Wednesday, June 25, 2014


David Wallace Crowder was born on November 29, 1971.  He was lead singer for David Crowder*Band.  They released their debut independent CD POUR OVER ME in 1996.  Over the years they became known for such songs as ‘Open Skies’, ‘Here is our King’, ‘Everything Glorious’, and ‘O Praise Him (All This for a King)’.  Their two disc release GIVE US REST debuted at No 1 on the Billboard Christian chart and at No 2 on the Billboard 200 chart.  The group won nine Dove Awards and had two Grammy nominations.  In 2012 they disbanded.  Most of the other members formed The Digital Age.  David Crowder’s bio notes he “has been embraced for his lyrically powerful and musically elaborate and unpredictable songs that have found themselves being sung everywhere from churches to clubs all across the country”.  Crowder’s latest solo album is NEON STEEPLE (sixstepsrecords/Sparrow Records, 2014).

‘Neon Intro’ is a short, mellow track with conversational lyrics: “Well, I didn’t come here of my own accord/And I guarantee I can’t leave like this/Where you are I don’t care/But whoever brought me here/Is gonna have to take me home/Yeah, you’re gonna have to take me home”.  ‘My Beloved’ was written by Crowder, Seth Philpott, and Ed Cash.  It is an energetic track making use of banjo, cello, and violin.  It is about a spiritual awakening: “My Beloved, bring me awake/Take me up to Your resurrection place/My Beloved, bring me awake/Cause I wanna feel Your light on my face.../My Beloved, take me away, over Jordan up out of this place/My Beloved for You I’ll wait/With You here ‘til forever face to face”.

On the adult contemporary song ‘I Am’ Crowder puts full confidence in his God: “I am holding on to You (2X)/In the middle of the storm/I am holding on, I am.../There’s no space that His love can’t reach/There’s no place where we can’t find peace/There’s no end to amazing grace”.  ‘Come Alive’ is a dance song of testimony with Sally George on background vocals: “We have tasted and seen of the never ending grace of the King/Where the broken and the least of the least come alive.../Your love was the remedy/For the sickness in my heart/And now it’s the melody rising up in me/Rising up in me”.

‘Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)’ offers awesome advice: “All who’ve strayed and walked away/Unspeakable things you’ve done/Fix your eyes on the mountain/Let the past be dead and gone/Come all saints and sinners/You can’t outrun God/Whatever you’ve done you can’t overcome the power of the blood/If you’re lost and wanderin’/Come stumbling in like a prodigal child/See the walls start crumbling/Let the gates of glory be open wide”.  ‘Come as You Are’ is a nice ballad of invitation: “There’s hope for the hopeless/And all those who’ve strayed/Come sit at the table/Come taste the grace/There’s rest for the weary/Rest that endures/Earth has no sorrow/That heaven can’t cure.../Come as you are (2X)/Fall in His arms/Come as you are”.

‘Hands of Love’ musically sounds like an upbeat Newsboys song but has Ron Block playing banjo.  The song speaks of being secure in God: “In His hands that hung the sky/In His hands that touched the blind/In His hands He is holding me/In His hands that flung the stars/In His hands that bear the scars/In His hands He is holding me”.  Phil Madeira plays slide and electric guitar on the Hank Williams Sr./Charles Monroe 1951 composition ‘Jesus is Calling’.  This old country song offers hope: “If you’re lost in sin/There’s no need for you to stay/Jesus is calling, calling, calling night and day/If the night is dark/You will soon see the day/Jesus is calling, calling, calling night and day”.

‘My Sweet Lord’ is a quiet song of vulnerability with the legendary Emmylou Harris on backing vocals and Phil Madeira on B3.  Here are some of the words: “My sweet Lord/Desperately I am alone and afraid to be/My love is gone so far away/I need my sweet Lord’s help today/Let Your love shine down on me and light the way to be/Oh and these are the words that I pray/I need my sweet Lord’s help today”.  ‘This I Know’ includes fiddle, gang vocals, and claps.  It also makes requests of God: “Take me up to where I was/When I never wanted more than You/Lift me up to feel Your touch/It wouldn’t be that much for You/This I know (4X)”.

‘Ain’t No Grave’ is a good sing-a-long song that finds Crowder determined: “Lord I’m crooked from head to toe/Got dirty hands and a dirty soul/I was lost but now I’m found/Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down/Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down”.  ‘You Are’ confidently declares who God is: “You are constant in my wandering/You are brighter than the dark in me/You are the love that sets me free/You are faithful, You are faithful/You are/Ever waiting for the weary/Ever wanting them to see/There’s ransom, there’s forgiveness/Your hope is all around me/Though I’m prone to leave Your side/You draw me like the tide”.

‘Here’s My Heart’ finds Matt Gilder on piano, Cara Fox on cello, and Gabe Scott on background vocals.  This testimonial was written by Chris Tomlin, Jason Ingram, and Louie Giglio: “You are strong, You are sure/You are life, You endure/You are good, always true/You are light breaking through/You are more than enough/You are here/You are love/You are hope/You are grace/You’re all I have/You’re everything”.  ‘Steeple Outro’ is a fitting conclusion to the album: “I needed waking/I needed breaking/I needed You my Lord/And You took my hand/Led me to the river/And buried all I was/Then You kiss my face and told me I was Yours/And I knew I’d found my home”.

NEON STEEPLE is an eclectic musical stew combining elements of bluegrass, praise and worship, techno dance, and pop music.  Crowder’s voice is still in top form.  This is an album both teens and their parents will enjoy!  I’m rating NEON STEEPLE 90% and recommending it to fans of Needtobreathe and Patty Griffin.  I can’t wait for Crowder’s next album.  For more info visit:


Friday, June 20, 2014


Eymard is Rick McDonough. He wrote and performed all the music on 2011’s AMBIENT TRACKS FOR FILM: ONE (Hill deg Maria Records).  Ambient is defined by one online reference source as “pertaining to or noting sounds that create a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere”.  This totally instrumental record clocks in at 77:32.  The Cd insert includes this simple statement: “She reinforces hope, reminding me to dream”. 

The album opener ‘Dismay’ has a sci-fi feel to it. It will make you think you are traveling through outer space.  ‘Parkway Rearview Mirror Remainder’ sounds like it could be used in a mystery or suspense movie.  ‘HEmispharion’ makes me think of a gal skinny dipping in a lake just before she is attacked, in a movie of course.  One could envision a royal castle made out of glistening crystals while listening to the next song ‘Frozen Snowflake Perspective’.    The album’s shortest track ‘Between Equinox and Anticipation’ (3:57) is also one of my least favourite.  ‘Two Thirty Nine’ makes me think of someone departing this earth for his/her eternal home in heaven.

‘And I’m Now the Let Down’ is an inquisitive track, while ‘Numb Instead’ is a tranquil one.  ‘The Recognition and the Recovery’ puts me in mind of a night time stroll on the beach.  ‘Syntax to Synapse’ is the album’s longest track at 7:46.  ‘Pearl’ makes me think of a diver underwater searching for treasures and artifacts in the ocean.  Meanwhile, I can picture a parent lovingly putting their kids to bed after a long day, when I listen to ‘Reminding My Dreams’.

AMBIENT TRACKS FOR FILM: ONE is mostly dark, moody, brooding, melancholy, instrumental music with a few exceptions of cheerfulness.  It is both thoughtful and thought-provoking.  Rick has done a great job here! I’m rating it 83%.  For more info visit and  Eymard’s latest project is entitled LIGHT (2014).


Thursday, June 19, 2014


STRUCK LAST MAY is Michael Knott and Rick McDonough.  In 2007 they released 16 FLOWERS (Hill deg Maria Records).  Rick calls it “a quirky, fun, experimental project”.  It is a decidedly mainstream album, so don’t look for Gospel truths here.  The liner notes say: “The record 16 Flowers, is a journey loosely based upon a fictional couple who encounter emotional peaks and valleys as they experience each other, as well as the world around them”.

An eerie instrumental piece ‘Over Oceans’ starts things off.  It is followed by ‘Fraidy Cat’ a funky rock song that includes these lyrics: “She’s a good girl when she does what I ask her to/She’s a bad girl when she wants what I ask her to/Little dog/Big dog/Confused puppy”.  ‘Bundle Up’ is delivered with passion: “Hold my hands, kiss these lips/Friendship’s never felt like this/You’re the girl for me/You’re the one I know will/Rip my ribs out of my chest/See my bloody heart confess/You’re never gonna kill me”.

‘Pollen’ is a silly song: “Nectar/I’m a flower/She’s a flower/Buzzy bees”.  You’d think the duo was high on this one!  ‘Impossible’ is an acoustic track of reflection: “Thought I’d see you in the summer/Found out I’d find you in the winter/It’s never that cold in Southern California/It’s never that cold in Laguna Beach.../Lookin’ for, lookin’ for/True love, true love/Impossible”.  ‘Recovery’ includes these playful remarks: “You say I’m a silly goose/I say you are beautiful”.

‘Sunshine Beach’ has a cheerful rock feel to it musically.  A couple of the lines are: “I haven’t seen her smile lately/Live forever on Sunshine Beach”.  ‘Footing’ is a short song with a darker feel to it: “I need footing/Can you find me?/I’m willing”.  ‘Like Milk’ is a song of infatuation: “Her skin is like milk/Her love is like this/She tastes like cocoa, cocoa, cocoa/Butter”.

‘You Are Me’ includes these instructions: “Straighten my legs/Straighten my hands down/Leaped about five feet off the ground/Start movin’ forward/Don’t pass out/It’s as real as the sky I see”.  ‘With Wrong Words’ is a sleepy song.  ‘Go Kart Ragazza’ is a fun song: “She took home 3 Aztec trophies 1961/Yeah/ Racing in a Bug Scorpion”.  Brenda Clark lends her vocal talents to the song.

‘Fireworks’ is a neat, percussion heavy, industrial instrumental that reminds me of Passafist.  The title track ’16 Flowers’ is acoustic and finds a lover trying to save their partner from possible suicide. 

Overall, I would classify this album as experimental light rock music.  On it you can even hear the vocalists buzzing like bees and barking like dogs!  There are a lot of distorted sounds used to good effect.  Fans of the more experimental works of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Michael Knott, and Michael Roe, should give this album a listen.  Lyrically the album is greatly open to interpretation by the listener.  There is no one meaning for any of the songs.  Those who prefer message music should steer clear of this one.  I’m rating 16 FLOWERS 80%.  For more info visit: and


Tuesday, June 03, 2014


Michael Whitaker Smith was born on October 7, 1957 in Kenova, West Virginia.  His dad was an oil refinery worker and his mom a caterer.  Michael signed as a songwriter with Meadowgreen Music in 1981, writing songs for the likes of Sandi Patty and Amy Grant.  He was Amy’s keyboardist on her AGE TO AGE tour, and went on to become her opening act.  His debut album THE MICHAEL W. SMITH PROJECT came out in 1983 on Reunion Records.  It included several great songs including ‘Friends’ and ‘You Need a Savior’.  My favourite album of his is THE BIG PICTURE released in 1986.  His first worship album WORSHIP came out in 2001 and did very well.  Now he is back with his fourth worship album SOVEREIGN (2014, Capitol CMG/Sparrow).  I am reviewing here the standard twelve song version, which runs 56 minutes and 39 seconds.

‘You Won’t Let Go’, a rousing adult contemporary song penned by Michael, Seth Mosley, and Mia Fieldes, starts things off.  It should encourage those going through hard times: “No raging storm can ever defy/One word of faith/My heart remains sure in the wind/Sure in the waves/You are the anchor for my soul/You won’t let go (2X)/No matter what may come I know/You won’t let go/No valley low changes the truth/So I’m not afraid”.  ‘Heaven Come Down’ is a sincere cry for revival: “Oh, we are broken/Here before You now/God we’re cryin’ out/Bringing You a heart that’s open/Come and light a fire (2X)/Like an ocean/Washin’ over us/Strong and glorious/Your love has spoken/And our hearts are open/Oh, heaven come down tonight/We wanna see Your glory shine”.

‘Miracle’ is an adult pop song of testimony: “I am a miracle/I am a miracle/Impossible/The war was lost/Before Your blood/Before the cross/My shame no more/My curse no more/You made a way (2X).../Amazing grace/How sweet the sound/I once was lost/But now I’m found”.  ‘Sky Spills Over’ was penned by Michael, his son Ryan, and Christopher Stevens.  Wes King plays acoustic guitars and Ben Clark plays banjo.  This very positive song has a pulsating beat: “Lift your eyes/Look to the horizon now/There’s still a hope for us/Reach up from the dust/And call it down/Can you hear/Can you hear that thunder?/Sing His Name, Sing it out/’Til the sky spills over/I may just be dry bones/Stripped of sinew and skin/But the wind of His Spirit/Will raise me up again”.

‘All Arise’ includes strings by David Henry and reminds us to revere God: “There is only One/Whose majesty is unending/There is only One/The King of Kings, never failing/All, all arise/At the Name of our Savior/Who is worthy/You are worthy”.  ‘You Are The Fire’ is a song that builds in intensity musically and reminds us God can’t be contained in a box of our own making: “You’re all consuming/You can’t be contained/Never relenting, changing everything/You are the love that overwhelms my heart/You are the fire lighting up the dark.../Fan the flames ‘til the whole world sees us burn/You are the fire”.

‘Christ Be All Around Me’ was written by Leeland Mooring, Jack Mooring, David Leonard, and Leslie Jordan.  It is a great congregational style song that serves as a prayer: “As I rise, strength of God/Go before, lift me up/As I wake, eyes of God/Look upon, be my sight/As I wait, heart of God/Satisfy and sustain/As I hear, voice of God/Lead me on, be my guide/Be my guide/Above and below me/Before and behind me/In every eye that sees me/Christ be all around me”.  Aaron Keyes, Bryan Brown, and Jack Mooring wrote ‘Sovereign Over Us’.  Jack is Michael’s son-in-law.  This terrific worship ballad uses violin, viola, cello, and double bass.  It boldly declares who God is: “Your plans are still to prosper/You have not forgotten us/You’re with us in the fire and the flood/You’re faithful forever/Perfect in love/You are sovereign over us.../You’re the lifter of the lowly/Compassionate and kind/You surround and You uphold me/And Your promises are my delight”.

‘Hide Myself’ values intimacy with God above all else: “You are the refuge that stands/You hold my world in Your hands/The quiet in the noise/The stillness of Your voice/Will be enough.../And it’s Your presence alone/That changes all that I know/’Til all that I know/Is just Your presence alone/I’m safe in Your shadow”.  Nick Herbert and Ben Cantelon wrote ‘The Same Power’.  It is a celebratory song appropriate for Easter Sunday: “There is power in His Name/For the stone was rolled away/Mountains bow down before/Jesus Christ, our risen Lord/Jesus Christ, our risen Lord/Mighty Savior, lifted high/King forever, Jesus Christ/Crowned in glory, raised to life/The same power lives in us”.

‘I Lay Me Down’ is a ballad that uses strings and finds Michael on piano.  It is a song of true spiritual satisfaction: “I have found here/Love and mercy/From an infinite supply/I have found here/Living water/From a well that won’t run dry/At Your feet I bow in wonder/At Your feet/I place my crowns/Let surrender be the only sound/At Your feet/I lay me down”.  The closing song ‘The One That Really Matters’ was penned by Jennie Lee Riddle and Dustin Smith.  It features Kari Jobe on vocals along with Michael, Bellarive on backing vocals, and Cara Fox on cello.  The song includes these passionate words: “I can’t help but scream about the way that You moved in/Chaotic love has messed me up so I could live again/You’re the One that really matters”.

Michael W. Smith and his wife Debbie have five kids and several grandchildren.  Michael has sold over 15 million albums, had 28 No 1 hits, won 3 Grammy’s, and over 40 Dove Awards.  He says: “I’m pretty passionate.  I have lots of energy and I’m probably enjoying making music more than I ever have in my entire life.  I’m having fun and I’m excited about this record and this next chapter...I don’t see retirement anywhere in the Bible”.

I recommend SOVEREIGN to fans of Chris Tomlin, Elton John, Mark Schultz, and Billy Joel.  This is worship music for already converted youth and young adults.  This album represents all that is good about modern worship music.  The instrumentation is skillful and the lyrics are meaningful.  Michael’s vocals are spot on.  He is supported by many talented vocalists including Lauren Daigle, Jamie Jamgochian, and Jeremy Edwardson.  These songs will inspire you to grow closer to God and trust Him more.  They will also make you desire to share Christ with those who don’t yet know Him.  I’m rating SOVEREIGN 98%.  For more info visit: and