Saturday, November 26, 2011


     Acclaimed singer/songwriter Steve Bell has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and shares the following thoughts about being classified as a Christian singer/songwriter: "I'm an artist.  I want to be a singer/songwriter.  The fact that my music comes out Christian is simply because that's who I am, not because I've got an agenda for my work.  So my first and primary calling isn't to be a Christian artist, it's to be a good artist, and any good artist is going to be true to who they are."  Bell is greatly concerned with the quality of his work: "Excellence in itself at some level is a truth-teller.  It tells something about the excellence and the goodness of God and His worth striving for."  He once had someone speak these words over him: "When you sing and you play, battles will be fought and won, that you know nothing about."  Steve reflects on his latest album KINDNESS (2011, Signpost Music): "Usually when I do an album I don't have a preconceived idea of the theme.  It usually presents itself afterwards to me.  With this one I was originally going to call this collection of songs CHANGES.  I'm 50, I've got grandkids now.  The music industry's changing, the economy's changing, the culture is changing.  It seemed like an appropriate title.  But when I was collecting the songs one day I was singing them to some friends and this one woman said to me 'Why don't you call it KINDNESS, it seems like the running theme of the songs.'"  Bell quotes Lucie-Christine (1844-1908): "I have sought how I might make God more loved by other souls...and have not found any other or more powerful way than kindness."
     The album begins with 'About Love', a beautiful pop song with these reflective lyrics: "One thing that I've learned in my time/You can't win if you have to draw lines/When it comes to the struggle/To show and to prove love/Oh-it's always been about love."  The title track was written by Brian McLaren and features Alana Levandoski.  It is smooth sounding and urges us to live with purpose: "Christ has no body here but ours/No hands, no feet here on earth but ours/Ours the eyes through which He looks/On this world with kindness."  'Changes' written by Jim Croegaert, utilizes a vocal chorus to good effect, and assures us that all the changes we go through in life lead to something good: "Sometimes we may be lonely/It's a hard job making us holy/But in the long run there will be glory/Glory to rival the sun."  The next two tracks are two of my favourites.  'Good Friend' written by Steve Bell, was "inspired and adapted from the poem 'Mayflies' by Richard Wilbur."  It begins with pretty keys and guitar and has a nice sing-a-long type chorus: "Be but your own good friend/And be good to the other/Chrerish those sisters and brothers/Along the road/And to the earth extend/Every reverence and wonder/Tend to the wounds of your blunders/And honour God who formed our home."  Pierce Pettis wrote 'Absalom, Absalom' featuring Alexa Dirks.  Bells says the song helps us grieve our own sins and their consequences.  The song is about King David grieving his son: "Come and smear me/With the branches from that tree/Hyssop dipped in innocent blood/To make me clean/Let an old man's broken bones/Once more rejoice/Absalom, you were my little boy" and "You were watching/When I took a good man's wife/And gave the order for his murder/Just to cover up my crime/All the vanity, cruel arrogance, and greed/Absalom, you learned it all from me."
     I picture God singing 'These are the Ones' over us.  The song features Jodi King, but I would have liked to see it done as a full on duet, with Bell and her trading off vocals.  Here are some of the lyrics: "These are the work of my hands/These are the shoot I have planted here/For the display of my splendor here/In these beleaguered lands/These are the ones I have loved/These are the ones I have called my own/These are the priests of a sacred home/These are the ones/These are the ones I love."  'In Billy's Wake' was inspired by the article 'The Washing' by Jessie van Eerden in Geez Magazine.  She was doing the laundry one day when she got a call that her cousin Billy had committed suicide.  All she could think to do was to go back to her good work of doing the laundry.  The song has a pleasant, content sound that suits Bell's voice.  It includes these words: "We're not alone/Silently watched by a sliver blue moon/Closed casket wake in a cold living room/There is good work to do...We're not alone/Laundry awash in the mid morning sun/You can see angels dance as they try trousers on/There is good work to do."  'Stubble and Hay' written by Gord Johnson and featuring Alexa Dirks talks of getting older.  Interspersed in it is a poem preached by Gerry Atwell.  The song is creative and memorable: "Forty-nine years/I've walked this life/What do I have to say?/Cast it all down in refiner's fire/Nothing but stubble and hay" and "Forty-nine years I've walked this life/One thing I've got to say/Remember God in the days of your youth/All else is stubble and hay."  Fans of Buddy and Julie Miller will like this song.  Of aging, Bell says: "You start to realize you're heading towards evening and we as Christians trust there's morning after evening...You start to ponder things, you start to be quieter, maybe less confident of the things you knew when you were 30."
     'Birth of a Song' written by Steve Bell, is easy listening and praises the babe Christ: "Author of the mysteries/Ecstasy of blazing suns/And swooning moons and these crooning/Winds and water, earth and fire/Yearning spirit, burning flesh/Consummating desire/Tossing off the soul's attire/Ever I in You and You in me."  'Greatest Gift' is one of the most commercial sounding tracks on the album.  It features country singer Carolyn Dawn Johnson: "No one can say this is not the work/Of the One who looks over us all/And the love that is given/The love we all share/Is the greatest gift of all."  'The Gifting and the Giver' is a well done original song of worship featuring Graham Shaw on harmonica: "I see in rocks, in sands and swell/In highest cliff and lowest crater/In broken shards of pearly shell/Fair fingerprints of the Creator/And I onshore admire this living Scripture/And adore the painter of the picture/I adore the gifting and the Giver/The gifting and the Giver."  A stellar rendition of Jim Croegaert's 'Was it a Morning like This', made famous by Sandi Patty in 1986, closes the album.  It attempts to picture what resurrection morn was like: "Did the grass sing/Did the earth rejoice to feel you again/Over and over like a trumpet underground/Did the earth seem to pound He is risen?/Over and over in a never ending round/He is risen/Alleluia Alleluia/Was it a morning like this/When Peter and John ran from Jerusalem?/And as they raced for the tomb/Beneath their feet was there a tune?"
     Signpost Music's mission statement is: "To encourage Christian faith and thoughtful living through artful word and song."  Steve Bell has done just that on KINDNESS.  I'm recommending this wonderful album to fans of Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, Bruce Cockburn, and James Taylor.  Steve Bell has truly hit his stride with this project.  I'm rating it 87%.  For more info visit or

Friday, November 25, 2011


     Clay Crosse achieved great success in 1994 when he won New Artist of the Year at the Dove Awards.  His songs such as 'I Surrender All', 'His Love is Strong', and 'Saving the World', were all over Christian radio.  Following a personal battle with pornography, he and his wife Renee founded the ministry Holy Homes which aims to strengthen marriages and families.  For a time, Clay also led worship at a church in Tennessee pastored by the late Dana Key of DeGarmo and Key fame.  The good news is Clay is still making music.  He describes EVERYTIME I FEEL THE SPIRIT-AN AMERICANA COLLECTION OF HYMNS AND SUCH (2010, HolyHomes Music) as his "countriest offering yet."  I would agree.  I would also note that Clay's vocals are softer and quieter overall than on previous efforts which had him belting out notes like Michael English.  Clay sounds like a completely different artist here and the new formula seems to work.  The unmistakable talents of industry vet Phil Madeira permeate the album.  He plays acoustic guitar, piano, organ and dobro.
     The album begins with 'There's Power in the Blood' written by Lewis E. Jones.  It is a song of triumph with a campmeeting feel to it: "Would you be free from Your burden of sin?/There's pow'r in the blood, pow'r in the blood/Would you o'er evil a victory win?/There's wonderful power in the blood/There is pow'r, pow'r, wonder working pow'r/In the blood of the Lamb/Yes, there is pow'r, pow'r, wonder working power/In the precious blood of the Lamb."  The title track is next.  It is a traditional black spiritual and includes fiddle by James Pennebaker: "Ev'ry time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray (2X)/The Jordan river is chilly an' cold/It chills the body but not the soul/There ain't but one train upon this track/It runs to heaven, Lord it comes right back."  'How Great Thou Art' has an upbeat, old country feel to it, and marvels at God's plan to redeem fallen humanity: "And when I think that God, His Son not sparing/Sent Him to die/I scarce can take it in/That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing/He bled and died to take away my sin."  'In the Garden' written by C. Austin Miles in 1912, is mellow, and depicts an intimate relationship between God and man: "And He walks with me/And He talks with me/And He tells me I am His own/And the joy we share/As we tarry there/None other has ever known."
     The next couple of tracks are two of my favourites.  'From Depths of Woe' is a ballad written by Martin Luther and Luke Smith.  It features the pretty background vocals of Myla Smith, and has Clay crying out to God: "From depths of woe/I raise to Thee/The voice of lamentation/Lord turn a gracious ear to me/And hear my supplication."  'Gotta Serve Somebody' was penned by Bob Dylan in 1979 and was previously covered by Mesa in the CCM market.  It has a funky, groovy, sound with strong background vocals by Ann and Regina McCreary: "You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride/You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side/You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair/You may be somebody's mistress/May be somebody's heir/But you're gonna have to serve somebody/Yes, you're gonna have to serve somebody/Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord/But you're gonna have to serve somebody."  'O Sacred Head Now Wounded' finds Clay accompanied by Phil Madeira on piano and somberly reflects on Christ at Calvary: "O Sacred Head now wonded, with grief and shame weighed down/Now scornfully surrounded with thorns Thine only crown/How art Thou pale with anguish/With sore abuse and scorn!/How does Thy face now languish, which once was bright as morn."
     'That's Enough' by Dorothy Love Coates is upbeat and finds Clay having church: "So many times I didn't have a dime/Didn't tell nobody but the Lord/He heard my plea, He came to see about me/He's my all in all/You push me down, Jesus picks me up/Sticks by me when the goin' gets tough/I've got Jesus and that's enough."  'Just a Closer Walk with Thee' acknowledges God as Protector and Keeper: "When my feeble life is o'er/Time for me will be no more/Guide me gently, safely o'er/To Thy Kingdom's shore/To Thy shore."  'I Need Thee Every Hour' written by Annie S. Hawks and Robert Lowry in 1872, falls into the easy listening category, and is a song of humility: "I need Thee every hour, Stay Thou nearby/Temptations lose their pow'r when Thou art nigh/I need Thee, oh, I need Thee/Every hour I need Thee/Oh bless me now my Savior/I come to Thee."  The album closes with the modern hymn 'Wonderful Merciful Savior' written by Dawn Rogers and Eric Wyse in 1989.  It is a grateful song of worship given a country touch, which I quite enjoyed:  "You are the One that we praise/You are the One we adore/You give the healing and grace/Our hearts always hunger for/Oh our hearts always hunger for."
     I recommend EVERYTIME I FEEL THE SPIRIT to fans of Bob Dylan's "Saved" album, Larry Norman's "American Roots" album, Elvis Presley's gospel work, old country, and the Gaither Homecoming series.  I'm rating it 85%.  Clay Crosse has reinvented himself on this project and I'd love to hear a sequel to it.  His vocal creativity is to be applauded.  For more info visit or

Monday, November 21, 2011


     David Ian is better known as Dave Ghazarian, former lead guitarist of Church of Rhythm, and current lead guitarist of Christian pop/rock group Superchick.  He was born in Canada to Armenian immigrant parents.  In an e-mail to me he wrote: "Ontario holds a special place in my heart as I was born and lived in Toronto for 10 years of my childhood and I am honored that my music is reaching you!"  In the liner notes of VINTAGE CHRISTMAS (2011, Prescott Records) he writes: "Thanks to God for the gift of a Savior and a reason to celebrate this season of hope.  Thanks for songs with meaning and for those that are just plain fun."  A press release states: "Ian sought to create a vintage sound, one that harks back to classic jazz and Christmas LP's of the 1950's."  The jazz trio used to do this is David Ian (piano, guitars, bells), Jon Estes (upright bass, cello), and Brian Fitch (drums).
     The album is comprised of songs with vocals and instrumentals.  Let's look at the former first.  'Have Yourself a merry little Christmas' showcases the sweet, soft voice of Acacia from the sister duo Tal & Acacia, and includes these lyrics of well wishes: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Let your heart be light/From now on our troubles will be out of sight/Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Make the yuletide gay/From now on our troubles will be miles away."  'Let it Snow' was written in 1945 by Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn, and features the cool, relaxed vocals of Andre Miguel Mayo singing these romantic words: "When we finally kiss goodnight/How I'll hate goin' out in the storm/But if you really hold me tight/All the way home I'll be warm/The fire is slowly dyin'/And my dear we're still good-byin'/But as long as you love me so/Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."  'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' is performed quietly by Acacia and is a call to worship the Christ child: "Joyful all ye nations rise/Join the triumph of the skies/With angelic hosts proclaim/Christ is born in Bethlehem/Hark! The herald angels sing/Glory to the newborn King!"  'The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open Fire) was written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells in 1946.  The version here is quite traditional.  Acacia sings it, painting a perfect picture of the holidays: "Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe/Help to make the season bright/Tiny tots with their eyes all a-glow/Will find it hard to sleep tonight/They know that Santa's on his way/He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh."  'Christmas Time with You' is the final vocal track and there are two versions of it on the album.  It is an original composition by David Ian himself, and nicely complements the rest of the album.  The first version is performed by Andre Miguel Mayo and includes these dreamy lyrics: "Icy streets are white and slick you know/Wear your cozy boots, we'll float through the snow/And with our rosy cheeks we'll sing (3X)."  The second version is a duet between Mayo and his now wife, Acacia.  It includes this additional lyric: "Christmas time with you/Forget the weather/Let's get together dear/I wish you were here now/Whatever the reason/We long for this season."  A press release states the song was "inspired by Ian's long-distance relationship with the woman who became his wife in 2009."
     Instrumentally this album holds its own.  'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' written in 1938, is given a subdued, slowed down treatment.  It would be good for dining by candlelight.  'The Christmas Walz' by Paul Francis Webster and George Cates, has a playful spirit to it.  It makes me want to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  'Home for the Holidays' sounds like a musical interlude or intermission and is my least favourite.  Bing Crosby took 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' to the top ten of the record chart in 1943.  The version here is pretty and could be playing in a small boutique while you are doing your Christmas shopping and sipping on hot cider.  'Silent Night' is played in such a way that it will help you contemplate and meditate on the birth of Christ and what it means to you.
     Ian related to me: "I really enjoyed making this record and I am hoping this will be the first of several solo projects I do in the jazz genre."  VINTAGE CHRISTMAS should be picked up by fans of artists such as Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall, and Judy Garland.  I'm rating this fine holiday album 80%.  For more info visit

Saturday, November 19, 2011


     Twila Paris is one of the most beloved female vocalists in the history of Contemporary Christian Music.  She has popularized such songs as "We Will Glorify", "The Warrior is a Child", "How Beautiful", and "God is in Control."  Her latest album SMALL SACRIFICE (2007, Mountain Spring Music) is produced by John Hartley and still finds her voice and songwriting talents in fine form.
     'We Know Love' is percussion heavy and starts the album out on a grateful note: "One love would give up itself for a friend/One love is faithful and true till the end/This love is Him/By this we know love, by this we know love/That He laid down His life/Laid down His life for us/We know love."  'I Can do all Things' finds Twila engaged in spiritual warfare and features a nice electric guitar solo: "The danger here is real/From one who comes to steal/The freedom and the life/That You have given me/So I will cling to You/Your promise will be true/You are my Solid Rock/You are my victory."  'You Lead Me' is about one who is totally dependent on the Lord:  "And You lead me by still waters/You lead me through the storm/You feed me in green pastures/You keep me safe from harm."  'Small Sacrifice', the title cut, features pretty keys and finds her conversing with God: "What can you do with this gift of mine/So insignificant, so unrefined/What can You do with a simple girl?/You can change the world, you can change the world/With one small sacrifice/I give You all my love/I give You all my life."  'Lord I need You' is a fitting worship chorus that conveys a desire to be approved by the Father: "Lord I need You/I want to please You/In everything I say/In everything I do/Make me holy/For Your glory/A living sacrifice/Accepted in my Savior's eyes/This is my heart, this is my cry."
     The next two songs are two of my favourites.  'Live to Praise' is an upbeat song of thanksgiving: "You made me out of dust and breath/And I will live to praise You/You saved me from a certain death/And I will live to praise You/The more I look the more I see/There is no higher goal for me/You are my King, You are my Lord/I will praise You."  'Not Forgotten' is a ballad that offers these words of assurance:  "And hope will spring eternal/In the home of those who know/That loving eyes will follow/Everywhere we go/And even in the darkness/His promises are true/Keep this in your heart/He has not forgotten you."  'There is a Plan' is an artistic track featuring Chris Donohue on bass.  It reflects on how God mysteriously works in our lives: "He is working through the night/Behind the scenes, behind the eyes/Though we would never realize it at a glance/When He comes to work in me/The building of eternity/I pray I do not miss the moment/Do not miss the chance, do not miss the chance."  'You are a Great God'  is signature Twila Paris and praises God for His incomparable greatness: "You are the giver of light/You are the giver of wisdom/You are the giver of strength/You are the giver of joy/You are the Saver of souls/You are the maker of all/We bow down low because we know/You are a great God."  'Alleluia' ends the album on a confident note: "No matter where on earth I stand/Alleluia/I am resting in Your hand/Alleluia/Casting every fear aside/In Your shadow I will hide/You have called me to abide/Alleluia."
     The background vocalists on SMALL SACRIFICE are impressive: Michelle Tumes, Jennifer Paige, Chris Eaton, and Chris Rodriguez.  Those who prefer soft, gentle, inspirational music and light pop tunes will appreciate this project.  I'm rating it 83%.  For more info visit or 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


     It's been ten years since Superchick put out their first album KARAOKE SUPERSTARS, so what better time than now for lead vocalist Tricia Brock to release her first solo effort, a worship project, THE ROAD (2011, Inpop Records)?  In an interview with CCM Magazine's June 2011 digital edition, she shares: "My prayer for listeners is that these songs can be songs of hope that resonate in deep places of your soul like they have mine.  That you can be honest about hurts, and losses and pain and that these very places can lead you closer to the altar of God-to the one place of true healing, true forgiveness and love that make sense of all the unanswered questions."  The last couple of years have not been easy for Tricia.  Her mother-in-law was fighting cancer, she almost lost her mom to a heart attack, and she had a miscarriage.
     'Breath of God', a pop song of total surrender, begins the album: "On my knees I bow before You/So here I am, I lay my treasures down/I lay them down/From my lips a song of glory/With my hands I reach for more of You/For more of You."  'Lean' is an adult contemporary song about trusting in Jesus: "So I will lean upon the cross/I will lean into Your love/Your Spirit's living in me/Alive in me/I will sing when there is no song/In the dark/Lord, Your light is strong."  'You are my Shepherd' is a beautiful piano ballad written by Jennie Lee Riddle and Jonathan Lee, that is a modern take on the message of Psalm 23: "You are my Shepherd in the wilderness/Whom shall I fear?/You are the God who goes before me/My Rock and my Shield/In troubled times/You will provide/And I shall not want/You are, You are my God."  'You Hear' suits Tricia's voice very nicely, and rejoices in the open conversation we have with God: "From burdens weighty with regret/And sorrows we cannot forget/You turn our tears to holiness/When You hear, oh You hear."
     'Jesus, I am Resting' is a peaceful, guitar based song of praise: "How great Thy loving kindness/Vaster, broader than the sea/How marvelous Thy goodness/Lavished all on me/Yes I rest in Thee Beloved/Know what wealth of greace is Thine/Know Thy certainty of promise/And have made it mine."  'The Altar' is a reverent song of intimacy: "There's a place/A place of healing/There is no shame, within Your scars/This place is sacred/This place is secret/Here in the presence of a holy God (2X)...Be still and know that He is God (2X)."  'Always' is an anthem featuring strings, written by Jason Ingram and Kristian Stanfill.  It presents a realistic view of life and offers a proper response to the trials we face: "Trouble surrounds me/Chaos abounding/My soul will rest in You/I will not fear the war/I will not fear the storm/My Help is on the way (2X)."  The song's background vocalists include Melissa and Ben Greene.  'Impossible' is upbeat and points to the Source of our victory as Christians: "He has won where we have failed/He is hope where all hope is lost/He's the One whose hands were nailed/Forgiveness bought by blood and a cross/Glory to His name (2X)." 
     'Everything in Me' is one of my favourites and is a catchy pop song of dedication to God: "With everything that's in me/Until there's nothing left/I will sing for You/With everything that's in me/Until my body's broken/I'll live for You/Take every breath/Take every part/How could I give anything less than everything?/Than everything."  'Overwhelmed' is a quiet song written by Jennie Lee Riddle and Jonathan Lee, and featuring these beautiful words: "Your tenderness is moving/You refresh my soul/With words of pristine water/That bathe and make me whole/Your holiness is burning through my very soul/Your words consume like fire/I'm purified like gold."  'Broken for Love's Sake' gently closes the album and begins with this prayer: "You've come to seek and to save/Those who've lost their way/So seek me or I won't be found/You've come to keep and sustain/Those whom You have named/So keep me, O keep me now."
     THE ROAD was produced by Tricia's husband Nick Baumhardt, who also shares writing credits with her on some of the tracks.  It is a mostly mellow, contemporary worship project that finds her adoring the Lord for what He has done and for who He is.  It is neat to see a different side to this Superchick gal.  The photos of her are very compelling.  I'm rating THE ROAD 87%.  For more info visit or

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


     FFH (Far From Home) is comprised of husband and wife duo Jeromy and Jennifer Deibler.  ONE SILENT NIGHT-AN FFH CHRISTMAS (2011, 62 Records) is a commendable holiday album with a fine mix of traditional Christmas songs and newer fare.  It begins with the playful, flirtatious 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' written by Frank Loesser in 1936: "I simply must go-But baby it's cold outside/The answer is no-But baby it's cold outside/This welcome has been-How lucky that you dropped in/So nice and warm-Look out the window, at the storm/My sister will be suspicious-Gosh, your lips look delicious/My brother will be there at the door-Waves upon a tropical shore/My maiden aunt's mind is vicious-Oh your lips are delicious/Well maybe just a little bit more-Never such a blizzard before."  'Jingle Bell Rock' is happy spirited and dates back to the 1950's: "What a bright time, it's the right time/To rock the night away/Jingle bell time is a swell time/To go ridin' in a one-horse sleigh/Giddy-up jingle horse, pick up your feet/Jingle around the clock."  'One Silent Night' is a wonderful song with pretty instrumentation that marvels at the night Christ was born: "One silent night, one holy night/When all was calm/When all was bright/With no one to kneel and no one to sing/Heaven came down and changed everything/Let all the earth receive her King."  Bing Crosby took the sleepy, sentimental 'I'll be Home for Christmas' to the Top Ten in 1943: "I'll be home for Christmas/You can count on me/Please have snow and mistletoe/And presents under the tree/Christmas Eve will find me/Where the love light gleams/I'll be home for Christmas/If only in my dreams."
     'The Birthday of a King' is a majestic ballad that uses chimes and speaks of the hope Christ brought: "All of creation joins to sing/Throughout the nations anthems ring/Our humble hearts, the gifts we bring/To celebrate the birthday of our King" and "The faithful daughter, the wayward son/All find a place in Him tonight."  'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' was originally written in Latin in the 12th century and was translated into English in 1851.  It has a reverent feel to it and is beautifully orchestrated: "O come Thou Dayspring/Come and cheer/Thy people with Thine advent here/Disperse the gloomy clouds of night/And death's dark shadows put to flight/Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel/Shall come to Thee O Israel."  'Winter Wonderland' is given a nice, upbeat, contemporary treatment: "In the meadow we can build a snowman/Then pretend that he is Parson Brown/He'll say 'Are you married?'/We'll say 'No man, but you can do the job when you're in town."
     'Glorious Impossible' uses sleigh bells and is a well phrased, grateful song of praise: "He is mercy's incarnation/Marvel at this miracle/For the virgin gently holds the glorious impossible/Love has come to walk on water/Turn the water into wine/Touch the leper, bless the children/Love both human and divine/Praise the wisdom of the Father who has spoken through His Son/Speaking still He calls us to the glorious impossible."  'O Little Town of Bethlehem' was written by an Episcopal priest, Phillips Brooks, and a church organist, Lewis Redner, in 1868 after Brooks had visited Bethlehem three years prior: "How silently, how silently/The wondrous gift is given/So God imparts to human hearts/The blessings of His heaven/No ear may hear His coming/But in this world of sin/Where meek souls will receive Him still/Our dear Christ enters in."  The last track is 'Heaven and Nature Sing', a ballad with these Biblical lyrics: "In Him was life and that life was the Light of men/He came to His own but His own/Would not receive Him/Let earth receive her King/Let every heart prepare Him room" and "Now to those who receive and believe in the name of Jesus/Is given the right to become children born of God."
     Jeromy and Jennifer's voices complement each other very well on this project.  ONE SILENT NIGHT-AN FFH CHRISTMAS will be enjoyed by fans of groups such as Point of Grace, Avalon, 4Him, and Sugarland.  It is a peaceful, relaxing pop album to enjoy while you're sitting in front of the fire watching your children play around the Christmas tree with their new toys.  I'm rating it 85%.  For more info visit or

Saturday, November 05, 2011


     In the liner notes for Cindy Morgan's HYMNS & SPIRITUALS-SOME GLAD MORNING (2011, Somerset Entertainment Ltd.) she writes: "I think most people would say one of their first points of connection to God almost always leads back to a church with age-old wood pews, creaky wood floors that smell of lemon Pledge, a choir singing, possibly an out of tune upright piano in the corner and songs that we've known our whole lives, the same songs that our parents and grandparents before us sang.  For me, this is certainly the case."  The version of the album I am reviewing is available at Target and is Cindy's favourite.  I have a handwritten note to prove it!  The album begins with a rootsy, unique arrangement of Alfred E. Brumley's 1920's classic 'I'll Fly Away' featuring Chris Donohue on upright bass.  It points to the hope that Christians hold dear: "Some glad morning when this life is o'er/I'll fly away/To a home on God's celestial shore/I'll fly away" and "Just a few more weary days and then I'll fly away/To a land where joy shall never end/I'll fly away."  'Worry' has an Americana feel to it, is co-written by Morgan with Jeremy Bose, and features Jason Goforth on banjo.  The song tackles one of humanity's rivals: "It won't add a day to your life/It don't help you sleep at night/Lord I sure am tired of this fight/Worry, why do I worry/Why do I doubt Thee/What do I do it for?"  'Touch the Hem' is written by industry vet Phil Madeira and showcases nice background vocals.  It is an invitation to draw near to the Lord: "Listen friend His voice is speaking/And for You His heart is beating/You will find Him if you seek Him/Touch the hem of His garment/There's a blessed assurance that will conquer my fears/There's a river of healing/That will wash all my tears." 
     'Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring/Sweet Hour of Prayer' includes pretty piano playing and cello.  It emphasizes the importance of communion with God: "Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer/That calls me from a world of care/And bids me at my Father's throne/Make all my wants and wishes known/In seasons of distress and grief/My soul has often found relief/And oft escaped the tempter's snare/By thy return, sweet hour of prayer."  'Just as I am/I Come' is a ballad co-written with Laureen Smith that reminds us that God is waiting for us to rely on Him: "He will whisper in the stillness/In the storm He shouts your name/Come to Me with all your burdens/Come to Me with everything/Come, Come" and "So walk across the barren desert/And meet Him at the water's edge/Hidden by the Rock of Ages/No more fear and no more tears to cry/Come."  'Our Father (The Lord's Prayer)' is another ballad.  It echoes Jesus' hearfelt prayer in the New Testament and contains additional words by Cindy Morgan: "Our Father which art in Heaven/Hallowed be Thy name/Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done/On earth as it is in heaven/Hallelujah, hallelujah/Let Your Kingdom come/Let Your will be done/Your will be done."
     The next two tracks are a couple of my favourites.  'Go Tell the Angels' is co-written with Jeremy Bose and is a song of repentance: "Go tell the angels/Tell the angels/Forget everything I ever done/Go tell the angels to tell the Lord I've had my fun/Go tell the angels/Tell the angels/I'm tired of being on the run/Go tell the angels/Go tell them that the battle is won."  'Working on a Building' has also been covered by the 77's in recent years.  It has a stripped down feel to it and stresses the importance of the Lord's work: "I'm working on a building, I'm working on a building/A Holy Ghost building/For my Lord, for my Lord" and "If I were a liar/I tell you what I would do/I'd stop all my lying and start working on a building with you/If I were a drunkard/I tell you what I would do/I'd stop all my drinking and start working on a building with you." 
     'It is Well' is given a very laid back treatment.  It would be good to use for your devotional time.  It gives a reason for the hope Christians hold on to: "Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come/Let this blest assurance control/That Christ has regarded my helpless estate/And hath shed His own blood for my soul."  'Well Done' is a stellar song written by Cindy Morgan and featuring Phil Madeira on hammond b3.  It offers these words of encouragement: "When pain is deep and grief is great/And it's hard to make it through the day/Walk onward soldier to the gospel truth/For the crown and the glory is waiting there for you."  The last song is 'Praise the King/Amazing Grace' written by Morgan in 1998.  It is a song of adoration: "Praise Him for the blood that fell and bloomed a rose that day/And praise Him that he suffered through the guilt, the grief, the shame/Oh and praise Him that His tender love will still forgive today/Oh praise Him all ye people, praise the King." 
     Cindy Morgan's voice has matured nicely over the years, and she is aging beautifully as is seen by looking at the pictures of her included with this project.  I recommend HYMNS & SPIRITUALS to those who appreciate folk, old country, bluegrass, and black spirituals.  If you are drawn to Patty Griffin, Sara Groves, latter era Johnny Cash, and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, you will enjoy this album.  My only complaint is that I wish there were a couple more upbeat numbers included on the disc.  I'm rating HYMNS & SPIRITUALS 87%.  For more info visit

Friday, November 04, 2011


     It's been eleven years since Rachael Lampa first appeared on the CCM radar, and some seven years since her last full length album of all new material.  On ALL WE NEED Rachael co-writes six of the twelve tracks.  It was released in 2011 by 220 Entertainment Group.  In the liner notes she writes: "Jesus-thank You for my gifts, the gifts of others, and the gift of their presence in my life."
     The title track starts things off, and is a rousing song with influences of Pink, that displays a reliance on God: "Journey is the destination/Just let me see through Your eyes/Even though I'm searching, even though I'm searching/You're my guiding light/Let the blind and broken see" and "I don't know the answers hidden in the questions but I know that I believe/Follow in Your footsteps/Find me in the darkness falling to my knees." 'Remedy' is soulful and finds her assured in her faith: "Every time I cry and I wanna hide/Feeling like I'm damaged on the inside/You know just what to do/You've got what I need/You're the remedy" and "Jesus Your love is my hope, my hope/You're my remedy, You're my remedy."  One of the writers of 'Savior's Face' is Ben Glover.  It features nice keys and speaks of God's transforming power: "Do you have an ugly scar/Do you have a damaged heart/Did you know that that don't make you who you are?/It doesn't define you/All I wanna do is remind you that/And all this time we waste thinking about the past/And what we've done/He don't remember that/We sold our souls but he bought us back." Encouraging words!  'Beauty's just a Word' slows things down musically and tells us there is a purpose for the hard times in our lives: "It's dark so you can see the light and it's hard so you can know it's right/And pain nothing ever grows without you/And hurt is just a chance to heal/And tears are just a call to feel/And pain beauty's just a word without you."
     'No Escape' is good to clap along to and features horns.  It is about a prodigal being found: "Tried to go where You wouldn't find me/Tried to hide when I saw Your face/Hoping You'd just forget my name/I woke up and Your love revived me/I was running backwards/'Til my heart was captured."  'Unchartered Territory' is midtempo and documents a girl unsure of herself: "I'm usually not the one/To be afraid, hesitate, second guess/What I've done/Am I overthinking it, complicating it/Should I let go or let it be?/Never done this before/How am I supposed to know where to go from here?"  The next two songs are two of my favourites.  'Elevate' is uplifting and about reaching your full potential: "In my dreams I've seen the view, and life above the clouds is beautiful/Don't let the circumstances keep you down/You might just lose your chance to leave the ground."  'My One and Only' is a highly danceable song of praise to God: "You rescued me from the weight of the world and I want You to know/You are my one and only/You're not like the rest/I know that You've got my back/You are, You are/You are my one and only/Right from the start You saved my damaged heart."
     'Run to You' is partially written by Taio Cruz and is a ballad about finding hope and comfort in God: "Whenever there's pain in my soul/Whenever I'm losing control/And feeling like I'm all alone/Whenever I'm lost and confused/Whenever it's hard to break through/The only thing left I can do is run/I run to You always."  'Feel' is a ballad that builds that I'd like to hear Carrie Underwood do.  It has Rachael longing for someone who understands her: "I don't need for you to try to fix the world this time/I just want your heart to break every time I cry/Stop the music, don't say a word/Cause what I need right now is something real/I just need to feel."  Two bonus tracks follow.  'Human' features Jonny Lang and looks at the imperfections and limitations of people: "What would you do if you knew the truth?/When you find out it wasn't me that hung the moon/I'm not responsible for making flowers bloom/Didn't separate night from day or make the ocean blue/What will you do when you find out I'm human too?"  The album concludes with a modernized version of Lampa's hit 'Live for You' from her debut project.  It is written by industry vets Chris Eaton and Chris Rodriguez and contains these words we can draw confidence from: "You know everything about me/Before my life began/You held me in Your hand/You have walked these roads before me/You have known the pain a broken heart can bear/Won't You help me now to trust You?" 
     ALL WE NEED will appeal to fans of Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, and Christina Aguilera.  It is a smart, consistent pop album with meaningful messages.  The photographs of Rachael Lampa are gorgeous, as is my daughter whom I named after her.  I'm rating ALL WE NEED 82.5%.  For more info visit:,, and