Friday, December 30, 2011


     Crystal Lewis has been wowing Christian music fans for years now with her unique and powerful voice.  Over the years she has performed such classics as 'I Now Live', 'Shine Jesus Shine', and 'People Get Ready.'  Among her best work was 2000's HOLIDAY! A COLLECTION OF CHRISTMAS CLASSICS which was jazz infused.  With HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (2010, Metro One) Lewis has truly outdone herself.  I have nothing negative to say about this project.
     It begins with three mellow numbers.  'O Come O Come Emmanuel' is based on the following biblical prophecy from Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel."  The lyrics to the song include this plea: "O Come, Thou Key of David, come/And open wide our heavenly home;/Make safe the way that leads on high/And close the path to misery/Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/Shall come to Thee, O Israel."  'White Christmas' was penned by Irving Berlin.  The first public performance of it was by Bing Crosby on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on December 25/41.  The song finds Crystal reminiscing: "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/To hear sleigh bells in the snow/I'm dreaming of a white Christmas/With every Christmas card I write/May your days be merry and bright/And may all your Christmases be white."  'Grown Up Christmas List' is a David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner tune from 1990.  Other CCM artists such as Amy Grant and Bryan Duncan have recorded it.  It contains these utopian well wishes: "No more lives torn apart/That wars would never start/And time would heal all hearts/And everyone would have a friend/And right would always win/And love would never end/This is my grown up Christmas list."
     The title track 'Home for the Holidays' was recorded twice by Perry Como.  It picks up the pace musically and echoes the sentiments of many: "Oh there's no place like home for the holidays/'Cause no matter how far away you roam/When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze/For the holidays, you can't beat/Home, sweet home."  'I heard the Bells on Christmas Day' uses nice chime effects and is based on an 1864 poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The song proclaims the victory of good over evil: "Then pealed the bells more loud and deep/'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;/The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/With peace on earth, good will to men.'"  'Mary, Did you Know?' uses playful piano playing and dates back to 1991.  The lyrics marvel at what the baby Jesus would grow up and accomplish:  "Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?/Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?/Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?/That this child that you've delivered will soon deliver you?"
     'Let it be to Me' is a beautiful ballad written by Michael and Stormie Omartian.  It imagines Mary's thoughts on carrying and giving birth to Jesus: "I'm just an ordinary girl with extraordinary chances/To give my body and my soul to serve my God and Lord/Holy Spirit come and bring forth/This gift of life/Let it be to me according to Your Word/Let it be, let it be/Let it be to me."  'We Three Kings' by Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr. first appeared in print in 1863.  These words extol the Lord: "Frankincense to offer have I/Incense owns a Deity nigh/Prayer and praising all men raising/Worship Him, God on high."  'Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella' is a Christmas carol which originated from the Provence region of France in the 16th century.  Crystal partially sings it in French.  It is a wonderful acappella track that joyfully proclaims Christ's birth: "Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella!/Bring a torch to the cradle run/It is Jesus good folk of the village/Christ is born and Mary's calling/Ah! Ah! beautiful is the Mother!/Ah! Ah! beautiful is her Son!"  'Sleigh Ride' will take you back in time musically and is a seasonal love song about two love birds: "Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up/It's grand, just holding your hand/We're gliding along with a song/Of a wintry fairyland/Our cheeks are nice and rosy/And comfy cozy are we/Ooh, we're snuggled up together/Like two birds of a feather would be."  'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' features nice percussion and ascribes worth to the Lord: "Yea Lord we greet Thee/Born this happy morning/Jesus to Thee be glory given/Word of the Father/Now in flesh appearing/Oh come let us adore Him (3X)/Christ the Lord."  'I Wonder as I Wander' by John Jacob Niles, closes the album.  It tries to grasp the grandeur of the incarnation: "I wonder as I wander out under the sky/How Jesus, the Savior, did come for to die/For poor, ornery people like you and like I/I wonder as I wander/Out under the sky."
     HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS was produced by John Andrew Schreiner and Brian Ray, Lewis' husband.  Their daughter Izzi Ray, plays guitar, while Frank Lenz plays drums.  Schreiner is responsible for keyboards and programming.  Alan Pasqua skillfully handles piano duties.  I recommend this light pop, inspirational Christmas effort to those who appreciate the vocal talents of Christina Aguilera and Rachael Lampa.  It really is a flawless Christmas cd.  It is both soothing and mesmerizing.  The photos of Crystal with luggage at a train station are just beautiful!  For more info visit  I'm rating this album 95%.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


     SONGS FOR ISRAEL (2010, Candlelight Concerts and Records) features the talents of four singer-songwriters: Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Bob Bennett, and Buck Storm.  The following words from artist Ray Ware who painted the front cover 'With His Disciples in Galilee', shed light on the background for this project: "In November 2008, Candlelight Christian Fellowship and Compass International of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho embarked on an experiment-of-sorts by inviting four songwriters to visit Israel and other Biblical locales with the purpose of writing and recording a new body of music inspired by what they experienced together...Note that these artists were not in a cocoon of their own but lived and traveled with a diverse group of one hundred and fifty Christian pilgrims from across the USA."  Pastor Paul Van Noy sheds further light on this endeavour: "We chose to make this record because we believe it is God's will that we support and pray for Israel.  The Lord has and will use her to make Himself known to the rest of the world.  Today in the Church Age, He uses believers in Jesus as His ambassadors to the 'Jew first and also to the Gentile.'"
     The album begins with a deeply emotional song, 'Jerusalem', written and sung by Buck Storm who has a gravelly voice: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who stoned the prophets/How I have longed to gather you into My arms/Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who stoned the prophets/Precious in weakness and loved by the God who made you/Darkness comes to the City of David/Bone and skin lie bare to the wind/Blood and bent fingers/A Son crying out to His Father/Precious in weakness, perfect in love."  'House of the Lord' is a mellow song written and performed by Phil Keaggy.  It has God making promises to Israel: "And I will pour on the House of David/And those who dwell in Jerusalem/The spirit of grace and supplication/And they will see Him who was pierced/Who was pierced for all their sins/If My people who are called by My Name/Will humble themselves/And pray and seek My face/If My people turn from their wicked ways/Then I will hear from Heaven/Forgive their sin, and heal their land."  'Eyes Upon the Land' is an easy listening song delivered by Bob Bennett.  It speaks of God's goodness amidst heartache: "So much trouble, so much pain/An endless supply of well-worn hate/Sorrows that no man can ever number/Sown into this tiny piece of real estate/But God keeps the faithful preceding me/To tend this garden in the sand/Who keep the Torah and tell of Him/Who always keeps His eyes upon the land."
     'The Secret Name of God' is a wonderful Randy Stonehill ballad that runs over six minutes in length.  The lyrics look forward with hopefulness to the afterlife: "Mighty is His mystery, glorious in power/In ecstasy the heavenly hosts applaud/And when we are transformed, when spirits don their wings/It's then we'll know the secret name of God/The secret name of God."  'John the Revelator' is a song that will be familiar to Phil Keaggy fans from years past.  This song really brings the funk and is about an amazing experience John had while on the Isle of Patmos: "Well he wrote to the Seven Churches/And he wrote to those scattered abroad/He said 'Hold fast, return to your first love/And keep your faith in God'/Now tell me who's that writing?/John, John/Well, tell me who's that writing?/John, John'/Well, tell me who's that writing?/John the Revelator/He wrote the Book of the Seven Seals."  'God of All Creation (from Psalm 8)' is a song of praise that finds Buck Storm rejoicing: "Hallelujah, God of all creation/How exalted is Your name in all the earth/You've set Your glory high above the heavens/And You think of me/Beneath Your watchful gaze a flower grows/The seasons give their song, the oceans heave/The pain of childbirth fades/A baby breathes/The sparrow's flight does not escape Your eye." 
     'Deliver Us, Deliver Me' is a rock number written and sung by Bob Bennett and Phil Keaggy.  It points to the proper attitude we should have towards sinners: "The words of the Savior, 'Go and sin no more'/He would not throw a stone at the sinner/A welcome for the stranger, a cup of cool water/Forgiveness that melts away the winter/Why then do we judge and condemn?/When it's never meant to be a matter of us versus them/If the way of the cross leads us to peace/How can we not help but heal them?"  'Exiled' is a nice, thought provoking instrumental written by Phil Keaggy and Kyle Jones.  It affords the listener the opportunity to reflect on what has been sung so far.  On 'The Garden' Buck Storm shares of his personal experiences on the trip to the Holy Land: "I have tarried in the garden/I have rested in the sound of Spanish hymns/Filled with the mystery of pardon/And the wondering of grace bestowed to men/In the garden/I stand in the half-light with the dust of ruins on these travelling clothes/Caught somewhere between the angels and the ghosts."
     'Psalm 121' is a light pop song performed by Phil Keaggy.  It puts total confidence and trust in God: "Behold, He who keeps Israel/Shall neither slumber nor sleep/The Lord is your keeper/The Lord is your shade/On your right hand/The sun will not smite you by day/Nor the moon by night/The Lord will protect you from all evil/He will keep your soul/The Lord will guard your going out/And your coming in/From this time forth and forever."  'Broken Places' is pretty and has Randy Stonehill delivering a great vocal performance.  This song which would later appear on his SPIRIT WALK cd, speaks of God's promises to us: When the world has gone insane/When you're ragged from the strain/Call My name/You call My name/I'll meet you in the broken places/In the shadows of your pain/In a sea of strangers faces/I will find you, stand beside you (2X)/Anytime you call My name/Anytime you call/Just call My name."  The album ends with 'The Lord Bless Thee' featuring all four artists.  It contains these familiar words from a benediction uttered in many a church: "The Lord bless thee and keep thee/The Lord make His face to shine upon thee (3X)/And be gracious unto thee/Be gracious unto thee/The Lord lift up His countenance/Upon thee and give thee peace (2X)."
     SONGS FOR ISRAEL is, for the most part, a gentle contemplative project that will draw you closer to the person of Jesus and to the Holy Land.  The musical talents of the legendary Phil Keaggy are all over this album which is produced by Buck Storm.  The photographs of the artists in various geographic locations are a nice touch.  I'm rating SONGS FOR ISRAEL 85% and recommending it to those who wish to deepen their Christian walk.  To purchase this project go to and click on 'Ministry Products/Store.'  For more info on artist Ray Ware visit


Saturday, December 17, 2011


     Randy Stonehill truly is a legend of Contemporary Christian Music.  It's been an amazing forty years since the release of his debut album BORN TWICE.  In this span of time, he has given us such memorable songs as 'King of Hearts', 'Shut De Do', 'Turning Thirty', and 'Great Big Stupid World'.  Of his latest album SPIRIT WALK (2011, Stonehillian Records) a press release states: "In whole SPIRIT WALK, strings together songs that only a veteran of a steady walk with Jesus over many years could sing with such conviction."  It also states: SPIRIT WALK is the second album Mike Pachelli has co-produced for Randy Stonehill-after PARADISE SKY (2008).  His contribution of bluesy guitar and authentic American production complements these songs and gives a quality of authority to the wisdom Randy sings."  I would agree on all counts!
     SPIRIT WALK starts off with 'Blood Transfusion and a Coca Cola' which features Dylanesque vocals by Randy.  The song begins with these words from a seasoned performer: "I got a touch of arthritis in my hips/Got a bird's eye view of the apocalypse/I got blisters on my fingertips/From tryin' to hold my life with a real tight grip/My ears are still ringin' from the gibberish and lies/These shifting sands have worn a lot of tread off my tires."  'Remember the Devil' features mean guitar playing by Mike Pachelli, and Baba Elefante on bass.  Baba has worked with Michael Sweet and John Elefante.  The song issues a spiritual warning: "Careful of the company you keep/Might be a wolf dressed up like a sheep/Remember the devil/He remembers you/He never makes a fair deal/Believe that's true/Know that His best trick is this-to make you think he doesn't exist/Remember the devil/He remembers you."  The title track has Ronnie Ciago on drums and paints a vivid picture of temptation and the spiritual state of society today: "The devil slid up to me/He said 'Why don't we have a little chat?'/I got a bit suspicious when he refused to let me take his hand/He said 'I know about your unfulfilled desires, I can help you out with that'/I said 'That's awfully tempting/I guess that's the business that you're in/What would you need for payment?'/He just looked down with a sheepish grin/I said 'I think I'll pass'/He said 'That's okay but I'll be back again'/It don't take Nostradamus to tell you how the chips are gonna fall/Open up your Bible, you don't need some gypsy's crystal ball/The way things are these days/Even Ray Charles could see the writing on the wall."
     'Life is Tough, God is Good' has a raw, bare bones feel to it.  Mike and Randy play the wood case, tray table, tambourine, African Cloves, shaker, finger cymbals and kalimba.  These words of wisdom are shared in the song: "Life is short, truth to tell/And it's not a dress rehearsal so live it well/Life is short, don't you blink/It isn't going to work out the way you think/It's a broken world with broken souls/We might not always be happy but we can be whole/And Jesus hung on the cross to make sure we could/Life is tough, sure enough/But God is good."  'Try Havin' Some Faith' is the most pop sounding track.  I would've like to have heard Larry Norman, Randy's deceased one time mentor, on background vocals.  The song tells the story of a modern prodigal: "He left home to be a star/He went and sold his soul right after he had to sell his car/Oh poor brother/Guess nobody told you for goodness sake/Try havin' some faith."  Lyrics like these point to hope: "Love will prove that doubt's a lie" and "You'll see when you open up your eyes."  'Broken Places' is written with Rob Crosby.  It has a worshipful feel to it, with just Randy on vocals and acoustic guitar.  It has God calling out to the prodigal: "You might think it's been too long, the road that leads back home is gone/But love's a thing that don't keep track of time/And you can't ever leave My love, can't ever leave My love/You can't ever leave My love behind/I'll meet you in the broken places/In the shadows of your pain/In a sea of stranger's faces/I will find you, stand beside you/Anytime you call My name."
     'Pray for Me' has Mike Pachelli playing some absolutely sizzling guitar work.  Lance Abair is on B3 and Wurlitzer, and a choir is also used.  The song includes this revealing plea: "Pray for me/I'm feelin' so weak/Pray for me/I can't get no sleep/Temptation won't let me be/Won't ya pray, won't ya pray for me/Darkness all around me/Of the world that's lost in sin/But the thing that I fear most/Is the darkness here within/Pray for me."  'That's where the Devil Lives' has creative, dark, demonic sounding background vocals by Randy and Mike to go along with these descriptive words of the devil's home turf: "Some say the devil isn't real/That makes him laugh out loud/He'll happily agree with you/And melt into the crowd/He smiles like an angel, but a serpent lies beneath/When he comes up close/You'll see the blood stains on his teeth/That's where the devil lives."  Stonehill's lyrics also make it clear that the devil loves unbelief and pride.
     Fans of some of Randy's lighter fare such as 'Christmas at Denny's' will appreciate the softer sound of 'Last Time I saw Eden' which includes these poetic, well written lyrics: "The last time I saw Eden I was standing in the rain/Down among some broken railroad tracks/I met a fallen angel waiting for a northbound train/He said 'I fear it's never coming back'/And now even in these crowds I feel alone/An orphan always aching for home/I'm longing for the mystery I had known/The last time I saw Eden."  'Finish Well' is another tender tune with Mike on lap steel and accordion among other things, and John Sferra of Glass Harp fame on drums.  Randy offers these words of advice: "They're a million shining highways that take you down to Babylon/Oh but it's the road less travelled that leads you from the darkness to the dawn/Folks will say you're just a simple fool/As they chase the fickle butterfly of cool/And everyone has some agenda they're trying to sell/Point your heart like an arrow/Walk the straight and narrow/Finish well."
     SPIRIT WALK is definitely one of my favourite albums of 2011.  Musically, lyrically, and artistically it trumps much of what is popular on CCM radio stations today.  This just may be the best album of Stonehill's career!  I'm recommending it to fans of bluesy acts such as The Rolling Stones, the 77's, Glenn Kaiser, and Larry Howard.  Those who enjoyed Stonehill's 2002 project EDGE OF THE WORLD should also give this a spin.  I'm rating SPIRIT WALK 90%.  For more info visit or go to to purchase.  Also, to learn more about the artist Ray Ware, who is responsible for the front cover, "The Spirit Came Upon Him", visit

Monday, December 12, 2011


     I had the privilege of seeing Ron Moore live in concert in Tillsonburg, Ontario in 1987 when I was just thirteen.  At that time I bought his DAUNTLESS cassette tape and I played songs such as 'Givers and Takers', 'Master Plan', and 'The Road Forever' over and over on my stereo.  Fast forward to 1998 and Moore released MYSTERY on Airborn Records.  Of his music career he recently wrote to me: "Musically, I have always done crossover albums.  Even though they credit me with naming Contemporary Christian Music, I have always felt more comfortable on the boundaries of that genre.  It seems the calling for me is to not only write and share music with the faithful, but also general market audiences, full of seekers and lost folks."  MYSTERY benefits from the capable guitar talents of Ron Moore, Colin Sapp and Randy Gancarz.  It has a fuller sound than say 1991's CHANGE THE WORLD. 
     Ron also talked to me about his faith journey: "MYSTERY is the first album I produced during a musical and spiritual transition.  Spiritually, my Methodist pastor became Eastern Orthodox, and respecting him highly, I studied and visited, and was happy to find a body of Christianity that has not (and will not) changed from the earliest Church; liturgy from the 5th century, full of Scripture, and reverence, along with the depth of teaching from the early church fathers who gave us the Nicene Creed, and with the Holy Spirit gave us the canon of Scripture (The Bible) we hold so dear."
     MYSTERY begins with 'Horeshoe Bay' which has a very accessible sound to it and contains these playful lyrics: "Climb the hill to the chapel/See the lake stretched out below/I 'baptized' you in the fountain/You turned around and you 'baptized' me...I remember we took that walk in the rain/Like school kids off on a holiday/Laughing and splashing in the stream/I replay that memory/It's a healing dream."  'Let's go Shopping' is a satirical look at America and benefits from Ron's harmonica playing: "Three inches from being born/Another baby is aborted/Thirty million killed in the U.S.A./In the world 150, 000 a day/Let's go shopping/Let's go to the malls/Hey, let's go shopping/Before the axe falls/Now comes this ape from Babylon/He says he has all of your answers/He will promise you your promised land/If you take his mark upon your forehead or your hand."  'The Wrangler' is a catchy story song: "Late one night/A lady scared to go out/I walked her to her car/And got her all loaded in/She handed me a ten/I said 'No thank you Ma'am/When you got nothin's/When it's most fun just to give...Someday I'll stand in Heaven by some rich man/He'll turn slowly and say/You had it better than me."
     'Storm' is very creative and has John Cassidy utilizing some unique sounds, including the doombek, woodblock, chimes, and a cymbal dipped in a bathtub while ringing!  The song written in 1985, speaks of a coming storm: "Now this problem's clear to me/One foot in a timeless dimension/The other foot on the street/Things seem all too normal on the surface/While overhead the cloud begins to form/And the storm is just beginning to blow."  'Full Moon in Romania' is another story song and has smooth vocals and nice harmonies: "Terry and Pamela/Leaving suburbia/Went to be missionaries in Eastern Europe/Stopping for border guards/Smuggling Bibles in/Followed around by the securitade/Full moon in Romania (2X)."  'Mary' is easy listening, with Carrie Pierce on cellos, Kat Moore on vocals, and John Cassidy on congos.  This song is likely the most controversial on the album.  Witness the following lyrics: "Gabriel's grand announcement/Mary's own humble acceptance/As you received Him/May our hearts receive Him too/Virgin and Holy Spirit/Mystery and conception/Chosen and willing/Bore the Savior of the world...Theotokos, pray for us (2X)."  'Theotokos' is God-bearer in Greek.  Ron explains the notion of having Mary pray for us: "May I assure you, only the Trinity is worshipped in Orthodoxy.  But Mary is honored for her direct role in the salvation of the world.  Just like we ask friends, and our church to pray for us, we can also ask those who are part of the cloud of witnesses to pray for us too since they are absent from the body, and now present with the Lord."
     'Friends of Mine' from 1980, is the oldest song here.  Ron wrote it for a college friend, Nancy: "Sorry to hear about your trip to the city/I heard you got robbed it's a pity/Bad times, hard things, and all those days/Can change you I hope in not too many ways."  'For the Bride' again has Carrie Pierce on cellos, and is a beautiful song about the Church: "Like a beautiful woman lying on the globe/Like a beautiful woman stretched across the globe/Stronger than the gates of hell (2X)/We are already mystically connected/With Christ in heaven/Where Christ is/There His body is also."  'The Son is Up' from 1991's CHANGE THE WORLD here is re-worked as 'The Sun is Up', a joyous song about Easter featuring tambourine and bass drum: "The sun is up, the sun is up/No more darkness, no more fear/The sun is up, the sun is up/The sun is here/There's a sound of running feet/There's a loud voice when they meet/There's a stone that's rolled away/A stone that's rolled away."
     Two live tracks are up next.  First is Moore's 1983 classic 'Kooties' which is "in celebration of love, marriage, and family."  It is a light hearted song: "Then one day in the lunch line/Right by the mystery meat/She asked me about the new giblet stew/I spilled jello all over my feet/She grinned at me with her friendly eyes/I felt all funny inside/I thought 'If this is what kooties can feel like/I'll let them come for a ride'."  Ron ends the tale with the two sixteen year olds dreaming: "Both of us wanted to know/If ten years from then we'd be married/With children all over the floor/Raising the new generation/To spread kooties around by the score."  'Jamie's Blues' is the second live track.  It is a seriously well performed blues jam that runs over eight minutes.  A twelfth, unlisted track called 'Window on the Wall' concludes this project.  It has Ron singing: "Prayers and incense rise around the rafters above/Angels, martyrs and heroes/Come and surround us."
     I asked Ron who his musical influences were.  He wrote: "I really wasn't looking for a replication of anybody's sound or style.  In my early years I played a lot of Neil Young, and people say I sound like him.  Others would be Beatles, Tom Petty, Sting, Steve Miller, Crosby Stills and Nash, Bruce Cockburn, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Beach Boys, David Wilcox, and Jimi Hendrix (And 20 more probably)." 
     MYSTERY is a strong, current sounding album from one of CCM's pioneering artists.  If you enjoy skillfully performed pop and rock music be sure to check out Ron's website at and like him on Facebook as well.  I'm rating MYSTERY 90%.

Friday, December 09, 2011


     Chuck Girard has certainly had a prolific music career.  In the early 1960's he was a member of The Castells who had hits with 'Sacred' and 'So This is Love'.  He moved on to form The Hondells whose personnel also included heavyweights Gary Usher, Brian Wilson, and Glen Campbell.  They are remembered for the song 'Little Honda'.  Chuck came to know the Lord through Costa Mesa's Calvary Chapel where Chuck Smith preaches.  Girard was a founding member of the pioneering Contemporary Christian Music group Love Song.  Their self-titled debut in 1972 contains such memorable classics as 'Little Country Church', 'Front Seat, Back Seat', and 'Love Song'.  Chuck also has released several solo albums, including such songs as 'Rock and Roll Preacher' and 'Take a Hand'.  His daughter Alisa Girard Childers was a member of the highly successful Christian pop group ZOE GIRL from 2000-6.
     The year is 2011 and Alisa is back with a new group, GIRARD, comprised of herself, her sisters Kristin and Nikki, and her nieces Lauren and Kailyn.  They are all beautiful, modelesque women, as can be seen by looking at the photos included with this project on which Kristin and Alisa write the majority of the songs.
     'All for You' is upbeat and would fit nicely on a ZOE GIRL project.  It is a song of total surrender to God: "I will cast down my crowns/Take my life and lay it down/My heart says this is all for You/Take my hopes and my dreams/All for You I live and breathe/My heart says this is all for You."  'His Eye is on the Sparrow' was originally written in 1905 by lyricist Civilla D. Martin and composer Charles H. Gabriel.  Here it is known simply as 'Eye is on the Sparrow'.  Some of the original melody is kept, and it extols God as Protector: "I know who is in control/A refuge greater than my foes/Nothing's stronger than this hope/That Jesus is my portion/A constant friend is He/His eye is on the sparrow/And I know He watches me/I have a Savior who will never let me down."  'I Need You' sounds happy and speaks of wanting to share the Gospel message: "I want to tell all the world of Your goodness/'Cause You saved me from my sin/I need You, I want You/Lord, light Your holy fire in me/To burn for all to see/I love You, I praise You/And 'cause Your light has shined on me/Your love is all I need."  'Nearer, My God, to Thee' is a nineteenth century hymn oft credited to Sarah F. Adams and Lowell Mason, and based loosely on Jacob's dream in Genesis 28:11-19.  Here the song is called simply 'Nearer my God'.  It showcases nice harmonies and has the ladies longing for a closeness with the Lord: "So draw me nearer Lord to You/I want to know Your ways in everything I do/I surrender all my ways/To live for You for all my days/So draw me nearer Lord to You/Nearer, nearer, nearer/We draw nearer/Nearer, nearer, nearer/We draw nearer to You."
     'Jesus is the Way' is a great ballad that builds.  It starts with these very down to earth lyrics: "Maybe you've got a sickness/Maybe you need a friend/Maybe you've lost somebody/You thought would be there to the end/Maybe you've been abandoned/Maybe you've been abused/Maybe you gave your heart to somebody/Who gave it right back to you."  The song points to this hope: "I know it sounds so simple, maybe that's because it is/Jesus came to save you/Won't you give your heart to Him? (2x)"  'I Love You' features a strong vocal delivery and is a song of thankfulness: "In this great romance, You gave a second chance/You have made a way for me to be with You/In spite of my mistakes, You bled to hear me say/I love You, I love You/Because You loved me first."  'God who Saves' is pleasant sounding and reminds me of ZOE GIRL.  It praises God for His goodness: "Name above names/You calm the wind and waves/You are the God who saves/The road was closed and broken/Your love has made it open/You took the night and turned it into day/My heart was scarred and wounded/You healed and saw right through it/You are the God who saves."  'New Song' is an anthem that sounds anointed.  It acknowledges that there is a spiritual war in the heavenlies between good and evil and has the family siding decidedly with the former: "We will cast down our idols and we put down our pride/Nothing will stand in our way/We will break through the darkness with a sword in our hand/By Your Spirit we will take back this land/Oh praise Him (4X)/We lift our voices, we sing praise to You/We are singing a new song, we sing praise to You." 
     'Alleluia' is a simple song good to listen to in your devotional time: "Alleluia (3X)/Praise His Name."  'Rescue Me' is about being abused and finding healing in Jesus, and is appropriately mellow: "Haunted memories of an innocent child/How could this have happened to me?/Scared and lonely, there was no one around/Yet I knew that Your eyes were on me" and "I'm so tired of living a life that I can't leave behind/I'm so scared, I can't fix it myself, Jesus I need Your help/So I lay it down at Your feet/There You hold me as an innocent child/And You dry every tear from my eye/And I'm washed in the flood of Your life giving blood/Your love has paid my price."  'Only One' shares a desire for oneness with God: "We bow before Your presence, Lord we pray/You alone are holy/Create in us a hunger for Your ways/As our hearts cry out to You/We surrender to You our will in all that we do/There is no other way."  Chuck Girard's 1975 classic 'Sometimes Alleluia' closes the album.  It speaks of a desire to let our praises to God be a witness to unbelievers: "Let the sound of praises fill the air/Oh let us sing the song of Jesus' love/To people everywhere/Oh let our joy be unconfined/Let us sing with freedom unrestrained/Let's take this feeling that we're feeling now/Outside these walls and let it rain."
     It is exciting to see this group of young ladies using their talents for the Lord.  I'm sure Chuck must be very proud!  GIRARD is a contemporary pop album that will appeal to fans of Point of Grace, Carried Away, and ZOE GIRL.  Alisa wrote to me saying: "No plans for a follow up...this was just a fun thing we did as a family."  I'm rating this project released by Calvary Chapel Music 83%.  For more info visit:,,, or like GIRARD on Facebook!

Friday, December 02, 2011


     Supporters of the prosperity gospel who believe that all is well all the time will have a bone to pick with Carolyn Arends' 2006 project POLLYANNA'S ATTIC (2B Records).  She writes that the songs on it are: "all in some way about a dissatisfaction I hope I can accurately call a Holy Discontent." 
     The CD begins with the peppy 'Just Pretending' co-written with Spencer Capier.  It comments on the rat race that is life: "Family full of achievers/Beat the Jones and be the Cleavers/Give the lawn a manicure/No rough edges, that's for sure/Sunday the whole congregation/Doesn't seem to need salvation/Everybody's just terrific/All the time (2X)/Why do we try so hard?/Life's not some greeting card/Models and movie stars/They're just pretending (2X)."  'Something to Give' is bouncy, utilizes the trumpet, and spurs the listener on to live a meaningful life:  "Hey you, with the time why don't you spend it?/If you've got a dime why don't you lend it?/If you've got hands then get them reaching out/If you've got feet then get up off the couch/There's nothing so rude/As a gift you don't use/Or a life that you choose not to live/'Cause you're blessed to bless/And the best of possessions is/Having something to give."  'What in the World' written with Connie Harrington, reflects on our sinful nature: "Today I woke to my alarm/Just like I did the day before/I stretched and put the coffee on/I kissed my baby out the door/Then as he turned to wave goodbye/I said some petty thing/I saw the light in his eyes die/It left me wondering/What darkness hides within this heart of mine?/Why do I do what I despise?"  'The Wasteland' contains the promise of God overcoming the evil done by the human race, and has a stripped down feel to it: "You can give us Your justice but we'll only defy it/You can send us salvation but we'll just crucify it/Still You rise from the ruins and You promise us a day/When You'll lead us away/From the wasteland."
     'Land of the Living (Psalms 27:13)' is a beautiful ballad about going through a spiritual winter of barrenness: "I know I'm not the first soul/To find myself lost in the night/But it's so long and dark, I'm not sure that my heart/Can survive/Still I've got no choice but to wait/And cling to this last bit of rope/It's the promise that You made me not to leave me or forsake me/So here I am hoping that hope."  'To See Your Face' is a moving ballad by the late Mark Heard: "Lord, You know I need Your love so bad/I hardly even have the strength/To take Your hand/If I ever get to see Your face/If You will spare me/I know that my allegiance to the human race/Will not ensnare me."  'Everybody wants Everything' is groove heavy and prescribes a cure for the ills of modern society: "Everybody wants to get ahead of the rat race/Find ourselves in a better place/Can't we see it's such a waste/All we need is just one taste/Of amazing grace/Everybody wants everything."  'More is Less' sounds laid back, but finds Arends cynical and jaded: "We've got food that makes you hungry/Drink that makes you sick/We've got cars that go in circles/Real nice clothes that do not fit/Here the money makes you paranoid/There's no one you can trust/The sex will leave you lonely/And the love all turns to rust."
     'Free' is written solely by Arends, as are the following two tracks, and has disillusionment as its theme: "Can't see the forest for the skyscraper/Locked in a cold war with the sun/Which one will kill us: hate or indifference?/Tell me has all the killing been done?/Well I don't know why I'm asking/'Cause I'm well aware/That while we're free to wonder/We're more free not to care" and "Well we're so full of freedom that we may just well/Split down the middle like the Liberty Bell/There's just too many lies we're too free to tell/We're all free to die, we're free to go to hell."  'No Trespassing' paints a dismal picture of our day and age: "'Cause you can't go near/Anybody else's private ground/See folks 'round here/Have got a democratic right to drown/And you're just a fool/If you care about the faces in the crowd/Got a new edition of the Golden Rule:/No trespassing allowed."  Layton Howerton sings with Arends on 'Not Alone', a song that offers encouragement: "There's a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with our grief/And He's done His share of crying in the night with no relief/And there isn't any heartache that He has not known/So we are not alone" and "Well, there's no use in pretending, some things just don't make sense/And there isn't any justice, at least not yet/In a while we will remember this is not our home/Cause we are not alone, no/We are not alone."  'I've Got a Hope' penned by Eric Fiedor and Pierce Pettis in 2000, appropriately ends the album on a hopeful note: "Lest I should stumble/I try not to forget/That every hair is numbered/Every footstep, every breath/And this life that I'm living/It will not end in death/I've got a hope/That is not in this world."
     POLLYANNA'S ATTIC benefits greatly from the musical talents of Spencer Capier (acoustic and electric guitars, bouzouki, violin and backing vocals) and Roy Salmond (organ, lap steel, Wurlitzer piano, all manner of percussion, backing vocals).  It is an honest, artistic look at faith and doubt, questions and answers.  I'm rating it 82% and recommending it to fans of the soft rock and light pop sounds of Jann Arden, Sheryl Crow, and the more recent projects of Amy Grant.  For more info visit and  The CD booklet contains a beautiful picture of Carolyn, eyes closed, head tilted downwards, and guitar strapped on.