Wednesday, December 05, 2012


As I was growing up, my family and I would attend hymn sings in the Tillsonburg, Ontario area. Groups such as The Proverbs, The Watchmen, and The Nations would perform. So would the The Torchmen Quartet. They began in 1969 when four men met at Fairview Mennonite Brethren Church in St. Catherines, Ontario. Today the Torchmen are Mike Moran, Sandy MacGregor, Jon Hisey, and Jeff Tritton. Mike Moran was born in Cambridge, Ontario and joined the group the year they formed. For many years Mike also hosted ‘Gospel North’, a radio show in the Niagara Region. Sandy MacGregor was born and raised in Kitchener, Ontario. He has been a member of The Watchmen Quartet, The Chapelaires, The Royal City Quartet, The Singing Canadians, and Damascus. In the eighties he sang lead for The Torchmen, now he sings tenor. Jon Hisey grew up in St. Catherines, Ontario. He officially started singing with the Torchmen in 1983, just after his Uncle John had left them. Jeff Tritton used to minister to kids with a ventriloquist dummy named ‘Elfred’. He first joined the group in 1992. Over the years the Torchmen have gained great notoriety for their talents and Gospel message, even performing at the National Quartet Convention in the United States. Their latest release A NEW PERSPECTIVE (2012) was recorded at Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton, Ontario. Of it, Mark Trammell says: “The Torchmen have found yet another level of consistency and integrity through taking timeless traditions and bring new light and a fresh approach to old standards while never losing the original impact of the song.”

‘I Want to Make a Difference’ is a real toe-tapper and uses banjo: “I wanna testify/God is still the only One/I wanna make a good impression/When I make my confession by what the Lord has done/I wanna sing for my Lord and my King/Do my best to see Him get the glory/I wanna make a difference/With the One who made the difference in me.” ‘I’ll Keep on Leaning’ is a nice ballad of gratitude to God written by D. Britt: “All those times I’ve gone astray/All the times I’ve lost my way/The Shepherd reached out into the cold/To bring this sheep back to the fold/And no matter how far astray I’d be/Those Arms are reaching out for me/Safe in His everlasting Arms/I’ll keep on leaning.”

‘Just One More Song’ has a celebratory feel to it and was written by Rebecca Peck: “Give me just one more song to sing/Give me just one more verse to glorify the King/Give me just one more day/In this symphony of life/Give me just one more breath to lift the name of Jesus Christ/Give me just one more song to sing.” ‘I Will Pray’ begins with these words of wisdom: “I won’t wait till I’m walking in the valley/Or I’m caught up in the fury of a storm/No it won’t take times of desperation/To push me to my knees/And make me call out to my Lord/I will pray/Pray in the morning/Pray in the noonday sun.”

‘Fair Exchange’ uses harmonica and has an upbeat country feel to it. It includes these spoken words: “The Bible says in Romans chapter eight, verse one ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.’ So the next time Satan wants to put you in chains, you look him in the eye and say ‘By the blood of Jesus Christ I am a free man.’” ‘Wish You Were Here’ is a sentimental ballad written by M. Williams and popularized by The Kingsmen. Here are the words to the chorus: “Wish you were here/It’s such a beautiful place/Wish you were here/Nothing but clear sunny days/It never rains and no one complains/We haven’t seen a tear/We’re having a great time/Wish you were here.”

‘City in the Sky’ by Richard Ash, has a Gaither Homecoming feel to it: “I met a new saint of God/She’d been travelling a long, long time/Seen a lot of pain and heartache/But she’d left it all behind/I said ‘Sister, tell me/Aren’t you weary of the life you’ve led?’/She said ‘I’m not troubled with where I’ve been cause I know what’s up ahead.’” ‘Light at the End of the Darkness’ encourages us not to give in to despair: “There is hope in that land for the hopeless/There’s a soothing balm for pain and misery/It’s as near as your faith/It sometimes seems fleeting/I was blind when it finally shined on me/There’s a light at the end of the darkness/So look up when you are down and try to believe.”

‘I Remember the Time’ is a testimony song that I can hear doo-wop influences on: “I can tell you ‘bout the time/I can take you to the place/Where the Lord saved me/By His wonderful grace/And I cannot tell you how/And I cannot tell you why/But He’ll tell me all about it/In the by and by.” ‘In the Cross’ takes the posture of a servant: “So I turn to the road ahead/Forgetting all I used to be/In answer to the call of the One who died to set me free/Friends and fame, riches and power/For His cross I will set aside/In His mighty shadow/Let me hide.”

‘Over the Door’ is a faster paced number that reminds us our denomination doesn’t save us: “Some people think today/If heaven you would see/You must belong to their one church/Or be lost eternally/But according to God’s Word/What He’s still looking for/Is what He finds within your heart and not what’s over the door.” So true! ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’ really puts things into perspective: “I’d rather have Jesus than man’s applause/I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause/And I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame/I’d rather be true to His holy Name/Than to be the king of a vast domain/Or to be held in sin’s dread sway.”

In short, The Torchmen Quartet have still got it going on. Their group harmonies and solos sound great! The group is excited about their faith which is alive and well. Not every group could weather so many member changes over the years and still sound as cohesive as they do. This is a bona fide recording. Fans of Gold City should buy this one. I’m rating A NEW PERSPECTIVE 90%. For more info visit

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Walter Clayton Crossnoe was born on February 11, 1967. He grew up in Memphis, TN and became a Christian when he was thirteen. He married his high school sweetheart Renee in 1990. They have four kids and two of them were adopted from China. Clay Crosse’s debut album was 1993’s MY PLACE IS WITH YOU. In 1995 he won a Dove Award for ‘Best New Artist of the Year’. Over the years he has been known for such songs as ‘I Surrender All’, ‘His Love is Strong’, ‘Saving the World’, and ‘I Will Follow Christ’, the latter of which featured BeBe Winans and Bob Carlisle. In 2010 Clay threw his fans a curve and gave us a terrific Americana album, EVERYTIME I FEEL THE SPIRIT. Now he is back on the scene with rededication (2012).

The album starts out with the wonderful first AC single ‘I Rest in You’. Clay wrote it with Brian White, and album producer Regie Hamm. Hamm actually co-writes seven of the ten songs presented. This opening song begins with these words of testimony: “You’re the peace that passes understanding/In a world that’s changing/You’re the hope that’s everlasting/When the walls are crashing down/You’re the love that’s greater than/The doubt that tries to steal my faith and/You’re the only truth that I have found.” ‘reDedication’ is a touching ballad about a spiritual homecoming: “I’m so amazed at what You’ve brought me through/So I give my life back to You/Rededication/Rededicating myself to the One/Who’s my only salvation/To the One with His arms open wide/The One who is Lord of my life/Rededication.”

‘Vessel’ written by Regie Hamm, Fred Wilhelm, and Nick DePartee finds Clay desiring to be involved in God’s purposes here on earth: “From the deep blue sea/To the tops of the mountains/It all points back to You/And I’m on my knees/Praying You make me an instrument You use/So pour over me.” The first INSP single is ‘Your River’s Wide Enough’ written by Bernie Herms and Jennie Lee Riddle (Revelation Song). This single is a great song of praise: “Love pours out/Grace flows down/You’re everywhere, all around/Your mercy runs, a vast supply/Healing rains from Your side/Your river’s wide enough/Your river’s wide.”

Isaiah 55:9 reads: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” ‘Waving a White Flag’ is a soulful, gospel influenced number that documents how hard it is to kill the old man, which is the flesh: “I don’t know why I ever fought You/Why I dodge You, but I confess/That all of Your ways are so much higher/And You always know what’s best…I’m at the end of myself/This game of tug of war is through/Surrendering everything/I dedicate my life to You.” ‘Working on a Building’ has a crazily funky groove to it and features Russ Taff and Melinda Doolittle. Doolittle was the third place finalist on Season 6 of American Idol, and before that sang backup for the likes of Aaron Neville and Carman. The song here, reminds us not to be passive in our spiritual lives: “Workin’ on a chamber/Where principalities will never rule/Workin’ on a mansion/More than forty acres and a mule/Buildin’ on a bedrock/Cause I wanna be wise and not a fool, not a fool…/Workin’ on a building/Where the enemy will never trod/Workin’ on a building/Where I am at home at last with God.”

Clay co-wrote the memorable track ‘When I Lift my Hands’ with Regie Hamm and Chuck Butler. It praises the Lord for who He is and for giving us our daily bread: “You’re the promise and the hope that gets me through each day/And You provide the strength I need to walk within Your way/And I could never fully know the depth of who You are/But I will try to reach You/When I lift my hands.” Next up is a track covered in part in 2006 by Michael W. Smith. ‘The Stand’ was written by Joel Houston just a year before. Many know him from Hillsong United. The chorus paints a beautiful picture of one who is worshipping: “So I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned/In awe of the One who gave it all/I’ll stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered/All I am is Yours.”

‘All Because of You’ is a well crafted song. The chorus distinguishes the Christian music star from non-believing performers: “I return the glory to/The One whom it belongs/Every time I lift my voice/Any time I sing these songs/I say it honestly/Anything that’s good in me/And anything that’s true/It’s all because of You.” The album ends with a tender ballad, ‘Good Morning Lord’, that lays out how we should start off each day as Christ followers: “Good morning Lord/Thank You for this day/Help me to walk with You/In this world You made/Good morning Lord/I feel Your mercies new/Take my hand and lead me Lord/I long to follow You.”

Clay Crosse is now worship pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Arlington, TN. He and Renee are also involved in marriage and family ministry via Holy Homes. Of his latest CD, Clay says: “God really blessed me to be able to record this new project and I pray it encourages you.” Instrumentalists used include: Steve Brewster (drums), Mark Hill (bass), Dave Cleveland (guitars), Jason Webb (keyboards), Dave Davidson and Chuck Butler (strings), Mike Haynes (trumpet), and Mark Douthit (sax).

reDedication finds Clay spot on vocally. His voice has a maturity that can’t be imitated. The songs are ones of well thought out and heartfelt ministry. After all these years, Clay is still putting out top quality inspirational music. We are the better for it! Fans of Michael English, Sandi Patty, and Steve Green will like this one. I’m rating reDedication 87%. For more info visit and

Friday, November 30, 2012


In his Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music (2002, Hendrickson Publishers) Mark Allan Powell writes the following of the early days of Stryper: “They presented themselves in ways that practically begged treatment as a novelty act: heavy makeup, big hair, black and yellow spandex…and silly publicity stunts. They were, of course a Christian version of KISS-and the very idea of such an incarnation struck secular journalists as humorous and worthy of media coverage. There was a lot of mean-spirited criticism (mostly from the Christian side), but Stryper rolled with the punches and, by and large had fun with it.” Stryper is Michael Sweet (lead vocals/lead guitar), Robert Sweet (drums), Oz Fox (guitar/vocals), and Timothy Gaines (bass/vocals). Their latest DVD is LIVE IN INDONESIA AT THE JAVA ROCKIN’ LAND (2012, MVDvisual). Of it, Michael says: “This show was an unexpected, but welcomed, addition to our tour schedule. It was added last minute and we scrambled to make it happen, but I’m glad it worked out. It was an opportunity to go to a primarily Muslim country and share our faith.”

The concert begins with one of seven songs from 1986. ‘Sing-Along Song’ is a happy song of gratitude: “In a land of freedom/God has sent His grace/We’re proud to live in such a place/With the right to sing/Song after song/This song’s for you to sing along!” ‘Murder by Pride’ is a modern rock gem from 2009. It speaks of improving one’s spiritual state: “Seeds that were growing have been dried up by my flesh/I walk the walk and talk the talk but where’s the rest?/I could have everything even what’s behind the stars/But I built my prison without windows, without bars/Gotta fight, gotta stop living a lie/Gotta fall, gotta lay down and die/Gotta stand and run to the other side/Gotta live or it’s murder by pride.”

‘Loud ‘N’ Clear’ goes all the way back to 1984’s THE YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK. In the lyrics, Stryper takes on their critics: “The hair is long and the screams are loud and clear/The clothes are tight, earrings dangling from the ears/No matter how we look, we’ll always praise His Name/And if you believe, you’ve got to do the same.” ‘The Rock that Makes Me Roll’ from 1985 shares the band’s motivation for what they do: “They say that rock and roll is strong/Check out the Rock that makes us roll/Don’t need no drugs to help us push on/We’ve got His power in our souls/Stand up and fight for what you believe in.”

‘Reach Out’ is a song that gives testimony: “I was looking for the answer all the time/Always looking, never finding/I was empty inside/Drowning in the darkness/Needing the light to see/Reaching out for shelter/Then He set me free.” ‘Calling on You’ is one of my faves. It could be addressed to God or a romantic partner: “I can’t explain just what you do to me/My love grows stronger every day/You give me love, you give me company/And when I have to face this rain/You bring sunshine into my life.”

‘Free’ reflects on one of the greatest gifts God has given us: “Free to turn away, say goodbye/Free to walk away and deny/The gift waiting for you/Whispers the still small voice/It’s your choice/You’re free, free to do what you want to/Choose your own destiny/Free to do what you want to.” ‘More than a Man’ finds the band determined: “God, I will follow You because You died for me/Gave to me Your life to set me free/Anyone who asks shall receive/Jesus in your heart/It’s time for you to start/Giving God all the glory/More than a man, God Almighty/He created you.”

‘Honestly’ is the first ballad and brought a tear to my eye. It is another song that could have spiritual meaning or be directed to a human love partner: “Call on me and I’ll be there for you/I’m a friend who always will be true/And I love you can’t you see/That I love you honestly?/I will never betray your trust in me/And I love you, can’t you see?” ‘Open Your Eyes’ is the headbanging opener from 2005’s REBORN. The song encourages listeners to reach their full spiritual potential: “Open your eyes/Loosen the vice that constrains you/Open your eyes/Break the unfaith that controls you/Open your eyes/The truth will be there.”

‘All for One’ comes from the group’s controversial 1990 album AGAINST THE LAW. The song is a melodic call for unity however: “Days are going by/It’s up to you to make a start/Before this Earth of ours/Turns to dust and falls apart/Right now I know we can make a change/All for one and one for all/Isn’t that the way that it should be?/Will we ever save this world?/United we will stand up tall/United we will never fall/If it’s all for one and one for all/I know that we can save this world.” ‘The Way’ is another testimony song: “I feel His strength come into me/Yes, I do/ Reading His Word helps me to see/I feel so new I want to sing/Feeling His joy in everything/Oh, what can I say?/Oh, Christ is the Way.”

Two strong encores follow. ‘Abyss/To Hell with the Devil’ directly puts our adversary in his place: “Well, speak of the devil/He’s no friend of mine/To turn from him/Is what we’ve got in mind/Just a liar and a thief/The Word tells us so/We’d like to let him know where he can go/To hell with the devil (2X).” This song, another one of my faves, ends with a good scream by Michael. The concert closes with 1985’s ‘Soldiers Under Command’. It rallies believers in one higher cause: “Are you a soldier under God’s command?/Help fight the good fight, join us while you can/The battle that’s waiting is fought so easily/Through Him, without sin, there is victory /And we’re fighting all the sin/And the good book, it says we’ll win/Soldiers, Soldiers under command/Soldiers, Soldiers, fighting the Lord’s battle plan.”

This concert was filmed in 2010. The guys are definitely looking older, as they should be. Michael Sweet makes mention of the fact that the days of tight spandex and loads of make-up are gone. Of this, he tells the crowd: “Thank God!” As with other aging Christian rock stars, like John Schlitt, Sweet now sings some of the classics in a lower key, but they are still quite well done. The picture quality of the DVD is quite clear, as is the sound. And of course the group still plays yellow and black instruments. There is good crowd interaction throughout the show. The musicianship and harmonies are still there. Several of these songs have been a part of the soundtrack of my faith journey over the years. Fans of Bloodgood and Whitecross should pick this one up. I’m rating LIVE IN INDONESIA AT THE JAVA ROCKIN’ LAND 93%. For more info visit and

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Julie Elias studied musical theatre in college. She has appeared on several TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: New York, and Weeds. She was also an extra in Larry Crowne which starred Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. She is quoted as saying: “I am grateful for my time in Hollywood; my experiences ultimately strengthened my relationship with Christ and played an integral part in the journey to realize my calling.” Her bio says: “A Christmas trip to her hometown in 2010 caused Elias to reexamine her career options. During the holiday, she performed in her home church’s praise and worship band and sang in some local concerts.” She felt led to pursue music. Her latest release is A WILD ROSE (2012). In the liner notes she calls this album “an exploration of my own heart and my faith.” She adds: “God has always been and will always be there for us. Sometimes, it takes a long time to truly remind myself of this but I have never regretted those moments when I give Him whatever is weighing me down and I feel a sense of hope that five minutes earlier felt like a pipe dream.” All of the songs on the album were penned by Al Denson, Julie, and Robert White Johnson. Denson is a CCM success who has performed at Billy and Franklin Graham crusades, while Johnson has songwriting and production credits with the likes of Celine Dion and Michael Bolton.

‘Breathing Room’ is a great opening song that finds Julie crying out for personal rejuvenation: “Wanna feel the earth beneath my feet/Feel Your rain, wash my spirit clean/Let the sun shine upon my weathered face/Dust from the past makes it hard to breathe/Wipe my eyes/Lord teach me how to see/Renew my heart so I can learn to love again.” ‘A Wild Rose’ makes good use of keys, and is a song of encouragement for those who are down: “While you lie sleeping alone in the night beneath the wind-driven snow/Hope springs eternal, the birth of new life, the bloom, a wild rose/Seasons bring changes, the day loses light, and darkness it comes and it goes/Splendid and perfect, eternally bright/God planted each wild rose.”

‘In His Plan’ is upbeat musically and reflects on the tension between self-reliance and God-reliance: “Sometimes I still think I know best/That I can face this world alone/So much was wrong, I should have known/Now I feel like my goals are out of reach and my plans all fell apart/Dreams extracted from my heart/What if these dreams were blinding me to all that God has planned for me?” ‘I am Yours’ is a reverent ballad with nice strings and orchestration by Jimmy Nichols. The song clearly finds Julie relying on God: “A gentle peace surrounds me/The stillness calms my soul/Surrendering all my fears/I give You control/Whispering a new song written on my wounded heart/Your faithfulness has given me life.”

‘Lord You Reign’ is a song suitable for congregational worship: “We lift our hands and sing to You/For You are great, amazing/Lord You reign on high, victorious/Now and forever, Blessed Redeemer/Lord You reign.” ‘Breathe in Me’ is a soft song that begins with these words of vulnerability: “Here I am again/Trapped inside myself with my impatient heart/Praying for a sign/Waiting is the hardest part/So many times I don’t understand why it takes so long/Till I give it all over to You.”

‘Here I Am’ features great electric guitar work by Dave Cleveland and has a rock feel to it. It contains these wonderful words of submission: “Not running away anymore/Not turning my back on You, Lord/See I finally heard You knock on the door/Now my heart is open/Here I am.” ‘Peace I Leave with You’ is very mellow and speaks of the pain of losing a loved one or a close friend: “Took your love forgranted/The hopes and dreams you planted/I always thought you’d be here/A voice to calm all my fears/Now echoes in my mind/Words I won’t hear/Or feel again.”

‘Be Thou my Vision’ is well executed and should please fans of sacred music. It is a traditional Irish hymn (translation by Eleanor Hull 1912). The rendition here, combines the hymn’s traditional words with a new chorus by Al Denson, Julie, and Robert White Johnson: “Thou and Thou only/First in my heart/High King of Heaven/My Treasure Thou art” and “Be still and know/For I am God/Wherever you go/My peace you will know.” ‘Freedom in Love’ is a six minute triumphant sounding rocker that ends the album on a positive note lyrically: “Walking in faith, now I am strong/Awaken the fire inside my heart/To the reflection of Your truth/Give it all up/No turning back/Here I am rescued by grace/When a Voice inside said I’m not alone.”

Julie Elias has performed at major festivals such as Spirit West Coast, Ichthus, and Cornerstone, and at Walt Disney World’s Night of Joy. She shares: “I’ve always believed you can hear words, but you can feel music. What is a relationship with God without feeling His presence through your entire being? Sometimes songs can touch you in a way that words cannot.” A WILD ROSE reveals an artist who fluctuates between Kari Jobe type pop/worship music and Alannah Myles chick rock with a bit of an edge. Julie performs both styles equally well. Her vocals are clear and crisp. I would like her to put out a straight up Gospel rock record in the future. On A WILD ROSE, Jason Webb plays piano, keys, and accordion. Veteran CCM artist Lisa Bevill is one of the background vocalists. The photos of Julie included with this project are quite pretty. If you’re looking for an album to lift your spirits, this one’s for you. I’m rating it 84%. For more info visit

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Smalltown Poets is a Christian rock band formed in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. Their first album SMALLTOWN POETS (1997) won a Dove Award for Best Rock Album and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Rock Album. It contained such great songs as ‘Prophet, Priest, and King’, ‘If You’ll Let me Love You’, ‘Everything I Hate’, and ‘Monkey’s Paw’. The Poets went on hiatus after 2004’s IT’S LATER THAN IT’S EVER BEEN. In 2010 they regrouped to begin work on a Christmas CD. They released a Christmas single ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ in December 2010. Of their fifth studio album CHRISTMAS (2011, Friendly City Records) their website says: “Smalltown Poets is back from a seven-year hiatus with an album that feels like a perfect Christmas gift from a longtime friend you didn’t expect to see.” The album was co-produced by their former drummer Matt Goldman (Underoath and Casting Crowns).

‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ uses bells and keyboards to good effect. It integrates words from another hymn that express a desire for the Christ to draw near: “Come Thou long expected Jesus/Born to set Thy people free/From our fears and sins release us/Let us find our rest in Thee/Emmanuel.” ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ by Christina Rossetti and Gustav T. Holtz is given a nice pop treatment. It reflects on how to properly respond to the nativity: “What shall I give Him/Poor as I am?/If I were a shepherd/I would bring a lamb/If I were a wise man/I would do my part/Yet, what can I give Him/I’ll give Him my heart.”

‘In the first Light’ written by Bob Kauflin in 1988 has great backing vocals. It looks ahead to the cruel death Christ would ultimately die: “As His mother held Him closely/It was hard to understand/That this baby not yet speaking/Was the Word of God to man/He would tell them of His kingdom/But their hearts would not believe/They would hate Him/And in anger they would nail Him to a tree.” Rebecca Lovell of Larkin Poe contributes sweet vocals to ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’. The song makes it clear that God wants to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us: “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/The dear Christ enters in/O little town/Proclaim His birth/And praises sing to God our King/Cry peace to all the earth.”

‘St. Nick is Alright’ by Michael Johnston, Noah Stephens, and Danny Stephens, is fun, bouncy, and catchy: “Free my heart/For the sake of childhood wishes/With grateful thoughts/For the life of Father Christmas/His greatest gift is his belief/In the miracle and the mystery/To life (2X)/St. Nick is alright/He’s alright with me.” ‘Silent Night’ is a short, atmospheric instrumental.

‘Good Christian Men Rejoice’ is upbeat musically and reflects on the historical event that gives us a reason to celebrate during the festive season: “Good Christian men rejoice/With heart and soul and voice/Give ye heed to what we say/Jesus Christ is born today/Ox and lamb before Him bow/And He is in the manger now/Christ is born today (2X).” ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’ by Charles Wesley and Felix Mendelssohn waxes theological: “Christ by highest heaven adored/Christ the Everlasting Lord/Late in time behold Him come/Offspring of the Virgin’s womb/Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/Hail the incarnate Deity/Pleased as man with man to dwell/Jesus our Emmanuel/Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Glory to the newborn King.”

Next up, is a short musical interlude, ‘We Three Kings’, that is made to sound like it’s coming from an LP. ‘On Christmas Day (Ave Maria)’ by Poet Danny Stephens features Eric Sturniolo of the Georgia Boy Choir. The song contains these beautiful words: “Not a sweeter voice could ever my heart sway/Than the Savior’s call/This Christmas day/He is risen in me/This Christmas day/And His mercy stalls a glorious return/But I should urge this world/To despise delay/And to give up, give up all themselves/This Christmas day.”

‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ is a mysterious and glorious instrumental for the most part. ‘The First Noel’ has a cool percussive beat. Oh, to have been there the night Christ was born: “The first Noel, the angel did say/Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay/In fields where they lay keeping their sheep/On a cold winter’s night that was so deep/Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel/Born is the King of Israel.”

‘His Delight’ by Poets Michael Johnston and Danny Stephens, speaks of giving oneself completely to Christ who came to earth for us: “And as this heart peeks in/On that moment sublime/I find it all my joy/To offer heart, soul, and mind/To the perfect Son of love divine/And oh, His delight (2X).” The song is a relatively short, but great, original. ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ is a song of good cheer that makes use of a kid’s choir.

Over the years, Smalltown Poets have been compared to groups such as Jars of Clay, Matchbox Twenty, and The Waiting. What I can tell you is that this Christmas album is easily one of the best I have heard in recent years. The Poets offer up gorgeous, contemporary arrangements of holiday favourites and throw in a few originals to boot. Banjo, cello, classical guitar and strings help make this a memorable album, as do the smooth, easy to listen to vocals. If the Christmas carols have become stale to you, this record will bring them back to life for you and closer to your heart again. The album artwork which includes a sled, a hot beverage, a mitten, and a bird, is simple but appealing. I’m rating CHRISTMAS 95%. To purchase this product or the band’s new EP, visit

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Leonard Norman Cohen was born on September 21, 1934. He is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist. His work often explores religion, isolation, sexuality, and interpersonal relationships. He is an inductee of the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has also received the Order of Canada. His first studio album was 1967’s SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN. I know him best for ‘Hallelujah’ which was first recorded on 1984’s VARIOUS POSITIONS. He is also known for such songs as ‘Suzanne’, ‘First We take Manhattan’, ‘Bird on a Wire’, and ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’. My cousin Trish is a huge fan of Leonard and shares: “I experience his music as a writer, artist, and mostly as a fellow spiritual being. Leonard Cohen writes with a precision that few writers are capable of, and a raw vulnerable humanity that we all share. One of the greatest joys of listening to Leonard’s music is his witty, self-effacing sense of humour that we can all relate to.” Leonard was ordained a Buddhist monk in 1996, but is still religiously Jewish. OLD IDEAS (2012, Columbia Records) is his twelfth studio album. It is the highest charting album of his ever, hitting Number One in Canada, Norway, Spain, and many other countries. It also did well in the U.S. In addition, it was a nominee for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize.

‘Going Home’ is one of four songs co-written with Patrick Leonard. It is a spoken word piece with slight keyboard accompaniment and female choral vocals. It seems written from the viewpoint of a Higher Power: “I love to speak with Leonard/He’s a sportsman and a shepherd/He’s a lazy bastard/Living in a suit/But he does say what I tell him/Even though it isn’t welcome.” The song moves on with that Higher Power reflecting on what Cohen’s true desire is: “He wants to write a love song/An anthem of forgiving/A manual for living with defeat/A cry above the suffering/A sacrifice recovering/But that isn’t what I need him to complete.” ‘Amen’ is a pretty song that runs over seven minutes and utilizes banjo, violin, guitar, and a horn. It has Cohen speaking to God: “Tell me again/When the victims are singing/And the Laws of Remorse are restored/Tell me again/That You know what I’m thinking/But vengeance belongs to the Lord/Tell me again.” In the song, the singer admits there is a tendency to use alcohol to mask pain and sorrow: “Tell me again/When the filth of the butcher/Is washed in the blood of the Lamb…Tell me again when I’m clean and I’m sober.”

‘Show me the Place’ has Cohen half-talking and half-singing, not unusual for him. The song contains these words that will resonate with evangelicals: “Show me the place/Help me roll away the stone/Show me the place/I can’t move this alone/Show me the place/Where the Word became a man/Show me the place/Where the suffering began.” Leonard’s live band joins him on ‘Darkness’. This mid-tempo number has cool organ flourishes throughout. The lyrics seem to speak of a man falling for a woman who turned out to be no good for him: “I should have seen it coming/It was right behind your eyes/You were young and it was summer/I just had to take a dive/Winning you was easy/But darkness was the prize…I used to love the rainbow/I used to love the view/I loved the early morning/I’d pretend that it was new/But I caught the darkness baby/And I got it worse than you/I caught the darkness.”

A shaker is used consistently on the soft track ‘Anyhow’. It tells of a man desperately wanting to reconcile with his true love interest: “I used up all my chances/And you’ll never take me back/But there ain’t no harm in asking/Could you cut me one more slack?/I’m naked and I’m filthy/And there’s sweat upon my brow/And both of us are guilty/Anyhow/Have mercy on me baby/After all, I did confess/Even though you have to hate me/Could you hate me less?” ‘Crazy to Love You’, co-written with Anjani Thomas, features nice guitar strumming. It speaks of how we sometimes go too far to try and make a love relationship work: “Had to go crazy to love you/Had to let everything fall/Had to be people I hated/Had to be no one at all.”

‘Come Healing’ starts with a soothing female vocal. It is a gem, that could almost be a modern day worship song lyrically: “The splinters that you carry/The cross you left behind/Come healing of the body/Come healing of the mind/And let the heavens hear it/The penitential hymn/Come healing of the spirit/Come healing of the limb.” ‘Banjo’ is a curious story song: “There’s something that I’m watching/Means a lot to me/It’s a broken banjo bobbing/On the dark, infested sea/Don’t know how it got there/Maybe taken by the wave/Off of someone’s shoulder/Or out of someone’s grave.”

‘Lullaby’ is another slow song and uses harmonica. It is more mysterious than the typical song you’d sing your child to sleep with: “If your heart is torn/I don’t wonder why/If the night is long/Here’s my lullaby(2X)/Well the mouse ate the crumb/Then the cat ate the crust/Now they’ve fallen in love/They’re talking in tongues.” ‘Different Sides’ has a playful sound to it. The song speaks of our unfortunate tendency to let things divide us as people: “We find ourselves on different sides/Of a line nobody drew/Though it all may be one in the higher eye/Down here where we live it is two…Both of us say there are laws to obey/Yeah, but frankly I don’t like your tone/You want to change the way I make love/I want to leave it alone.”

Publications such as Rolling Stone and The Guardian have praised OLD IDEAS. I believe this album will appeal to fans of the latter works of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Those who appreciate the deep baritone vocals of George Beverly Shea will like Leonard’s voice. Cohen’s vocals are balanced with the sweet female vocals of Shannon Robinson, Dana Glover, Jennifer Warnes, and the Webb Sisters. This project is for the music lover who highly values poetry and artistry. It glows with a certain maturity that only true life experience can bring. The instrumentation is appropriately sparse and is well placed. These are not, for the most part, songs that you can sing along with, but they are songs that will appeal to your thoughts and emotions. I imagine Leonard whispering several of these songs in the listener’s ear. I’m rating OLD IDEAS 85%. For more info visit

Thursday, November 08, 2012


Neil Percival Young was born on November 12, 1945 in Toronto, Ontario. He had diabetes as a child and a bout with polio in 1951. Neil began as a solo artist and was a member of Buffalo Springfield (1966-68) who played folk, country, psychedelia, and rock music. His first solo album, self-titled, dropped in 1968. In 1969 he released EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE with Crazy Horse. It featured ‘Cinnamon Girl’. He was also a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, as of the same year. His fourth album HARVEST (1972) was a big success with songs such as ‘Heart of Gold’, ‘Old Man’, and ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’. One of my favourite Young songs is 1989’s ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’. In 2006 he released LIVING WITH WAR. Here he showed himself as an activist, clearly against George W. Bush. He is also an environmentalist. Neil Young released AMERICANA, his first work with Crazy Horse in eight years on June 5, 2012 (Reprise). Crazy Horse is Neil Young (vocals, guitar), Billy Talbot (bass, vocals), Ralph Molina (drums), and Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro (guitar). Of this recording American Songwriter quotes Young as saying: “Every one of these songs…has verses that have been ignored. And those are the key verses, those are the things that make these songs live. They’re a little heavy for kindergarteners to be singing. The originals are much darker, there’s more protest in them…” In this review I won’t bore you with the history and background of each of the songs.

‘Oh Susannah’ begins with great electric guitar licks. It sounds like a mix between a kid’s sing-a-long song and a rock song. Here are some of the lyrics: “Rained all night the day I left/The weather it was dry/Sun so hot I froze to death/Susannah, don’t you cry/Oh, oh, oh Susannah, don’t you cry for me/Cause I come from Alabama with my B-A-N-J-O on my knee.” ‘Clementine’ begins with heavy rock guitar and features heavy percussion. It’s a tragic song: “Ruby lips above the water/Blowin’ bubbles soft and fine/But alas I was no swimmer/So I lost my Clementine/Clementine (2X)/Oh my darlin’ Clementine…How I missed her (2X)/How I missed my Clementine/So I kissed her little sister and I forgot my Clementine.” ‘Tom Dula’ is the longest track, clocking in at over eight minutes long. Tom Dula’s name is chanted throughout this story song which includes these encouraging words: “Hang down your head Tom Dula/Hang down your head and cry/Hang down your head Tom Dula/Poor boy you’re bound to die/I met her on the mountain/And there I took her life/Met her on the mountain/Stopped her with my knife.”

‘Gallows Pole’ is a bluesy romp with good choral vocals. It is the song of a man condemned to death, whose parents can’t save him, but his lover does: “Honey did you bring me silver?/Honey did you bring me gold?/Did you come to see me hangin’ by the gallows pole?/Brought you a little silver, I brought you a little gold/Didn’t come to see you hangin’ by that gallows pole.” ‘Get a Job’ has a doo-wop feel complete with ‘Sha-na-na-nah’ lyrics. It’s a tongue in cheek song about a nagging wife: “When I get the paper I read it through and through/And my girl never fails to say if there is any work for me/When I go back to the house I hear the woman’s mouth/Preachin’ and a cryin’, tell me that I’m lying about a job/That I never could find.” ‘Travel On’ is an upbeat country song that sounds a bit like ‘Do Lord’. It finds Young in love: “Wanna see my honey, Wanna see her bad, wanna see her bad/Yeah, wanna see her bad/I wanna see my honey, wanna see her bad/She’s the best girl this old boy ever had/I’ve laid around and played around this old town too long/Summer’s almost gone, yeah winter’s come and gone/Laid around and played around this old town too long/And I feel like I gotta travel on.”

‘High Flyin’ Bird’ has a classic rock sound. It is either morbid or full of hope depending on your interpretation: “Well, I once knew a man/He worked in a mine/Well, he never saw the sun/But then he never stopped tryin’/And then one day that old man he upped and he died/Yeah, he up and he died (2X)/Well he wanted to fly and the only way to fly was to die/Lord, I’m goin’ to die (2X).” Next up, is a rocked up version of a song I would sing to my kids while pushing them on the swings at the park. ‘Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain)’ is heavily electric guitar driven and uses gang vocals in a nice fashion. Included here is a gruesome verse: “We’ll kill the big red rooster when she comes/We’re gonna kill the big red rooster when she comes/We’ll kill the big red rooster, we’ll kill the big red rooster, kill the big red rooster/When she comes.” Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics to ‘This Land is Your Land’ back in 1940. Here, it has a happy old country/folk sing-a-long feel to it: “As I went walkin’/I saw a sign there/And on the sign it said ‘No trespassin’/But on the other side, it didn’t say nothin’/That side was made for you and me.” Pegi Young, Stephen Stills, and an Americana Choir help out on vocals on this one.

‘Wayfarin’ Stranger’ is mellow and is about a man with singleness of mind on a spiritual journey: “I am a poor wayfarin’ stranger/While travelin’ through this world of woe/Yet there’s no sickness, toil, or danger/In that bright world to which I go/I’m goin’ there to see my Father/I’m goin’ there no more to roam/I’m only goin’ over Jordan/I’m only goin’ over Home.” ‘God Save the Queen’ is covered in a manner suitable for a Broadway musical. On it, Neil strikes another spiritual chord: “O Lord and God arise/Scatter the evil lies/And make them fall/Confound their politics, frustrate their empty tricks/On Thee our hopes we fix/God save the Queen.” The song and the album end with the words “Let Freedom Ring”. This seems appropriate.

AMERICANA is for fans of traditional American historical songs. Long-time fans of Neil Young and his experimentation with various musical styles, but leaning towards rock, should enjoy this one. Those who appreciate the seasoned, mature artistry of folks like Larry Norman, Willie Nelson, and Randy Stonehill will appreciate AMERICANA. This is a unique album that covers a lot of ground in a way that will hold your attention and overall make you appreciate music more. This album is, in reality, timeless. I’m rating it 87%. For more info visit

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Jeremy Camp was born on January 12, 1978 in Lafayette, Indiana. His first wife Melissa died of ovarian cancer in 2001 just months after they were married. In December 2003 he married Adrienne Liesching who was the frontwoman for The Benjamin Gate. The couple has three children. Over the years Jeremy’s hits have included ‘I Still Believe’, ‘This Man’, ‘There Will Be A Day’, and ‘Jesus Saves.’ This March he released a greatest hits album which included 15 Number Ones. His latest project is CHRISTMAS: GOD WITH US (2012, BEC Recordings). Of it, he says: “I wanted to pick songs that I listened to growing up, and make them my own. I also selected Christmas carols that I thought would be a good fit and everyone could enjoy this season and for years to come!”

First up is a playful, upbeat version of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ that makes good use of church bells. The song was first released by Bobby Helms in 1957. Witness these lyrics: “What a bright time, it’s the right time/To rock the night away/Jingle bell time is a swell time/To go gliding in a one-horse sleigh/Oh, giddy-up jingle horse, pick up your feet/Jingle around the clock/Mix and mingle in the jingling feet/That’s the jingle bell (2X)/That’s the jingle bell rock.” ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ has a rock feel to it here. The song first appeared in 1739 in the collection ‘Hymns and Sacred Poems’ and was written by Charles Wesley. It declares the Good News: “Joyful, all ye nations rise/Join the triumph of the skies/With angelic hosts proclaim/Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Later, it continues: “Mild He lays His glory by/Born that man no more may die/Born to raise the sons of earth/Born to give them second birth.”

‘Joy to the World’ is, well, appropriately joyful. Jeremy adds some Scripturally based words: “Hallelujah (3X)/Christ is born/Hallelujah (3X)/Christ is born/For unto us a child is born/Unto us a Son is given/And He will be called/Wonderful Counselor/The Mighty God/The everlasting Father/The Prince of Peace, yeah/And the weight of the world is on His shoulders/And His kingdom will never end.” ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ has a bit of a thump to it, accented by jingle bells chiming. The original words are by Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), an Episcopal priest. His organist Lewis Redner added the music. Jeremy Camp shares: “This song is such a great description of the gift God gave us through the birth of Jesus Christ.” Here are some of the well-known lyrics: “O holy Child of Bethlehem/Descend to us we pray/Cast down our sin and enter in, be born in us today/We hear the Christmas angels/The great glad tidings tell/O come to us, abide with us/Our Lord, Emmanuel.”

‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is perhaps a little too subdued musically. It contains these words of well-wishes that unfortunately don’t always come true for those who are grieving during the holiday season: “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 Yule-tide gay/From now on/Our troubles will be miles away.” Next up is a happy, danceable version of ‘Let it Snow’. It includes these romantic words: “When we finally kiss goodnight/How I’ll hate going out in the storm!/But if you’ll really hold me tight/All the way home I’ll be warm/Oh, the fire is slowly dying,/And my dear, we’re still good-bying/As long as you love me so/Let it snow! (3X)

A terrific cover of ‘Mary Did You Know’ follows. It was penned by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene. Lowry wrote the words in 1984 when a pastor asked him to write the program for a living Christmas tree presentation. The song begins with these deeply thought provoking questions: “Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?/Mary, did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?/Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?/This child that you deliver will soon deliver you.” The title track ‘God With Us’ was penned by the album’s three producers, they being, Jeremy Camp, Brown Bannister, and Ben Shive. Of the song, Jeremy says: “It was amazing to think that our King actually came down to this earth and walked among us as human flesh. The lyrics came out as an expression of what I was thinking at that moment: Emmanuel, our humble King/We give You our hearts as an offering/You laid down Your crown and became as dust/Emmanuel, God with us.” The song is a pretty ballad that makes good use of strings.

‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ includes these words of tremendous hope: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/Shall come to thee, O Israel.” The album ends with a clever arrangement of ‘Away in a Manger’. This children’s fave reminds us we can have a deeply personal relationship with Jesus: “I love Thee, Lord Jesus/Look down from the sky/And stay by my side/Til morning is nigh/Be near me Lord (5X)/Be near me Lord Jesus/I ask Thee to stay/Close by me forever/And love me I pray/Bless all the dear children/In Thy tender care/And take us to heaven/To live with You there/We’ll be with You Lord Jesus/We’ll be with You.”

CHRISTMAS: GOD WITH US has a beautiful, scenic front cover and comes with a couple nice pictures of Jeremy. The contemporary arrangements of the classics presented here, along with the slight lyrical additions here and there should please his fans. His voice is in fine form. I would have liked to see more than one original song however. I recommend this CD to fans of adult rock artists such as Creed, Chris Tomlin, Kutless, and Bruce Springsteen. I’m rating CHRISTMAS: GOD WITH US 84%. For more info visit: and

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


Cheri Keaggy began as a worship leader at a small church in Southern California. She was discovered by industry veteran Charlie Peacock. He has production credits on her wonderful first two albums CHILD OF THE FATHER (1994) and MY FAITH WILL STAY (1996). The former garnered Cheri a Dove Award nomination for New Artist of the Year. Her bio states: “Often with her Bible and journal close at hand, Cheri takes a teachable approach to life, looking for the lesson in every experience. ‘If God can use our challenges and heartaches to build character that makes us more effective for the Kingdom, then that’s what I want. He can use me however He sees fit.’” Cheri’s latest album SO I CAN TELL (2012) was largely influenced by the end of her nearly twenty-three year long marriage to her high school sweetheart. She shares: “I feel like God has given me some gold and now is the season of pouring out everything He’s poured into me.”

Cheri’s eighth release and first new CD in five years begins with an inspirational ballad that starts with these words that speak of sharing God’s goodness with others: “I was shown grace/So I will be gracious/I was shown mercy/So I will be merciful and kind/I have been loved/To be lovely, yes, but that I might love well/I have heard the Truth so I can tell.” It’s a great title track! Revelation 21:4 says: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” ‘There Will Be One Day’ is a song that builds in momentum and makes good use of a Holy Ghost Choir. The song looks forward to a blissful eternity in heaven: “Oh, God of Love what love we’ve known/Mercy keeps falling from Your Throne/Still we are waiting for that trumpet blow/When You will come to call us home…/There will be peace just like a river/Joy like we’ve never known/We all will be delivered when we get Home.”

Of ‘When You Were Jesus to Me’, Cheri writes: “For Sara and Joan Del, two special women who prayed, mentored, and held me up.” It begins with these blatantly honest words of one in despair, ultimately divinely encouraged by a fellow pilgrim: “I made it to church/Though just barely there/When the music began it was all I could do/To sit slumped in my chair/How can I worship/In all of this grief?/You said ‘Friend, you don’t have to’/And then you said ‘it’s O. K. just to receive’/You led the way to belief/When you were Jesus to me.” Isaiah 43:19 reads: “Behold, I will do a new thing,/Now it shall spring forth;/Shall you not know it?/I will even make a road in the wilderness/And rivers in the desert.” ‘Starting a New Year Today’ was written on the one year anniversary of her divorce. It includes these refreshingly vulnerable lyrics: “Staring at a clean page/Putting thoughts down on paper the usual way/I may not know where this might lead/But Your Word is the lamplight in front of me/Here’s where I pray a lot/Thankful for all I’ve got/Doing the best that I can/I reach for Your Hand.”

‘Air, Food, and Water’ is an upbeat ukulele based number. Cheri writes: “Inspired by Pastor Michael Easley’s sermon on the three things we need to survive. Proof God CAN turn mourning into dancing.” These words find her victorious: “I’m praising God in the valley/And lighting candles at night/And if you ask me how I’m surviving/I have all that I need/He’s been so good to me/If you’re not sure you can trust Him girl/Then come talk to me.” ‘Hello, God’ is a nice song that has Cheri putting her total confidence in her heavenly Father: “For there’s nothing/Nothing You cannot do/There is no one/No one You can’t put together again/That’s just what You’ll do/And there’s nowhere/Nowhere You can’t get to/And there’s no one/No one You can’t pull through/If we’ll only let You.”

Philippians 1:21 says: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In the poetic song ‘To Live is Christ’, Cheri petitions her Lord: “Lord, clean slate me, make me new/Wake me, shake me, even bait me/Consecrate me just for You/Know me, judge me, reign above me/Covenant Love me like You do.” In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” ‘Come to Me’ is a particularly strong song that finds God calling out to the heavy hearted: “If you’re scraping by, but just can’t get ahead/Always more month/At the end of the money/When you’re running out of options/Can’t see how, don’t know when it’ll end/Come to Me/When you’re weary and you’re burdened/Come to Me/When your future seems uncertain/Come to me/Before they pull the final curtain/Come to Me/And I will give you rest.”

‘Bind Me to You’ features these words where Cheri cries out to the Lord: “Loving and Faithful are You, my Lord/Covenant Keeper/Love’s True Reward/Knight in Shining Armor/Prince of Peace/Stay with me now, my Lord/Quiet me with Your Love/My True Companion to have and to hold/Will all Your warmth to me, conquer this cold/Stay with me now, my Lord (2X).” ‘Romans 15:13 (Benediction Song)’ follows. A benediction, according to Wikipedia, is “a short invocation for divine help, blessing, and guidance, usually at the end of a worship service.” The song here is very pretty and contains these words of encouragement: “May the God of hope/Fill you with all joy and peace/As you trust in Him/So that you may know and overflow/With hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The album ends with ‘Postlude: Invitation to Hope.’ It is a beautiful instrumental continuation of the previous song, and features the talented acoustic guitar playing of Phil Keaggy.

In the liner notes Cheri writes: “This is more than just another album to me. It is a testimony of how God can bring beauty from ashes as we walk in Him.” Her bio calls her a modern day Psalmist and describes her music as accessible folk-pop. On this project Cheri has really reinvented herself as an artist. The album is full of emotion. You can hear country tones in her voice. People who enjoy Cindy Morgan’s HYMNS AND SPRITUALS and Clay Crosse’s EVERYTIME I FEEL THE SPIRIT will enjoy this effort. I’m rating SO I CAN TELL 86.5%. Fans of Patty Griffin, Dolly Parton and Laura Story should also check this one out. The producers are Scott Dente from Out of the Grey, and Ken Lewis. Cheri is also available to speak on topics such as ‘Overcoming the Pain of Divorce’, ‘Biblical Foundations for Worship’, and ‘Learning How to Forgive’. For more info visit

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I first became familiar with David Teems when he was the guitarist who accompanied John Schlitt of Petra a few years back when he played a solo show in Cambridge, Ontario, promoting his cd ‘The Grafting’. David Teems lives with wife Benita in Franklin, Tennessee. He earned his B. A. in Psychology at Georgia State University. He is the author of such books as ‘Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible’ (2010) and ‘Discovering Your Spiritual Center’ (2011). I just finished reading his latest book. A press release says: “In an extensive new biography ‘Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice’, author David Teems brings a spotlight to one of the most invisible heroes of the Christian faith for it’s not an exaggeration to say that William Tyndale’s brave life has impacted everyone who has ever picked up an English language Bible.”

William Tyndale was born circa 1494 in Gloucestershire, near the border of Wales. In 1526 he completed his first edition of his New Testament at Worms, Germany. He is also responsible for writing such great pieces as ‘The Parable of the Wicked Mammon’, ‘The Obedience of a Christian Man’, and ‘Practice of Prelates’. In 1534 he published his revised New Testament. On October 6, 1536 he was strangled and burned. Why? He was considered to be a heretic. His translating of the Scriptures into everyday English was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, who preferred Latin, which the common man could not understand. Tyndale gave us phrases such as: ‘I am the Light of the world’, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, ‘God is love’, ‘A thief in the night’, and ‘Death, where is thy sting?’ He gave us words such as: busybody, broken-hearted, castaway, and scapegoat. “Renowned literary critic and author Harold Bloom once said that William Tyndale is the ‘only true rival of Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Walt Whitman as the richest author in the English language.’” Tyndale’s views on penance, purgatory, the pope, and transubstantiation also were seen as a threat to the Church of the day and those in power.

Reading this book will give you a good understanding not only of who Tyndale was and what great faith drove him, but will enlighten you in regards to other historical figures such as Cardinal Wolsey, John Stokesley (bishop of London), Erasmus, Luther, King Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More, and Tyndale’s ultimate betrayer Henry Phillips.

Today we take it forgranted that we have the Bible in our common language via numerous translations and paraphrases. But this was not always so, and it came at a very great price. Many gave their very lives for their faith and the truth of God’s word being made available to all. Tyndale also took a lot of flack for his belief in justification by faith.

My only criticism of this book is that Teems jumps forwards and backwards in time here and there, which can be somewhat confusing. Other than that, he is a great writer, with good use of quotations, facts, opinions and a subtle sense of humour. This is a must read for the modern day Christian and historian. It will give you a greater appreciation for Scripture and the English language, and will help you understand what true persecution is. For more info visit or I'm rating TYNDALE: THE MAN WHO GAVE GOD AN ENGLISH VOICE 84%.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I find this to be a facinating topic. In my past occupations I have been a beach gate attendant at a provincial park, a travel counselor, a cashier, a golf clubhouse attendant, and a factory line worker. For those not in the know, I am currently not working, due to longterm mental illness. My diagnoses include: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, elements of obsessive compulsive disorder, and a phobia.

Unfortunately many in our society, Christian and non, still believe that if you are a REAL man, you will be the breadwinner, and not just on a pension. They might not come right out and say it, but that's what many of them are thinking. When I was living with my wife and children, and even now as I live alone, people still say well, if you were working you'd feel better about yourself, somehow more complete. Other people seem to be more concerned that I do not have a paying job, than I am. Funny thing is, if a woman is at home looking after kids or not, it is okay. Can you say sexism? I would like to make a few points for your consideration.

1. Having a paying job outside the home does not make you more valuable of a member of society or of your family. I know people who seem to make a habit of telling me how hard they worked that day or week, and how much money they made/make. One day I was at the park with my kids and I saw a former co-worker and I asked him how he was doing. He came back with, "I", emphasis on the "I", worked all day, I'm tired. The insinuation was that I was not really working because I was only involved in child care. Some people's ego rides on the fact that they have a job or a better job than you.

2 Another common thing I get, sometimes not in word, but just in how people treat me is, well Dave you can go out for coffee with a friend, or Dave you can go to the library and write music reviews, but you're telling me you can't work? Something just doesn't add up. The insinuation is that I am damn well faking it and could be working some. I have been guilty of this line of thinking towards other people as well.

3. There is a world of difference between me or someone else with mental illness doing something fun and holding down a job, a responsibility. If someone had a physical illness that prevented them from working, would you make them feel guilty about getting together with a friend for a couple hours or having a bit of fun. Would you expect them to be confined to their house, laying in their bed 24/7.

4. Before you make assumptions that I or anyone else with mental illnesses is faking it or being lazy and living off the government just cause they can, get to know the facts about mental illness. Do you truly know what it's like to live with severe panic attacks, phobias, anxieties, depression etc. If you don't I am available to talk with you. Call or message me anytime and I will tell you what it's like to be sitting in my living room watching tv and feel like I am being choked or could pass out due to an anxiety attack.

5. Listen folks, do you know how little money one lives on when they are on a disability pension? Do you not think I'd like to have more money? If I were at the point I could be working I would. If I ever enter the workplace again, it will only be through a lot of hard work, and people praying. If that time does not come for me, I refuse to believe I am of less value than you just cuz I don't have a paying job.

6. Another zinger is when people come to me and say things like: "Well, if you only had more faith and really wanted to be freed of your mental illnesses, then God would heal you. Healing is available for you." Unfortunately, Christians do that with people who have cancer and other physical ailments as well. It shows a complete and utter ignorance in my opinion. Yes, God does choose to 100% heal some folks on this earth, but others don't have that luxury for reasons only God knows.

7. My point is, if you know someone who has mental illness and you just don't understand them, and think they are kind of using it as an excuse not to work or do other things, get to know that person better. Learn to walk in their shoes.

8. Christians place so much authority on the Bible and its standards of perfection, that they don't allow for psychological issues people may have that predispose them to have certain compulsions, addictions, etc. Christians oft are not willing to extend grace and mercy, but point one big finger to the Word of God.

9. One final point. Many friends and family are so uncomfortable discussing mental illness, they show zero concern for the one suffering. It is like if one is mentally ill, they are akin to a leper. In other words, avoid the topic like the plague. This has dire consequences for both parties. Lack of understanding will prevail.

My cell is 519 375 5222.


Friday, October 05, 2012


“THE STORY is a collaborative movement by some of today’s most influential songwriters, artists, authors, directors, labels and publishers from around the world. The foundation for THE STORY began with Randy Frazee and Max Lucado in partnership with Zondervan to encourage all of us to rediscover Scripture like never before.” Sixteen of the eighteen songs on MUSIC INSPIRED BY THE STORY (2011, EMI Christian Music Group) have lyrics written by Nichole Nordeman, and music composed and arranged by Bernie Herms. Of the Bible characters these songs are about, the liner notes say: “We long to connect the current ‘us’ with the ancient ‘them’ in a more authentic way…It was their humanity that drew us deeper into these songs; not because they had a great story, but because a great God wrote them into His.” Bernie Herms and Brown Bannister produce and Norman Miller executive produces.

Disc One is labeled ‘Old Testament’ and runs 54:09. Genesis 1:31 reads: “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” ‘I AM (Creation) Overture’ starts things off. It is a pleasant orchestral arrangement by Bernie Herms. ‘Good (Adam and Eve)’ is a pulsating light rock number sung by Matthew West and Leigh Nash. Nash is lead vocalist for Sixpence None the Richer, famous for hits such as ‘Kiss Me’ and ‘There She Goes’. The song here begins with these words coming from the vantage point of Adam: “If I could/I’d rewrite history/I’d choose differently/If I could, I would/I’d leave out the part/Where I broke Your heart/In the garden’s shade/Fix the mess I made/If I could I would.” ‘Who But You (Abraham and Sarah)’ is a nice duet by Mark Hall and Megan Garrett from Casting Crowns and features a violin solo by Perry Montague-Mason. The song is heavier than most Casting Crowns fare and begins with these reflections of Abraham: “Too little too late/His time has come and gone/Is that what they say when I walk by?/I’ve got a little more grey/My steps are slow and long/And the promise You’ve made fades in the moonlight/I see a star/You see the Milky Way/I see one man counting sand/But You see generations.”

‘Bend (Joseph)’ is delivered by Brandon Heath who is a favourite of Carrie Underwood and won Male Vocalist of the Year at the 2010 Dove Awards. Luke Brown is on background vocals on this song that tells of the potential Joseph has when he walks in God’s will: “I am not my family tree/I have branches of my own…/Oh, does fate resign us to/Find shelter for our wounds/Beneath the battered roof of broken dreams?/Oh, but I will choose to stand/In the shadow of Your hand/And see what grows when Grace has sown the seed/Oh, oh, oh/These are different leaves you know.” Exodus 4:10 says: “And Moses said unto the Lord, ‘O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue’”. ‘It Must Be You (Moses)’ by Bart Millard of MercyMe is a great pop song that reveals a total reliance on God: “If there’s anything good/Anything that’s good in me/Well, it must be You/Must be You/And if there’s any part of my shaking heart/To see this journey through/It must by You.” ‘Bring us Home (Joshua)’ is performed by Michael Tait (Newsboys), Blanca Callahan (Group 1 Crew) and hip hop artist Lecrae who helps Nordeman with the lyrics on this one. I had high hopes for this song musically, but it’s just okay. It does however declare a single-minded devotion to God: “Every turn is a new temptation/You want to bow down to something new/As for me and my generation we’ll serve/No one but You/Yahweh, oh Yahweh/Bring us a new day.”

Ruth says to her mother-in-law Naomi in Ruth 1:16: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay/Your people will be my people and your God my God.” ‘I’m With You (Ruth and Naomi)’ is a lovely duet between Nichole Nordeman and Christian music pioneer Amy Grant. Adam Lester plays guitars. I love these wonderfully descriptive words from the song: “Now I’m on my hands and knees/Trying to gather up my dreams/Trying to hold on to anything/And we could shake a fist in times like this/When we don’t understand/Or we could just hold hands.” ‘Your Heart (David)’ is presented by the highly acclaimed Chris Tomlin. Tomlin was born in 1972 and is responsible for such songs as ‘Jesus Messiah’ and ‘How Great is our God’. His contribution here is delivered with passion and proves that he has talent far beyond being a respected worship artist. The lyrics he sings contain a request all Christians should pray with sincerity. “At the end of the day, I wanna hear people say/My heart looks like Your heart (2X)/When the world looks at me, let them agree/That my heart looks like Your heart, my heart looks like Your heart.” ‘No Compromise (Daniel)’ by Peter Furler is a mediocre rocker, not as good as most of his Newsboys-era songs. Dan Needham plays drums. The song starts with these words of confidence: “Throw me in the ring/Toss me to the flames/No one but my King/Walks me out unscathed/Feed me to the lions/Throw away the key/How will they deny/Who delivers me?/How could I love another?”

‘Born for This (Esther)’ is sung by Mandisa. She finished ninth on the fifth season of American Idol. This is a good pop/dance song with a catchy chorus and a cello solo by Anthony LaMarchina. These great lyrics speak of putting one’s faith into action: “There’s a time to hold your tongue/Time to keep your head down/There’s a time but it’s not now/Sometimes you gotta go, uninvited/Sometimes you gotta speak when you don’t have the floor/Sometimes you gotta move, when everybody else says you should stay/No way, no, not today…Sometimes you gotta stand apart from the crowd/Long before your heart could run the risk/You were born for this.” ‘Broken Praise (Job)’ by Todd Smith of Selah is a forgettable song until the latter part of it musically. It does though have a good message. Witness these lyrics that come from a place of deep spiritual maturity that few of us may attain: “But You were the One who filled my cup/And You were the One who let it spill/So blessed be Your holy Name if You never fill it up again/If this is where my story ends, just give me one more breath to say ‘Hallelujah’”.

Disc Two is labeled ‘New Testament’ and runs 40:03. It is likely the better of the two discs, but both are good. Luke 1:38 reads: “’I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.” ‘Be Born in Me (Mary)’ is a beautiful ballad by Francesca Battistelli, the 2010 and 2011 Female Vocalist of the Year at the Dove Awards. It should be a staple on Christian radio at Christmas. These words imagine Mary’s inner struggle when she realized she would be carrying God’s Son: “If God is pleased with me, why am I so terrified?/Someone tell me I am only dreaming/Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes/And before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees/Holy is He/Blessed am I.” ‘When Love Sees You (Jesus)’ is a terrific ballad by Mac Powell from Third Day. It presents Jesus in a loving, compassionate, merciful light: “I see My Father’s fingerprints/I see your story, I see My Name/Written on every beautiful page/You see the struggle/You see the shame/I see the reason I came/I came for your wounds/To show you what Love sees when I see you.” ‘How Love Wins (Thief)’ is a vocal masterpiece by Steven Curtis Chapman. It is a good song for Easter Friday. It gets inside the head of the repentant thief at Calvary: “Only one of us deserves this cross/A suffering that should belong to me/And deep within this man I hang beside/Is the place where shame and grace collide/And it’s beautiful agony/That He believes it’s not too late for me.” ‘Alive (Mary Magdalene)’ finds Natalie Grant in familiar inspirational territory. It is the song of one who is thankful: “What kind of Love/Is writing my story/Til the end/With Mercy’s pen?/Only You/What kind of King/Would choose to wear a crown that bleeds and scars/To win my heart?” Tony Lucido plays bass. ‘Empty (Disciples)’ is a real treat, a duet between Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay) and Matt Hammitt (Sanctus Real). It captures the possible train of thought of Jesus’ followers post-crucifixion and pre-Pentecost: “Now we’re huddled up here, trying to swallow our fear/We still smell the bread and wine, hear Your words running through our minds/Holding our breath now, for what comes next now/Holding out for some kind of sign.” On ‘Move in Me (Paul)’ Jeremy Camp does a good job in country territory, similar to Russ Taff. Gabe Scott plays dobro. The song finds Paul sharing his conversion story: “The man I buried/Had a heart of stone/Left him there in the bright light/Out on a dirt road/The day You saved me/From shadow and shame/Old things gone, got a new song/Got a new name.” Matthew 25:31 says: “The Son of Man will come again in His great glory, with all His angels. He will be King and sit on His great throne.” ‘The Great Day (Second Coming)’ is a duet between Michael W. Smith and Darlene Zschech, both musical heavyweights in their own right. This song has a great prologue and orchestral arrangement by Carl Marsh, as well as a choir that is led by Chance Scoggins. The song tries to capture the essence of the Glorious Event yet to come: “Rescued by hands bleeding grace/Are we ready to see His face?/On the great day/He will come to claim us with a rushing wind/Blown like fields of wheat, the world will bow and bend/Held between our joy and disbelief/Every trembling heart will finally face the same way/On the great day.”

In the liner notes for this double CD, Nichole Nordeman and Bernie Herms write: “It is our deep hope that as you experience The Story, you might have a new encounter with these iconic men and women who still have much to teach us from the living, breathing pages of Scripture. And perhaps, an arresting encounter as well, with the Author of their stories and ours. He is, after all, still writing…” MUSIC INSPIRED BY THE STORY fully accomplishes its purpose. It will reinvigorate your faith in God’s goodness and love towards you. It will refresh your faith and walk with God. It will draw you closer to the One who made you if you let it! I recommend this two-disc CD to fans of Christian pop and adult contemporary music, as well as to those exploring the heart of Christianity. I’m rating MUSIC INSPIRED BY THE STORY 90%. It’s a great listen! For more info visit and Be sure to check out Nichole Nordeman’s book LOVE STORY as well. It’s a good companion to this project.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Karyn Williams is the oldest daughter of Orlando Magic Senior Vice President and founder Pat Williams. Karyn’s folks had five kids of their own and adopted fourteen from countries such as Brazil and the Philippines. Karyn relocated from Orlando to Nashville in 2007. She prayed: “Lord I promise to walk through every door that You open no matter what.” Her 2012 label debut for Inpop Records is ONLY YOU. In the liner notes she writes: “First and foremost, I want to give every bit of honor and praise to You Jesus for paving the way to make this record. My passion and goal in life is very simple-to point people to You. Thank You for allowing me to do that through these songs. I pray that every lyric I write, every song that I sing and every move that I make is acceptable in your sight.” Karyn was featured in Billboard magazine as one of the ‘Best Bets’ of 2012.

A nice pop song, ‘Call’, starts things off. The writers are her now husband Brian White, and CCM artist Ben Glover, who is best known to many for his song ’26 Letters’. ‘Call’ tells of God’s faithfulness: “To your lowest lows, to your highest highs/There’s nowhere you can go that He won’t find you/So just lay yourself down at His feet/Just open up your heart and let Him save you/Call, call, just call on Him (2X)/When your faith is broken and you’re on your knees again/When your hope is stolen and you just can’t find a friend/Call, call and He’ll come runnin’ (2X).” ‘Every Good Thing’ has a bit of a groove to it and has a similarity when it comes to vocal delivery, to Tammy Trent. It is a song of testimony: “You’re every bit of hope in the middle of a desperate prayer/When what I need is sweet release Lord, You take me there/And when the world is pressing down on me/You shake the ground and move my feet to a new place/And I feel so free.” ‘Rest in the Hope’ is the beautiful lead single inspired by her Dad’s fight with cancer: “You are the truth that never changes/You are the love that came to save us, I am Yours/Even through all my fear and sorrow/Facing a new unknown tomorrow I am sure/That I’m gonna rest in the hope that I’m Yours.” Her Dad is now in remission.

‘Just May Be’ finds Tim Lauer on piano and Matt Pierson on bass. I could hear Point of Grace or Avalon performing it. It is about adoption and is a call to action: “You just may be/The answer to a prayer, the one to meet a need/And you just may be the only heaven some will ever see/Oh the one who leads them to believe/The only heaven some will see, you just may be.” ‘Banner’ is a bouncy pop number, that is one of three on this project penned by Sarah Hart and Karyn Williams. The song speaks of how evil calls our name, trying to destroy us, but God relentlessly pursues us: “I wander all the time, I lose my place in line/Do You look down and wonder how I get so lost?/All the world’s a feast, yeah it’s so tempting/Maybe so but that’s what Your light is for/It’s finding me, I love the way it’s finding me.” One of the writers on ‘Waiting in the Rain’ is veteran CCM artist Chris Eaton. The song finds Blair Masters on piano and also uses strings, violins, viola, and cello. This ballad contains lyrics all of us can relate to at some point in our lives: “It’s all that I can do to get through one more night/If only I could feel Your arms holding me so tight/I’d be alright/You know I’m only human, made of flesh and bone/My heart is so afraid, have I been left here all alone?”

‘Hey There’ paints a picture of a person in a very vulnerable state: “Everyday it seems you’re lost in the mirror/There’s no reflection anymore, it’s disappeared/Does anybody ever think about who you are or what you’ve done?/Does the sun seem to fade as it’s going/Another day is gone without ever knowing/That the life you live means anything/To anyone?” Matthew 19:26 says: “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” ‘Possible’ is a danceable, techno type song that offers hope to us all: “Every dream, every plan is possible, possible/When it’s in bigger hands it’s unstoppable, stoppable/I’m living with a confidence/No matter what I’m up against/There is One who makes it all make sense/And with Him everything is possible.” ‘Enough for Me’ is a prayer for single-minded spiritual devotion: “You, all I need is You, Jesus/Let it be just You/Be enough for me/Take my heart Lord make it Yours/Know my thoughts, steal away my soul/Take my heart like only You could/Oh Lord.”

‘This is Freedom’ is one of the strongest tracks and is poetic praise for what Christ accomplished for us at Calvary: “Now these shackles that have held me down/Are unleashed by thorn and crown/Sweet forgiveness pouring from Your brow/Your life for mine, no greater love/And this is freedom, this is freedom/This is freedom, nailed to a tree/And this is freedom, oh blessed freedom/This is freedom, You died for me.” Jason Webb plays piano. Interestingly, the title track is last. ‘Only You’ conveys a desire to see the Lord clearly: “Standing at a crossroad in the dead of night/Waiting for the dark to fade into the light/Until there’s only You/’Til there’s only You.”

Karyn Williams’ musical influences growing up included Sandi Patty, Steven Curtis Chapman, the Judds, and Faith Hill. Karyn has a beautiful voice rich in tone, and she has a lot of good things to say. ONLY YOU is a promising label debut! She should have a promising career and ministry in Contemporary Christian Music. This album will leave you feeling ministered to and encouraged. She writes in the liner notes: “In the end there’s only one thing that matters-whether or not we knew and served Jesus Christ. I pray that we never lose sight of that. Dare to live!!!” I recommend ONLY YOU to fans of Kari Jobe, Cindy Morgan, and Carrie Underwood. I’m rating it 85%. For more info visit and

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey. He was raised Roman Catholic. His first album was 1973’s GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N. J. He became one of my early rock star heroes with the release of 1984’s BORN IN THE U.S.A. The album cover was Annie Leibovitz’s photo of his jean covered backside, with him facing an American flag. Songs included ‘I’m On Fire’, ‘Glory Days’, and ‘Dancing in the Dark’. I also enjoy his 2009 album WORKING ON A DREAM which includes ‘Outlaw Pete’, ‘My Lucky Day’, and ‘This Life’. Before releasing his seventeenth studio album WRECKING BALL (2012, Columbia Records), Bruce was working on a gospel record. WRECKING BALL is his tenth Number one album in the U.S. tying him with Elvis Presley for third most Number one albums of all time behind the Beatles and Jay-Z. It was mainly recorded at Stone Hill Studio at Springsteen’s home studio at his Colts Neck, New Jersey farm house. Springsteen is credited for vocals, guitars, banjo, piano, organ, drums, percussion, and loops. Background vocalists include Patty Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell, and Lisa Lowell.

‘We Take Care of Our Own’ is one of thirty or forty songs he had penned for the gospel record. The song is upbeat and patriotic: “I been knocking on the door that holds the throne/I been looking for the map that leads me home/I been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone/The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone/We take care of our own (2X)/Wherever this flag’s flown/We take care of our own.” ‘Easy Money’ has a joyous sound to it with Steve Jordan on tambourine. It has playful lyrics that for some reason make me think of the Flintstones: “You put on your coat, I’ll put on my hat/You put out the dog, I’ll put out the cat/You put on your red dress, you’re looking real good honey/We’re going on the town now looking for easy money.” ‘Shackled and Drawn’ has Clif Norell on tuba and has a rootsy, gospel feel to it. It speaks of the large gap between labourers and bosses: “Gambling man rolls the dice, working man pays the bill/It’s still fat and easy up on banker’s hill/Up on banker’s hill the party’s going strong/Down here below we’re shackled and drawn.”

‘Jack of All Trades’ is a pretty ballad that speaks again of the wide divide between workers and bosses and yearns for a spiritual resolution: “The hurricane blows, brings a hard rain/When the blue sky breaks, it feels like the world’s gonna change/We’ll start caring for each other like Jesus said that we might/I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be alright/The banker man grows fat, the working man grows thin/It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again.” ‘Death to my Hometown’ has a parade marching band feel to it. It contains excerpts from Alan Lomax’s ‘The Last Words of Copernicus’. Springsteen admonishes his audience: “Now get yourself a song to sing and sing it ‘til you’re done/Yeah, sing it hard and sing it well/Send the robber barons straight to hell/The greedy thieves who came around/And ate the flesh of everything they found/Whose crimes have gone unpunished now/Who walk the streets as free men now.” ‘This Depression’ shows a vulnerable side of Bruce and has a darker feel to it: “Baby, I’ve been down but never this down/I’ve been lost but never this lost/This is my confession, I need your heart/In this depression, I need your heart.”

The title track, ‘Wrecking Ball’ is strong. It is about the 2010 demolition of Giants Stadium. It has a warm sound musically, but finds Bruce defiant: “I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago/Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers, I’ve seen champions come and go/So if you got the guts mister, yeah, if you got the balls/If you think it’s your time, then step to the line, and bring on your wrecking ball.” ‘You’ve Got It’ uses a horn section and is a well delivered song of passion: “Yeah, you can’t read it in a book, and you can’t even dream it/Honey, it ain’t got a name, you just know it when you see it/Baby you’ve got it, yeah, baby you’ve got it/Come on and give it to me.” ‘Rocky Ground’ uses excerpts from Alan Lomax’s ‘I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord’. It features the vocal singing and rapping talents of gospel singer Michelle Moore. It is a very creative song musically and speaks of a very real spiritual struggle: “You pray that hard times, hard times come no more/You try to sleep , you toss and turn, the bottom’s dropping out/Where you once had faith, now there’s only doubt/You pray for guidance, only silence now meets your prayers/The morning breaks, you awake but no one’s there/We’ve been travelling over rocky ground, rocky ground/There’s a new day coming.”

‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ was composed circa 1998/9. It features the Victorious Gospel Choir, and a great sax solo by late great E Street Band member Clarence Clemons. This almost seven minute long tune is celebratory and speaks of people travelling to their eternal home: “Well, this train carries saints and sinners/This train carries losers and winners/This train carries whores and gamblers/This train carries lost souls/I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted/This train, faith will be rewarded/This train, hear the steel wheels singing/This train, bells of freedom ringing.” ‘We are Alive’ has Max Weinberg on drums and makes use of the horn riff from Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’. The song gives voice to those who’ve passed on from this earth: “We are alive/And though our bodies lie alone here in the dark/Our souls and spirits rise/To carry the fire and light the spark/To fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart/To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart/We are alive.”

The special edition of the album includes two bonus tracks. ‘Swallowed up (In the Belly of a Whale)’ has Dan Shelly on bassoon and Mark Romatz on contra bassoon, and sounds haunting. One can’t help but think of Jonah when listening to it: “I fell asleep on a dark and starlit sea/With nothing but the cloak of God’s mercy over me/I come upon strange earth and a great black cave/I dreamt I awoke as if buried in my grave/We’ve been swallowed up (2X)/Disappeared from this world/We’ve been swallowed up.” ‘American Land’ has a Celtic feel to it. I picture highland dancing going on. Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band plays mandolin. The lyrics tell of the sad plight of many immigrants to the U.S.: “They come across the water a thousand miles from home/With nothing in their bellies but the fire down below/They died building the railroads, they worked to bones and skin/They died in the fields and factories, names scattered in the wind/They died to get here a hundred years ago, they’re still dying now/Their hands that built the country, we’re always trying to keep out.”

This record should be used as a tutorial for up and coming artists and as a refresher for some veteran artists on how to make a spectacular rock album. WRECKING BALL oozes with talent, guts, and heart. There is not one song you should skip over. This truly is the Boss at his best! We, his fans, have much to be thankful for! I’m rating it near perfection at 98%. For more info visit

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Robert Allen Zimmerman was born on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, but he is better known to the masses as Bob Dylan. His first studio album was self-titled and came out in 1962. For what it’s worth, my favourite Dylan albums are his three gospel records, SLOW TRAIN COMING (1979), SAVED (1980), and SHOT OF LOVE (1981), plus MTV UNPLUGGED (1995), TIME OUT OF MIND (1997), AND CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART (2009). His early songs such as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘The Times they are a-Changin’’ became anthems for the U.S. civil rights movement and anti-war movement. He’s been inspired by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Elvis Presley. Among the musical styles he has experimented with over the years are: folk, blues, country, gospel, rock and roll, swing, and jazz. In May of this year he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. His thirty-fifth studio album TEMPEST (Columbia Records) released on September 10, 2012 in the U.K. and on September 11, 2012 in the U.S.

A single from the record, ‘Duquesne Whistle’ was co-written with Robert Hunter, and starts things off with an instrumental bit that makes me think of a gal playing the piano in a saloon. It features these playful lyrics: “Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing/Blowing like it’s gon’ blow my blues away/You old rascal, I know exactly where you’re going/I’ll lead you there myself at the break of day/I wake up every morning with that woman in my bed/Everybody telling me, she’s gone to my head.” ‘Soon After Midnight’ is a terrific ballad that finds Dylan fairly optimistic: “I’m searching for phrases/To sing your praises/I need to tell someone/It’s soon after midnight/And my day has just begun…My heart is cheerful/It’s never fearful/I’ve been down on the killing floors/I’m in no great hurry/I’m not afraid of your fury/I’ve faced stronger walls than yours.” ‘Narrow Way’ is a rollicking country song where one finds themselves in a real pressure cooker: “This is hard country to stay alive in/Blades are everywhere and they’re breaking my skin/I’m armed to the hilt and I’m struggling hard/You won’t get out of here unscarred/It’s a long road, it’s a long and narrow way/If I can’t work up to you, you’ll surely have to work down to me someday.”

‘Long and Wasted Years’ is musically innovative. I have to wonder here if Dylan’s lyrics are autobiographical: “I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes/There are secrets in ‘em that I can’t disguise/Come back baby/If I hurt your feelings, I apologize…We cried on a cold and frosty morn/We cried because our souls were torn/So much for tears/So much for these long and wasted years.” ‘Pay in Blood’ according to one internet interpretation, draws from Ezekiel 3:9. In Ezekiel 3, the prophet is told by God to go to the house of Israel, a hard-headed people. God tells Ezekiel He’ll make him just as hard-headed. Ezekiel is made a watchman by God. He’s to warn the people of impending disaster. If they do not listen, the blood is on their own heads. If Ezekiel does not warn the people, the blood will be on his own head. Christ’s blood covers Bob, but he’s still trying to warn people of disaster to come. Here are some of the lyrics: “Low cards are what I’ve got/But I’ll play this hand whether I like it or not/I’m sworn to uphold the laws of God/You can put me out in front of a firing squad/I’ve been out and around with the rowdy men/Just like you, my handsome friend/My head’s so hard/Must be made of stone/I pay in blood but not my own.” ‘Scarlet Town’ is a weak, boring composition. It does, however, make a plea for racial equality and understanding: “If love is a sin, then beauty is a crime/All things are beautiful in their time/The black and the white, the yellow and the brown/It’s all right there in front of you in Scarlet Town.”

‘Early Roman Kings’ has a slow blues groove to it and contains these dark lyrics: “I was up on Black Mountain the day Detroit fell/They killed them all off and they sent them to hell/Ding-dong Daddy, you’re coming up short/Gon’ put you on trial in a Sicilian court/I’ve had my fun, I’ve had my flings/Gon’ shake ‘em on down like the early Roman kings.” ‘Tin Angel’ is sparse when it comes to instruments. It is a story song, over nine minutes long, that is based around a traditional folk song performed by Woody Guthrie, called ‘Gypsy Davy.’ In this song of Dylan’s a man confronts his lover right while she’s cheating on him: “She turned, she was startled with a look of surprise/With a hatred that could hit the skies/’You’re a reckless fool, I could see it in your eyes/To come this way was by no means wise’\’Get up, stand up, you greedy lipped wench/And cover your face or suffer the consequence/You are making my heart feel sick/Put your clothes back on, double quick.’” The tale ends tragically, with all three parties dead: “All three lovers together in a heap/Thrown into the grave, forever to sleep/Funeral torches blazed away/Through the towns and the villages all night and all day.”The title track, ‘Tempest’, is a gem of a song, one of Dylan’s best ever. It has an astonishing forty-five verses with no chorus and clocks in at 13:55! That’s even longer than a Hillsong hit! ‘Tempest’ is a musical film if you will, about the sinking of the RMS TITANIC, a British passenger liner in April 1912. The song is good to slow dance to. Here are select lyrics: “T’was the fourteenth day of April/Over the waves she rode/Sailing into tomorrow/To a golden age foretold…/Lights were holding steady/Gliding over the foam/All the lords and ladies/Heading for their eternal home…/The ship was going under/The universe had opened wide/The roll was called up yonder/The angels turned aside…/They battened down the hatches/But the hatches wouldn’t hold/They drowned upon the staircase/Of brass and polished gold…/When the Reaper’s task had ended/Sixteen hundred had gone to rest/The good, the bad, the rich, the poor/The loveliest and the best.” The album ends with ‘Roll on John’, a strong, fitting tribute to the late great John Lennon, who was shot to death by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980. Here are some of the lyrics: “Shine your light/Movin’ on/You burned so bright/Roll on, John…/I heard the news today, oh boy/They hauled your ship up on the shore/Now the city gone dark, there is no more joy/They tore the heart right out and cut him to the core.”

On TEMPEST Bob Dylan’s voice sounds more gravelly and ragged than I’ve ever heard from him before, if that’s even possible. There is no doubt that this effort is on the more somber, slower side overall musically. One of its weaknesses is that some of the tracks sound like Dylan is reciting poetry and that the background music is just an afterthought. That being said, there are enough solid songs here that only an artist of Dylan’s longevity could deliver as well as he does. I recommend TEMPEST to fans of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Louis Armstrong, and Phil Driscoll. I’m rating it 84%. For more info visit