, “Honestly” and “Our Peace” brings us their newest and most astounding project to date, Nearness.
The album starts off with “Apathy”, a great opening song that gives you a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the album. It’s not quite as remarkable as “There You Are” which opened All Color, nonetheless, musically and lyrically it’s still a solid track and one of my personal favorites. The title track co-written by producer Tyler Chester. Although it’s under three minutes it is no doubt one of the most memorable songs on the whole disc. Jen Polfer’s soft and sweet voice mesh beautifully with the songs heart warming music and simple lyrics, “Give me a nearness/I want to feel fire/Your friendship is tireless/Give me a nearness…”
The soft and intimate “I Belong” doesn’t offer quite as much musically, even so, the song grabs you with its honest and heartfelt lyrics. It’s a song that speaks of full surrender, full surrender to God. Sure, that’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but it’s the sincerity and heart in Andrew’s voice that make the song quite remarkable. The album closes beautifully with “Perihelion” (meaning: the point nearest the sun in the orbit of a planet or other celestial body), a one and a half minute “Nearness” reprise. With drawing musical comparisons to Athlete, Death Cab for Cutie, Keane, Radiohead and Eisley, plus with Andrew Polfer on vocals, these are perhaps my favorite tracks on the whole album; the instrumentation is simple, yet superb.
Compared to the band’s previous album All Color, sadly, there’s a lot less of Jen getting time behind the mic. While she compliments Andrew beautifully in the background, I would have liked to have heard more of her. At some points Nearness feels a bit darker sonically than All Color, but in a very good way, it brings the album a more intimate and emotional feel. Probably the biggest issue with the album is length. Call me greedy, but thirty-three minutes and eight tracks just isn’t enough! When I first got word the band was releasing a new album, I was absolutely thrilled! After a great album like All Color you can imagine how high my expectations were. I’m very pleased to say that the band exceeded all of my expectations.
Overall; this is another solid release from Lovelite and I enjoyed the album a great deal. The music and lyrics flow beautifully because Andrew and Jen sound absolutely wonderful together. Musically this album is a breath of fresh air. It’s unique and refreshing, how often do you hear an organ and a Glockenspiel nowadays? I’d love to see the band go Instrumental for one release; it could be interesting, and no doubt amazing.
The first time I heard Andrew Peterson was about three years ago. I remember the first song I heard; “Isn’t It Love?” off his 2001 release “Clear To Venus.” That little song was it, that’s all it took. I was in love with this mans music, style and voice. Ever since, Andrew Peterson has been one of my favorite Singer/Songwriter/Storytellers.
The album starts off with “Many Roads.” I was amazed by the way the first few lines caught my attention, just like a great book. (“If you'll step inside this great glass elevator/It'll take us up above the city lights…”) I immediately pictured this image and it was beautiful beyond words. I don’t believe there has ever been an album that captured me with just the first two lines.
Songs like “Dancing in The Minefields” and “World Traveler,” speak of different parts of our lives; Love, faith, family, hardship, promises and hope. While songs like the piano driven “The Magic Hour” and “Isle of Skye” have a storybook feel to them. The softer “Planting Trees” is about the seeds we sow.
“In The Night” is without a doubt the best song on the album. It reminds us of the ones who have gone before us, the hardship they faced, and the hardship we ourselves face today. How even through the darkness, we can continue on because of Christ Jesus. Our hope lives on because of Him.
The album ends on a high note with "The Reckoning (How Long.)" I was surprised to find Andrew’s latest single at the very end of the album, but it fits perfectly and the extended intro gives it a nice touch.
Unlike Andrew’s previous album “Resurrection Letters: Volume II,” “Counting Stars” feels somewhat darker at points, but in a very good way.
Overall; this is a superb album! Andrew Peterson has outdone himself. His vocals are better than ever, his writing gets more and more captivating with each new album. He is a true artist.
One of The Best Albums of 2010 | Posted May-05-2010
It's been two years since the release of Tenth Avenue North’s debut “Over and Underneath.” I admit "Over and Underneath" was a bit cliché' at times, but I still enjoyed it a great deal and have been looking forward to the band’s sophomore album with anticipation.
The album starts off with “Healing Begins,” the bands first single off the album. It’s light uplifting music and lyrics are like… a special moment on a Spring day when you close your eyes and a cool breeze touches your face… And you feel completely free and you know… That God is good. The first thirteen seconds of “Strong Enough To Save” are somewhat similar to Mat Kearney’s “Fire & Rain.” My first thought was “Tenth covering Kearney?” As it turns out, that was not the case (oh, how it would have been interesting.)
"You Are More" is a song of forgiveness and salvation… (“‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done/But what’s been done for you/This is not about where you’ve been/But where your brokenness brings you to/This is not about what you feel/But what it felt to forgive you/And what it felt to make you new....)
“Empty My Hands” is without a doubt my favorite song on the album. It’s incredibly moving and emotional. At first listen I choked up. It describes something I have (and I’m sure everyone has) felt so many times in life. It’s about being haunted by your past and asking the Lord to consume you completely and wash away the memories and pain of who you were and what you did.
The album ends beautifully with “Oh My Dear.” It is one of the most heartfelt and romantic love songs I have ever heard. The lyrics and melody are haunting and unforgettable.
The bands focus throughout the album is healing, salvation, mercy, surrender but most importantly; love.
Overall; this is a solid sophomore album, definitely one of my favorites the year. It’s obvious how much the band has matured since their debut. There’s much more lyrical depth, honesty and originality. I look forward to seeing what the band will do in future albums.