Saturday, January 28, 2012


     Don Francisco has been writing and performing quality Christian songs such as 'Jehoshaphat' and 'Steeple Song' for decades.  Don's latest effort LET IT RIDE (2009, Crack O' Noon Music) continues his tradition of quality songs.
     The title track is the lead off track and features Mike Banta on organ.  It is a Gaither type sing-a-long song about laying down our burdens: "Let it ride on the promise/Of the One Who's always true/Let it ride on believin' that/He's going to see you through/Let it ride on the shoulders/Of the man Who died for you/Just roll it all on Him and then let it ride."  'The Desires of Your Heart' has an innocent feel to it, like early era Love Song.  Don calls it a song about good news.  Some of the lyrics are: "It's a narrow road, my friend/It's the way to trade your old heart in for one that never dies/Where fadin' hopes can live again and dreams can fin'lly fly/Delight yourself in the Lord/And He will give you the desires of your heart (2X)/The heart you'll get from Jesus is spotless and brand new/With the good stuff that was buried by the old one shinin' through/Forgotten seeds'll flourish where those livin' waters flow/In the gentle hands of Jesus all your life will start to grow."  Of 'The Goal is the Journey', Don writes: "The presence of Jesus is your final and unchangeable destination.  You can enjoy the trip when there's no doubt of that."  The lyrics elaborate on Don's thoughts: "Because of My vindication/You'll forget all the shame/And when I turn round your fortunes/You'll worship My Name/Stay away from the highway/From the crowds on the road/From the engines of labor/From the strain of the load/Turn aside to the footpath/To the way of the wise/Where the goal is the journey/Peace is the prize/The goal is the journey/Peace is the prize."
     'Freeze-Dried Life' includes bluesy guitar licks and minces no words when it comes to the dangers of religion: "The blind keep leadin' the blind/The sheep keep stumblin', fallin' down behind/Chewin' the crud that they're all bein' fed/Starin' at the backsides of each other's heads/Like a cheatin' lover who's deceived you and lied/Then calls you names 'cause you ain't satisfied/Well, if you stay and deny what you know to be true/Man, you deserve whatever happens to you."  "My Heart's Pastureland' includes touches of harmonica.  It was written for Don's cowboy friend who had just turned 60, and contains these down to earth lyrics: "In these hard rocky mountains I'll make my last stand/Somewhere in the sunset southwest of Cheyenne/The air in the Rockies right after the rain/Gives peace to my soul and erases my pain/The herd out before me and the reins in my hand/I'm in my blood's country and my heart's pastureland."  'Nehemiah's Song' is one of Don's epic biblical story songs and runs almost seven minutes long.  It is an absolutely wonderful song, featuring Mike Banta on electric guitar, that tells the Old Testament story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall after the Israelites had been in exile: "Now the wall we built was massive, seventeen feet wide and strong/Forty feet from top to bottom, and well over two miles long/Because the pow'r of God was magnifyin' everything we'd do-/The days from start to finish, they were only fifty-two/Then the priests and all the singers and musicians from their towns/They all came up to Jerusalem to make a loud and joyful sound/And two great choirs went marchin' four abreast upon that wall/Singin' songs of joy to the Lord of Hosts, givin' glory for it all."
     Don wrote: 'The Letter He Wrote' about a letter he once received from a minister: "The letter he wrote me was seething with hatred and rage/It's a wonder the handwriting didn't set fire to the page/Threatening slander, then ending by calling me names/If the devil himself sent that letter, it'd have been much the same/But I'm sorry to say that a minister put down those words/Reacting to hearing the Gospel that he'd never heard."  Don concludes: "All I can do is commit him to God and to prayer/That one day he'll find his way out to the light and the air."  'It Will Be Worth It' is about "being fed up with religious hypocrisy and its salesmen."  Don comes out swinging: "Don't try to get in my pockets/Or tell me how much I owe/Don't wanna hear that I'm guilty-I already know/I won't answer your survey/I sure won't give you my phone/I can't take more religion, I'd just as soon be alone/I swear that I've heard every con game that's come down the line/I've been fooled by a few, but I learned how to read all the signs."  'Without a Key' is a plea from Christ to the unsaved person: "Just let the One Who loves you in/I call your name to come and see/I'm still outside, without a key/Holding all you long to be/Until you open up to Me."
     'The Thinner the Veil' is a ballad which features 16 year old Sarah Holbrook on fiddle.  Don says she wouldn't take pay for her work.  The song includes these encouraging words: "For the temple that one day will crumble/It carries a fire that won't fail/And the flame I set burning forever/Shines brighter the thinner the veil/Because you have known Me and loved Me/I'll honor you all of your days/The angels are charged with your guarding/To keep you in all of your ways."  'While You Sleep' is a ballad that ends the album on the same theme it opened with-laying down one's burdens: "Cares and worries, joys and plans-/Time to leave them in His hands/Trust in Him upon your bed/On His promise rest your head/In His peace lie down and sleep/Through the night His watch He'll keep."
     LET IT RIDE is the definition of a masterful album.  It is quite thoughtful.  Fans of Will McFarlane, folk music, and old country, should give this album a listen.  I'm rating it 89%.  The harmony and background vocals by Don and his wife Wendy are well done.  For more info visit and  I look forward to Don's next project!

Friday, January 27, 2012


     You can really learn a lot about what an artist values by reading their 'Thank You's'.  In the liner notes for her new album IF IT LEADS ME BACK (2011, Reunion Records) Lindsay McCaul writes: "To my Pastor James MacDonald, thank you for boldly proclaiming the Word of God without apology and showing me what it looks like to be faithful servant.  To my entire Harvest family: I so treasure being a part of 'us.'  Your passion for Jesus is exemplary and inspiring...let's keep lifting up the Name above all names!"  She writes to her audience: "I pray that with every listen these songs lead you closer to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith."
     The album begins with the upbeat 'Say My Name' about how God helps us move forward in our lives: "I cradle the pain, regret that remains/I play it over and over differently/But it's over 'cause You said I am free/You say my name/And tell me I can walk away/From all my fears and yesterday."  'Ready' is one of three songs solely written by Lindsay.  It talks of how we try to earn favour with God: "You never asked me for perfection/And I'd never make it if I tried/But I kept searching for the chance to clear my name/For my foolish pride, with You waiting all the while."  'Come Rest' deals with the futility of our human efforts at pleasing God: "Seeking value in Your sight, but I was wrong/For all the labor I have done/Is but a candle to the sun/I can see that it would never measure up.../So I come to the water's edge/I rest in Your promises/That all You ever wanted was me here."
     'Take My Hand' is a ballad about when God allows us to go through trials: "Couldn't You see I was unprepared?/I'm not asking for reasons You hold or the safety of land/I just need You to take my hand."  'Face to Face' is a pleasant pop song that anticipates meeting the Lord: "Every morning sky brings a rising sun/And my anxious heart knows with every one/This could be the day You have promised me/Take me in Your arms for all eternity.../Every day in history soon will be rolled up like a scroll/In Your presence finally/I will stand before You healed and whole."  'You Never Change' written with Jason Ingram and Rusty Varenkamp, has a cheery sound to it and tells of the steadfast nature of God: "Sun and the rain, joy and the pain/Autumn, winter, spring and summer/In the heat of the day or the cool of the night/You're still the same/You're holding my hand wherever I am/You keep me here in wide-eyed wonder/And through it all, You will remain/You never change."  'Speak' is a soaring song that finds Lindsay crying out to the Lord for His presence and Word: "I waited at twilight for signs of relief/From an ache that arrested the day/But now sunset is gone and I'm still here alone/Yet in fierce desperation I'll stay/So visit me here in the shadows/Restore my sight/I'll linger as long as it takes/I will wait with all of my might/I'm crying out/Speak to me." 
     'Hold On To Me' is a quiet song that announces that it is in God Lindsay finds her security: "So sound the alarm of mercies untold/Wrap me in Your arms and never let me go.../You're the ground that doesn't shake/You're the branch that doesn't break/You're the light that never fades/And You're holding on/There's never been a time/You've ever left my side/Your love never dies/And You're holding on."  'Where Do You Go' written with Jason Ingram, and Marty Sampson of Hillsong fame, is a great song that uses a vocal echo.  The lyrics describe a spiritual experience we can all relate to: "So where do you go/When there's no voice from Heaven?/Where do you go/When all you have are questions?/Maybe the silence is His mercy/And there's beauty in His mystery/You should know you're not alone/Wherever you go."  Lindsay wrote 'Let Go' about struggling with an eating disorder herself and seeing a friend in college struggling with one as well.  It seeks the Lord for direction: "Cradle my hands, my knuckles so white/Open them up and say it's alright/Show me a plan, call it Your own/Make it a journey leading me home."  'If It Leads Me Back' closes the album and is written with one of her heroes, Cindy Morgan.  It is a lovely song that has Lindsay humbly singing: "I will face the storm/And surrender all I have/If that's what I have to do/If it leads me back to You/I would walk a thousand miles/And crawl if I have to/If that's what I have to do/If it leads me back to You." 
     IF IT LEADS ME BACK TO YOU chronicles one lady's faith walk with very meaningful lyrics.  Lindsay is a great, wholesome role model for young ladies!  Her voice has a husky, raspy quality to it.  Fans of Bethany Dillon, Colbie Caillat, and Mark Schultz are likely to enjoy this record which I'm rating 84.5%.  For more info visit: and

Saturday, January 21, 2012


     In the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music (2002) Mark Allan Powell writes the following regarding Don Francisco's conversion: "His life was turned around in 1974 when he says he heard the audible voice of God speak to him while he was meditating: 'Don, this is Jesus.  I love you.  Why do you keep running from me?'  Fifteen years later he would still relate the significance of this miraculous occurence: 'It was a voice as clear as if someone had been in the room with me.  In that instant, he showed me what He's really like and shattered all my religious preconceptions.  I'd found everything I'd been searching for."  In 1997 Francisco released HE'S ALIVE: COLLECTION VOL. 1.  It is re-recordings of some of his signature songs over the years.  It generously clocks in at just under an hour.  On it, Don is responsible for guitars, vocals, and midi programming, while Wendy nicely handles background vocals, cover photos and design.  Wendy is Don's wife and some will remember her from the 1980's duo Wendy and Mary.
     The CD begins with 'As It Was So It Shall Be.'  It is over seven minutes long and speaks of the glorious origins of the human race: "Then in glory unimaginable the Lord Himself is here/He kneels, and there beneath His hands, a man from dust appears/He lifts him gently in His arms, breaths into his soul/And raises Him to stand upright/Complete and free and whole."  'Adam, Where are You?' is compelling.  It tells of the tragic fall of the human race: "But the master of deception now begins with his dissection of the Word/And with all his craft and subtlety the serpent twists the simple truth they've heard/While hanging in the balance is a world that has been placed at their command/And all their unborn children die as both of them bow down to Satan's hand."  'Come and Follow' is based on the miracle of the catch of fish found in Luke 5:1-11: "Now James and John, they're both my witnesses/To the truth in what I've told you/And how our nets were filled to bursting/More than both our boats could ever hold/And I fell down there before Him/Crying 'Leave me, Lord-I'm full of sin!'/He said 'Simon, don't be frightened/Follow Me, you will learn to fish for men.'"
     'Gotta tell Somebody' is the rousing title track off of Don's 1979 album.  It recounts the miracle of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:22-43) and the resulting reaction one would have at such an event: "Then He called His three disciples that were with Him on the way/He led them and my wife and me to where our daughter lay/He took her by the hand; He told her 'Child, arise'/And the words were barely spoken when she opened up her eyes...'I got to tell somebody (4X)/I got to tell somebody, got to tell somebody, what Jesus did for me' (4X)."  'I Don't Care Where You've Been Sleepin'' has a country feel to it.  It's a call to the prodigal to come back home: "I don't care where you've been sleeping, I don't care who's made your bed/I've already gave my life to set you free/There's no sin you could imagine that is stronger than My love/And it's all yours if you'll come home again to Me."  'Willing to Heal' recounts Jesus' healing of a leper (Matthew 8:1-4): "I said 'Lord, if You're willing, I know that You can/Make me as clean as a natural man/I know You can do it, deep down in my soul/Oh Lord, if You're willing, Lord, please make me whole'/With a voice of compassion, He told me to stand/'I'm willing' He said and He reached out His hand/'Be cleansed' were the words that He spoke with a smile/And in an instant my skin was like that of a child."
     'I'll Never Let Go of Your Hand' is a soothing sounding testament to God's faithfulness: "The life that I have given you/No one can take away/'Cause I've sealed it with My Spirit, Blood, and Word/The everlasting Father/Has made His covenant with you/And He's stronger than the world you've seen and heard/So don't you fear to show them all the love I have for you/I'll be with you everywhere in everything I do/And even when you do it wrong/And miss the joy I've planned/I'll never, never let go of your hand/I'll never let go of your hand."  'He's Alive' is a pounding song from Don's second album 'Forgiven'.  It chronicles the events and untold joy of resurrection morning.  It won the 1980 Dove Award for Song of the Year, and even Dolly Parton has covered it!  It is presented from Peter's perspective: "We both ran toward the garden/Then John ran on ahead/We found the stone and empty tomb/Just the way that Mary said/But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in/Was just an empty shell/And how or where they'd taken Him/Was more than I could tell...He's alive, He's alive!/He's alive and I'm forgiven!/Heaven's gates are open wide!"  'Jesus is Lord of the Way I Feel' is relatively short.  It is a song of victory with a Carman-like calypso feel to it: "Praise the Lord! Hallelu! I don't care what the devil's gonna do!/The Word in faith is my sword and shield/And Jesus is Lord of the way I feel." 
     'I Have Chosen You' reminds us that the Lord is our help and our hope: "I have chosen you/And I will not turn you down/I have chosen you/You were born to wear a crown/I'll give you what you need to carry on/Till all that stands opposed to you is gone/I have chosen you/There's no need to run away/I have chosen you/Why do you doubt the words I say?/Through it all I've been right by your side/Ask me and you will not be denied."  'Too Small a Price' is a lengthy, but quite well done song, clocking in at eleven minutes!  It looks at the crucifixion from the perspective of one of the thieves crucified along with Jesus: "Then with all my courage, in a voice not quite my own/I asked Him, 'Lord, remember me when You come into Your throne'/He answered me and even then His love was undisguised/He said 'Before the sun has set today, you'll be with Me in Paradise'/The shouts and curses did not stop even when the sunlight ceased/But somehow in the midst of it my soul had been released/And though the agony continued, it was still too small a price/To be allowed to hear those words, and to die beside the Christ."  The end of the song features a choir God miraculously provided Don (read the CD insert) singing: "Jesus is the Lord of all/We have been redeemed/Joy! (4X)"  'Brother of the Son' is the title track of Don's debut 1976 album.  It has Don sharing his heart's desire with the Lord: "Father let Your Spirit flow inside me/Till all that will not praise You is undone/Help me keep my feet upon the highway/Grow to be a brother of the Son."
     I recommend HE'S ALIVE: COLLECTION VOL. 1 to fans of folk and adult contemporary pop music.  Those who enjoy story songs will value this album.  Fans of Michael Card and John Michael Talbot should enjoy it.  Those who appreciate biblical lyrics will approve.  I'm rating it 87%.  For more info visit and

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


     The year was 1987 when Crystal Lewis released her debut album BEYOND THE CHARADE.  Since then she has blazed a noteworthy trail for Contemporary Christian female artists following in her footsteps.  Her latest album is 2011's PLAIN AND SIMPLE (Metro One) produced by her son, Solomon Ray.  Artwork and photography are capably handled by her daughter Izzi Ray, who also sings background vocals on the album with her mom.  In the CD insert Crystal Lewis quotes I Corinthians 2:1-2 from The Message: "...When I first came to you to let you in on God's master stroke, I didn't try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy.  I deliberately kept it plain and simple;first Jesus and who He is;then Jesus and what He did..."  She adds: "The truth of the matter is Jesus is it.  The reason.  The point.  The truth.  The answer.  The why.  I pray that these songs convey that.  The extravagant simplicity of the Gospel..."
     The title track 'Plain and Simple' leads off the album and is smooth sounding.  It elaborates on Lewis' thoughts from the liner notes: "The plain and simple truth of it is Jesus loves me/Don't make the truth more complicated than it needs to be/Bought by blood, saved by grace, that's reality/That's the truth, it's plain and simple, anyone could see."  'Give me Jesus' written by Adam Watts has a modern sound to it.  It offers a path to healing for the soul: "It's easy to blame, it's hard to let grace wash away/The memories, all the words, the anger that braces the pain/But how long can you stay with your heart in the fire/With the hurt locked away, where nobody wins?/Fight through the wall, beat down the castle door/Brace for the fall, you don't need this anymore/Give it to Jesus."  'Revelation' is one of five songs solely penned by Crystal.  It is fresh sounding, ascribes worth to Jesus, and is based on Revelation 5:12: "Worthy is the Lamb...the spotless Lamb that was slain/Worthy is the receive power and riches and strength/Worthy is the receive honor and glory and praise."
     'Even the Rocks Cry Out', written with her husband Brian Ray, has a funky groove to it and speaks of the legacy she wants to leave: "Today as I live, even tomorrow when I'm gone/Let it be said of me/I opened my mouth, I let praise pour out/I lifted my voice above the crowd/From forgiven lips came, songs of endless praise/Loud and clear they rang/Even the rocks cry out/I will not be silent, I just have to praise Him."  'Name' is a song of gratitude to the Lord: "I love Your Name Savior/Freedom from chains Savior/You forgave my sin, delivered my soul/I love Your Name."  'I Don't Wanna Fall' is an easy rock number that confirms that she desires to please the Lord: "I have made mistakes/Fallen along the way/Made choices that I regret/Done things I'd like to forget/But I stand here now/Forgiven and free somehow/By the grace of God I see/Where I went wrong, where I want to be/I don't wanna fall again (4X)."
     'Daughter' is on the slower side and has God wanting to comfort His troubled and hurting child: "I want to hold your face in My hands/Remind you that I, I AM that I AM/Let My love wash away, the stains of the day/Don't fret or fear, I'm here/Daughter, I'm aware of your pain/I'm aware of your guilt and your shame/Daughter, the reason I came/To rescue, redeem and to save."  'All Day Long' testifies to the benefits of trusting in the Lord: "Evening approaches and darkens my door/With a fear, I admit it, I've felt before/But this time instead of dread forcing me to the floor/I sleep knowing peace through and through/For all day long, my hope was in You."  'I AM' is a wonderful song.  It is a strong reminder that God is never far from us: "In the midst of hardship, in the midst of pain/Don't you know that all you have to do is call My Name?/It may not be easy, the way may not be clear/Know my arm is not too short, my ear is quick to hear/Messiah, Savior, Son of Man/Provider, Protector, Redeemer, I AM."
     'Center of Gravity' written with her son Solomon, is the most experimental track musically.  It supports the account of creation in Genesis: "You spoke, the world began/All appeared at Your command/Your breath set the stars in place/You filled up sea and space/All things are held together/Not by cord or tether/Not by blood or bone/But by Your power alone."  'I Know You are the One' written by Brian and Izzi Ray is a great duet between Izzi and Crystal!  It speaks of a relentless pursuit of God: "With every step I move towards You/Everyday You make me new/I see You more clearly/I'll never stop until I see/You in all Your majesty/And I see You more clearly."
     PLAIN AND SIMPLE is plain and simply one of Crystal Lewis' best albums ever and certainly one of the best albums of 2011!  Vocally, the girl can still bring it, and musically, it is masterful, thanks to the playing of Solomon Ray, Jyro Xhan, Marc Ford, and Matt, Nic, and Jules Rodriguez.  This album should be getting much more airplay on today's Christian radio.  The Gospel message comes through in love loud and clear!  I'm recommending this album to fans of Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, and Rachael Lampa.  I'm rating PLAIN AND SIMPLE 95%.  For more info visit

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


     FFH is comprised of husband and wife duo Jeromy and Jennifer Deibler.  Their latest non-holiday release is 2009's WIDE OPEN SPACES (62 Records).  Production duties are handled by Jeromy and Mitch Dane.  In the liner notes the Deiblers write these revealing words: "The point to all this is that we've never needed people or seen people come through for us like we have in this season.  We've never seen the Lord like this either.  Like Isaiah, we have seen the Lord and as a result we have become Undone...Released from the old ways and led, like David, into a Wide Open Space."  In 2007 Jeromy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
     'Undone' is a pleasant adult pop song that Jeromy wrote with Mia Fieldes of Hillsong fame.  It speaks of the emotions and thoughts one battles when fighting a disease: "The cancer inside stealing my sleep/Night after night it keeps haunting me/The secrets I keep/Are tearing me up inside/I try to hide them and I wonder why/Why I'm still running when I know there's no escaping."  'Hold On to Me' is next.  It talks of one's faith journey as a positive experience: "I don't want to go back to the calm and shallow seas/I want to stay here and embrace the mystery/We've come so far now/We can't turn back now."  'Wide Open Spaces', the title track, was written by Jeromy and industry vet Chris Eaton, who wrote 'Breath of Heaven', the modern Christmas classic.  Oddly enough, musically it sounds like a song the Dixie Chicks could do.  Lyrically, it communicates a desire for spiritual growth: "I'm tired of the race, tired of pretending/Tired of the pressure to just stay ahead/Can't take the pace it just seems unending/If this is living I'd rather be dead/I need wide open spaces/I need rivers that flow/I need to find where my faith is/Give me the desert, I'll make it my home."
     'What it Feels like (To be led)' features Andy Hubbard on drums and is the song of one placing all of their faith in God: "So this is what it feels like to just walk away/From everything I thought kept me safe/To depend just on You for every meal/And find it's better this way/Oh, it's better this way/This may not be the road I would choose for me/But it still feels right somehow/And I have never felt You as close to me/As I do right now/Like I do right now."  'I Don't Care Anymore' is a fine adult contemporary song that has Jeromy singing in his falsetto.  The lyrics speak about setting priorities straight: "I don't care anymore-and/I'm not there anyway-so/Go on with your life and I'll go on with mine/We will all be fine/'Cause I don't care anymore/About my name in lights or getting what is mine/You can be the star tonight, oh that would be just fine with me/I don't care (2X), I don't care anymore/I'm not there, I'm long gone, so go on, go on/Go on with your life, don't worry about me/I've found what I need, she's been right here with me."  'What if your Best' was again written by Jeromy and Mia Fieldes.  It is a ballad about realizing that God is God and we are not.  Jennifer Deibler carries the vocal lead: "I'm trying hard to keep from giving You advice/It's like teaching Shakespeare how to write/Or Monet, the way to paint another scene/But there's just something in this amateur that thinks/That my opinion's what You need/On how to work in me/But I am only clay and clay probably shouldn't speak."
     'The Time of my Life' has Greg Hagan on electric guitar and is a playful sounding love song: "Hand in hand/Our feet in the long beach sand/That's the way we spend these days/Falling in love again/We've always been best friends/That's the way we spend these days...I had the time of my life with you/Under the summer moon/I was so consumed/I had the time of my life with you/Acting like a fool/But it was over too soon/Oh I had the time of my life."  'Stop the Bleeding' is about crying out in desperation to the Lord: "How much desert must I cross/'Til I come to the Jordan?/I am thirsty and I'm lost/My heart is weak and emptied out/So come and stop the bleeding/I think I finally understand/So come and stop the bleeding/I've tried to fix this but I can't/So come and stop the bleeding/I know You can."
     'Who I'm gonna Be' would fit nicely on mainstream country radio.  It features Tim Lauer on harmonica and is about reaching one's full potential: "And I wonder how it took me oh so long/Some kind of grace flipped a switch/And the lights are finally comin' on/So much time I've wasted/When will I stop chasin'/Gotta stop lookin' around/And be who I'm gonna be/So much I've not tasted/So many choices to start makin'/Gotta stop lookin' around/And be who I'm gonna be."  Jill Paquette co-writes the song.  'Jesus Give me Rest' would not be out of place on a Gaither video.  It is about the need we have to anchor ourselves in the Lord if we are to have true contentment: "I've been trying to hold/On to things that just slip through my hands/You'd think that by now I'd know/Better than to chase after shifting sands/So let Your peace come to me/Oh Jesus give me rest/Let Your peace come to me/Oh Jesus give me rest/Be still, be still/Be still and know."
     WIDE OPEN SPACES is music that is easy on the ears, much like previous FFH hits such as 'One of these Days' and 'Ready to Fly'.  This album will appeal to a wide variety of age groups.  It is both contemporary and traditional sounding at the same time.  I'm rating it 80%.  For more info visit or

Friday, January 13, 2012


     SOULBREATHER is comprised of Brynn Gersmehl (acoustic guitar, vocals) and her husband Mark Gersmehl (piano, keyboards, percussion and drum programming, vocals).  Their debut album is 2011's SEVEN POINT EIGHT.  Brynn wrote the following to me regarding the title: "In the Bible seven is the number for fullness, completeness.  Both Gersh and I were in Christian bands (Whiteheart and Rachel Rachel) in the 1980's and 1990's.  We are humbled and honored that the Lord chose to use us in that way, but that chapter of our lives is complete.  The number eight in the Bible symbolizes a new beginning, or a new order of things, a new creation, a new birth.  The artist that refuses to change does so at great peril."  Of their latest venture she writes: "We feel something stirring deep within us.  We believe it is The Soulbreather breathing new life and vision at the center of our being."  The following words from the liner notes of the project shed some more light: "What if you had a choice: a. trudging through the dust of day after day or b. living a life brimming with love, laughter, and meaning?  Actually you do have a choice.  And it all comes down to Who you know and what you believe...There is Someone we want you to meet.  His name is Soulbreather and He has big dreams for you."
     SEVEN POINT EIGHT begins with 'How Beautiful'.  It is gentle and has a calming effect.  The lyrics draw from Isaiah 52:7: "How beautiful on the mountain/Are the feet that bring good news (2X)/How beautiful (2X)/Let the rocks and hills be echoing/With the chorus of our worshipping/As we shout our praise to You King of kings/Til the whole world knows what You have done/Til the whole world sees You Risen One/Til the whole world knows You."  'This Hope' finds them boasting in the goodness of the Lord: "I have a hope that makes me whole/It is the anchor of my soul/Jesus You reign in majesty/And yet You live inside of me/You'll never leave me/Or forsake me/And then one day/You will take me/To Your Kingdom/Where together/We'll all praise You/Lord forever."  'From All that Dwell Below' is a hymn that is quite pretty.  It dates back to the 1700's and was written by Isaac Watts and John Hatton.  It desires that God be exalted: "From all that dwell below the skies/Let the Creator's praise arise/Alleluia (2X)/Let the Redeemer's name be sung/Through every land by every tongue/Alleluia (5X)."
     'Manna' finds the Gersmehl's harmonizing and attests to God's faithfulness: "People I love/Moments of bliss/Even there I'm finding things I missed/When I was lost/You were still near/Even in my wilderness/You never loved me any less/Now I finally see that You were there/Everywhere I look I see/Your everlasting love for me/So much more than I could dream/It's like manna falling down on me."  'Great I Am' is a wonderful ballad that builds.  It runs almost six minutes and testifies that none can compare to the Lord: "Let the idols fall/Crumble into dust/Ev'ry knee will bow/And ev'ry tongue confess/Great I Am, You are holy/And I bow before Your throne/Great I Am, You are worthy/And I worship You alone/Great I Am (4X)."  Joe Mazza plays guitar on the track, while Ken Lewis is on drums.
     'Soulbreather' is hauntingly beautiful and features former Whiteheart member Anthony Sallee on bass.  The lyrics are about pursuing a deeper relationship with Father God: "I'm praying for the Soulbreather/To breath in me (breathe in me)/I'm praying for the Soulbreather to come/I'm longing for the Soulbreather/To breathe in me (breathe in me)/I'm longing for the Soulbreather to come/Come breathe in me (2X)/I long to be free/Come breathe in me/Come breathe."
     'How Deep and Wide' contemplates God's unfathomable love for us: "Far beyond my understanding/Far beyond my deepest longing/Far beyond what I could/Ever hope and dream/Now to You be all the power/Now to You be all the glory/Forever and forever I will sing/How deep and wide/Your love for me/How deep and wide/Your love/How long and high Your love for me/How long and high/Your love."  'Flow Down' is a soft pop number that confirms principles drawn from the biblical account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4: "I've been walking in a desert/Dry and weary to the bone/How I long to taste Your water/Purer than I've ever known (2X)/Flow down living water/Flow down blessed Savior/Flow down and I will never/Ever thirst again."  'By the Riverside' continues the theme of life giving spiritual water only available from God: "I kneel down by the riverside (3X)/To drink from the water that's deep and wide/I'm laying down everything inside (3X)/To drink from the water that's deep and wide."  'You Are' closes the album and has them declaring their life's mission: "You are the light of the world (3X)/And I will follow You/You are the light of the world (3X)/And I will follow You (2X)/Wherever You may lead/You're everything I need."
     Brynn also wrote this to me: "This record was conceived as a whole, a journey to the deeper intimate places of the soul.  It is our hope and prayer that people will listen to it on their morning walk in the woods, on a long drive, or swaddled in their favourite blanket drinking hot chocolate in front of the fireplace.  Wherever their quiet secret place is, we believe The Soulbreather will meet them there..."  SEVEN POINT EIGHT is atmospheric, ethereal, meditative, praise and worship.  It will cause you to slow down in this fast paced world and think about the One who made you.  Brynn's sweet vocals compliment Mark's husky, seasoned voice quite nicely.  I'm recommending this album produced by Gersh and Richie Biggs, to fans of the lighter fare of Geoff Moore and Leigh Nash, and to those who enjoy Gersh's 2002 solo effort AWAKENING.  I'm rating SEVEN POINT EIGHT 83%.  For more info and to purchase visit

Saturday, January 07, 2012


     I will probably always best remember Carolyn Arends for her first couple of albums released in 1995 and 1997.  They spawned such marvelous songs as 'I can Hear You', 'Seize the Day', 'Feel Free', and 'New Year's Day.'  Her latest and tenth album is 2009's LOVE WAS HERE FIRST (2B Records) produced by Arends and Roy Salmond. 
     The album begins with 'Be Still' which is bouncy and features horns arranged by Kent Wallace.  The song reminds us of the importance of being quiet once in awhile in our fast-paced society: "My gears just keep on turning/My fears quickly are burning/My faith down to ashes/My hope up in smoke/I fan the flames/And I stand here and choke/'Til I remember if I want to breathe/Then the only remedy/Is if I will/Be still/And know that You are God."  Next up is a subdued version of 'Standing in the Need of Prayer' featuring the vocal touches of The Sojourners, a 3 man gospel group, and Gayle Salmond.  The song contains this confession: "Not my neighbor, not my teacher/But it's me, O Lord/Standing in the need of prayer/Not the deacon, not the preacher/It's just me O Lord/Standing in the need of prayer."  'My Favourite Lie' has Carolyn delivering a great vocal and speaks of being stuck in a spiritual rut: "I am a pilgrim on a dead-end road/Who refuses to go in a new direction/I am a sucker for my favourite lie:/That you don't have to die/To live the resurrection/I don't wanna die to live the resurrection/I am a creature who prefers my cave/To the light of day 'cause it's what I know/And I am a sailor who will not leave shore/There could come a storm/The winds could blow." 
     'Something out of us' is sultry sounding and has Spencer Capier on bouzouki, mandolin, fiddle and vocals.  The tune talks of God's redeeming power: "You made cosmos out of chaos/You made Adam out of dust/You made wine out of the water/You'll make something out of us/You make light shine in our darkness/You make life to conquer death/You make children out of sinners/You'll make something of us yet."  'I am a Soul' is a nice ballad that reflects on our ultimate immortality: "Molecules and atoms/Just like Eve and Adam/Ashes to ashes, dust to dust/Even still I wonder/When we are six feet under/Will that truly be the end of us?.../You have a body but you are a soul/You see a fraction, it's not the whole/I cannot prove it, but still I know/You have a are a soul."  'Willing' is contemplative and paints a picture of one struggling to draw near to God: "The only place that I am filled is at Your table/And still I starve myself day after day/I cannot choose Your will unless You make me able/That's why You say You are the only way.../I'll send the guards away who keep my heart/I'm making space for You, a place to start/Please pull me close to You."
     'Roll It' is victorious sounding musically.  It reminds believers how to conquer guilt and has The Sojourners on vocals: "When your own sin starts to drag you down/And the devil tells you, you are through/Remember Jesus Christ already paid that price/And even now/He's telling you (3X)/You've got to roll it onto God (2X)/He's your provider, protector, your shelter and rock/You've got to roll it onto God."  'The Last Word (Love was Here First)' is mellow for a title track.  It has Spencer Capier on lap steel and violins and declares that God will have the final word in the battles we experience in the spiritual realm: "Bad day on the hillside, or so it seemed/When love was surrendered and nailed to a tree/But the grave came up empty and death was reversed/'Cause love was here first.../A bad day in the garden could not erase/All that was started with original grace/And though we have wandered, we will find if we search/Love was here first."  'According to Plan' is a fine track with a classic Carolyn Arends sound to it.  It testifies to God's sovereignty: "Yes I am convinced we get one guarantee/There's no situation that He can't redeem/When what we meant for harm, He turns into some good/Where our hearts start changing, then it's understood/He's doing the miracles, only He can/It's going according to plan/Yes it's going according to plan."
     'Nothing can Separate' has Carolyn putting all of her faith in God.  Background vocals are done by Roy and Gayle Salmond and Spencer Capier: "Who can say if the trouble comes from/Above or below or the hands of fate/I just pray when the trouble does come/You help us to remember the promise You make/I know-neither death nor life/Not the past nor the present nor/Things to come/No foe-neither depth nor height/Can separate us/From the love of Christ."  'Never say Goodbye' concludes the album.  Steve Bell is on harmony vocals, while Roy Salmond is on percussion, pump organ and toy piano.  The song includes these thoughtful lyrics: "I know when You were here/Whenever You would speak/The lame would walk, the blind would see/Your talk was never cheap/And when the time had come/You said You had to die/But You never said goodbye/You said 'Lo, I'm with you always/Always know that I'm/Making preparations/In a world beyond all time (2X)/Where we never say goodbye.'"
     LOVE WAS HERE FIRST is for those who tire of much of the overpolished pop on Christian radio today.  It is for those who prefer something more honest and artistic.  In the pictures with this project Carolyn looks beautiful, and mature and innocent at the same time.  I'm rating this her latest effort 82%.  For more info visit

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


     Meredith Andrews won the 2011 Dove Award for Praise and Worship Album of the Year for her third and latest studio project AS LONG AS IT TAKES (2010, Word Entertainment) which was produced by Jason Ingram and Rusty Varenkamp.  In the liner notes she writes the following to her listeners: "My prayer is that these songs would draw you closer to the God who has loved you all your life."  She also addresses the Lord: "Jesus, all I want is for You to be pleased with my life.  Take these songs, they are from You and for You.  Reveal Yourself through this record, for if You are not in the music, it is merely empty noise."
     The album begins with 'Never Move On' which has a very contemporary feel to it and has her thinking about Calvary: "Held captive here/In awe of grace/Joy found in tears/Upon Your face/And all my shame/Just disappears/My guilt erased/When I am here/I don't need a new truth/All I need is more of You."  'Only to be Yours' is radio friendly and about letting Jesus take the wheel of one's life: "Undivided, strip everything else away/Burn the idols, the things in my life/That have replaced You/I lay my life down, here on Your altar/Empty my hands of all I've been holding back."  'Can Anybody Hear Me?' is catchy and has Meredith working out her faith: "I will trust in You/Even in the moments I can't find You/I will hold onto/Your promises Oh, Lord/You've never failed before/I know that You can hear me/When the silence is deafening/Even though You seem far away/I know You're here with me/But I just need the faith to see/Nothing can separate me from Your love."
     The title track is a pretty ballad with strings and speaks of total dependence on the Lord: "I won't speak until You speak/I won't move until You move me/I won't sing, sing over me/I will wait as long as it takes."  'Come Home' sounds like it should be on a movie soundtrack.  It was written for her brother Derek and is a sister's heartfelt cry to her brother: "You're not a disappointment to me/You're just like the rest of us/Struggling through the journey/I don't care what secrets you may keep/I could never love you less/Than all the love inside of me."  'All will fade Away' was written with Jason Ingram and her husband Jacob Sooter.  It offers these words of encouragement to those experiencing hardships: "All of this will disappear/We are strangers here/We are strangers here/We will see/You face to face/And all will fade away/Yes, all will fade away."
     'What it Means to Love' is a standout inspirational track she wrote with Jason Walker after returning from a visit to an orphanage in Haiti.  From her experience she concludes: "So how could I go back to life as usual/And how could I return to who I once was?/I just want to take your story to the world/'Cause you have shown me what it means to love."  'Live through me' is a pulsating track that gives God permission to take total control of one's life: "Oh to speak and to hear You speaking/Oh to breathe and to feel Your breath in me/To love like a fire burning/All consuming Father live through me/Set me ablaze/For my soul's sake/Set me ablaze/'Til only You remain."  'My Soul Sings' was written with Jason Ingram and Stu Gerrard.  It is an upbeat song of praise: "Now my soul sings/For my eyes to see/Your beauty on display/For all the world to see/Now my soul sings/Responding/To the wonder of Your love/At work inside of me." 
     'In Your Arms' is a memorable piano ballad supported by great background vocals.  It is the song of one intentionally drawing near to God: "I'm turning the world off/Embracing the silence/Walking away from all the voices/That are screaming in my ear/I've been too caught up/I've been so stressed out/And all of the noise replaced the whisper/That used to be so clear/So I close every door/And put my face back on the floor."  The album closes with 'How Great is the Love' written by Meredith, Jacob Sooter, and Paul Baloche.  This beautiful six minutes plus long song features Paul Baloche. It won the 2011 Dove Award for Worship Song of the Year and reverently praises Jesus for His earthly rescue mission: "Jesus, faithful King/Lord, with grateful hearts we sing/How great is the love/How great is the love/Of our Savior/The weight of the cross, the curse of our shame/You carried it all and rose from the grave/How great is the love (2X)/Of our Savior (2X)."
     AS LONG AS IT TAKES is a relevant, timely praise and worship record.  It will appeal to those who enjoy the musical stylings of Joy Williams and Erin O'Donnell.  Meredith Andrews is a very pretty, gorgeous young lady.  I'm rating this project 83.5%.  For more info visit or

Sunday, January 01, 2012

V. Rose is most definitely a Christian Girl

     In the liner notes for Vienna Rose Da Re's 2011 Clear Sight Music release V. ROSE, she writes to Jesus: "Thank You for placing purpose in me and loving me even when I didn't love myself."  Later on she writes this simple message: "Jesus is Lord, if you didn't know, now ya know!"  Her bio accurately compares her musically to artists such as Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, and Miley Cyrus.  Lamontt 'SPEC' Blackshire produces the album.  In addition he co-writes all the songs with Vienna, with the exception of the last track which he penned alone.
     'Not so Average' starts things off.  It features nice string arrangements and speaks out against media pressures for teen girls to look a certain way: "Models aren't really models when they're not modeling/Why don't you tell me something/Cuz what I'm really wondering/Is how long do you expect to be following/Tryna be a star like them?/It's not the way you're going to win/Stop tryin' to fit in" and "The only way to shine like a star/Is to realize whose you are/You were created to go far/It really doesn't matter what you look like/If you have Jesus on the inside/He's everything that you need in your life."  'Christian Girl' sounds like Gwen Stefani gone Christian: "I'm a Christian girl/Not of the world/Jesus is my banner/And I show it on the camera/Make Him popular (popular)/I give Him the publicity (publicity)/Telling all of my friends/I'm born again/Be done with the sin/Let me show you how to win."  'Battery' is all about being available to God for His purposes.  It has a party sound to it and has labelmate FLAME doing some dope rapping: "I want the Lord to use me like I'm a tool/Like I'm Moses' rod/Screaming give me Jesus/Give me Jesus/Give me Jesus/Give me God."  Vienna sings: "Can you feel the power/When you say the Name?/Like turning a light on/And all the darkness fades/But we don't deserve it/It's only by grace/It's only through faith/That He uses me."
     'Hater' is bouncy and could be addressed to the devil or another person trying to draw her away from God: "See what happens when you're a hater/And you're jealous/You're a liar/You're so stupid/It makes you a loser/You thought that you had this girl/But God helped me escape" and ""I know you don't get it/You're jealous admit it/That He gave His life for us all/So you can keep trying/With stealing and lying/But He'll pick me up if I fall."  'Run that Way' is bass heavy and uses neat vocal distortions.  The song focuses on spiritual warfare: "Let's run away from the liar/Be quick he'll use your desire/You better run when you get the chance/There's always a way of escape but you have to run that way."  'Dear Adam' is a ballad that finds God calling out to a guy who has fallen into sin and is depressed: "I'm writing you to let you know/The price that I have paid/But you could never understand the cost/Adam you can rise again/Believe the Son can shine within/Receive the crown I paid for on the cross."
     'In Dependence' has Vienna delivering an earlier era Hilary Duff style vocal.  It is about letting go of the tough guy act and acknowledging our need for the Lord: "There's a guy all the girls want to be with/But he don't want no one else, he's lookin' at her/Because he thinks she's independent/But he don't know every night when they hang up the phone/She's about to cry cause she feels so alone/Is she really independent?/So while she's lying to herself trying to impress him/I'll be who God wants me to be" and "I got Someone to lean on/And I don't care what you think/Because I'm going to be in His arms/And where will you be?"  'Girl, What U Lookin At?!' is hip sounding and offers spiritual freedom to a girl with a tough exterior: "You got your swagg huh/You think you're bad huh/But no one knows deep down inside you're really sad huh/That's why you're wild huh/And never smile huh/Somehow you lost your joy when you were just a child huh/But I'm just sayin' though/Don't be ashamed though/Cuz Jesus wants to free you but you have to say so/So get your joy back/And lose the diva act."  'Let's go Home' shows a softer side of Vienna musically.  It points us to where we can find our true identity and rest in it: "It's not Alice in Wonderland/It's not Dorothy in Oz/It's not Peter in Neverland/But it's called the kingdom of God/Do you know where we are?/Don't want to be lost/Back to where we started from/I believe You are the Son/No place like home."
     'Love Pursuit' is a slow, smooth R & B tune featuring John Katina.  It is a conversation between God and Vienna in which she struggles with feelings of being unworthy of His love: "God-That's why I gave you my life/So even though you are unworthy/You can still come to me/Vienna-No I'm too ashamed of me/God-But My love can cover all/Vienna-But how could You still love me/After all that I've done to You?/God-That's why I sent My Son for you/Vienna-What if my heart should stray?/God-Then I'll pursue you with love and grace."  'Forgive Me' has Adam Long on cello, and asks a very heartfelt question of another: "And after all of my failure and my sinning/Jesus still wants to save me and live in me/So if Jesus can/Then why can't you.../Forgive me?"  'Cry Holy' uses violin, viola, cello, contra bass and piano among other instruments.  This closing song should cause each and every listener to pause and think about Christ's great sacrifice for us: "I close my eyes and see Him/All of His life depleted/Hanging upon a tree with nails put through His hands and feet and/I know that I'm the reason/Because of my constant treason/It was my own complete sin/That caused Him this awful treatment/But one day I'm going to meet Him/I'll fall on my face when I see Him/Thank Him for all that He did/And I'll be free then" and "When I do see Jesus/I will cry a million tears/I'll join the angels singing what they have sung a million years/They'll be singing Holy/Holy (9X)." 
     I'm recommending this Christian pop album to females aged 12 to 25, though others such as myself may enjoy it as well.  V. Rose seems to be strongly grounded in her faith in Christ making her a great role model for young ladies the world over.  The photographs of her included with this project were taken by Gerry 'GOS' Simpson and show Vienna, who is in her early 20's, to be fashionable, cute, and beautiful.  I'm rating V. ROSE 87%.  For more info on her and her work visit or check her out on Facebook.  Note that V. Rose will be part of AIR RAID 20 in Barrie Saturday Februrary 25th, 2012, along with House of Heroes, Manic Drive and Behold! The City (