Friday, November 29, 2013


A press release says: “Stryper are back to reclaim their throne in the hard rock/heavy metal world with the release of their 8th studio album...”  NO MORE HELL TO PAY was released in 2013 on Frontiers Records.  It debuted at Number Two on the Contemporary Christian chart and Number 33 on the Top 200 Billboard chart.  Today, Stryper is comprised of all four original members: Michael Sweet (lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar), Robert Sweet (drums, visual timekeeping), Oz Fox (lead and rhythm guitar, vocals), and Timothy Gaines (bass, vocals).  On this latest album Paul McNamara plays additional keys and synths.  Of the album title, Michael Sweet says that the hells we face on earth include addiction, financial ruin, and losing somebody”.   He adds: “When we get to heaven, there’s no more hell to pay”.  He also produced the much hyped album.

‘Revelation’ is the terrific hard rock opener.  It is written from the perspective of Jesus Christ and features some of the boldest lyrics ever from Stryper: “I’m, I’m coming like a thief at night/You, you’re out of time so make it right/There will be no more apologies/Cause My, My wrath/Will spread like a disease/There’s a revelation/It’s coming after you/Without hesitation/It’s gonna bring the truth”.  ‘No More Hell to Pay’ is a very strong title track penned by the Sweet brothers.  It is a song about diehard commitment to Christ no matter what: “I am taking it a day at a time/And I don’t care what the doubting voices say/I am lifting up the Name that will shine/And the light of heaven’s brighter every day/Oh, I know that it’s rough/Though I know there is pain/Even so when it’s tough/I will not be ashamed/If the dawn reveals the end of days/I’ll follow You till there’s/No more hell to pay”.

‘Saved By Love’ is very fast-paced and opens with a signature scream by Michael Sweet.  The song offers hope to the weary: “We can’t forget what brought us this far/It’s heaven sent, beyond the big star/Just when we’re feeling that we’re going down/We can’t go on anymore/We’re restored/We’re saved by love/We’re saved by love”.  ‘Jesus is Just Alright’ was penned by Arthur Reid Reynolds.  Many of my readers will be familiar with the Doobie Brothers version from 1972.  Others may prefer DC TALK’s 1992 version.  Stryper now puts a fun heavy metal spin on the song that will have you stomping your feet with glee.  Here are some of the simple words: “Jesus is just alright with me, Jesus is just alright, oh yeah/Jesus is just alright with me/Jesus is just alright/I don’t care what they may say/I don’t care what they may do/I don’t care what they may say/Jesus is just alright, oh yeah/Jesus is just alright.../Jesus, He’s my best friend (2X)/He took me by the hand, led me far from this broken land/Jesus, Jesus, He’s my best friend”.

Next up is ‘The One’.  It is the album’s only ballad and it’s a good one.  It is a love song for Michael’s wife Lisa: “I say with a smile/All I should with a word/And you’ve stayed for a while/It’s bordering on absurd/Cause that’s your glory and pains my story/But grace is what I’d prefer/Oh, you still move me/You will always be the one”.  ‘Legacy’ finds Stryper in heavy metal heaven.  The vocals are gritty and the guitars are meaty.  This song encourages us to think on things eternal: “We’ve built an empire/That in the end we can’t take with us/We walk the high wire/We cross the boundaries/And that’s our rush/Oh, but when we step/Beyond the other side/There will be nothing to hide/What’s our legacy?/Will we be humbled/Far beyond our pride?/Or are we in for a rough ride?/What’s our legacy?”

Michael Sweet wrote the original version of ‘Marching Into Battle’ when he was sixteen.  The song has evolved into a real fist-pumping rocker that has direct end time lyrics that would make Jack and Rexella Van Impe proud: “I saw the heavens open/And behold a white horse/The One that was sitting upon him/Was called faithful and true/His eyes were like two burning flames/And on His head a gold crown/He wore a vesture of blood/With a Name nobody knew/Marching into battle (3X)”.  The next track is called ‘Te Amo’ which is Spanish for ‘I Love You’.  These lyrics praise a human love interest: “You were there when I could sense no other soul/And you cared when I was down and letting go/You’re an angel that came down to earth to be/The saving grace/To help this non-believer see/There is more, so much more/Hidden deep beneath this land of stone/Now it’s known, I’m not alone”.

‘Sticks & Stones’ has a melodic chorus that should serve as a battle cry for those who have been wounded by another: “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But words will never hurt me, so they say/Oh well, yours hurt like hell/I’m a fighter on the mend/And I will rise above the world you spin/You fail, I wish you well”.  Michael Sweet says the next song ‘Water Into Wine’ has an AC/DC vibe to it.  Lyrically, it reminds us that we have an important choice to make when it comes to responding to Christ: “He turned water into wine/And made the blind man see/He cast devils out, into swine/He’s came to set you free/The road to hell is wide, but heaven’s narrow/Will we stop tryin’ to hide or be like Pharoah?”

Dave Mustaine, who is the founding guitarist/vocalist of Megadeth and the original lead guitarist for Metallica, is a fan of the catchy song ‘Sympathy’.  Michael Sweet says that we need to give each other more sympathy and not be so quick to judge.  Here are some of the song’s words: “Set in stone and sealed, I seem unbreakable/I’m forgiven-I forgive/As hearts degrade/Can I find some sympathy?/As mercy fades/I am blind but I just want to see”.  The closing track still finds Stryper rocking out.  The message is one of surrendering to Almighty God: “I’ve been running, I’ve been gone/Not forthcoming for so long/Disillusioned, heartless too/Convoluted, through and through/But I’m giving myself up and over to You/Take me, shape me/Break me, make me renewed”.  The song is called ‘Renewed’.

NO MORE HELL TO PAY is an album that most definitely lives up to its hype.  It is the best Stryper record in years.  Michael Sweet’s vocals are stronger than ever.  The electric guitar work is absolutely hot.  It is encouraging to see these guys still so passionate about their faith and their music after all these years!  The album artwork and band and individual photos are very professionally done.  Stryper continues to be a light in a dark place and for that I am grateful.  I’m rating NO MORE HELL TO PAY 97%.

The deluxe edition of the album comes with a 21 minute behind the scenes documentary look at the making of the album and the meanings of the songs.  The dvd also includes official music videos for ‘No More Hell to Pay’ and ‘Sympathy’.  You can catch Stryper live at the Rockpile West and the Rockpile East in Toronto April 24th and 25th, 2014.  For more info visit: and



Tuesday, November 26, 2013


The Christian Herald reports: “Each member of 1 Girl Nation had been pursuing separate musical careers when they heard about a unique opportunity to audition for a faith-based, all-female pop group”.  Lauryn Taylor Bach is from Alabama.  Kelsey Sowards is from Chicago and has a degree in music education.  Carmen Justice grew up in the Nashville area and attended Belmont University.  Lindsey Ciresi is a pastor’s kid from Florida.  Kayli Robinson grew up on military bases all over the world, as her father was in the Air Force.  She says: “The whole point of everything that we do is to bring more people into the Kingdom of Christ”.  The girls list Diane Sheets as their vocal coach.  1 Girl Nation’s debut album is self-titled and released in 2013 on Reunion Records.

The group’s contagious debut pop single ‘While We’re Young’ written by Jason Ingram, Chuck Butler, and Tony Wood, starts things off.  It is a song of declaration: “We’re gonna go right when the world goes left/Cause we don’t wanna waste even one of these days/We’re gonna save ourselves the heartache/We’re not looking back on what we wished we’d done/We’re gonna risk it all for one thing/And live for Jesus while we’re young”.  ‘Vertical’ is a fast-paced dance track that reveals these five gals are on a clear mission: “All the broken, all the hopeless, strangers in need/They are with us, they are Jesus, all the least of these/Oh Lord, how we need Your strength to stand/Oh Lord, help us be your Your feet and hands/We’re going vertical, praying for miracles/Wanna see heaven here on earth/Lifting our hands up high, people of God unite/Together we can change this world”.

‘Live For You’ finds the group overcome with God’s goodness: “You make me light up just like matches/If only I could find the words to say/Can’t think, can’t speak when I feel Your grace/Cause You love me up to outer space/You really blow my mind like dynamite/And I’m always gonna live for You.../I’m like a work of art made in Your hands/Van Gogh couldn’t draw like You”.  ‘In The Eyes’ is an effective ballad that could be addressed to those kids and teens who have been bullied: “You are treasured, you are beautiful/In the eyes, in the eyes of the One who made you/You are perfect/You’re worth more than you know/In the eyes, in the eyes of the One who made you/So you’re different, let them say you are/Cause you’re the vision of the Father’s heart”.

‘Count Your Rainbows’ was written by Lauryn Taylor Bach, Casey Brown, and Jonathan Smith.  It is reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s pop material and encourages perseverance: “The hands that paint the sky and lift the sun to rise/Will keep on holding you close through every season/Mercy and morning light breaks through the darkest night/So keep believing no matter what you’re seeing/Ooooo, just remember/He’ll bring you brighter days”.  The hip sounding ‘Love Like Crazy’ features Royal Tailor who were nominated for a Grammy for their debut album which released in 2011.  This song shows a desire to go against society’s flow: “We are meant to burn bright, be a light/Illuminate the night sky/We gotta be the spark/Show the world who we are/And love like crazy/We gotta follow to lead/Take a stand on our knees/And love like crazy/We’re gonna let it shine/We wanna live like Christ/We gotta be the spark”.

‘Turn Around’ reminds us that no matter how bad we’ve screwed up in the past God offers us a bright future with a clean slate: “You’re never too far from a brand new start/You can turn around, turn around/Cause where you have been isn’t who you are/You can turn around, turn around/You don’t have to stay down/He can lift you up now/Cause you’re never too far from a brand new start/You can turn around, turn around/Second chances are in His hands/He’ll forgive you even when you can’t”.  ‘Invade’ packs a good one-two punch musically.  The words put youthful exuberance on display: “There’s something in the air, something in the water/We can’t be quiet anymore/We are sons and daughters/You have given us a reason to jump and shout/Tell the world about how we’re sold out/No, we’re not afraid, we are outlaws/We will live on the edge, be a rebel/Oh, Your love, Your love, it has covered me/Gotta tell the world how to be free/We, we will invade this world for You/Spark a generation with the truth”.

‘Daddy’s Girl’ was penned by Keith Everette Smith (who also plays piano here), Jessica Campbell, and Jason Cox.  Chris Carmichael is responsible for strings.  This is a quiet song of deep gratitude for a loving, earthly father: “Ooh, one in a million and I got to be yours/Our souls are forever tied together/Through tears and all the laughter/You love me like no other/You say I’m the center of your whole wide world/I’ll always be my daddy’s girl/You danced me ‘cross the kitchen floor/And we’ll dance the day you give me away/You’re the first call when I need advice/You always know the right words to say”.  Of the album’s title track, which interestingly ends things off, Lindsey says: “It’s our message.  It encourages girls to stop all the gossiping and trash talk, but come together, be strong, and live for their faith.  Come together as a  1 Girl Nation.  Our message is unifying the generation that’s rising”.  This power pop song includes these words: “Drama, drama, talking smack on the internet/Sister, she’s just like you/So don’t talk trash ‘cause you’ve been there too.../Come together as a one girl nation/Shout it to all creation/Jesus is our foundation/We stand strong, it’s a revolution”.

1 Girl Nation performed on the Secret Keeper Girl Crazy Hair Tour in six Ontario cities this November.  These events targeted girls aged 8 to 12 and their mom’s.  1 Girl Nation’s music and message is smart, relevant, and contemporary.  They don’t talk down to their audience.  I highly recommend this album to those pop music lovers who value good, clean lyrics.  Fans of Zoegirl and Everlife will love this album which I’m rating 90%.  For more info visit: and


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


A recent press release says: “For The Hagees, music is ingrained in the very fabric of their lives.  Tina, Sandy, and Pastor Matt grew up gathering around the family piano singing along with their Dad, Pastor John Hagee-a memory painted in their minds like a classic postcard”.  John is Senior Pastor of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church which has nearly 20,000 members.  Matthew Hagee is Associate Pastor.  Tina works in marketing, while Sandy is an attorney.  The Hagees’ new cd is CHRISTMAS (2013, Difference Media).  It was produced by Michael Sykes (Gaither Vocal Band, The Oak Ridge Boys) and Aaron Crabb.  These words from the cd insert set the tone for the album: “As you walk through the front door of the Hagee home you are overwhelmed.  Greeted by garland wrapped stairs and twinkle lights, the delicious aromas pouring from the kitchen stir your appetite”.

CHRISTMAS begins with a cover of Mercy Me’s 2007 hit ‘God With Us’.  Matthew is on lead vocals.  This song delights in spiritual freedom and victory through Christ: “All that is within me cries/For You alone to be glorified/Emmanuel God with us/My heart sings a brand new song/My debt is paid/And these chains are gone/Emmanuel God with us”.  ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ has a warm feel to it musically.  These lyrics paint a picture of utopia: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Make the yuletide gay/From now on our troubles will be miles away/Here we are as in olden days/Happy golden days of yore/Faithful friends who are dear to us/Gather near to us once more”.  ‘Blue Christmas’ was written by Billy Hays and Jay Johnson in 1948.  It has an old country feel to it and conveys heartache during the holidays: “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you/I’ll be so blue thinkin’ about you/Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree/Won’t be the same, if you’re not here with me”.

On ‘O Holy Night’ Pastor John takes the lead.  The song is given a traditional, reverent treatment.  These words make clear the deep significance of Christ’s birth for humankind: “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining/It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth/Long lay the world in sin and error pining/Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth/A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices/For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn/Fall on your knees”.  ‘That Spirit of Christmas’ was penned by Parnell Davison, Mable John, and Joel D. Webster.  The female lead vocal on this track is highly influenced by country music.  The song wishes for Christmas cheer not to be just one day of the year: “I was sittin’ by the fireside/Taking a walk through the snow/Listening to a children’s choir/Singing songs about Jesus/The blessed way that He came to us/Why can’t it remain all through the year/Each day the same?/Yeah, that’s what I wanna hear/It’s truly amazing/That spirit of Christmas”.  ‘Glory to God’, written by Matthew Hagee and Aaron Wilburn, is an inspirational style song of celebration: “More than a babe, He is the King/He’s the ruler of everything/My fallen soul He reconciled/Now I’ll sing with the angel choir/Glory to God in the highest/Peace on earth, good will to men/We sing glory to God in the highest/The King is born in Bethlehem”.

‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ is given the traditional treatment.  This song is a sincere human appeal for intimacy with Jesus: “Holy Child of Bethlehem/Descend to us we pray/Cast out our sin and enter in/Be born to us today/We hear the Christmas angels/The great glad tidings tell/Come to us, abide with us/Our Lord, Emmanuel”.  ‘Silent Night’ was arranged by Aaron Crabb.  This version has a female lead and a lullaby quality to it: “Silent night, holy night/All is calm, all is bright/Round yon virgin mother and child/Holy infant so tender and mild/Sleep in heavenly peace/Sleep in heavenly peace”.  Pastor John sings lead on Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’  The song is sentimental: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/To hear sleigh bells in the snow/I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/With every Christmas card I write”.

Matthew takes the lead on ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’.  This is one of three songs that uses a choir arranged by Wesley Pritchard.  This first song could easily be delivered by a soldier serving his or her country overseas: “I’ll be home for Christmas/You can count on me/Please have snow and mistletoe/And presents on the tree/Christmas Eve will find me/Where the love light beams/I’ll be home for Christmas/If only in my dreams”.  ‘A Baby Changes Everything’ was originally recorded by Faith Hill.  It is a terrific song written from the perspective of an expecting Mary: “Teenage girl, much too young/Unprepared for what’s to come/A baby changes everything/Not a ring on her hand/All her dreams and all her plans/A baby changes everything (2X)/The man she loves, she’s never touched/How will she keep his trust?/A baby changes everything(2X)/And she cries!”. 

The cozy sounding ‘The Christmas Song’ was written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells.  It reminds us that Christmas is especially for children: “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow/Will find it hard to sleep tonight/They know that Santa’s on his way/He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh/And every mother’s child is going to spy/To see if reindeer really know how to fly”.  The album closes with a song originally recorded by the late Whitney Houston.  The song is filled with wonder: ``Mommies and daddies always believe/That their little angels are special indeed/And you could grow up to be anything/But who would imagine a King?/A shepherd or teacher is what you could be/Maybe a fisherman out on the sea/Or maybe a carpenter building things/But who would imagine a King?”.

Pastor John writes: “The first Christmas morning in Bethlehem’s manger was the birth of Hope itself for a world enslaved by the power of sin.  The birth of Jesus Christ brought spiritual and civil liberty to all the world”.  The vocals on CHRISTMAS are spot on and the musical accompaniment is pleasant.  This album does indeed sound like Christmas music and it is a bonus that it includes both secular and sacred songs.  I recommend this album to older folks and those who like their music more laid back.  There is not much experimentation with the standards and Pastor John only takes the lead on a couple of songs.  The spotlight is mainly on his children’s vocals.  John’s daughters are beautiful, not taking a backseat to the Kardashian sisters.  I’m rating CHRISTMAS 80%.  For more info visit:,, and


Friday, November 15, 2013


Ryan Stevenson is a Boise, Idaho based artist who grew up in rural Oregon.  While at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon, his friends included Shawn McDonald and Paul Wright, both names familiar to Christian music fans.  Ryan’s career took off when he won the Idaho State Fair’s ‘Christian Battle of the Bands’.  He is a husband and father of two boys, and a worship leader at Vertical Church Boise.  He thanks his wife Kim “for walking with me and holding onto our family even through the loneliest, hopeless, uncertain times”.  Ryan’s new release is the four song ep HOLDING NOTHING BACK (2013, Gotee Records).  The first three songs were produced by Jamie Moore and mixed by Christopher Stevens.


First up is Ryan’s terrific debut single, the title track.  The writers are Ryan, Jamie Moore, and Toby McKeehan.  It has adult contemporary written all over it.  Ryan says: “It’s one of the most personal, vulnerable songs I have written”.  The lyrics essentially find Ryan pouring out his heart to God: “I’ve got a list that goes on and on/It’s overflowing with memories of everything that I’ve been doing wrong/I’ll be the first to say/I’ve chased after so many foolish things/Looking for a way to kill the pain/Oh, I’m holding nothing back from You/It doesn’t really matter what I lose/I got a heart that’s open/I’m broken and I want You to know/Jesus, I don’t want anything coming in between You and me/Jesus, doesn’t matter what I have to go through/I’m holding nothing back, nothing back from You”.  Next up is ‘The Human Side’.  Of it, Ryan says: “This song gives me comfort in knowing that Jesus isn’t shocked by my failures or surprised when I fumble around.  We are human and yet we are loved in spite of all our failures”.  This song has a heavy, percussive beat that drives it.  Like track one, it again finds Ryan conversing with God: “I’m so thankful I can tell You/How I’m feeling, what I’m going through/I’m so thankful You can handle all of my chaos, all of my chaos/Oh, I don’t have the words to say/Oh, You’re the only hope I have today/Your, Your love keeps showing me/You understand, You understand.”


‘Lead the Way’ penned by Ryan and Jamie Moore, is a fast-paced, cheery sounding pop number.  Those believers who struggle with mental illness will be able to relate to these lyrics: “Every now and then I feel my heart becoming restless/Anxiety trying to get a hold of me/Every now and then I feel the tension taking over/I’m so distracted by everything/But You say/It’s gonna be ok/You are with me every step of the way/I don’t need to know where I’m gonna go/Just as long as You lead the way”.  The last track is a great acoustic version of ‘Speak Life’.  This song was composed by Toby McKeehan, Ryan, and Jamie Moore.  TobyMac included it on his Grammy winning album EYE ON IT.  The song deals with the power of the tongue, which is a Scriptural concept: “And it’s crazy to imagine/Words from our lips as the arms of compassion/Mountains crumble with every syllable/Hope can live or die…/Lift your head a little higher/Spread the love like fire/Hope will fall like rain/When you speak life with the words you say/Raise your thoughts a little higher/Use your words to inspire/Joy will fall like rain when you speak life/With the things you say”.


HOLDING NOTHING BACK is a short, wonderful teaser of what is to come from this very talented CCM newcomer.  His vocals are smooth and his musical stylings very entertaining.  You are sure to hear much more from Ryan Stevenson on daytime Christian radio in the future.  Ryan’s favorite movie is ‘Dumb and Dumber’.  His favorite book is William P. Young’s ‘The Shack’ (2007).  Currently on his ipod is Unspoken’s ‘Lift My Life Up’.  I’m rating HOLDING NOTHING BACK 90%.  Fans of Matthew West will enjoy it.  For more info visit: and


Thursday, November 14, 2013


REWIRING YOUR PREACHING: HOW THE BRAIN PROCESSES SERMONS was published by InterVarsity Press in 2012.  The author is Richard H. Cox who is president emeritus of Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.  He teaches in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical School.  He is also ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Let me begin by saying this is definitely one of the most academic books I have read in recent memory.  I did not understand every point Cox makes, and there were definitely some words/terms I was not familiar with.  That being said I did take a lot away from the book.

This offering will really get you thinking in a new way, about preachers and preaching.  For example, what qualities, insights, and qualifications should a preacher have?  Cox makes it clear that preachers today must have a working knowledge of how the brain/mind works and also how the body works.  He goes into great detail on how preachers can actively engage the minds of their congregants.  Science on how the brain works cannot be ignored by clergy.  It is crucial to understand how and why a person in the pew accepts and integrates new information into their lives.  Change starts in a person’s brain, which leads to a change in action/behaviour.  Cox also details why some people reject a sermon or parts of it.  It is not just because they are bull-headed.

Also in the book, Cox writes of how preaching and pastoring are very different. He gives us a unique look into the meaning of the sacraments in modern churches.  He also spends a fair amount of time expressing why he thinks symbols, rituals, and liturgy should not be abandoned by today’s churches.  

Cox cautions that we not get too attached to our denominations. The Gospel is what is of most import.  He gives practical suggestions on how parishioners and clergy can effectively challenge and transform the ills in modern society, whether it be in schools, politics, banks, etc.

Reading this book confirmed to me that not everyone who is a preacher should hold that office.  Just as a doctor or psychiatrist needs proper training, education, and knowledge, so too do preachers.  To be effective, preachers must first take their sermons to heart themselves and practice what they preach.  They must also have a true heart for the spiritual growth of their parishioners and community.

Preachers must preach for a decision, that is, with a specific goal in mind.  The office of preacher is not one that should be taken lightly. I’m rating REWIRING YOUR PREACHING 90%.  For more info visit:

Thursday, November 07, 2013


Dara Joy Maclean was born on May 19, 1986 in Fort Worth, Texas.  She is of Italian heritage.  Her grandfather changed their family name from Martarella.  Dara married Donnie Petty in May of 2013.  Her website says that she “is passionate about raising the awareness of, and bringing an end to, the issue of human trafficking.”  For more info on this, visit  In 2011 she released her major label debut YOU’VE GOT MY ATTENTION which included the hits ‘Suitcases’ and ‘Free’.  Now she is back with her follow-up, WANTED (2013, Fervent/Word).  She says it is “a reminder that through the gift of God’s grace, you’re truly blessed, forgiven, good enough, that you can stop fighting and find peace, as you rest in the knowledge of God’s opinion of you and letting it be the only one that matters.  The fact that He sees you through the sacrifice of His Son and that sacrifice was enough to eternally cleanse and redeem, no matter what the story.”  WANTED was produced by Paul Mabury.

The first three songs were written by Dara, Justin Ebach, and Paul Mabury.  The title track is a bouncy pop song that invites us to run into God’s arms: “You are wanted/To every broken heart, He stands with open arms/You are wanted/To every searching soul, look to the rising sun/If you’re lonely, hurting, gone too far/To the outcast, you come as you are/For you, you are wanted, you, you are wanted/You, you are wanted, you, you are wanted/Let this be the day that joy takes the place/Of all the years that shame tried to steal away.”  ‘Our Only Hope’ is an inspiring song that speaks words of truth: “You’re Healer to the broken/Shepherd to the lost/Father to the orphan/Adopted by the cross/There’s comfort in Your arms/It’s where the healing starts/Our only hope is Jesus.”

Of the next song, ‘Set My People Free’, Dara says: “It is my mission statement and my battle cry.”  It is a rousing song that finds God speaking to His followers: “Set My people free/Go into the world, every boy and girl/Deserves to know a life beyond the fight/And reach where there’s no light or hope/So the captives know/And My enemies can see that I will/Set My people free.”  ‘Love Is’ was penned by Dara, Dave Barnes, and Paul Mabury.  It contains these words of testimony: “How could I be the same/Once I was saved by grace?/You put together every broken piece/Now faded are the scars/And all the wasted hours/With every day Your kindness wins/Now and forever I will sing/It’s Your love that saved me/Even when my heart was breaking.”

‘Good Enough’ is a great song with a laid back groove to it.  It debunks works righteousness: “So I won’t spend my whole life/Paying my own price/Tryin’ to be good enough/I’m gonna just let You love me/Finally see me the way You see/I’m believing Your grace is enough for me/Thank God I don’t have to hold on with my own strength/I’m not the one who saved me/So I’m trusting You completely.”  ‘Step Into the Light’ is one of two co-writes with the multi-talented Cindy Morgan.  This one tells of God’s healing power: “I’ve been love hungry, always trying to fill the void/And it leaves you wanting more/But when it’s real, you feel it reach inside your heart/It only restores/Hey, hey, hey, I’m so tired of trying/Gonna let grace be like sunlight shining/Step into the light/Open up your eyes/It’s already done/He’s already won the fight.”

‘Blameless’ is a ballad containing these beautiful words: “What manner of love is this/That You would lay down Your life?/You paid the price, the sacrifice for redemption/Now I am determined to know/Christ and Him crucified/Now alive and the power in me is You/Now blameless, You call me holy/I’ve been forgiven/You call me righteous and free.”  ‘You are all I Need’ is another ballad.  This one declares a total dependence on God: “You are all I need/You are strength/Never failing/You are all I seek/You alone are enough/In You I live/In You I’ll stay/By Your Word/Light the way.”

‘Nobody But You’ has a cool shuffle to it and includes these fun lyrics: “You put the soul in James Brown, the down in downtown/You throw a party in the clouds when the lost get found/You put the mind in Einstein, the gold in gold mines/And every day You find a way to save my life/You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful.”  These words from ‘I am Blessed’ show that Dara has great faith in God: “No matter what may come/You’re stronger than the storm/Forever I will say/You are always good, always good.”  Style-wise it has Alicia Keys written all over it!

‘Made’ was written for Dara’s husband.  In fact, Dara walked down the aisle to it.  It nicely uses strings and includes these romantic, somewhat mushy lyrics: “When I saw you it was different/You were autumn, you were Christmas/My perfect gift from Heaven’s door/I’ve never been loved before you/Oh, love, this is the start, where we belong/Can’t get enough of each other/Oh, love, here is my heart/Here we go falling together.”  ‘Find Rest’ ultimately ends the album off on a peaceful note both musically and lyrically: “Though the darkness falls/And the storms are raging/I will find my shelter in You, in You/Fount of mercy new/God of love unchanging/Now my heart is resting in You.” 

In the liner notes Dara writes: “I want to begin by giving glory only where it’s due, to my Father and Savior Jesus Christ for the inspiration, timing, and the gift of this record.”  Dara’s voice is surely one of the most soulful in Contemporary Christian Music.  Her vocals are rich in tone, depth, and character, and rampant with feeling!  Her influences include Etta James, Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill, CeCe Winans¸and Hillsong.  The pictures of Dara included with this project are just beautiful.  I’m rating WANTED 88%.  The digital deluxe edition has two bonus songs.  For more info visit: and