Monday, April 30, 2012


Tammy Trent's autobiography LEARNING TO BREATHE AGAIN-CHOOSING LIFE AND FINDING HOPE AFTER A SHATTERING LOSS was published in 2004 by Thomas Nelson.  Most of the books I read fall into the Christian living or biography categories.  I have to say right up front that this is one of the best books I have ever read.  In it, Tammy is honest, vulnerable, down-to-earth, and displays a sense of humour.  There are many reasons you should read this book.

The book details Tammy's musical influences, and provides an inside look at the hard work it takes to break into the Contemporary Christian Music scene and get radio airplay and become known.  The book examines the effects of divorce on children, as her parents were divorced.  It details the importance of the divorced parents being able to get along and be in the same room together for the children's sake.  Tammy came to greatly appreciate that.

Mostly, this book is a love story. It tells how this Michigan girl fell in love with a Michigan boy, Trent Lenderink whom she met at a church event.  This book is a great tool for those married folks wanting to learn how to treat their spouse better, like they are special, and wanting to help stimulate spiritual growth in their partner.  For single folks, this book could be beneficial as well, as it shows the importance of waiting to have sex until marriage.  I like that in this book, Tammy does not hide her sexual passions she experienced before marriage.  When reading this book, one is reminded that ultimately though married, one should rely on the Lord more than they rely on their spouse.  Tammy also shares a lot about her relationship with her in-laws which some people may also find useful if they are having difficulties with theirs.  Tammy also documents the importance of having good friends, one of her best being singer Pam Thum.  Tammy's husband Trent often struggled with finding out what God's ultimate purpose was for his life. If you are in the same boat, this book will encourage you that God may be using you right now in ways you don't even realize.  Praise the Lord!

Read this book to find out how Tammy's husband Trent died tragically, right around the same time the 9/11 attacks occurred! You will go on a journey with Tammy through the various stages of grief, and see how God ministered to her during this time, and used her to minister to others as well, when she was experiencing grief.  Read to find out Tammy's newfound purpose in life and how she re-entered the Contemporary Christian Music scene when the time was right. 

If you enjoyed Clay and Renee Crosse's book I SURRENDER ALL, you will appreciate the candid nature of Tammy Trent's LEARNING TO BREATHE AGAIN.  What a great book. Thanks Tammy for sharing your story with us! God bless you in the years ahead!  I'm rating this book 95%.  For more info, and to purchase Tammy's book and cd's go to, or your local Christian bookstore!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Kari Jobe is a worship pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.  She is thirty years old.  Her latest album is WHERE I FIND YOU (2012, Sparrow Records).  The producers she uses are Ed Cash and Matt Bronleewe.  The following words from Kari's website speak of the purpose of the album: "Rather than simply emphasizing the beauty found in God's presence, WHERE I FIND YOU is a clarion call for listeners to experience His presence to the fullest...Ultimately, it's about declaring who He is and enjoying the simplicity of knowing the Lord is near...He's for us, He loves us, and sometimes, we need to stop, enjoy His presence and take that in."  These words from the liner notes go well with the previous quote: "Instead of only your own thoughts, I encourage you to fill your heart, mind, and spirit with HIS word and thoughts for you." 

The CD begins with 'Steady my Heart', a good pop song, co-written with Ben Glover and Matt Bronleewe.  It begins with these words we can all identify with: "Wish it could be easy/Why is life so messy/Why is pain a part of us?/There are days I feel like/Nothing ever goes right/Sometimes it just hurts so much."  This lyric brings to mind the following quote from Kari's website: "I think there are times as believers when we feel entitled and that life shouldn't be hard.  We live in this culture of convenience that says we can do everything ourselves and find all the answers on Google...But if we can learn to fall more in love with the Lord and trust Him in the middle of every storm, we build our endurance to keep running the race."  'We Are' is next up and reminds us of one of our prime callings as Christians: "We are the light of the world/We are a city on a hill/We are the light of the world/And we gotta, we gotta, we gotta/Let the light shine/We are called to spread the news/To tell the world this simple truth/That Jesus came to save/There's freedom in His name/So let His love break through."  The song is happy sounding.  'One Desire', co-written with Jason Ingram, features electric guitar work by Stu G, Jerry McPherson and Adam Shoenfeld.  On this song, Karis is fixated on the Lord: "Here I am/Just for You, only You/Here I stand/Wanting You, only You."

'Find You on my Knees' features Chris Carmichael on strings.  The song has Kari placing her trust fully in God and has a nice bridge: "When my hope is gone/When the fear is strong/When the pain is real/When it's hard to heal/When my faith is shaken/And my heart is broken/And my joy is stolen/God, I know that/You lift me up, You never leave me searching."  'Savior's Here' is a powerful track co-written with aspiring worship artist Cody Carnes.  It contains these words that speak volumes about our Lord's character: "Love that never fails/Arms that never close/Blood that covers sin/Grace that never ends...Our Savior's here (2X)."  'Stars in the Sky' is co-written with Chris August who won New Artist and Male Vocalist of the Year at 2011's Dove Awards.  The song flows smoothly and speaks of surrender: "Here's my life and all my heart/I give it all/Lord, every part/Is under Your control/Lord, You're all I know."

'What Love is This' is a soft ballad written with Mia Fieldes and Lincoln Brewster.  Jeff Roach plays piano on this song that marvels at the Lord's sacrifice at Calvary: "What love is this/That You gave Your life for me/And made a way for me to know You/And I confess You're always enough for me/You're all I need...Jesus in Your suffering/You were reaching/You thought of me (2X)."  'Run to You (I Need You)' was written by Kari and six others!  Paul Mabury plays drums on this tune that finds Kari longing to be on a spiritual plateau where her desires are aligned with God's: "I need You/I can't get enough of You/I come alive when I'm in Your presence/O God, of my salvation."  'Rise' is a joyful song that praises God for who He is and what He has done: "You clothe the poor/You mend the broken/You heal our hearts/You take our shame/It speaks of Your kindness.../We will cry out Your renown/You are the God who has saved us/We will rise to praise You/We lift a glorious sound/You are the One who redeemed us/We will rise to praise You (2X)."

'Love Came Down'  features guest vocals by Ryan Edgar.  The lyrics speak of sometimes having to see through the eyes of faith: "If my heart is overwhelmed and I cannot hear Your voice/I hold on to what is true, though I cannot see/If the storms of life they come, and the road ahead gets steep/I will lift these hands in faith, I will believe/I remind myself of all that You've done/And the life I have because of Your Son."  'We Exalt Your Name' was co-written with, and features guest vocals by, worship artist Matt Maher, who has six albums under his belt.  Tony Lucido plays bass on this reverent song that ascribes great worth to our Sovereign: "Your presence fills and satisfies/Tears down the walls we hide behind/Oh, God of every aching heart/We long for You in light and dark/For Jesus reigns/Over all He reigns."  'Here' was written with Leslie Jordan and David Leonard of the worship duo All Sons and Daughters.  It is an open invitation to all to draw near or nearer to God: "Come and rest here/Come and lay your burdens down/Come and rest here/There is refuge for you now/You'll find His peace/And know you're not alone anymore/He is near/You'll find His healing/Your heart isn't shattered anymore/He is here."

Kari is a supporter of the A21 Campaign ( whose aim is to abolish human trafficking in the 21st century.  Kari and her sister Kris have designed jewelry and t-shirts, the proceeds of which go to the worthy cause.

The twelve songs on WHERE I FIND YOU combine to create an intimate atmosphere of contemporary worship that could be used for devotional purposes.  I recommend this album to fans of Jessa Anderson and Jeremy Camp. Kari looks cute, almost doll like in the photos for this project.  I'm rating this album 85%.  For more info visit and

Sunday, April 15, 2012


 Holly Spears grew up in Wana, West Virginia.  According to her website: "After hours of begging her mother and spotting in the classifieds by her mom, Holly got the first love of her life, her first guitar.  Little did she know that the seemingly insignificant purchase of her twenty five dollar garage sale special would set the stage for a whirlwind of new life experiences coming her way."  Holly was discovered by Eliot Sloan, lead singer of Blessid Union of Souls, while she was doing a radio internship.  After high school she began touring with Blessid Union of Souls and opening for the likes of the Spin Doctors and Gin Blossoms.  Her music began appearing on MTV, MTV2, and VH1 among other places.  Holly's latest album HEARTACHE TO HOPE (2012, Girl on a Mission Music, LLC) was produced by Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay, Bebo Norman, Caedmon's Call) and features vocal, bass, keyboard and mastering support from multi-platinum rockers Jars of Clay, according to a press release.  In a youtube interview in 2011 with the AUGEgirl Network, of the album, Holly says: "It's about how we tend to dress up on the outside to make everything look okay when really on the inside we're upset or we're hurting." 

The album begins with a mid-tempo pop number, 'Just Another Love Song', which finds her yearning for everlasting love: "Cause I bend and I break/There's so much I can take/Just for once I would like/To feel that someone's on my side/Thick or thin, through it all/When I stand, when I fall/I wanna know/Are you just another love song?/When I wake up will you be gone?/Or is this something that is lifelong/That won't go wrong?...No."  'A Beautiful Mess' is radio friendly in sound and is about taking off the masks we often wear: "Why do I always try to hide/Everything that I feel inside/Dress it up and make it look all pretty?/Don't ever let 'em see the gritty side/I'm tryin' to hide/No way-I'll be just fine."  'Identity' is a quiet number that talks of how females sometimes go too far to please their guys: "She's on the treadmill every day/She dyes her hair and throws her favorite clothes away/But somehow what she does is never quite enough/And she gets tired of performing for his love/Yeah, she gets tired of performing for his love."

'Hard to Carry' is again quiet and is ultimately about forgiving one who has hurt you: "I wrote your name down today/Then crumpled it up and threw it away/I'm angry for the words you said/And all the hurtful things you did/Lord, help me to forgive her please/She's so hard to carry/This broken heart/Inside of me/Is so hard to carry/Help me bless her soul/Wash us white as snow/Help me let it go."  'A Small Voice' is written from the perspective of a child sex slave: "Loving neighbor/Save me sister/Help me preacher/I need you, I need you/Don't you walk away/From these words I say/Come rescue me/From all I've seen/I'm suffering/I need you, I need you/I need your love/To protect me from/The one's who came/To rob me of/My innocence/My confidence/My self-respect/My voice in this."  'Where'd you Go' is well written and builds in intensity musically.  It is about a person who has not weathered the storms of life very well: "Don't you see yourself in the mirror there?/Who's that girl you see with the dull blank stare?/How I've missed your smile and the way you laugh/Like the way you looked in that photograph/Where'd you go, where'd you go?/When you comin' back?/I've longed for you/'I don't know, I don't know/Where I went' you said/'But I'm passing through'." 

'Fairytale Dreams' is a ballad that is a call to action: "Wake up o' sleeping beauty/Your life is out there waiting for you/It's waiting for you/Your dreams aren't just in your head/Take a leap of faith, use your heart instead/Get out of your bed/It's alright to be who you're made to be/Don't be afraid (2X)."  'Even Flowers' is a gem co-written with Sarah Conant.  It is about turning the abuse one may have suffered into something good and productive: "Don't you see what you've made of me?/I'm not afraid to be who I'm supposed to be/I've been weak, but you make me strong/Go on push me down and watch me get back up/Thank you for the pain, even flowers need the rain/Freedom feels so good/Just like I knew it would."  'Looking for you' has a faster beat and is about looking for and finding one's soulmate: "I've been waiting here/You finally came my dear/Been looking for you/To run away with me/Break your plans and see/What life is/Been looking for you/Oh, oh, oh/Oh, oh, oh/I've been looking for you." 

'Watch Over Me' is a good song to crank on your stereo.  It relates the satisfaction and security one feels when they are in love: "When you're here I know I am loved, it shows/God sent you to watch over me/I am glad tonight that you hold me tight/I need you to watch over me/Can you stay a while/Till I fall asleep?/Come next to me my dear/Calm my racing heart/Beating oh so fast/Come next to me my dear."  'Learning to Love' sounds energetic and uses organ to good effect.  The song encourages one and all to take a risk and open their hearts to love: "From the bottom of my soul, I hope you know/That you're never, never out here on your own/We're all learning to let love in/To let go and/Begin again/We're learning to love/We're leaving it all behind/To free our minds/We'll seek and find/As we're learning to love."  The title track 'Heartache to Hope' is a strong finishing number.  On it Holly rejoices in the fact that God uses our trials and tribulations to develop and perfect our character: "All my life until now/I was only thinking about/The wrong that's happened to me/But now I'm starting to see/From heartache to hope/You brought me through it all/You took all my mess/Made something beautiful."  The Bible passage James 1:2-4 comes to mind: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perserverance/Let perserverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

In the liner notes for HEARTACHE TO HOPE we learn that Holly does not take her music ministry forgranted: "I am extremely thankful for the gift God has given me to share with the world; for His provision and love in my life; and for the exciting adventure it is to be living out my dreams.  I am thankful for those who have built into my career financially; emotionally; and spiritually."  The cover photo of Holly is stunning!  If you enjoy the self-esteem building message of songs such as Johnny Diaz's 'More Beautiful You' and Kevin Max's 'Be', and if you enjoy the lighter pop sounds of Natalie Merchant, The Corrs, and Erin O'Donnell, this is the album for you.  Holly Spears is a supporter of the International Justice Mission.  I'm rating HEARTACHE TO HOPE 80%.  Holly is to be commended for writing eleven of the twelve tracks herself.  For more info visit and

Thursday, April 12, 2012


GOD'S NOT DEAD (2011, Inpop Records) is the third praise and worship record from the Newsboys, with the first two being 2003's ADORATION, and 2004's DEVOTION.  This latest effort was produced by Seth Mosley, who also co-wrote four of the songs.  The current roster for the band is Michael Tait (vocals), Duncan Phillips (drums), Jeff Frankenstein (keys), and Jody Davis (guitars).

When you take the CD out of its case you can read an article behind it written by Dr. Rice Broocks.  It documents how people over the ages have concluded that God is dead: "Many thoughtful people who were influenced by Frederick Nietzsche (1900) and Karl Marx (1847) predicted that modern politics and economics would cause people to embrace atheism even as Christianity and thoughts of God would completely vanish from the world...In recent days scientists like Steven Hawking have tried to revive this non-belief in God by suggesting quantum physics has eliminated the 'need' for God."  The article offers these words of hope: "The evidence is undeniable, and as millions of people continue to put their faith in Christ around the world, God is being revealed as the source of ultimate meaning and purpose.  By humbling Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, God entered the natural world and experienced everything from the perspective of human beings.  In this way, God demonstrated the real meaning of life: a personal relationship with the Creator."

Things start off with 'The King is Coming', a joyous sounding cry for revival: "Split the sky with Your glory/Bring to life an awakening/Burn away everything that's not for You/Hear our voices crying out/We won't stop 'til heaven's come down/We won't stop 'til every knee bows to You/And all our hearts will sing/Make a way for (2X)/Make a way for the King/The King is coming."  The title track 'God's Not Dead (Like a Lion)' was written in 2010 by Daniel Bashta.  It has an energetic chorus that conveys a bold faith: "My God's not dead/He's surely alive/He's living on the inside/Roaring like a lion."  It is nice to hear Kevin Max's soulful voice in a supporting role on this track.  Max, of course, was in DC TALK with Michael Tait back in the day.

'Your Love Never Fails' is a great dance pop number that draws on a couple of Bible verses.  Romans 8:38/9 reads: "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."  Lamentations 3:22/3 reads: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."  The song begins with these words: "Nothing can separate/Even if I run away/Your love never fails/I know I still make mistakes/You have new mercy for me everyday/Cause Your love never fails."  'Here We Stand' written by Seth Mosley and Jason Ingram is an upbeat song that is modern worship at its best.  The song contains these very true words: "There's nothing like Your presence God (4X)."

'Savior of the World' continues the tradition of Newsboys songs about the importance of sharing the Gospel: "Christ the Lord overcame the darkness/He's alive: death has been defeated/For He made us a way/By which we have been saved/He is the Savior of the world/So we lift up a shout for His fame and renown/Praise the Lord (2X)/Jesus, Savior of the world/We must spread the word of His soon return/To reclaim the world for His glory."  'Forever Reign' written by Jason Ingram and Reuben Morgan is a power ballad that features strings.  It is also a song of surrender: "You are more, You are more/Than my words will ever say/You are Lord, You are Lord/All creation will proclaim/You are here, You are here/In Your presence I'm made whole/You are God, You are God/Of all else I'm letting go."

'More than Enough' is tranquil in nature musically compared to the previous tracks.  It again shares the Gospel: "Man of sorrows, heart of mercy/Love raised high upon a cross/Dead to lead us to redemption/Man of sorrows, Son of God.../Lord of life in glory risen/Love has conquered both sin and grave/Heaven's gates are truly open/Lord of life, King of kings."  'Revelation Song' is the oldest song on the album.  It was written in 2004 by Jennie Lee Riddle and has been covered by everyone from Kari Jobe to Phillips, Craig, and Dean.  The version here starts off with heavy percussion and uses guitar to good effect.  The ever familiar chorus is reverent: "Holy, holy, holy/Is the Lord God Almighty/Who was and is and is to come/With all creation I sing/Praise to the King of kings/You are my everything and I will adore You."

'Pouring it Out for You' written by Jared Anderson and Jonathan Lee makes these bold requests: "O for faith to rise/O my soul come alive/O my God You are all I need/O for feet to dance/O for a heart to romance/O for lungs to lift Your name so high.../My heart and flesh they cry out holy/Jesus be my one and only joy (2X)."  The Newsboys cover version of the praise standard 'Mighty to Save' is probably my favourite version of the song.  It is stirring and begins with these words that put us all on level ground at the foot of the cross: "Everyone needs compassion/Love that's never failing/Let mercy fall on me/Everyone needs forgiveness/The kindness of a Savior/The hope of nations."

'All the Way' includes these utopian words: "We're joining with You God/Everything You're doing/Your fire is in our hearts/Burning for the broken/We open wide our arms/A refuge for the hurting/Your mercy is our song/We're joining with You God."  Unfortunately, in reality we are often more judgmental than caring, and we tend to rank some sins as being worse than others.  The last song is 'I am Second'.  The liner notes speak of the I AM SECOND movement: "It is simple, really.  Jesus is first.  Always and forever.  I am Second is a movement that inspires people of all kinds to live for God and for others...I am Second is designed to help people discover their purpose in life.  Have you discovered yours?"  Kevin Max adds his vocal prowess to the song.  The words of the chorus sum up the theme of the album: "I'm second to One/Redeemer, the Way, the Light/I'm second to One/The Savior, no compromise/I'm laying everything at the foot of the cross/My pride, my life, my all/I am second to One/And He is second to none."

GOD'S NOT DEAD is a mighty fine praise and worship album.  Michael Tait is settling nicely into his role as lead singer.  I only wish the band had written some of the songs themselves.  I'm rating GOD'S NOT DEAD 87%.  For more info visit:,, and

Sunday, April 08, 2012


In 1995 Tammy Trent released her self-titled debut album on R. E. X. Music, which birthed the hit 'Your Love is 4 Always.'  Fast forward to 2006 and she released I SEE BEAUTIFUL (September Day Records) produced by herself, Tim Miner, John Mandeville, and Tony Montana.  This album is full of dance and R&B grooves.  In the CD booklet she writes: "Father God, I have felt Your hand on my life since I can remember, but never so strongly as when I stood on the edge of the water September 10th, 2001 when you also took the hand of Trent for all eternity at that very moment."  Tammy lost her husband in a scuba diving accident.

I SEE BEAUTIFUL begins with 'Real Life', one of three consecutive tunes written by Trent, Tim Miner, and David Garcia.  The song starts things off on a happy note: "On the cross You died for me/So I could live forever free/And the hope I feel cannot compare/Through Your strength I'm movin' on/And my heart is growin' strong/No one else could offer this to me.../I'm talking 'bout I'm livin' a, a real, real life."  The title track is up next, and begins with these words which convey a positive outlook on life: "Every time I take the time I see You/Everywhere I look I know You're there/No matter how I'm feeling I can feel You/I believe that I receive Your goodness/I choose to see things differently/You can if you will just believe."  'Is This Love' particularly brings the funk, and includes a break down by Tim Miner.  The song offers sound advice to those looking for a mate: "Lord, tell me is this love?/Wait come on anticipate/You know the Lord is never late/So lay it down and wait upon the Lord/He can give you more of what you need/Peace and love, security/So feel me when I say to you, say to you/I don't really think that settlings the answer/I believe the Lord will always have the answer."

'Pray' is infectious and features a rap part by MJ Automatic that includes these words of mutual concern: "No doubt gotta look out for each other/I pray for my sister, she pray for her brother/See I only want one thing and it ain't your money/Your cars or your bling/When I'm at church, work, home, or the hood/You pray for me, I pray for you and it's all good."  The next two tracks are co-written with former Petra guitarist Pete Orta.  'I'm Not Listening' is a great song that finds Tammy strong and single-minded in her faith: "You can take away this world/But I will hold strong/My God gives me strength to carry on/It's His Spirit I can feel/And His words that I believe/Delusions will not lose or trip or stumble me/You can say what you want/Know that I'm not listening (2X)."  'Rescue Me' features great vocals by Tammy and opens with these words of one who is weary: "I've been strong to give the world a song/And to sing praises to my King/I've been there every time and the first one in line/When You've called/But right now I can't imagine how I can live/I got nothin' more to give/I've been picked now to cope/With the same path of Job/Hear my fall."

'Stop the World' is a touching song written by Pete Orta in 2001.  Of it, Tammy writes: "This song is dedicated to the greatest love I've ever known, Trent Lenderink.  I miss you and wish I could have stopped the world."  The lyrics to the song have Tammy experiencing healing: "Now when I wake up in the morning/My eyes have never been so clear/The gift that you were is now what I have to be/I see clearly/You're my miracle of life/You're everything I breathe/I wanna fall asleep in your eternity."  'At the Foot of the Cross' was written by Kathryn Scott in 2003.  It is inspirational in nature and very pretty.  Background vocals are handled by Pam Thum and Lisa Bevill.  The song finds Tammy in love with the Lord: "I lay every burden down/At the foot of the cross/At the foot of the cross where I am made complete/You have given me life/Through the death You bore for me/And You've won my heart, yes You've won my heart."  'Forgive Me' is a ballad written by Tim Miner in 1990 that includes strings by Howard McCrary and these very vulnerable and emotional words: "Your Spirit always seems to grab me/Just before I go over the edge/But what I can't understand is why/You're even here/When I trashed my oath and my pledge."  The song blends into track ten.  'Run into the Arms of Love' continues with the theme of forgiveness: "I don't even know why Your mercy never dies/So I'll just run into the arms of love as fast as I can, Yeah/'Cause I don't even know why Your mercy never dies/So I'll run into the arms of love as fast as I can."  The album ends with 'Pray (The FloodZone Remix)' which features a rap by Chill Dog and is a good track to work out to.

In the liner notes Tammy sums up I SEE BEAUTIFUL this way: "Through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, I see beautiful.  That is my hope.  That is my strength.  That is a legacy that I want to leave behind.  To God be ALL the glory.  Love and Laughter."  The photos of Tammy are beautiful and playful.  Fans of Beyonce, Michael Jackson, and Stacie Orrico should give this album a spin.  We need more music done in this dance style in Contemporary Christian Music.  I'm rating I SEE BEAUTIFUL 87%.  For more info visit

Friday, April 06, 2012


Jaci Velasquez has won Dove Awards for New Artist of the Year (1997) and Female Vocalist of the Year (1999 and 2000).  She is known for songs such as 'If This World', 'On My Knees', 'Un Lugar Celestial', 'God So Loved', and 'Every Time I Fall'.  Like many Contemporary Christian artists she has weathered a divorce.  Things turned around for her in 2006 when she married Nic Gonzales of the Christian band Salvador.  The couple have two children together, Zealand and Soren.  Jaci also co-hosts the syndicated 'Family Friendly Radio Show' with Doug Griffin.  In the photos for her latest album DIAMOND (2012, Inpop Records) she looks beautiful.
DIAMOND begins with the title track, a great mid-tempo song written by Jaci, Chad Cates, and Tony Wood.  Guitars are handled by Ron Robinson.  The song finds Jaci satisfied in the Lord: "How You take an ordinary life/And fill it 'till it's full of light/Because of Your love/And I know You see straight through me/And I trust what You are doing/'Till I'm shining like a diamond."  'Give Them Jesus' written by Barry Weeks, Jason Barton, Chris Lockwood and Ronnie Freeman has a very contagious, upbeat chorus: "I wanna give them hope/I wanna give them peace/I wanna give the greatest of these/Give them love, love/I wanna tell the truth/And lead them to the light/And tell them everything will be alright/Give them love/Give them Jesus."  Here we see Jaci's heart for the lost and broken.  'The Sound of Your Voice' features background vocals by Michelle Swift and Nic Gonzales, and drums by Garth Justice.  Lyrically it sounds like a modern day Psalm: "The sound of Your voice echoes forever/The sound of Your voice holds us together/There's nothing more powerful/Nothing more glorious/Than the sound of Your voice/You speak calling my name/You speak and I'm never the same/How my heart thrills as You/Whisper away all my fear."

'Stay' has a bouncy beat, utilizes trumpet, trombone and saxophones and communicates the pain involved when one partner wants to leave a relationship and the other doesn't want to let go: "Though the birds are singing outside/My heart is still breaking deep inside/You and I are saying goodbye/But you just gotta stay/Hey now, hey now/We said it was you and me/But right now, somehow/I can't let you leave..../You don't have to go away/I'll be begging you to stay."  'Fall For You' written by Jaci, Tony Lucido, and John Glover, paints a picture of what a loyal friend looks like: "Hand me all your pain/And I will love you anyway/I will, I will, I will/Even 'till the end of time/Even if two worlds collide/I will never let you fall/I'll fall for you (2X)."  'Con El Viento A Mi Favor' is a powerful ballad beautifully delivered.  It matters not that I have no idea what the song is about!

'Tell Me Again' has David Davidson and David Angel performing strings.  It begins with these words we can all relate to as humans: "Today I had one of those days/Where every step I tried to take/Ended with me on my face/My confidence crumbles like dust/Right now my mistakes/Are so much bigger than my trust."  I would love to see a concept video for 'Girl'.  It is a movin' tune with saxophones, trumpet and trombone used.  The song is anti-peer pressure and pro healthy self-esteem: "Fitting in can be such a fuss/But we make it a must/Can't be too real or too virtuous/Flirty eyes and flawless skin/What happened to beauty that lies within?/So here's to the girls/The tan and the fair/You're one of a kind beyond compare.../Just for a while (3X)/Just look at you/Really look at you/You're such a pretty girl."  'Trust in You' has a groovy synth bass part.  In the song Jaci admits she needs more faith for the hard seasons in her life: "Everyone's afraid/When the winds start blowing/They're just winds of change/All I need to know/Is You're in control/And You know just what to do/I don't need to see/What I really need/Is a little more trust in You." 

'Guilt' speaks gratefully of God's powerful forgiveness that she has experienced: "It was love that saved me/You amaze me/But I was never too far from Your reach/Yesterday can't hold me/You took control of me/Conviction's overturned and I am pure/And I'm not guilty any more."  'Good Morning Sunshine' written by Jaci, Scott Davis, and Jill Paquette is a quiet number that has Chris Bevins on piano.  It closes the album with Jaci conveying her newfound joy concerning the life she's been blessed with: "Good morning sunshine, where have you been?/What took you so long?/It's good to see you again/Good morning sunshine, you feel like a dream/I have been waiting for the promise you bring/It's been a long time, ooh good morning sunshine." 

In the liner notes for DIAMOND, Jaci thanks both God and her fans: "Thank You Father, for taking my life from broken to beautiful...Thank you for listening to the music and even when I didn't believe in myself as an artist, you always did.  This record is yours, never doubt God CAN and WILL make beauty from ashes.  You are a DIAMOND!"  DIAMOND was produced by Chris Bevins and Craig Swift.  The pop sounds found on it should appeal to fans of Avalon, Pink, Zoegirl, and Hilary Duff.  For more info visit, and  I'm rating DIAMOND 88%.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


It's hard to believe it's been 25 years since Steven Curtis Chapman put out his first album, 1987's FIRST HAND! I remember buying it on cassette at the old Country Parsons store on Broadway Street in Tillsonburg, Ontario. Last year Chapman released re:creation (Sparrow Records) which he co-produced with Brent Milligan. In the liner notes he writes: "Thank you once again to radio, press, retail, and concert promotion partners that make it possible for me to still reach as many people as possible with the words and music God has given me. Humbled and more grateful than ever." This CD contains six new songs and eight remakes of his classics.

 Let's look at the new tracks first. 'Do Everything' is peppy, finds Steven on ukelele, acoustic guitars, bells, and background vocals, and is his latest number one radio single. Lyrically, it brings to mind Colossians 3:17 which reads: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Some of the words are: "You're picking up toys on the living room floor for the 15th time today/Matching up socks and sweeping up lost Cheerios that got away.../Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you/Cause He made you/To do every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face/And tell the story of grace with every move that you make/In every little thing you do." 'Long Way Home' is one of eight songs on this project that Steven wrote alone. The song is melodic, has Steven on ukelele, background vocals, and whistle, and Brent Milligan on organ. It speaks of how hard life can be: "I got some rocks in my shoes/Fears I wish I could lose/They make the mountains so hard to climb/And my heart gets so heavy with the weight of the world sometimes/There's a bag of regrets/My should've beens and not yets/I keep on dragging around/And I can hardly wait for the day I get to lay it all down." 'All That's Left' is a great Adult Contemporary song containing these beautiful words: "So let us look into each other's eyes/And read the stories written there between the lines/And take the list of all the wrongs we keep/And tear it into pieces let mercy be the only thing we're harboring/'Cause eventually...we're gonna see that/All that's left is to love/That's all that we have."

 'Meant to Be' is a nicely crafted song that will encourage you when you're feeling down on yourself: "You were meant to be touching the lives that you touch/And meant to be here making this world so much more/Than it would be without you in it/You were meant to be bringing the gifts that you bring/And singing the songs you've been given to sing/You are perfectly, wonderfully/Beautifully meant to be/You were meant to be." 'Morning Has Broken' was first published in 1931. Steven shares the microphone with his son Caleb on this song that is given a fairly traditional treatment and has a positive message. The words are by Eleanor Farjeon: "Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning/Born of the one light, Eden saw play/Praise with elation, praise every morning/God's recreation of the new day." This song goes right into 'Sing Hallelujah' which is a song of joy: "So let's sing hallelujah/The dark night is gone/Creation is singing/So come join in the song/The Father is calling/To come out and play/So we'll sing hallelujah/'Cause it's a brand new day." It should be mentioned that the latter two songs utilize the wonderful Boys Choir of Chattanooga.

 Now let us turn our attention to the eight remakes. 1992's 'The Great Adventure' was penned by Chapman and Geoff Moore. The version here includes the use of the hammered dulcimer and horns. The song has one of the most motivational choruses in the history of CCM: "Saddle up your horses we've got a trail to blaze/Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace/Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown/This is a life like no other oh...this is the Great Adventure!" 'Dive (Deeper)' features pretty flute playing by Sam Levine and continues with the theme of life as an adventure: "But we will never know the awesome power/Of the grace of God/Until we let ourselves get swept away/Into this holy flood/So if you'll take my hand/We'll close our eyes and count to three/And take the leap of faith/Come on let's go." 'Heaven in the Real World' is the title track from Chapman's 1994 album. On this version Steven plays the banjo and strings are used. The song points to the only true hope for a hurting world: "It happened one night with a tiny baby's birth/God heard creation crying and He sent heaven to earth/He is the hope, and the peace/That will make this life complete/For every man, woman, boy and girl/Jesus is the hope and the peace that will make this life complete/For every man, woman, boy and girl/Jesus is heaven in the real world."

 Chapman's son Will Franklin is one of the percussionists on 'Speechless'. The song is easy on the ears and makes it clear that human language is inadequate when it comes to thanking the Lord for who He is and what He has done: "So what kind of love could this be/That would trade heaven's throne for a cross?/And to think You still celebrate/Over finding just one who was lost/And to know You rejoice over us/The God of this whole universe/It's a story that's too great for words." 'Live Out Loud' was track one on Chapman's 2001 project DECLARATION. The version here is quieter than the original but has a groove to it, with Blair Masters on B3, and Luke Brown and Jason Eskridge on background vocals. It shares a similar message to 'This Little Light of Mine': "Think about this...if we really have been given/The gift of a life that will never end/And if we have been filled with living hope we're gonna overflow/And if God's love is burning in our hearts we're gonna glow/There's just no way to keep it in." 'For the Sake of the Call' is very mellow in contrast to the original and uses the xylophone. It speaks of surrendering all that is important to us to the Lord and His purposes: "Empty nets lying there at the water's edge/Told a story that few could believe and none could explain/How some crazy fishermen agreed to go where Jesus lead/With no thought for what they would gain/For Jesus had called them by name and they answered/We will abandon it all for the sake of the call/No other reason at all but the sake of the call/Wholly devoted to live and to die/For the sake of the call."

 'Magnificent Obsession' is a lovely ballad that talks frankly of life's difficulties and concludes that only in Jesus can one find true contentment: "Lord, You know how much/I want to know so much/In the way of answers and explanations/I have cried and prayed/And still I seem to stay/In the middle of life's complications/All this pursuing leaves me feeling like I'm chasing down the wind/But now it's brought me back to You/And I can see again...You are everything I want/You are everything I need/I want You to be my one consuming passion/Everything in my heart desires/Lord, I want it all to be for You/Jesus be my Magnificent Obsession." 'More to this Life' co-written by Phil Naish, is the oldest song here, dating back to 1989. It includes the use of harp, cello, and vibraphone and begins with these bleak words: "Today I watched in silence as people passed me by/And I strained to see if there was something hidden in their eyes/But they all looked back at me as if to say/Life just goes on."

 As most people know, Steven's daughter Maria Sue was tragically killed in a driveway accident in 2008 at their home. In the liner notes Steven writes: "To my God who has sustained me and my family through the darkest of nights and is bringing the dawn of a new morning for the Creator and Re-Creator of all things...all praise and glory!" Steven is the real deal and re:creation is a must have for any fan or collector of CCM. I recommend it to those who enjoy Petra's DOUBLE TAKE album from 2000. I'm rating re:creation 90%. For more info visit,, and

Sunday, April 01, 2012


     Laura Story writes the following on her website: "Life is filled with things you don't expect, but the Bible tells us to respond by trusting God and continuing to worship Him."  Her husband Martin was in the hospital with a brain tumor in 2006 and he still hasn't been completely healed.  They are expecting their first child this Fall.  In 2009 Laura won a Dove Award for Inspirational Album of the Year with GREAT GOD WHO SAVES.  Her second major label release is BLESSINGS (2011, Fairtrade Services) produced by Nathan Nockels of Watermark fame.
     The album begins with two upbeat numbers.  'This is the Day' begins with these words of testimony: "I'm not the same/I have been changed/By the power of Christ/The truth in my life/I can't explain/This difference He's made/Old things have gone, something new has begun/This is the day of my salvation/I will rejoice with a song of praise."  'Friend of Sinners', co-written with Brenton Brown, emphasizes the social gospel: "So give us hearts that help the widow/Give us hands that feed the poor/Give us words that bring Your healing/To this hurt and broken world."  'You are Love' is a great song that declares God's awesome character and uses a choir to good effect: "You are justice for every oppression/You're forgiveness for every confession/You are beauty, goodness, blessing/You are love/You are healing for every sickness/You are power in every weakness/You are mighty, holy, faithful/You are love." 
     'What a Savior', written by Jeremiah Jones, is a Christian radio friendly song of praise to the Lord that borrows from Psalm 23: "Jesus, You are higher, my soul's deepest desire/Hallelujah, You are Savior/You are the shepherd King, You lead us by still waters/Hallelujah, You are Savior/You are my only hope, Your kindness is my friend/And in Your presence, You restore us."  The title track, 'Blessings' is a ballad that showcases Story's great voice.  It is one of five songs on the album written solely by her.  It won Best Contemporary Christian Song at this year's Grammy's.  Lyrically, it brings to mind James 1:2: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds."  The song speaks of how God's ways are not always our ways: "And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near/And we doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love/As if every promise from Your Word is not enough/And all the while, You hear each desperate plea/And long that we'd have faith to believe/'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?/What if Your healing comes through tears?/And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?/And what if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"  'Your Name Will Be Praised', co-written with Mac Powell of Third Day, picks things up musically again and talks of exalting and following the Lord even in the difficult seasons of life: "Through the darkest of nights/When we can't find our way/We will walk by faith not sight, Lord/Your name will be praised.../For who You are/For what You've done/For what You've yet to do/This song we raise/This day we proclaim, all glory to You." 
     'One Life to Lose' is mellow and keyboard based.  It brings Matthew 16:25 to mind: "For whoever wants to save His life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it."  Here are some of the lyrics: "I've sworn again to lay it down, to bring an end/To this life lived for me/For I've one life to lose, one chance to find/A newer, better me, the old one left behind/For there's one Lord who leads, though steep the cost/I have learned when I am lost, it's there that I am found."  'Prodigal Song' reminds me of Mark Schultz with its' story telling quality.  It describes an earthly father longing for his son to come back home: "And he is watching and he is hoping/Though his eyes are weary, his arms are still open/And his prayer, so softly spoken/Please come home." 
     'Remember', written by Story, is reverent and would make for a good communion song: "This is the Lamb who was slain for us/So we the church may enter in/So bittersweet when we think of You/The One who bore our curse, our sin."  'Faithful God' is one of Story's favourites on the album and it is a great way to end the album.  A choir is nicely used to give the song power and a moving quality to it.  The lyrics show a desire for one's faith to remain strong: "May the grace that sought my heart on that first day/Be the grace that binds my heart to stay/May the truth that opened up my eyes on that first time/Be the thoughts on my mind that never go away/For You are a lamp unto my feet/A light unto my path."
     In the liner notes Laura Story shares from the heart: "To Jesus, these songs seem like such a frail offering to the One who gave Your very life for me.  May they be a sweet sound in Your ear!"  I'm recommending this album to fans of Chris Tomlin and modern worship in general.  I'm rating BLESSINGS 85%.  For more info visit and