Friday, July 31, 2015


While in Value Village in Owen Sound recently, I saw and picked up ODYSSEY by The Torchmen Quartet.  It was released circa 2000/1 on Tradition Records.  On this CD the group’s roster is as follows: Mir and Jim Callahan, Mike Moran, Stan Oster, Michael Helwig, and Jon Hisey.  Mir traveled with the group doing sign language for the hearing impaired.  ODYSSEY was produced by group members Mike Moran and Jon Hisey.  Musicians used include: Gary Prim, Bob Doidge, and Terry McMillan.
‘No One But Jesus Knows’ starts things off.  It is a slow doo-wop number that praises Jesus: “When I’m burdened down with care/When my load is hard to bear/How He takes away my burden/No one but Jesus knows/All discouraged, so sad and blue/I go to Jesus, He’ll see me through/How He thrills my broken spirit/No one but Jesus knows”.  Group member Jon Hisey wrote ‘He’s Been There Done That’.  It is a country tune that testifies of Christ: “He’s been there, done that/Nothing He can’t see you through/He’s been there, done that/He’s waiting now for you/He’s been there, done that/Cast your every care upon Him/He’ll see you through, I know it’s true/Cause I’ve been there, done that”.
The classic hymn ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’ is performed traditionally.  It speaks of Christ’s limitless value: “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold/I’d rather be His than have riches untold/I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands/I’d rather be led by His nail scarred hands/Than to be the king of a vast domain/Or be held in sin’s dread sway/I’d rather have Jesus than anything/This world affords today”.  ‘The Day He Wore My Crown’ is a moving ballad: “He gave me love only He could give, I gave Him cause to cry/And though He taught me how to live, I taught Him how to die/I’m the one to blame, I caused all the pain/He gave Himself that day He wore my crown/He could have called to His heavenly Father/And said ‘Take me away, please take me away’/He could have said ‘I’m not guilty, and I’m not gonna stay, I’m not gonna pay’”.
Next up are two back to back Richard Ash compositions.  ‘I’ve Been There’ includes this chorus of testimony: “I’ve been to Calvary’s hill where an old rugged cross still stands/And I found what this whole world was missing in two nail scarred hands/He forgave what I’d done/And He gave me a joy beyond compare/And a river of grace still flows from Calvary/I know cause I’ve been there”.  ‘City in the Sky’ is a short, upbeat Southern Gospel song anticipating eternity: “I’m bound for a heavenly home/It’s a city in the sky/I can hardly wait till I reach that gate/See the glory that awaits inside/When I get to the beautiful City, I’ll lay my heavy burden down/In the City in the sky, by and by/I’ll be living on holy ground”.
‘Written in Red’ is a beautiful, sentimental ballad penned by Gordon Jensen: “Down through the ages God wrote His love/With the same hands that suffered and bled/Giving all that He had to give/A message so easily read/I love you, I love you/That’s what Calvary said/I love you, I love you/I love you written in red”.  ‘I’m Gonna Rise’ is a spunky country tune: “Darwin’s gonna wonder if something’s amiss/When he tries to figure out how I evolved to this/And Newton’s gonna question his laws of gravity/When he takes a look around and finds it don’t apply to me.../Well, now you can have Huxley, Herman, Hess, and Socrates/You can have all the human knowledge of the world’s philosophies/You know that I’ve found a higher law that’s workin’ in me/For He works in the spirit and He set my mind free”.
‘Faith Unlocks the Door’ goes way back and begins with these familiar words: “Prayer is the key to Heaven but faith unlocks the door/Words are so easily spoken/Prayer without faith is like a boat without an oar/Have faith when you speak to the Master/That’s all He’ll ask you for/Yes, prayer is the key to Heaven/But faith unlocks the door”.  ‘Going Home’ is an emotional ballad written by Bill and Gloria Gaither: “Now the twilight, oh it’s fading/The day soon it shall end/Lord I get homesick the farther I go/Oh, but the Father, He has led me/Each step of the way/And now I’m going home/Going home, I’m going home/There is nothing to hold me here/I’ve caught a glimpse of that heavenly Land/Praise God, I am going home!”
‘Follow Me’ is the easy listening song of one sincerely desiring to help others: “Searching for peace and answers/I longed to tell them where they’re found/Follow me and I’ll take you to my Father/And on the way, we’ll stop by at a rugged cross/Follow me and I’ll lead you to contentment/Follow me and I’ll take you where/You’ll never be alone”.  ‘I Love You Canada’ is of course patriotic: “I see your beauty/Every morning when the sun comes shining through/I’ve seen countless sights like northern lights/You’re an old friend tried and true/And in years from now/I’ll remember how I was proud to take a stand/I love you Canada/My home and native land!”
ODYSSEY, it turns out, is one of my favourite Torchmen albums.  The vocals are simply great!  The lyrics point directly to Jesus Christ and the hope that we have in this life and the next because of what He accomplished at Calvary.  For the most part this is a mellow, reverent, meditative album.  It is one you will not tire of.  I’m rating ODYSSEY 100%.  For more info visit:

Monday, July 27, 2015


In promotional materials Laura Kaczor is billed as a singer, a songwriter, a worship leader, and a speaker.  These materials also note that she was “a Top 10 New Female Christian Singer (NewReleaseTuesday, 2012) with four consecutive Top 25 Soft AC Billboard hit singles, in Top 20 for 10 weeks”.  They were from LOVE ENOUGH.  Laura’s fourth and latest album RESTORE ME (2015, LifeThirst Music) was produced by Ian Eskelin.  Laura shares: “My sweet Samuel, the joy of my life, born with a hole in his heart was the reason I was on my knees for most of 2014.  I want this album to give others a message of faith, hope and strength, no matter what they are going through.  Only the unfailing, unconditional love of Christ restores us”.  Samuel had successful open heart surgery.

The album’s first radio single ‘Forever’ is one of six songs here that Laura co-wrote with Amy Lewis.  It testifies to God’s faithfulness: “Every lonely valley, You were there/You carried me when I thought no one cared/Looking back I can see, You kept Your promise to me/When You said You’d never leave.../Thank You for Your grace/You found me in the darkest place/Where no one would go/Thank You for Your love, for taking me as I come/And never giving up, never giving up”.  ‘You Know’ is a breezy, light pop song about putting one’s full trust in God: “I don’t have all the answers/But I’ve got a willing heart/And I’m ready to do my part/But still I feel so unprepared/I’m not sure why You brought me here/But You know, You know/All I need is just to follow/And I’ll go, I’ll go/Walk with You into tomorrow/You know (3X)/You know right where You want me/And You can see the way/I will follow all in faith”.

‘Once and For All’ reflects on the meaning of Calvary: “You took away our shame/You stood in our place/Took it on Yourself/Carried the weight/Blameless You came in/Pleading guilty for our sin/And once and for all we were bought with a price/Once and for all we were given new life/And once for all of the world You died, You died/Jesus You’re the only One who could do this/Now the power of death is finished”.  ‘If the Path was Straight’ portrays the Christian walk in a realistic way: “Teach me to trust/Cause when I feel off track/Sometimes to move forward/I’ve got to step back/It gets hard, it gets rough/I still get down but I still get up/Leaning with the curves/Day by day, I don’t have to be afraid/Twist and turn, live and learn/It wouldn’t take much faith/If the path was straight”.

The title track ‘Restore Me’ is a modern day Psalm and a song of praise and worship: “Every day, You are the strength I need/For every step and every breath I breathe/And in this truth, I find my rest/You couldn’t love me more or less/Lord, You are the Maker of everything lovely/Creator of the Universe/Let Your love surround me/When this world has me broken/And feeling like I can’t win/I’ll run to You/You’re all I need/Only You restore me”.  ‘Only You’ is one of four songs on this project that Laura wrote alone. It is a reverent ballad: “There is none like You/With no beginning and no end/Holy, set apart/All power in Your hands/You are Adonai¸ Elohim/Jehovah God, my Redeemer/And You, only You/Are the true and living God/The Maker of my heart/And You, only You/Over all the universe/King of never ending worth/Oh, I will worship You/Only You”.

‘Rain Down’ includes these poetic words: “Rain down, rain down Your glory (2X)/Open up the heavens and rain down/You are the One who’s stolen my heart/Abundant love washes over me/In Your presence I am free/You’re the God of goodness/Lord of all/Father let Your mercy fall”.  ‘You Make Me Brave’ begins by declaring who God is: “You are greater than this circumstance/You are stronger than what’s pressing in on me/You are Healer, only You restore/You are bigger, I can trust You Lord/You are my help, when I am weak/You hear my cry, You rescue me/You are a warrior, strong to save/A shield all around me/You make me brave”.

‘We Don’t Always Understand’ was written before Laura was even pregnant with Samuel.  It is a song that ministers encouragement: “Keep on believing, He is good in all things/We don’t always understand/Keep on praying, even if all you’re saying is/’Take this from my hands’/I know You have a plan/We don’t always understand/When we hurt, when we lose/When we can’t find our way/We can still choose to keep on trusting/Keep on reaching/For the meaning He brings to all things”.  The last song up is ‘Greater’.  It is a song of spiritual longing: “More of You and less of me/Only more of You Jesus/Fill this place that is in my heart/Until it overflows with all You are/And when I speak be in every word/And may my life reveal You to the world/And let Your praise be ever on my lips/Oh Jesus, Savior, become greater”.

1 Peter 5:10 is a theme verse for this album.  It reads: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you”.  Laura’s vocals are smooth, sweet, and easy to listen to.  Lyrically, this album glorifies God even in the midst of life’s hardships.  He is shown here to be a Refuge and an Anchor.  Fans of Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe, Jessa Anderson, and Nichole Nordeman, will greatly enjoy this album.  It is comprised of songs that fall into the following musical categories: pop, adult contemporary, and modern worship.  I’m rating RESTORE ME 90%.  The photos of Laura included with this CD are quite beautiful.  If you’d like to learn more about Laura and her ministries visit: and



Thursday, July 23, 2015


Based out of Ontario, Canada, The Torchmen Quartet has been singing Southern Gospel music for well over four decades.  They also perform in and are respected in the United States.  I remember seeing them live in concert at a Tillsonburg Hymn Sing back in the 1980’s.  The group’s current roster is: Sandy MacGregor (tenor), Jeff Tritton (lead), Mike Moran (baritone), and Jon Hisey (bass).  Their latest recording is RUN THROUGH THE GATES (2015).  The tracks were recorded at Daywind Studios in Hendersonville, TN, while the vocals were recorded at Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton, ON.  Michael Booth says: “I believe all who hear this CD will walk away energized and encouraged.  Something we are all in need of”.

The album opens with ‘Good News’, an upbeat Southern Gospel song written by James Tomen of Nations Quartet fame.  It testifies to God’s faithfulness: “There’s one thing that picks me up/It never seems to fail/It’s the good news of my Jesus’ love and it ain’t no fairytale/Good news, oh my Jesus is the same/Good news, He hears me when I pray, when I pray/Good news, on Him I can depend/He said He would never leave me/He’d be with me to the end”.  ‘Shout and Shine’ is the shortest song at just two minutes.  It is a real toe-tapper that looks forward to life in Heaven: ”Many, my loved ones, my neighbours’ll be there/In Heaven I’ll shout and shine/I’m gonna shout, gonna shine/In that city of Love divine/Over there, free from care/With the saints I’ll shout and shine”.  ‘He’s All I Need’ is a quiet song that reminds us Christ is all-sufficient: “He’s all I need, I dare not turn to any other/For He’s a Friend, a friend who’s closer than any brother/And on this Friend I can rely to be my strength as life goes by/And He’s the Lord of all/And He’s all I need/He comforts me when I’m weary, He eases every pain/Fills my deepest longing time and again”.

‘He’s Made A Change’ is one of two Jim Brady songs on this album.  This one is a country gospel ballad offering these words of testimony: “He made a change in my soul/He made a change/When I was stumbling down sin’s road He turned me around/Now I am standing on solid ground and I am Heaven bound/I am so glad He made a change down deep in my soul”.  Bass vocalist Jon Hisey takes the lead on the title track, which is Rebecca Peck’s ‘Run Through the Gates’.  It has a happy, Jewish feel to it musically and again anticipates eternal life: “I’m gonna move past the walls of purest jasper/My feet will barely touch upon the golden streets/Till I’m kneelin’ in the presence of the Master, not gonna take a stroll around the crystal sea/I’ll wait to take a guided tour of my new mansion/I’ll even wait to see my loved ones gone before/My one desire and eternal satisfaction/Is to behold the face of Jesus Christ my Lord”.

‘I Stand in Awe’ is a great song of worship: “Your glory Lord just takes my breath away/I stand in awe of Your mercy, grace, and majesty/Overwhelmed by the love You showed at Calvary/That You who knew no sin would die to clothe me in Your righteousness/I stand in awe”.  ‘Fight to the Finish’ may be my favourite.  It is a song of spiritual determination with a bouncy Southern Gospel chorus: “When others have/Backed down, turned around, given up their callin’/Walked away, gone astray, dropped the sword and fallen/Put the holy standard of the truth of God up on the shelf/Well, I want to be standing true, going through the battle onto vict’ry/Lifting Jesus Christ, knowing He is with me/Keeping on the armor that will quench the fiery darts of hell/Well, I tell ya/It’s a fight to the finish and I want to finish it well”.

‘The Cross was His Own’  reflects on the crucifixion: “On Calvary’s mountain the cross was His own/The cross was His own/Where He died all alone/For your sins and mine He left His heavenly Home/No kindness or mercy to Jesus was shown/But on Calvary’s mountain/The cross was His own”.  ‘The Ground is Level at Calvary’ is a song of invitation: “He said ‘Whosoever will can come unto Me’/For the ground is level at Calvary/The ground is level at Calvary/And it’s fully accessible for you and for me/No matter who or what, when, or where you may be/The ground is level at Calvary”.

Next up is ‘Fat Baby’, a fun, light pop/jazz tune penned by Steve Millikan and Rod Robinson.  Amy Grant recorded it on her 1982 hit album AGE TO AGE.  The song is about spiritual immaturity: “I know a man, maybe you know him too/You never can tell, it might even be you/He knelt at the altar and that was the end/He’s saved and that’s all that matters to him/His spiritual tummy, it can’t take too much/One day a week he gets a spiritual lunch/On Sunday he puts on his spiritual best/And gives his language a spiritual rest”.  ‘There is A Fountain’ is the longest song at 4:37.  This Southern Gospel ballad uses orchestration to good effect and is all about the precious blood of Christ: “There is a fountain that’s flowing still today/A crimson fountain that washes sins away/And once you plunge beneath this flow from Calvary/You’ll find your life will never be the same”.

Scott Inman and Daryl Williams wrote ‘My Faith is Built on A Rock’.  It is a song of certainty: “My faith is built on a Rock, the Cornerstone of the ages/My feet are on a firm foundation no matter how hard the hurricane rages/What a joy just to know, this Rock will never let go/In the shelter of grace/My faith is built on the Rock”.  The Cathedrals recorded the album closer ‘Don’t Thank Us Thank Jesus’ back in 1977.  It is somewhat cheesy, but concert friendly: “If it were meant for us to be some other place but here/Then Jesus would have worked it out for us to have been there/So if you’re glad we’ve come your way and want to thank someone/Don’t thank us, thank Jesus/Thank the One who made a way for us to gather here/He’s the One who blessed each song that brought a smile or tear/If He spoke to you my friend and filled your heart with cheer/Don’t thank us, thank Jesus”.

As long time fans of The Torchmen Quartet have come to expect, the vocals (both solo parts and harmonies) are performed with excellence on this album.  Fans of old school groups such as Gold City and Ontario’s The Watchmen Quartet should add this album to their playlist.  The messages in these songs are unashamedly Christian in nature and point directly to Jesus Christ.  I wouldn’t say that this is my favourite Torchmen Quartet album ever, but it certainly proves that the group still has lots of life in them and that they have not grown stagnant.  Next time out though, I hope the group writes and records a few original songs.  I’m rating RUN THROUGH THE GATES 83%.  For more info visit:


Friday, July 17, 2015


AGE TO AGE (1982, Myrrh) was Amy Grant’s sixth album.  It was the first Christian music album by a solo artist to be certified gold, in 1983, and the first ever platinum Christian music album, in 1985.  It was No 1 on Billboard’s Christian albums chart for 85 weeks!  It also won a Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year.  Brown Bannister produced it, with Michael Blanton and Dan Harrell serving as executive producers.
‘In A Little While’ reached No 5 on Christian radio.  It is a gentle adult contemporary song of encouragement for those going through hard times: “You know me very well/And I bet you wrote me just to tell me/In a little while we’ll be with the Father/Can’t you see Him smile?/In a little while we’ll be home forever/In a while/We’re just here to learn to love Him/We’ll be home in just a little while.../Well, I can almost see the top of the hill/And I believe it’s worth it all”.  ‘I Have Decided’ is a fantastic country rock song written by Michael Card.  It includes these words of one who is focused spiritually: “I have decided/I’m gonna live like a believer, turn my back on the deceiver/I’m gonna live what I believe/I have decided/Being good is just a fable, I just can’t cause I’m not able/I’m gonna leave it to the Lord”.
‘I Love A Lonely Day’ is a light pop song penned by Gary Chapman and Michael W. Smith.  It reminds us absence makes the heart grow fonder: “Solitude can be so dear/Loneliness is not so blue when it puts my mind on you/I love a lonely day/It makes me think of you/All alone, I can easily find your love/I love a lonely day, it chases me to you/It clears my heart/Lets my very best part shine through/It’s you”.  ‘Don’t Run Away’ is a light rock number that invites an individual to surrender to God: “Listen, there’s no need to waiver/Long ago the Savior died for you, so/Don’t run away/You’re headed nowhere/Keep up the pace/You’re gonna go there/You’ll feel alone/Who do you know there?/Please turn back now/Don’t run away/He wants your heart now/Hear what I say/And play it smart now/Wise up today/And give Him all of your love”.
Steve Millikan and Rod Robinson wrote the fun, playful jazz song ‘Fat Baby’.  It tells the story of a Christian who isn’t maturing spiritually: “He’s been baptized, sanctified, redeemed by the blood/But His daily devotions are stuck in the mud/He knows the books of the Bible and John 3:16/He’s got the biggest King James you’ve ever seen/I’ve always wondered if He’ll grow up someday/He’s momma’s boy and he likes it that way/If you happen to see him/Tell him I said/He’ll never grow/If he never gets fed”.  Richard Mullins wrote ‘Sing Your Praise to the Lord’.  It is a true Contemporary Christian Music masterpiece that features a piano intro based on J. S. Bach’s ‘Fugue No 2 in C Minor’.  The song was a No 1 hit for Amy on Christian radio.  These lyrics extol Jesus Christ: “Let the Name of the Lord be praised both for now and evermore/Praise Him, oh you servants give your/Praise to the Lord/Come on everybody/Stand up and sing one more ‘Hallelujah!’/Give your praise to the Lord/I can never tell you/Just how much good that it’s gonna do you”.
‘El Shaddai’ would come to be known as an inspirational classic.  Michael Card and John Thompson wrote it.  It hit No 2 on Christian radio and won ‘Song of the Year’ at 1983’s Dove Awards.  The song testifies to God’s goodness to humanity throughout the ages: “Through Your love and through the ram/You saved the son of Abraham/Through the power of Your hand/Turned the sea into dry land/To the outcast on her knees/You were the God who really sees/And by Your might/You set Your children free/El-Shaddai, El-Shaddai (God Almighty, God Almighty)/El-Elyon na Adonai (God in the highest, Oh Lord)/Age to age You’re still the same/By the power of the Name”.  Kathy Troccoli and Amy wrote ‘Raining on the Inside’.  It includes these honest words of vulnerability: “When friends who care can’t be there to ease away my pain/And peace of mind, it’s hard to find, like sunlight in the rain/God sees my heart, the deepest part/Inside this lonely me/And reachin’ in/His love begins to heal the heart in me.../Your cries of love break through and I fall in love with You once more”.
‘Got to Let it Go’ is a duet with a male vocalist, possibly Gary.  It reminds us that Christ and not self should be in complete charge of us: “Lord, here’s my heart/I’ve been keepin’ it from You/And I’ve got to let it go/Holdin’ on just brings me worry/Got to let it go/Come and take it from me, hurry/Got to let it go/Got to let it go/Got to give up all of my control”.  ‘Arms of Love’ is a calming ballad written by Gary Chapman, Michael W. Smith, and Amy.  It shows God to be a sure Refuge: “I have found a place where I can hide/It’s safe inside/Your arms of love/Like a child who’s held throughout a storm/You keep me warm/In Your arms of love”.
AGE TO AGE is a great Christian pop album.  To me, it is one of the best CCM albums of all time, with several memorable and moving songs on it.  There is a fine mix of upbeat and slower tracks.  AGE TO AGE proved that Christian music could be relevant and meaningful to youth and young adults.  Themes of hope, God’s love for us, and our love for Him, prevail.  Background vocalists used include: Diana DeWitt, Gary Pigg, and Pam Mark Hall.  I’m rating this record 93%.  For more info visit:

Thursday, July 16, 2015


In 1979 Amy Grant released her second album MY FATHER’S EYES (Reunion Records).  It was produced by Brown Bannister and nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance-Contemporary.  In the liner notes Amy writes: “Just as each day of our lives should be offered as glory and honor to Him, so I share these songs with you-to be heard.  To Him be all the glory”.

‘Father’s Eyes’, penned by Gary Chapman, is the album’s longest track at 4:03 and was Amy’s first No. 1 Christian hit.  It is an adult contemporary ballad that conveys deep godly desires: “When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say/’She’s got her Father’s eyes, her Father’s eyes/Eyes that find the good in things/When good is not around/Eyes that find the source of help/When help just can’t be found/Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain/Knowin’ what you’re going through and feelin’ it the same’/Just like my Father’s eyes”.  ‘Faith Walkin’ People’ is one of three songs here penned by Amy and Brown Bannister.  It became a Top Ten Christian hit.  It is an adult pop song that uses horns and reminds us that as Christians we are to walk differently through life: “Say goodbye to the feelings cause the feelings go away/Say goodbye to the people cause the people never stay/Say goodbye to the future if it blinds you to today/And say goodbye to the reasoning that’s standing in the way/Oh, we’ve got to make a way/Make a way to be/Faith walkin’ people, can’t rely on everything we feel/Faith talkin’ people/We must discern what’s really real/Faith walkin’ people, can’t believe in everything we see/Faith talkin’ people, seems like such a mystery”.  ‘Always the Winner’ is one of four songs Amy wrote alone.  It is nicely orchestrated with strings and seems to address one who is in a backslidden state: “There was a time when you cared for their hearts and the need to show them love was tearing you apart/But you changed and you know, become the star of the show/Now you’ve got nothing to give/Where is the truth you once knew?/You’re just lonely/Don’t you feel lonely?”

On the pretty song ‘Never Give You Up’ Amy declares her dedication to Jesus Christ: “Sometimes friends don’t understand the love I have for You/But everywhere I go I know/I just want more of You/I will never give You up Lord/Not in a million years/I will never give You up, never give You up/For as long as I live.../Cause You have put this love inside my heart”.  ‘Bridegroom’ was written by Martin McCall and Megan Moorhead.  It is a happy song performed as a march: “I will give to Him my impatience/I will give Him all of my fear/I will make my heart very quiet/I will wait for Him here/In bright color and joyous line/In morning light and lamp fire/I’ll make fine my home here and trust in my home to come”.

‘Lay Down’ is a simple, yet beautiful, song of invitation: “You know it’s love that He offers you/Lay down the burden of your heart/Lay down the burden of your heart/I know you’ll never miss it/Oh, show your Daddy where it hurts/And let your Daddy lift it”.  ‘You Were There’ is a love song to God with a disco vibe to it: “No one else could ever offer me more/Than Your love and Your understanding/A love I’d never known before/You were there when I needed someone to talk to/You were there when I could not find my way/Ooh/You know You could’ve given up on me/When it seemed like nobody cared/You were there (4X)”.

Next up is ‘O Sacred Head’, a Passion hymn that dates way back.  It begins with thunder and rain sounds and these moving words: “O sacred Head now wounded/With grief and shame weighed down/Now scornfully surrounded/With thorns Thine only crown/How art Thou pale with anguish/With sore, abuse, and scorn/How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn”.  ‘All That I Need is You’ finds Amy admitting her real need for God: “Lord You know that I really need our time together/Only Your strength can see me through/So talk with me now as You walk with me now in this quiet time/I’m waiting on You/Cause all of a sudden I knew that I’d never be wanting/As long as I’m leaning on You/Oh Lord, all that I need is You”.

‘Fairytale’ portrays Christ as ultimate Victor: “There’s a world out there that human eyes can never see/But it’s just within the reach of the heart/Two princes wage the battle for eternity/But the victor has been known from the start/Now I can see the truth can seem so much like a fantasy/But make-believe was never as real to me/I know this time the story’s true/Just like Sleeping Beauty in another land/I was dying under a spell/But then a Prince who comes from a forever land/Awakened me from my fairytale”.  Just as Amy’s debut album had one song that could be classified as children’s music, so does this, her second album.  ‘Giggle’ is fun and quirky and has a carnival-like feel to it.  It is a song about being a witness: “Giggle, giggle if you want to/But I know it’s still true that He’s always gonna love me/So just laugh out/If you think I’m uncool/Playin’ the part of the fool/Cause I love Him/Don’t you know how I love Him?/Oh, well I do”.

‘There Will Never Be Another’ is a beautiful duet with Brown Bannister.  It is a song of awe and wonderment: “And I know I’ll never understand this mystery/If I live to be 103/How You died to live, the love You give to me/There will never be another who will love me like You/There will never be another who could hold me, mold me/There will never be another who could love me purely/No, there will never be another who has loved me like You”.  The album’s shortest song (1:06) is up last.  ‘Keep it on Going’ is lively and cheerful and is about the need to witness: “Someone’s got to keep it on going/Just as long as they’re folks who haven’t heard/So you can count on me cause He’s showin’/That there’s so many ways to spread His Word”.

MY FATHER’S EYES is mainly an album of adult contemporary songs. Instruments that are used include: banjo, spoons, xylophone, organ, flute, piccolo, oboe, and fiddle.  The background vocalists include: Marty McCall, Steve Chapman, Lenny LeBlanc, Carol Grant, Kathy Harrell, and Marie Tomlinson. Like her debut record in 1977, the songs describe Amy’s relationship with a loving, caring, and faithful God.  There is a bit more maturity to the lyrics though.  As the years would move on, Amy would face both personal hardships, and criticism from believers for some of her choices, but this album here is one of innocence and joy.  I’m rating MY FATHER’S EYES 85%.  For more info visit:




Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Amy Lee Grant was born on November 25, 1960 in Augusta, Georgia.  Her first album AMY GRANT (1977, Myrrh Records) came out one month before her high school graduation.  In the liner notes she thanks Jesus, writing: “I dedicate this album to You for Your glory and praise.  You are so good to Your children”.  Amy performed her first ticketed concert near the end of 1978 while she attended Furman University.

Strings and electric guitar contribute to the greatness of the album opener ‘Beautiful Music’.  Lanier Ferguson wrote this song of testimony: “Now there’s beautiful music/Flowin’ all through me/Just like You said/Angels singing, joy bells ringing/Inside my head/Since You came inside me/Now I am lost inside Your love”.  ‘Mountain Top’ is one of two songs written solely by the album’s assistant producer Brown Bannister.  It contains these words of wisdom: “Praising the Father is a good thing to do/To worship the Trinity in spirit and truth/But if we worshipped all of the time/There would be no one to lead the blind”.  ‘Psalm 104’ utilizes the sound of crickets chirping and is a song of praise: “Oh Lord, how many are Thy works/In wisdom Thou hast made them all/The earth is full of Thy possessions/There is the sea great and broad/In which are swarms without number/Animals both great and small/Oh Lord, Thou hast made them all”.

‘Old Man’s Rubble’ is one of 3 songs on the album to hit the Top Ten on Christian radio.  It has a strong percussive beat and begins with these words that serve as a spiritual wake-up call: “Are you living in an old man’s rubble?/Are you listenin’ to the father of lies?/Are you walkin’ with unnecessary burdens?/Are you trying to take them upon yourself?/If you are then you’re living in bondage/And you know that’s bad for your spiritual health”.  ‘Brand New Start’ is one of six songs composed solely by Amy.  It is a pretty song of gratitude that makes use of the flute: “I may not win all the battles, but it’s a victory in Him/So I praise the Lord for giving me/A brand new start each day/And I praise His blessed Name/For guiding me all along the way/For if He didn’t I would surely die”.

‘Grape, Grape Joy’ is the album’s shortest song at 1 minute and 10 seconds.  It is a fun, quirky number that seems like a children’s song.  It showcases Amy’s humor and includes laughter: “Are you a small and lonely grape clutching to the vine/Waiting for the day when you’ll become your Savior’s wine?/Don’t give up ye heavy laden/You don’t want to be a raisin/There’s a grape, grape joy in Jesus in the vineyard of the Lord”.  ‘Walking in the Light’ is about spiritual baptism: “The sun woke me up real early/It’s a beautiful morn/Cause I’m goin’ down to the river to be reborn/Now me and Jesus did some heavy talkin’ last night/So I’m going down to be dipped and come up walkin’ in the light”.

Next up is Archie Jordan’s ‘What a Difference You’ve Made’.  It starts as a tender ballad then builds.  These lyrics testify to God’s transforming power in our lives: “What a difference You’ve made in my life (2X)/You’re my sunshine day and night/Oh, what a difference You’ve made in my life/What a change You have made in my heart (2X)/You replaced all the broken parts/Oh, what a change You have made in my heart”.  ‘Father’ uses saxophone and looks at our relationship with God as a partnership: “Father, blessed Father/It’s morning again/I give You Father, myself Father/Continue Your plan/I know together we can climb mountains in the sky/No one can stop us when I’m standing by Your side/When trouble’s knocking here again/I’ll tell him Jesus has my hand/He’ll walk me through”.

‘I Know Better Now’ recalls a powerful encounter with Christ: “One day I met a man who showed me love/There standing on His head was a snow white dove/And He said/’Once I came down to this mire for you, but I’m the Son of God/He’s your Father too’/It wasn’t long until my new walk began/Since I’ve found Jesus/My life is in His hands”.  Mike and Barbara Hudson wrote the calming ‘The Lord Has A Will’.  It speaks of abiding in God: “The Lord has a will/And I have a need/To follow that will/To humbly be still/To rest in it, nest in it/Fully be blest in it/Following my Father’s will/Your law of love is in my heart/You wrote it there, it won’t depart/It lights my way and keeps me out of the dark”.

‘On and On’ is a love song: “I only know that the love I feel/Doesn’t come from somewhere inside me/But I see it keeps on growin’/So I guess I’ll just keep goin’/Cause I’m confident in knowin’/It’s from the Lord/And it grows on and on, flowin’ on and on/Don’t you see we just can’t hide love?”  ‘He Gave Me A New Song’ ends the album on a cheerful note: “He gave me a new song/He really came down here Himself and sang it for me/In every key/Just for me/He gave me a new light/Now even when clouds hide the sun/My life is still bright/Cause everything’s alright”.

Most of the songs on AMY GRANT musically fall into the easy listening and very light Christian pop categories.  Amy’s voice is sweet and endearing.  The lyrics admittedly are not really deep at all.  In this case though, it’s okay, as Amy was only 17 at the time.  This is an album of love songs for a Savior by a young person who is a believer.  It is an album of innocence.  I’m rating AMY GRANT, which was produced by Chris Christian, 90%.  For more info visit:



Thursday, July 09, 2015


Bill Gaither was born in Alexandria, Indiana in 1936.  He formed The Bill Gaither Trio with his brother Danny and sister Mary Ann in 1956 while attending Anderson College.  Bill married Gloria Sickal in 1962.  The couple has three children: Suzanne, Amy, and Benjamin.  The Gaither’s first Homecoming Video released in 1991.  The rest is history when it comes to Southern Gospel music.  However, in 2005 Bill Gaither released a self-titled solo album through Spring House Productions.  It was produced by Bill and Michael Sykes (currently of Goodman Revival).  The orchestrations were arranged and conducted by Russell Mauldin.  Keyboards, bass, drums, and guitars are also used on this wonderful album.

The album opens with one of three Stuart Hamblen compositions.  He lived from 1908 to 1989 and was one of American radio’s first singing cowboys.  ‘But For the Grace of God’ is a mellow song of deep gratitude: “The tramp on the street, homeless and weak/Could be I but for the grace of God/The steel of my soul would have weakened and bent/Had I travelled the highways he’s trod/O merciful Father, O wonderful God/Thy hands have spared me these things”.  Next up is ‘I Wish’, one of five penned by Bill and wife Gloria.  It is partly spoken, partly sung.  It is the heartfelt song of a father and mother to their child: “I wish you some growing and I wish you some knowing that there’s always a place to begin/Honey, your mom and I would love to collect you and shield and protect ya/And save you from hurts if we could/Ah, but we must let you grow tall, to learn and to know all that God has in mind for your good/We never could own you for God, He only loaned you/To widen our world and our hearts”.  ‘The Family of God’ is a very familiar, warm song of thankfulness: “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God/I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood/Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod/For I’m part of the family/The family of God”.

‘Tho’ Autumn’s Coming On’ is a sentimental ballad: “We sang lullabies to babies’ cries in the springtime/Oh, how the time seemed to fly/We had scarcely put the crib away when like magic/We looked up the aisle and beheld/A lovely bride/We waved goodbye as one by one they joined life’s parade/Then at a bugle call, he stood proud and tall/There went our baby”.  ‘I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief’ is the tender song of one desiring intimacy with God: “I walk into the unknown trusting all the while/I long so much to feel the warmth that others seem to know/But should I never feel a thing/I claim Him even so/I believe, help Thou my unbelief/I walk into the unknown trusting all the while”.

‘Day by Day’ is a song of praise featuring a nice accompanying female vocal: “Every day the Lord Himself is near me/With a special mercy for each hour/All my cares, He pain would bear, and cheer me/He whose Name is Counselor and Power/The protection of His child a treasure/Is a charge that on Himself He lay/As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure/This the pledge to me He made”.  Perhaps the album’s best track is next.  ‘We Have This Moment Today’ runs over nine minutes long and encourages us to appreciate the present: “We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand/Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come/But we have this moment today”.  The song includes a long, mesmerizing narrative interlude by Gloria Gaither that is absolutely brilliant!  I call it ‘When Did I Start to Love You?’

‘These Things Shall Pass’ begins with these words of encouragement: “These things shall pass and some great morning/Ah, we’ll look back and smile at heartaches we’ve known/So, don’t forget when shadows gather/The Lord our God is still the King upon His throne”.  Gloria Gaither, Bill George, Billy Smiley, Gary McSpadden, and Gary Paxton wrote ‘You Might Forget the Singer (But You Won’t Forget the Song)’.  It is a catchy soft country tune reflecting on music: “The song of love I’m singin’ you’ll remember/You won’t forget the rhythm of the free/The music’s sure to stick there in your memory/Even if you don’t remember me/Oh, you might forget the singer, but you won’t forget the song/Singers come and go and fade away/The melody of love remains and truth goes marchin’ on”.

‘Some Things I Must Tell the Children’ is again partly spoken, partly sung by Bill.  The song talks of parents’ unconditional love for their daughters and sons: “Along the way did your heart hear us say that you don’t have to earn our love?/There’s not a thing you could do/To make us stop loving you/Just the joy that you brought/Ah, that’s enough/There isn’t a thing that the future might bring/That could take back the gift that you are/Cause you are a treasure/We never could measure/Just some things that I must tell the children”.  ‘Make it Real’ is a Suzanne Jennings/Michael Sykes composition.  It is the sincere song of a seeker: “I’ve seen a lot of crazy things done in Your Name/And I know the tricks behind the magic show/I’ve almost thrown the towel in a time or two/And walked away from everything I know/But I can’t fill this emptiness inside of me/Or calm the troubled waters of my mind/So if You’re really out there and You’re listening/Then prove to me that those who seek will find”.

‘The Longer I Serve Him’ was, once upon a time, a popular worship chorus penned by Bill: “The longer I serve Him/The sweeter He grows/The more that I love Him/More love He bestows/Each day is like Heaven/My heart overflows/The longer I serve Him/The sweeter He grows”.  The album closes with another Jennings/Sykes composition ‘Something To Say’.  It is a country ballad with a poetic feel: “Words are a mystery/We say them so freely/Some can bring heartache and some can bring healing/Sometimes we’re broken/Sometimes it’s demanding/Sometimes we just go through to find understanding/But you’ve never lived till the words become true/Till forgiveness and mercy mean something to you/And you’ve never cried till the tears come from faith/You’ve never lived till you have something to say”.

I thoroughly enjoy this solo album by Bill Gaither!  It is quite personal in that it reveals a lot about his faith and his dedication to his family.  Love and devotion through the good times and the bad times appear to be constants for this Christian music legend.  I think it’s pretty cool that this is an easy listening album rather than a Southern Gospel one!  Bill’s voice is in top form and the instrumentation is great.  This album is reflective and well thought out.  Fans of Tony Bennett and Barry Manilow should add this to their collection.  I’m rating BILL GAITHER 100%.  For more info visit:


Wednesday, July 08, 2015


As a female quartet Point of Grace had 24 consecutive #1 hits on Christian music’s singles charts, which was unprecedented and celebrated by the two CD collection 24 in 2003.  Some song titles you may recognize are: ‘I’ll Be Believing’, ‘The Great Divide’, ‘Circle of Friends’, and ‘The Song is Alive’.  During this period the group performed adult contemporary and inspirational music in the vein of 4 Him.  Today the group, now a trio, is comprised of: Shelley Breen, Denise Jones, and Leigh Cappillino.  Their latest release is DIRECTIONS HOME (SONGS WE LOVE, SONGS YOU KNOW).  It came out this year on Word/Curb.  Shelley says: “The thing that propels us on is that we love God and we love to serve people.  I think that’s one of the things that’s given us longevity and invitations to come back”.

‘A Life that’s Good’ starts things off.  Andy Leftwich plays fiddle and mandolin and Byron House plays upright bass.  It is a folk ballad of gratitude: “Sitting here tonight by the fire light/Oh, it reminds me, I already have more than I should/I don’t need fame, no one to know my name/At the end of the day/Lord, I pray I have a life that’s good/Two arms around me, heaven to ground me/And a family that always calls me home”.  ‘Only Love’ was originally recorded by Wynonna Judd.  It reflects on one of the most pleasant and powerful forces on this earth: “Only love sails straight from the harbor/And only love will lead us to the other shore/And out of all the flags I’ve flown/One flies high and stands alone/Only love/Peaceful waters, raging sea/It’s all the same to me”.

The title track, ‘Directions Home’, was written by Stephanie Chapman.  Here, it is a duet with the legendary Vince Gill.  Jeff Taylor plays accordion and pump organ on it.  It is a sentimental country ballad: “I’m at the end of a gravel road/Full of pot holes and old regrets/You’re gonna think you know where you are/But you’re not there yet/So I left you a trail of tears/Cause I figured after all these years/You might need directions home”.  A terrific, powerful cover of Carrie Underwood’s recent hit single ‘Something in the Water’ is next.  It is a song of testimony: “I was all out of hope and all out of fight/Couldn’t fight back the tears so I fell on my knees/Saying ‘God if You’re there/Come and rescue me’/Felt love pouring down from above/Got washed in the water, washed in the blood/And now I’m changed, and now I’m stronger/There must be something in the water.../Jesus met me in the water”.

Wayne Watson co-wrote ‘Friend of A Wounded Heart’ with Claire Cloninger.  Originally recorded by Wayne, it won ‘Song of the Year’ in 1999 at the Dove Awards.  Point of Grace delivers it in an easy listening manner, with Andy Leftwich playing fiddle and mandolin, and Rob Ickes on dobro.  The song points to Christ as the Great Physician: “Jesus, He meets you where you are/Jesus, He heals your secret scars/All the love you’re longing for/Is Jesus, the Friend of a wounded heart/Joy comes like the morning/And hope, it deepens as you grow/And peace, beyond the reaches of your soul/Comes blowing through you/For His love has made you whole”.  ‘Lord, I Need You’ is a pretty song with dulcimer and penny whistle among the instruments used.  It declares full reliance on Christ: “Lord, I come, I confess/Bowing here I find my rest/And without You, I fall apart/You’re the One that guides my heart/Lord, I need You/Oh, I need You/Every hour I need You/My one defense, my righteousness/Oh God, how I need You”.

‘Home’ was originally recorded by American Idol winner (Season 11) Phillip Phillips.  It is a rootsy, foot-stomping song of encouragement: “Settle down, it’ll all be clear/Don’t pay no mind to the demons/They fill you with fear/Trouble, it might drag you down/If you get lost, you can always be found/Just know you’re not alone/I’m gonna make this place your home”.  Trace Adkins originally recorded ‘You’re Gonna Miss This’.  It is a country ballad that uses violins, acoustic guitar, piano, and cello.  Matt Slocum plays the latter.  This song reminds us not to rush through life and not to take what we have forgranted: “You’re gonna miss this/You’re gonna want this back/You’re gonna wish these days/Hadn’t gone by so fast/These are some good times/So take a good look around/You may not know it now/But you’re gonna miss this”.

Cindy Morgan and her mother Lola wrote ‘Two Roads’.  It features Ricky Skaggs (vocals, mandolin) and has a cool old country twang to it.  It reminds us we have free will to live as we wish: “Two roads stand before you/Which one will you choose?/You got one eye on the devil/But God’s got His eye on you/Wide is the way of the wicked/Bright is the way of the truth/In the end, sink or swim/The choice is up to you”.  Last up is ‘The Climb’ which MIley Cyrus popularized on HANNAH MONTANA-THE MOVIE SOUNDTRACK.  It is a modern inspirational classic: “I, I gotta be strong/Just keep pushin’ on/There’s always gonna be another mountain/I’m always gonna want to make it move/Always gonna be an uphill battle/Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose/Ain’t about how fast I get there/Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side, side/It’s the climb”.

DIRECTIONS HOME is most definitely worthy of your purchase!  This female trio has never sounded better on solos or in harmony.  The trick to doing a great covers album is not to mess around with the original melodies, making the songs pretty much unrecognizable.  Point of Grace has breathed new life into these songs without tampering with what made them great to start with.  In the photos of the trio accompanying this project, the ladies look beautiful.  They have aged well.  I’m rating DIRECTIONS HOME 90%.  For more info visit: and