Joanna Joanna Beasley, formally known as Joanna Martino, released her debut album My World, in 2005 at the age of 19, just 3 years after advancing to the final 80 contestants in "American Idol." Her...
Bring Your Nothing
Shane & Shane Life looks a lot different for Shane & Shane from their days at Texas A&M University. In 15 years, the evergreen college favorites have toured with everyone from Mat Kearney to David Crowder*Band,...
How Mercy Looks From Here
Amy How Mercy Looks From Here finds Amy Grant collaborating with other songwriters and producer Marshall Altman crafting a collection of songs that mine the depths of both heart and soul as only Amy can.
Uplifting Worship Experience | Posted May-19-2013 Joanna Beasley, formally known as Joanna Martino, released her debut album My World, in 2005 at the age of 19, just 3 years after advancing to the final 80 contestants in "American Idol." Her second album Patiently Waiting released in November, 1999. Joanna’s desire is to continue serving and pouring into others as Christ pours into her. Creating an atmosphere of worship and a place where her audience is focused to hear God speak to them, Joanna is ecstatic to bring her new music, her heart and the message of Grace to the world. Her new album Loud Love is loaded with melodic and worshipful songs speaking the Truth of the Word of God into the hearts of today's culture.
“Exalted One” showcases not only Joanna’s gifts as a songwriter, but her shimmering, emotion-laden voice. The song is an infectious celebration of God’s faithfulness with an uplifting chorus based on Psalm 121: “We lift our eyes to You, where our help comes from, our hope is found in You, Jesus Lord of all, we lift our eyes to You, Exalted One.”
“Won My Heart” is a love song to Jesus, “I want to open my heart to You God, Your love has overthrown every fear that I’ve known, over and over again, Your love has won my heart, the fight is over, here we are, living with the only God who knows my heart.”
Right from the opening notes of “Your Love,” you’ll be captivated by the melody and message. The song is a gorgeous and gentle reminder that if we have Jesus we have all we need. “What You did for me, what You’ve done for us…With Your Love, It’s Your Love, found in Your hope, it’s the anchor to our soul, we are redeemed.” Amen.
The album includes new recordings of some of Joanna’s favorite worship songs. Don’t miss her gorgeous covers of “Rooftops” (Jesus Culture) and “I Will Rise” (Hillsong). Both songs are absolutely incredible prayers exclaiming God’s loud love for us, flawlessly delivered by Joanna’s sweet and sincere vocals.
I’m emotionally moved by the Doxology focused songs “Hallelujah” and “Jesus Savior” as they proclaim my heart’s cry to worship my King, Jesus. “Worthy are You God, Worthy is our God, Hallelujah, Hallelujah to the One who was, is, and always will be…God” beautifully flows into: “Halleljuah, Halleljuah, our God saves, our God saves, praise God from whom all blessings flow praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above, ye Heavenly hosts, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen.”
“Thank You” is another prayer song that proclaims “I am Yours and You are mine, I have come to thank You for everything You’ve done and everything You’ve won, You have rescued me from the power of the grave.”
The gorgeous and moving song “This Same Love” is a guaranteed hit song co-written and sung with Chris McClarney, who wrote “Your Love Never Fails.” Joanna sings this tender and prayerful ballad directly to God, “You made me beautiful, this same Love, who has conquered death / Is You great God, You saved me from the shame that I deserve / You’re a Good and Great God!” Amen. It’s one of my top worship songs of the year. “Boldly” is a great reminder the Lord is ready for us to approach His throne of grace. James 4:8 promises that when we draw near to God, He WILL draw near to us.
Joanna Beasley has pure and strong vocals that remind me of Jaci Velsquez. She clearly loves our Lord and Savior Jesus with all of her heart and wants to celebrate that fact with every song. Joanna brings her walk with Jesus into her songwriting.Loud Loveis filled with overwhelming biblical truth. She has captivating and catchy songs filled with inspirational lyrics. For me, Joanna brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen. After repeated listens, the songs get deeper into the recesses of your heart with the challenging messages. If you are looking for one of the top worship albums of the year, then look no further than Loud Love. I’m sure it will continue to challenge, inspire and move me. This is truly a great album and an uplifting worship experience.
Life looks a lot different for Shane & Shane from their days at Texas A&M University. In 15 years, the evergreen college favorites have toured with everyone from Mat Kearney to David Crowder*Band, garnered three Dove Awards and sold more than 500,000 records. The two men are not only husbands and fathers now, but they're also on staff at a local church in Dallas where they lead worship each month and teach a class at the church's ministry leadership school, allowing them to put down roots and be involved in true biblical community for the first time.
It's through the lens of fatherhood and community that Shane & Shane's new record, Bring Your Nothing (Fair Trade Services), was born. The songs from Shane Barnard's songwriting class comprise the DNA of this album. Every single song is filled with Truth.
The bluesy title track, "Bring Your Nothing," is based on Isaiah 55. Lyrically, the song speaks to what we have to bring to Christ--absolutely nothing. "What sets us apart as believers, what sets our message apart, is that you don't bring your ‘fill-in-the-blank' to make God happy," Barnard says. "You bring what you have, and what you have is nothing. That's all He requires of us."
"The One You'll Find," "I Came Alive" and "You Loved My Heart to Death" each include refrains of thankfulness for undeserved grace as described in Romans 5:8: "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
"That's How You Forgive" defines grace in a powerful way. Shane Everett explains about the song: "it really resonates with people's hearts, especially if they know the Lord. And if they don't, it walks them through how the Lord forgives. He came, and He died for us, and He rose to life; and we get raised with Him." Many of us feel that we're not worthy of being near God and that He's using a checklist to determine our worthiness. That's not the Gospel. The Good News of the Gospel which this song perfectly portrays it is that God accepts us no matter what we've done. As the song says, "You lived the life I could never live, You died the death that I deserve, You rose to life and now You live, That's how You forgive." What a wonderful, encouraging truth.
"Eyes On You," "In a Little While" and "Crucify Him" anchor down the album with powerful depictions of God's Word. I loving singing along loudly, "I see a city, a New Jerusalem, coming down from Heaven, every tear that's fallen, will be picked up again, and we will live as one" in the standout eternity-minded song, "In a Little While."
"Crucify Him" is a challenging song for the Church: "It's packaged differently than Pharisees / wrapped in sing-alongs and Christianese / singing Hallelujah to the King / when my heart is loving idols…I sing Hosanna once again / then I say crucify Him."
"Without Jesus" comes right from 1 Corinthians 13, reminding listeners that even the best things we find in this life mean nothing if Christ is not in them. The song includes more challenging lyrics, "just five bucks in the offering, won't buy you some prosperity…without Jesus."
"Faith To Believe" was co-written with Phil Wickham after noticing the beauty of the clouds on a plane ride, and is ultimately about how our perspective shapes our circumstances. "Though You Slay Me" indeed slays me with the personal and confessional lyrics: "Though You slay me, yet I will praise You, though you take from me, I will bless Your name, though you ruin me, I will worship, sing the song to the One who is all I need."
Sometimes God puts us through trials and humbles us to show us how much we need Him, like Job. We have a church culture where we sing songs that all basically say "we love You God," even though we feel like saying "woe is me." Then we go back to our real and messy lives. This great song reflects the biblical Truth expressed in Job 1:21: "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." God wants us to give all of ourselves and rely completely on Him. The song proclaims: "You're enough for me." That's a great reminder and challenge.
Musically this album is very soothing and the songs are all edifying, challenging and filled with very biblical lyrics. Harmonizing together on every song, Shane & Shane's personal and vulnerable vocals have never sounded better. Each successive album has improved on the last for Shane & Shane in my opinion from Carry Away to Bring Your Nothing, which is now their best overall album in my opinion.
For me, the standout songs are "The One You'll Find," "I Came Alive" "That's How You Forgive," "Eyes On You," "In a Little While," "Though You Slay Me" and the challenging songs "Crucify Him" and "Without Jesus." If you've liked past hit songs "Be Near," "Yearn," "Before The Throne" and "The One You Need," you'll love this album. After repeated listens, the songs get deeper into the recesses of your heart with the challenging messages. Whether as an album to set the mood for reflection and worship or for personal times of devotion, I rate Bring Your Nothing by Shane & Shane highly. This is one of the most worshipful, challenging and introspective albums I've heard this year.
Song to Download Now:
"That's How You Forgive" (Get it on iTunes here.)
How Mercy Looks From Here finds Amy Grant collaborating with other songwriters and producer Marshall Altman crafting a collection of songs that mine the depths of both heart and soul as only Amy can.
I've been listening to Amy Grant for over 25 years, as I first heard "El-Shaddai," "Thy Word" and "Tennessee Christmas" when I was in high school. Like many avid Christian music collectors, I agree that 1988's Lead Me Onwas one of the most influential albums in the history of Christian music. Amy truly paved the way for all female artists and today I hear her influence in some of my favorite artists including Sara Groves, Britt Nicole and Francesca Battistelli.
After 10 years since her last full album of new songs comes How Mercy Looks From Here, Amy's newest collection chronicling the lessons of faith, family and love that are on her heart from the past decade. This album includes 11 compelling new songs about her experiences of the past decade being a wife, a mother and Christian.
"If I Could See" is an uplifting song with Amy's passionate vocals setting the tone for the album with the confessional lyrics, "If I could hear what angels hear…Holy Holy in my ear, I'd never doubt that God is near, If I could hear…"
"Better Not To Know" is a wonderful prayer-song about finding regular strength and courage in God's faithful kindness. In 1988, Amy planted 75 fruit trees on the Tennessee farm where she lived with her first husband and children and returned 20 years later to find the trees overflowing with fruit, after there had been no fruit for years. Amy reflected if she "had known 20 years earlier what life would bring, she didn't know if she would have planted the trees. Sometimes it's better not to know."
"Don't Try So Hard" features James Taylor and addresses the topic of being honest with yourself and God. Her vocals are stellar and the poignant message behind this song of "God gives you grace and you can't earn it, don't think that you're not worth it, because you are, He gave you His love and He's not leaving, gave you His only Son so you'd believe it, you're lovely even with your scars, don't try so hard" has me hooked again. We are called as Christians to believe in the freedom that we have in the Cross of Jesus. We are free from our fears, addictions, insecurities and perfectionism. Jesus came to die for us so that we can all truly live in Him. It reminds me of Amy's classic songs "Lead Me On" and "Saved By Love," both in catchiness and transparency.
"Deep As It Is Wide" was written by Eric Paslay, and he and Sheryl Crow sing with Amy on this standout song about the depth of God's amazing love. "Here" is a great reminder the Lord is ready for us to approach His throne of grace. James 4:8 promises that when we draw near to God, He WILL draw near to us. Whatever struggle or depression you are facing you can know that God is with you, always.
"Shovel in Hand" featuring Will Hoge is a piercing ballad about Amy's son Matt dealing with the sudden passing of his friend. Anyone who has experienced parenthood and loss will actually physically feel the emotion so poignantly expressed by Amy as she passionately cries out: "I watched my son, shovel in hand, go from bullet proof boy to a broken man...19 years old and he's burying a friend, goodbye two boys, hello one man."
"Golden" has an ambient musical feel and is a meditative reflection on the unmerited grace and unconditional love of God. Amy's vocal runs in many of the songs including "Golden" cause me to hang on every word she brilliantly sings. The lyrics reflect the theme of this mesmerizing album—"You are loved, you are golden…every son, every daughter, when you're out on the troubled water, just hold on, you are loved, you are golden." The strong biblical message comes right from 2 Corinthians 6:18 where God promises: "I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty."
Don't miss the beautiful song "How Mercy Looks From Here," where Amy sings in faith: "I would have given up, drowning in my tears, if it wasn't for Your voice, all these years, when you face your greatest fear, losing all that you hold near, open up your eyes my dear, that's when boundless grace appears, unseen angels hover near, saints are singing loud and clear, oh how mercy looks from here."
I know that many of us struggle with the idea that our past and present mistakes are unforgivable, yet the Bible tells us that isn't true. Read the great translation in The Message of Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus tells us: "Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest." What an amazing comfort to know that when we struggle with our pain, pride and unloving natures, we can all lay it at the feet of Jesus. God's promises us in His Word that His mercies are new every morning.
Amy has dedicated this poignant album to her mother, Gloria Napier Grant, who passed away in April, 2011. Before she passed, she gave Amy the advice, "sing something that matters." Mission accomplished. Grant has built a long, successful career with music that matters.
I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2 Friends Tour in May, 2011. That night Amy said, "I started writing something for my mother over 20 years ago about aging. Back then, I thought, "What do I know about aging?" Now when I washed my face this morning, I see the changes in my face. What I know is that things change, but it's good to know the One Who never changes." Amen.
In light of recent tragedies, the somewhat somber tone to this album is quite soothing and many of these songs are lyrically profound. This album soothes, moves and challenges listeners. Those looking for '90's pop music star Amy Grant won't find her "Here," however. How Mercy Looks From Here is a profound listening experience and a very solid return from one of Christian music's most beloved stars. This is easily one of the best albums of the year. This entire album is loaded with relatable lyrics, incredible singing and prayerful themes about what it means to be a parent, spouse and child of God.
Song to Download Now:
"Don't Try So Hard" (Get it on iTunes here.)
Matt Maher – “Love will hold us together” | Posted April-22-2013 Matt Maher's fourth project with Essential Records, All The People Said Amen, delivers raw, worshipful moments that draw the line between the divine and the everyday. Featuring brand new songs mixed with concert versions of fan favorites, the album perfectly captures the penetrating spirit and charisma Matt Maher’s worship songs have become known for in a live setting. This compelling, 13-track journey Matt hopes will lead people, “back to their own hearts” and “prompt listeners to stop and ask some tough questions about who they are and where they are letting God maneuver in their hearts. And in doing that, experience the heart of the passion, death and resurrection.”
The first single “Lord, I Need You” is a surefire hit song which also features Audrey Assad. It’s exactly the type of catchy corporate worship song I’ve come to love from Matt Maher. The song features instantly sing-able vertical and prayerful lyrics: “Lord, I need You, I need You, every hour I need You, my one Defense, my Righteousness, Oh God how I need You.” I sing along with the top of my lungs when Matt belts out, “Where You are, Lord I am free, holiness is Christ in me.” Amen. Maher is best known for writing the worship anthems “Your Grace Is Enough” and “Christ Is Risen.” There are incredibly energetic and moving live versions of those excellent songs on this album. The first three songs, “All The People Said Amen,” “Alive Again” and “Burning In My Soul” all flow together with a Brit-rock musical style and plenty of energy and excitement about our relationship with Christ and how He transforms us, such as in “Alive Again” with the confessional proclamation: “I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out, I’m alive again!” “Burning In My Soul” would fit on any Hillsong or Passion album, as also recorded by Brett Younker for Passion: Let The Future Begin. Matt’s written several hits for the Passion artists and this song will also resonate with believers everywhere like his other prayerful anthems “Your Grace Is Enough” and “I Will Rise.” It includes the imploring and catchy chorus “Hear the sound from Heaven, A mighty rushing wind, we’re calling for revival, God let Your fire fall again, it’s burning in my soul.”
“Hold Us Together” is a powerful anthem for these troubled times; a rallying cry to demonstrate that the love of God evidenced by the church can make a difference. I can’t get enough of this great worship anthem and the emotion and biblical truth that Matt brings to the song. Jesus tells us throughout the Bible that love is all we need and commands us to “love one another.” He loved us so much that He came to die for our sins and yet even as Christians, we create so much conflict and strife amongst ourselves. Every now and then a song comes along that I can really sing as a daily prayer in response to my Savior, and this album is loaded with songs like “Hold Us Together.” As Matt challenges in the chorus, “love will hold us together, I’ll be my brother’s keeper, so the whole world will know that we’re not alone.” Consider those words when you make decisions and keep God’s command to “love one another.”
“Great Things” is filled with Matt’s sincere yearning based on Mary’s saying yes to the will of God, “My soul proclaims Your greatness Lord, rejoicing in my Savior / Your mercy belongs to those who fear Your Son / His blessings You have given them forever / And holy is His name, holy is His name / You alone have done great things / I can't boast of anything, Mighty One, and King of kings, Jesus / You alone have done great things / By Your living word in me / Mighty One, and King of kings, Jesus.” Those are Truths that we can all proclaim loudly together as followers of Christ, regardless of denomination or preferences— “all the people said, Amen.” For those looking for reflective worship songs, don’t miss “Adoration” and “Mighty Fortress.” “Adoration” is an acoustic guitar based worship song and one of my favorites on the album. The song has Matt’s signature soothing vocals as he prayerfully belts out “Jesus, Lamb of God, Saving Love for all, Lord of Heaven and Earth…I bow to You.” Amen. “Mighty Fortress” is instantly sing-able and worshipful with a great chorus, “You are the Rock of Salvation, the only Foundation, Lord of All, You are our Hope never failing, A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Energetic live versions of Prodigal Son inspired “Turn Around” and “It Is Good” close out this very engaging and charismatic worship experience. As Matt says during “It Is Good,” “dancing is totally biblical.”
All the People Said Amen is Matt Maher at his most dynamic. This album provides listeners with thirteen tracks that seek to give a voice to humanity’s acceptance of God’s love in any circumstance. In the same way that the Psalms offer expressions of joy, sorrow, repentance, hope and victory, this album gives a voice to the appreciation and adoration of God in every chapter of life. Matt Maher’s enthusiastic and reverent style of writing and singing praise and worship songs has consistently been a draw for me. Maher’s prayerful sentiments are consistently filled with his personal adoration of God. All The People Said Amen is no exception. Several of these songs should be added to your Sunday morning worship set, especially the new songs “All The People Said Amen,” “Lord, I Need You,” “Burning In My Soul,” and the gorgeous ballads “Adoration” and “Mighty Fortress.”
The Story of the Cross | Posted April-11-2013 Citizen Way was formed in 2004, when two sets of siblings, Josh and Ben Calhoun and David and Ben Blascoe, crossed paths while in college. Their camaraderie made for a foundation that went beyond their biological connection and combined their vision for ministry with their passion for music. The result is Love is the Evidence, an infectious pop-rock project with sensibility. It is the byproduct of years spent honing their skills; playing at camps, retreats and youth group events; investing in the fans; and building a faithful following. The music has a driving momentum. In the end, the guys of Citizen Way really just want to have a conversation with people, sharing stories that reflect Scripture, reveal the heart of God and speak to honest, human struggle.
The opening songs are all among the best songs I've heard on any album in the past few years. From the beginning notes of “Nothing Ever,” I was hooked by the lyrical and musical intensity of the album. The opener kicks off the musical journey immediately relating to believers who have put all of their hope and trust in Jesus Christ, "Not even death could pull me from Your arms, nothing ever could separate us now…when I can’t see You, I know You are near…even in death we won’t be torn apart." The great Brit-rock style guitar riffs are found throughout this substantive album. “Evidence” has excellent Kingdom-focused lyrics: “It’s not a sign in my yard, not a cause that I’ve joined…it’s the change in my heart, mercy and grace and compassion, they’re only words without action." That leads to the convicting lyrics we can all proclaim as believers in the sincere chorus, "I need hands that are open reaching out to broken hearts, cause that’s the only way this world could ever know who You are / Love is the evidence." Amen! “All Things” is another catchy and confessional song highlighted by Ben Calhoun’s passionate vocal delivery as he prays, “How much more does our Father provide for the ones He loves...in all things give thanks to the One who meets our need before we even know we need it." All of these songs are poignant and powerful with earnest worshipful lyrics.
Hit song “Should’ve Been Me” boldly declares a statement of faith: “All of these years never heard it like this / It should’ve been me, it should’ve been us, should’ve been there hanging on a Cross, all of these shames, all of these scars, should’ve been stains that were never washed, why do I hide, why do you try, over and over and over again, I guess it just leaves me sayin’ thank God, leaves me sayin’ thank God for the should’ve been.” Amen! This worship anthem is just the type of infusion that the church needs with its honesty and bold lyrics. The song has quickly become a prayerful anthem in my daily devotional time. The opening tracks set the tone brilliantly for this exceptional debut album, one of the best of the year.
“Lights On” is an unashamed declaration of faith to God. Calhoun belts out the sincere chorus, “With You, You turn the lights on the lights on / and You open my eyes, and You shine on, You shine on, I come alive.” What a great reminder that everything we have is a gift from God, the Light of the world. That Truth is manifested in the catchy bridge: “Out of the grave, out of the dark, out of these chains, into Your arms, I am awake, I am alive, forever safe.” I love the next song, “How Sweet The Sound,” paraphrasing several Scriptures and the lyrics of the world’s most famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” “Even though I walk through the valley I know that You are always right beside me…Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, I hear You singing over me, I once was lost but now I’m found, and it’s beautiful…and it’s a beautiful sound” is the bold testimonial of this great anthem for Christians everywhere expressing gratitude for God’s Amazing Grace.
“Fall Like Rain” is another standout songs filled with the comforting lyrics, “Why is healing so painful, It feels like I’m losing this war…there’s a peace that’s perfect, a hope that is real, there’s a plan and a purpose, no matter how you feel…when you fall like the rain, you’re going to rise like the sun.” It is a great reminder of God’s purpose and great plans for His followers from Jeremiah 29:11. I am very moved and challenged by these great songs, especially “Love is a Mess” which proclaims “I used to think that Love should never have to bleed, I used to think that life was all about the dream…love is a mess, the story of the Cross.” Amen. I find myself raising my hands in worship, and then I'm compelled to reach out horizontally to help show others the love of Jesus. Epic closing track “Sing, Sing, Sing” is a soaring, melodic anthem that sings about the hope of heaven imprinted on our hearts before the foundation of the world. This is a signature tune by this incredibly talented band wrapped around gorgeous and moving Brit-Rock guitar riffs and Coldplay-esque harmonies.
CLOSING THOUGHTS Love is the Evidence contains catchy and worshipful songs with lyrics that point to the wonders of our God combined with sweeping melodies and infectious choruses that will be replayed in your mind over and over again. Experience the majestic nature of God in the music of Citizen Way. As the song “Love is a Mess” declares, this album is “The Story of the Cross…the beauty of the Cross.” What’s most impressive is how these catchy songs will have you singing along at the top of your lungs after just a couple of listens. This is the best new band I’ve heard since Tenth Avenue North. Citizen Way has a great opportunity to reach the lost for the Kingdom of God with their transparent lyrics and incredible musical talent. Love is the Evidence is a great collection of confessional and authentic expressions of faith. All of the songs are catchy, exciting and worshipful. After listening to the album,I am stirred with compassion to love people as Jesus loves us. That's the heart behind this album, and thank you Citizen Way for blessing us with your music and for singing the Truth of the Gospel for the Kingdom of God.
Josh Wilson [Carry Me] | Posted April-07-2013 Josh Wilson is a critically acclaimed singer, songwriter and storyteller with chart-topping hits and numerous industry awards. Now with Carry Me, his fourth project with Sparrow Records releasing April 9th, Wilson opens up his heart more than ever. Sharing about a very personal health issue dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, his new songs ultimately spread the message that through life’s difficult trials, it is only God who can carry us through it all. Bringing all his musical influences to bear—pop, folk, rock, classical, hymns, and more, Carry Me paints a refreshingly relevant musical palate that frames its message beautifully.In the midst of writing songs for a new record, Wilson began experiencing severe chest and shoulder pain as well as difficulty breathing, believing he was actually having a heart attack. Yet after numerous negative tests, he tried to get back to his normal life but soon began waking up frantic in the middle of the night, even canceling scheduled performances out of fear.
Josh writes about themes that cause me to hang on every word he sings, especially “Carry Me,” which is a prayerful song that moves me with these lyrics “I'm wide awake in the middle of the night scared to death, So I prayed God, would You make this stop, Father please hold on to me, You're all I've got.” Finding God in my moments of weakness and relying on Him completely for my strength is what this song is all about. It is a testament to Wilson the songwriter that he can make that concept as accessible as a moving “3 minute song.” Great examples of God showing “His light in my life” are found in the stand-out songs “Pushing Back The Dark,” “Faith Is Not A Feeling,”“I See God in You,” “Grace Enough for You,” “What A Mystery,” “Let There Be Light” and “Symphony.” In typical Josh Wilson fashion, he opens with a track that completely expresses the Truth of the Gospel with “Pushing Back The Dark.” The song really sets the tone for the album with the call to action—“Whatever you do, just don’t look back, cause somebody needs the light you have, whatever you do, just don’t lose heart, keep on pushing back the dark, let your light so shine, don’t underestimate the God you follow, keep on shining ‘til the whole world knows.”
“Faith Is Not A Feeling” takes it up a notch and honestly addresses the reality of the struggle of not losing our first love, Jesus, with the compelling lyrics—“We all know that feelings come and go, we all know that that emotions ebb and flow, some days, I’ve got to trust what I already know, that You never let go, when I don’t feel You moving, that doesn’t mean You’ve disappeared…I’ll keep on believing, cause faith is not a feeling.” You can’t help but want to reach out and be the Kingdom of God on earth as beautifully expressed in “Symphony” with these prayerful lyrics “Come all with all your heart, lift your voice and play your part in this symphony.” Amen. I find myself raising my hands in worship after those tracks, and then I’m compelled to reach out horizontally to help show others the love of Jesus.
“I See God in You” is a gorgeous biographical story-song about seeing God in Josh’s elderly neighbor Lillie Grace and special needs child Gabriel. While listening to “Let There Be Light,” I am challenged to practice "letting our light shine so that others may praise our Father in Heaven." That's how we can show God in us to others. Also, look for God in the "least of these" as Jesus tells us, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me." In Josh’s emotional song “Here I Am Anyway” he lays out his need for Jesus similar to “Before The Morning” and “Fall Apart,” two of my favorite prayer-songs by Josh.“One Safe Soul” is a humble song of confession to his wife, “baby you show me the love of God, love is never blind, you see all the wrongs I try to hide, but you stay right by my side, when all the world does not, you’re the one safe soul I’ve got.”
Closing song “What I See Now” is the stand-out “gourmet” song on the album with Josh emotionally singing “If I go could back to the seventh grade, I’d tell myself you’d be okay, you’re the last one picked, the first one out, boy don’t let it get you down.” The song shifts to middle school—“you’re faking sick to stay at home, give it time, you will find, friends you’ll have your whole life.” The song is also profession of Josh’s journey from singleness to married life, his spiritual growth and learning how to be loved by God and others. The parallel of Josh singing comforting words to himself and the unconditional Love of our Savior is striking, “You’re gonna make it through, I promise that you do, somehow, I wish you could see what I see now, I see a perfect plan, I see a better man, you’ll be a better man, sometimes it takes a while, sometimes the trials, to open up your eyes...just keep on walking towards the light.” We often feel ashamed and unworthy of God’s perfect Love, but that’s the point. We aren’t worthy and God still wants all of us and loves us deeply. This entire album is about giving and accepting love.
I love albums that have a consistent message and theme and that move me emotionally, such as Ocean by Bebo Norman and Leaving Eden by Brandon Heath. In fact, if you like those albums, then you must get Carry Me. This album grabs me with every song, is the best overall album by Josh Wilson and is one of the top albums of the year. There are no filler tracks, and this is truly a five star effort. Having previously enjoyed Josh Wilson's hit songs "Savior, Please," "3 Minute Song,""Before The Morning" and “I Refuse,” I have eagerly anticipated Carry Me. This album firmly establishes Josh as the premier folk style singer-songwriter in Christian music. Josh's poignant song writing is coupled with musical excellence as each song urges me to better see God. This album is sure to connect with all listeners who like catchy songs filled with truth and yearning for God. Josh invites you into his life in such an authentic and relatable way, you’ll feel like you are a lifelong friend after you hear this album. Josh has always had a knack for hitting me where I am spiritually and expressing the prayerful yearnings of my heart. This album is no exception as I get welled up praying along with several of the songs and most of all, I am stirred with compassion to love people as Jesus loves us.
Misty Edwards [Only a Shadow] | Posted March-31-2013 Only a Shadow captures Misty Edwards and team in a raw, fervently energetic, live prophetic worship concert. Recorded with Onething conference goers, the album features primarily new songs with a handful of familiar tracks from Misty’s past decade of worship releases. Misty Edwards is an active leader at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri, a ministry launched by Mike Bickle. Misty’s musical work stands alone as excellent worship music in and of itself, but much can be gleaned from understanding the dynamics of the context in which the songs are formed: 24/7 prayer, worship, and fasting. IHOP-KC has held live worship non-stop, without closing the doors, since September 19th, 1999.Much of Misty’s music springs spontaneously from two-hour prayer and worship sessions called ‘Worship with the Word’ or intercession sets.
Released March 19, Misty’s full-length album Only a Shadow is truly an anointed album and can best be described as a prophetic worship experience. “Ezekiel 1” is a spontaneous worship prophetic reading by Misty which sets the ethereal worshipful tone of the album, like Kim Walker-Smith and Jesus Culture. “Baptize My Heart” reflects Biblical yearning to know Jesus with these compelling lyrics, I pledge my allegiance to Jesus, to Jesus, I pledge my allegiance to the Lamb.” Misty has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and her sincere desire to serve Jesus. Being a Christian father of three young daughters, these songs all reflect the yearning for Jesus I pray for my daughters’ to feel in their hearts as well. “Only a Shadow” and “Shine like the Stars” are beautiful prophetic songs, with Misty proclaiming “I am my Beloved's and He is mine. Rightly do I love Him, though I walk through the valley of the shadow” in the title track. Misty clearly loves our Lord and Savior Jesus with all of her heart. Misty passionately professes “Knowing You is eternal, both now and forever…we will shine like the stars” based on Philippians 2:14-16: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” “Shine like the Stars” hasa very catchy and worshipful electronic dance-pop musical style. The song is an amazing reminder of how we are called to be a light for Jesus, everyday, “without complaining or arguing."
The album includes a few moments that take my breath away with how vulnerable and sincere they get, especially “I Will Waste My Life.” Misty belts out the Truth of the song with these prayerful words, “I am in love with You I want to take Your name / I am in love with You I want to cling to You Jesus / Just let me cling to You Jesus / I'll say goodbye to my father my mother / I'll turn my back on every other lover and I'll press on yes I'll press on.”“Pour My Love On You” is another standout song, also recorded by Phillips, Craig & Dean. The song keeps with the theme of praising Jesus for His sacrifice with the confessional lyrics, “Lord this is my desire, to pour my love on You / if praise is like perfume / I lavish mine on You / Till every drop is gone / I pour my love on You.” The song flows seamlessly into “I Give It All” which has Misty passionately praising Jesus, “You have my heart, I give it all to You.” Don’t miss out on Misty’s singing in “You Set Your Love on Me” as she passionately captures the prayerful tone of the album with her grateful proclamation, “Love loves to Love, and the reward of Love, it is love...I’m speaking about Christ.” As if that weren’t impressive enough, Misty then completely captivates me with “I Love Your Ways.” Before the song Misty says “this whole thing comes down to Love.”Misty closes with another upbeat prayer-song, “Between the Cherubim.” She confesses for all of us as believers: “You who dwell between the cherubim to You we cry / O Shepherd of Israel restore and cause Your face to shine / Don't remember our former sin Let Your mercy speedily come / O Shepherd of Israel restore and cause Your face to shine.” Amen.
CLOSING THOUGHTS The album is framed between themes of the love of God and the resulting pledges of unwavering devotion fueled by this love, sustaining endurance and imparting vision for eternity amidst earthly trials. As is typical of Misty Edwards’ signature style, both soaring and subdued vocals bear the same provoking, soul-stirring potency. Her penchant for cutting through embellishment to reveal the heart of a matter shines through in each track, resonating beautifully in this vast atmosphere of worship. Only a Shadow invites the listener to encounter the eternal Source of light. The ethereal musical style and Misty’s powerful and gorgeous vocals keep me hanging on every word she sings and speaks. All fourteen songs completely focus me as a listener on joining her in praise, worship and adoration of our King, Jesus. Don’t miss the stand-out songs, “Baptize My Heart,” “Only a Shadow,”“Shine like the Stars,” “When You Think of Me,” “I Will Waste My Life” and “I Give It All.” Get ready to experience and encounter the eternal Love of Jesus in these captivating songs.
Kerrie Roberts [Time For The Show] | Posted March-26-2013 Florida native Kerrie Roberts has been listed alongside power vocalists including Kelly Clarkson and Natalie Grant: unassuming girl, huge voice. Memorable and dynamic yet intimate. Kerrie is uniquely emotive and soulful. With the release of her sophomore album,Time for the Show, Kerrie addresses themes of empowerment, strength, encouragement and joy delivered on waves of vibrant and contagious music ranging from high-energy pop to signature ballads beautifully expressed through tender, undeniable piano/vocal performances. This album Includes the powerful single "Finally Home" plus "Masterpiece," "What Are You Afraid Of," and more.
“Time for the Show” is the best opening track of any album this year, rivaling “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele as an opener that sets the pace for an album. It has that same rollicking tempo and provides insight into Kerrie’s mindset and submission to God as a believer, especially in the hooky chorus where Kerrie emotionally cries out to God, “It’s time for the show, turn up your light, it’s time for the show, let it shine, because you know who you are and know Who your heart belongs to, they need to know, this perfect love, it comes through us, don’t wait another minute let’s go, it’s time for the show.” She clearly loves our Lord and Savior Jesus with all of her heart and wants to celebrate that fact with every song. In her great new EDM song “Sing,” Roberts belts out, "And I sing out loud, no I won’t be quiet, I sing and shout, I can not be silent, You put the music in my heart, I’m screamin’ now, I feel like jumpin’ feel like dancin’ for You now, can’t keep this Spirit under lock and key, I need to set it free, no I won’t be quiet I won’t be silent now!" I sing that line along with Kerrie’s gorgeous and powerful voice at the top of my lungs and I find it so uplifting in this troubling time where the earth is groaning, the economy is failing and the only thing that matters is to “sing Praise our God, praise our God, let His praise be heard.” Amen to that!
"What Are You Afraid Of" includes the personal and confessional lyrics “You scream at the top of your lungs, when no one’s listening, being the basket case over anything, giving your whole world for love and the boy says no, so what are you afraid of, show ‘em what you’re made of, the shadows that you’re scared of, are usually your own, they’re not the great unknown, you don’t have to wonder, you’re not going under, Grace has got your covered, God is in control, go on and let it go, what are you afraid of?” Amen! I’ll admit that although I’m normally drawn to the Brit-pop, alternative rock and singer-songwriter genres, these two ultra-catchy electronic dance-pop songs have won me over to that musical style, mostly due to the personal lyrics. The mainstream music charts have been dominated by Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Britney Spears and others who make the subject matter of their songs as edgy as possible to draw in listeners. Unfortunately as a father of three young daughters who love dance-pop style music, there haven’t been many edifying songs I can offer as wholesome alternatives to those artists, until now. I literally dance in my chair, my car, or while I’m walking around when I play these incredible songs. Electronic pop music has made a big mark on the music scene and Kerrie brings a vocal sincerity to these ultra-catchy pop songs which could easily be featured in mainstream music alongside those top-selling mainstream artists. I’ve been enjoying the powerful and moving ballad “Finally Home” since the single released and from the moment I first heard the song, I’ve been impressed by Kerrie’s emotive and strong vocals. I hear an even deeper yearning for God in the song and throughout this incredible album. Those opening tracks are the strongest of any album I’ve heard this year.
As if the beginning of the album isn’t impressive enough, Kerrie takes it up a notch vocally with the middle tracks, especially “Middle Of It All” and “Masterpiece.” “Middle Of It All” features Kerrie passionately praying directly to God these profound lyrics—“I’m afraid, but I’ll trust You, so I will run into the middle of it all, and I will come when my heart hears Your call, no I won’t hide behind the safety of the city walls…I will run into the middle of it all.” “Masterpiece” is a perfect pop song. I hang on every note of Kerrie’s compelling message—“You know Jesus holds your heart, He made you a work of art, You’re a masterpiece, even if you don’t believe…when I look at you I see, you’re a masterpiece.” This song challenges listeners to drop the masks we all wear to try to cover up our insecurities and lay them at the feet of Jesus and includes the encouraging lyrics “I wish you could picture you from Heaven’s view.” Kerrie clearly understands the Truth of Psalm 139:13-14—“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.”
I love the passionate vocals and strong messages of the songs, especially "Not Real Yet" with the piercing and confessional chorus, "Say that You love me, tell me You want me, I want to believe it, hear it, I’m listening, wish I could see You, wish I could touch You, Lord I need You hear next to me, please remind me, help me feel it, it’s not real yet." The power ballad “In Your Sight” is totally inspiring and is a great reminder as Kerrie prays, “I will rest, knowing You are holding me, I believe You will never say goodbye, I close my eyes, unafraid of what I can not see, because I am always In Your sight.” We need to have that type of faith that Jesus describes in the Bible, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Amen. “Wake Up” and “Like Jesus Loves” close out the themes of this album: Trusting God, loving Him and loving others as He loved us. All of the songs are catchy, exciting and worshipful. After listening to the album, I am stirred with compassion to love people as Jesus loves us.
CLOSING THOUGHTS Kerrie Roberts has the greatest voice wrapped around extremely hooky dub-step electronic dance musical arrangements I've heard this year. Her vocals are so strong and pure. Musically and lyrically, her album Time for the Show is brilliant. I feel like I'm eavesdropping on Kerrie's prayer time during many of these songs and as I get caught up listening to Kerrie's excellent vocals, I start praying along with her. My favorite albums all have that impact on me. This is one of my favorite albums of the year. Kerrie Roberts is my choice as "the voice" in Christian music. Time for the Show is a five star “Masterpiece” that brings me closer to God.
More Than Rubies [More Than Rubies] | Posted March-26-2013 After several years of touring and writing together,Christa Wells & Nicole Wittoffer their first full-length joint recording project, More Than Rubies. Wells and Witt decided it was time to release a full-length album under a joined name – More Than Rubies – inspired by Proverbs 3:15 which declares that “wisdom is more precious than rubies.” Since their common purpose in writing and performing is to speak truth in song, this resonated with them deeply.From the beginning, Wells and Witt have shared a desire to make music that matters, that stretches beyond entertainment but also stretches the parameters of popular worship music. They strive to be listeners first, and then to create music that reflects the Gospel and communicates honest experience in a fresh and artful way.original worship songs, all produced in the stripped down piano/violin style their live audiences love. The stirring song“Image of God”was written for a retreat Christa & Nicole hosted along with author/speaker Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts). These songs were written from a place of worship and are intended to lead listeners to that place.
“Image of God”opens with a stirring violin part, and is an incredibly tender worship offering to God and a beautiful song. The song has a gorgeous blend of violin, piano and Christa’s stellar vocals. I really love the chorus—"we come in pieces, we come in fragments, we come discolored to the foot of the Cross...our Maker sees us, all that we have been, bonds us together...the image of God." The song is profound and moving. If you like prayerful songs that bring you to the Throne Room in worship like “Blessings” by Laura Story and “Your Great Name” by Natalie Grant, then don’t miss out on this incredible song for the Church. Nicole sings lead on the next song“Set Free.”The song is upbeat with a hooky hand-clap melody and features the celebratory lyrics—“we’re set free, free, the ‘let my people go kinda set free,’ set free, free, by the Love that came and died and rose again so we can be set free…let them see we have been set free!”
I find myself raising my hands in worship after those opening tracks, and then I’m compelled to reach out horizontally to help show others the love of Jesus.“Dawn of Grace,” “Lay Us Low” and“Pray”are also incredible worship songs.“Dawn of Grace”features Christa’s piano-based prayerful confession where she proclaims “and once I looked on Jesus’ face, it was the dawn of grace.”Nicole weighs in with the second verse and it is a truly moving song that ends with Nicole’s beautiful violin playing.“Father we confess, oh we confess, we have loved You less than ourselves” is the opening line of“Lay Us Low”which is the type of “gourmet” humble offering of praise I’ve longed to sing to God.Settle in and really allow yourself to experience these songs.I get completely overwhelmed in the emotion of this song. When Nicole and Christa together profoundly proclaim“So take us down and lay us low, leave ashes in place of gold, Life Giver, Sustainer, let nothing remain of our pride, from Your mountain on high, lay us low”I well up and the tears start streaming down my face. This song has become my personal anthem as I consistently pray for God to remove all trace of pride before Him. As if those songs weren’t incredible enough, Christa stops me in my tracks with the compelling song“Pray” which is an amazing re-write of The Lord’s Prayer. All believers looking for the words to pray to their Heavenly Father can tenderly and sincerely sing along with Christa and Nicole, “teach us to pray.” Amen. They perform on each other’s songs, Christa primarily on piano and vocals and Nicole on fiddle and vocals. The distinction between Christa’s folky-piano-pop and Nicole’s country-bluegrass style gives their collaborative work a uniquely textured sound for the simple instrumentation.
“Visible Invisible” challenges listeners that if we as a Church body can rally around the idea that we are admittedly and without shame in need of a Savior, we can trust wholly in Jesus to make us whole. Then we can impact the world as a body of believers. It's our humility in Christ that can speak loudly in this broken world. As the song boldly proclaims, “We are the visible invisible, we are the flesh and bone, Of Your redeeming love, we are, we are Your kingdom unshakeable, Jesus Christ alive in us, the visible invisible.” Amen to that! “Live And Breathe” and “Shepherd God”are encouraging anthems of hope and healing that listeners can cling to in their own trying times. Don’t miss the beautiful harmony in the bridge of the gorgeous song “Even Though” where these anointed women sing in faith: “His grace is like an ocean / His gifts are overflowing / He will care for those who know Him / His promises are certain / we will not walk alone.”I know that many of us struggle with the idea that our past and present mistakes are unforgivable, yet the Bible tells us that isn’t true. Read the great translation in The Message of Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus tells us:“Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest.”What an amazing comfort to know that when we struggle with our pain, pride and unloving natures, we can all lay it at the feet of Jesus. A great cover of Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)” and the upbeat “Coming To The Light” close out this powerful worship album.
CLOSING THOUGHTS Singer/Songwriter Christa Wells is best known for writing Natalie Grant's hit single "Held,"but her albums leave you breathless. More Than Rubiesis a profound listening experience.Nicole’s violin and voice blend seamlessly with Christa’s piano and voice, which is soothing like Sarah McLachlan, Brooke Fraser and Sara Groves.“Image of God”is one of my favorite worship songs.You can’t help but want to reach out and be the Kingdom of God on earth as beautifully expressed in the song. This album grabs me with every song.Truly, every song is amazing, especially “Lay Us Low,” “Visible Invisible” and“Even Though.” Christa has always had a knack for hitting me where I am spiritually and expressing the prayerful yearnings of my heart. This album is no exception as I get welled up praying along with several of the songs and most of all, I am stirred with compassion to love people as Jesus loves us. That’s the heart behind this album, and thank you Christa and Nicole for blessing us with your music and for singing the Truth of the Gospel for the Kingdom of God.This album soothes, moves and challenges listeners.More Than Rubiesby Christa Wells & Nicole Wittis an excellent set of songs that focus on the central themes of asking God to inhabit our inner being and truly allow the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us along with relying solely on the love of Jesus to truly mold our hearts and make us more like Him. This album is what Christian music is all about—Jesus.
Susan Ashton [Thief] | Posted March-13-2013 Susan Ashton’s musical story started when she was a 19 year old with the voice of an angel and absolutely no performance experience. But direction from God and an invitation to sing background vocals for Wayne Watson changed the trajectory of her life. That appearance led to a recording contract and a move from her hometown of Houston to Nashville to begin what soon became chart-topping success with her hit songs “In My Father’s Hands,” “No One Knows My Heart,” “Down On My Knees,” “You Move Me” and “Stand.” The rise up the charts through the 1990s was a double-edge sword. Although she had a platform for sharing her faith, the time on the road also sapped her soul. Her relationship with Christ became…dry. The decade ended with a broken marriage, financial disaster, abandonment by friends and a deep hurt that’s taken years to heal. Losing her recording contract with Capitol Records shortly after the new millennium began dropped her to the emotional bottom.
What she thought would be a year of restoration turned out to be a seven-year reclamation project. She’s far from finished. In fact, one could argue that Susan’s new project Thief is just a beginning. God faithfully brought Susan through every circumstance and restored her love for Him for the purpose of delivering an authentic message that cuts through banal superficiality, and all the way to the soul. Susan beautifully and prophetically proclaimed “Out of myself and into the fire, You move me, burning with love and hope and desire, how You move me, I’m taking delight in every little thing” in her gorgeous song “You Move Me.” Other than a brief appearance in 2005 on Lost In Wonder with Christine Dente’ and Michelle Tumes where Ashton sang incredible versions of the great modern worship songs “I Believe In You,” “Beautiful Savior” and“In Christ Alone,” Christian music fans have been robbed of Susan’s gifted vocals.
The opening track “Moonshine,” is a gorgeous banjo and violin laced ballad with Susan’s passionate vocals setting the tone for this five star effort with the confessional lyrics, “Here I go again, a moth to a flame, it’s charming, enchanting, a mystical sight, there on the surface it all feels alright…there’s a dark side to the moon…shine.” The upbeat track “Love Is Alive” has already become one of my favorite country-tinged musical anthems with the prayerful and uplifting words: “My heart is on fire, my soul’s like a wheel that’s turning, my love is alive, my love is alive!”“Thief” is a poignant song about choices and temptations where she sings yearningly for “Innocence Lost.” In the song Susan personifies sin and the enemy with the piercing words, “you broke into my house, like you had the right to, you didn’t have the right to, you wrecked me, you never made a sound…like a dancer, a smooth romancer…ain’t it just like you, it’s who you are it’s what you do, it’s what you do, take anything you want with no regard of what it does to me…thief...twisting me in all my truth, you mesmerized ‘til I no longer recognized what I believed…thief.” During the song’s bridge, I’m fighting back tears as Susan tells the enemy, “Liar, stealer, I see you, deceiver, It’s just like you, it’s who you are, it’s what you do, it’ll take time but you’ll get yours, you’ll see…thief.” Amen.
“Become Myself” is a melodically-soaring autobiographical song and you will actually physically feel the emotion and cry for “God’s help” so poignantly expressed by Susan as she passionately cries out “I’m on my way, I’ll get back someday, with God’s help, I’ll become myself, yes I will, I will…God hovers over chaos, and He hovers over me, He makes all things beautiful and it’s beautiful to see.” “The Wrong Well” is a piano based reflective ballad about the poor choices we make when “you’re drinking water from the wrong well.” Susan poetically describes how that “looks like life, but it’s stealing your soul, it sounds like truth, but it’s a lie and you know, you tell yourself there’s no harm done, and your heart goes numb” and is a meditative reflection on life and our desperate need for the grace, forgiveness and mercy of God. Susan’s stellar and emotional vocals in many of the songs including “The Wrong Well” cause me to hang on every word she brilliantly sings. Closing track “Not Small” ends the album as strong as it starts, and is a wonderful picture of Susan’s prayer for personal restoration and validation. The lyrics reflect the theme of this mesmerizing album— “Know me, take the time it really takes to know me, go beyond polite consideration, don’t leave me here in silent isolation..I don’t have to be the epic hero, your beginning and your end all…I just want to be…not small.”
Every song on Thief is personal and bears the marks of a life still standing after weathering the storms. Susan’s voice is crystal clear, the music is artistic, the lyrics are thoughtful and challenge listeners to think seriously about the serious things in life. This is a transparent and vulnerable album about finding truth and acceptance in God’s faithful kindness. God will never leave or forsake His children, no matter how far we’ve fallen. These songs are meant to be experienced in order as they take the listener on an emotional journey from a place of confronting our humanity and weakness and crying out for God’s restoration and healing. If you like the female vocalists Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Audrey Assad, then don’t miss out on this incredible album. Susan Ashton’s remarkable singing voice and her interesting music and lyrics are truly captivating. No matter what you are going through in life, God’s promise to His children is that one day we will overcome and He will make “all things new.”