Wednesday, September 30, 2015



In September 2004 Dave Randall won the Solo Talent Competition at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.  He sang the Canadian national anthem at 2005’s MLB All Star game.  Many know Dave for the seven years he spent as the lead singer for Ontario’s Torchmen Quartet.  He also sang for almost two years with the U.S. based The 4 One Quartet.  He has recorded three gospel albums, a Christmas album, and a children’s album.  His latest album I STAND AMAZED-FAVOURITE HYMNS (2014) has been nominated for a Covenant Award from GMA Canada for Southern Gospel Album of the Year.  It was produced and engineered by Rick Ash.  The songs presented here were requested by Dave’s concert audiences, friends, and family.  ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ are not included here because Dave has already recorded them on previous projects.

First up is the title track ‘My Savior’s Love (I Stand Amazed)’.  It is a soulful song that makes good use of organ sounds and begins with these words of praise: “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene/And wonder how He could love me/A sinner condemned, unclean/How marvelous, how wonderful/And my song shall ever be/How marvelous, how wonderful is my Saviour’s love for me”.  ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms’ is given an upbeat country gospel treatment.  It is a song of spiritual contentment: “Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way/Leaning on the everlasting arms/Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day/Leaning on the everlasting arms/Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms/Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms”.

Caitlin Hallett plays violin on the reverent ballad ‘At the Cross’.  It reflects on the crucifixion: “Was it for crimes that I have done He groaned upon the tree?/Amazing pity, grace unknown/And love beyond decree/At the cross, at the cross/Where I first saw the Light and the burdens of my heart rolled away/It was there by faith I received my sight/And now I am happy all the day”.  ‘Since I Have Been Redeemed’ is a light Southern Gospel song of testimony: “I have a Home prepared for me since I have been redeemed/Where I shall dwell eternally since I have been redeemed/Since I have been redeemed/Since I have been redeemed, I will glory in His Name/Since I have been redeemed/I will glory in my Saviour’s Name”.

‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ is one of the all-time great hymns of the church.  Here it is given the traditional treatment and nicely uses chimes.  It begins by boldly and lovingly declaring who God is: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father/There is no shadow of turning with Thee/Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not/As Thou hast been Thou forever will be/Great is The faithfulness (2X)/Morning by morning new mercies I see/All I have needed Thy hand hath provided/Great is Thy faithfulness/Lord, unto Me”.  ‘At Calvary’ has a funkified feel to it musically and includes doo-wop style background vocals.  These lyrics speak of redemption: “By God’s Word, my sin at last I learned/Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned/Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary/Mercy there was great and grace was free/Pardon there was multiplied to me/There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary”.

‘In The Garden’ is an old easy listening favourite.  It uses violin and is about intimacy with Father God: “He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing/And the melody that He gave to me within my heart is ringing/And He walks with me and He talks with me/And He tells me I am His own/And the joy we share as we tarry there/None other has ever known”.  Of ‘Blessed Assurance’ Dave shares: “One huge blessing for me was that I got to record a song with my oldest daughter Chelsea.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t have her sing more on this project.  Maybe next time”.  It is a song of great joy: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine/Oh what a foretaste of glory divine/Heir of salvation, purchase of God/Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood/This is my story, this is my song/Praising my Saviour all the day long/This is my story, this is my song/Praising my Saviour all the day long”.

A laid back version of ‘How Great Thou Art’ follows.  It reflects with awe on the atonement and Christ’s return: “And when I think that God His Son not sparing/Sent Him to die/I scarce can take it in/That on the cross, my burdens gladly bearing/He bled and died to take away my sin/When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation/And take me home/What joy shall fill my heart/Then I shall bow in humble adoration/And then proclaim/’My God, how great Thou art!’”  ‘It is Well with my Soul’ begins with these words of great faith and trust in God: “When peace like a river attendeth my way/When sorrows like sea billows roll/Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say/’It is well, it is well with my soul/It is well/With my soul/It is well, it is well with my soul’”.

‘Jesus Saves!’ reminds us to share our Christian faith with others: “We have heard the joyful sound/Jesus saves! Jesus saves!/Spread the tidings all around/Jesus saves! Jesus saves!/Spread the tidings all around/Jesus saves! Jesus saves!/Bear the news to every land...Onward ‘tis our Lord’s command/Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”  ‘Jesus Paid it All’ is an inspirational song both musically and vocally.  These lyrics speak of redemption and purification: “I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb/Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe/Sin had left a crimson stain/He washed it white as snow”.

‘He Lives’ features lovely congregational singing by Bethel Baptist Church in Strathroy, Ontario.  It is a joyful gospel song about our living Saviour: “He lives! He lives!/Christ Jesus lives today!/He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way/He lives! He lives!/Salvation to impart/You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart”.  Last up is ‘My Jesus, I Love Thee’, a sweet song of gratitude: “I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me/And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree/I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow/If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ‘tis now”.

Dave Randall is a bona fide gospel music vocalist and it shows clearly on this collection of songs whose lyrics have stood the test of time very well!  Dave sings these treasures of the faith with passion and conviction.  The background vocals by the Anna Minster Singers are well placed and well performed.  They add a lot to this project.  Jordan Ash plays lead guitar, while Lucky Haskins also provides guitar parts.  This album is most likely to appeal to those 40 and over due to its main musical genre.  I would classify it more as inspirational music than Southern Gospel.  I would also have liked a few toe-tappers included for variety.  This is a pleasant, mellow album though.  I’m rating I STAND AMAZED: FAVOURITE HYMNS 88%.  For more info email or call 519 599 5797 or connect with him on facebook at:




Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Gold City released their debut album FIRST DAY IN HEAVEN in 1981.  They went on to become known for such #1 songs as ‘I Think I’ll Read It Again’, ‘John Saw’, and ‘Midnight Cry’.  In 1989 they released GOIN’ HOME (RiverSong).  At the time, the group’s roster was: Brian Free (tenor), Ivan Parker (lead), Mike LeFevre (baritone), Tim Riley (bass), and Garry Jones (piano).

The album opens with ‘What a Glad Day’.  It has a ragtime/big band feel to it with good use of horns, and joyfully anticipates Heaven: “What a glad day when I started my stay in Heaven/In that bright land with the angel band/I’ll be singing redeemed/Then I will spend countless ages with Jesus, my Savior/In that lovely land where often I dreamed”.  Kirk Halbert wrote ‘Forgetfulness Sea’, a nice Southern Gospel ballad that uses strings.  It encourages us not to be trapped in regret, but to look forward in life: “You don’t have to look back to the things in your past/There is a door of forgiveness we can walk through at last/For Jesus died on the cross and created a sea/Where our sins and our failures are buried eternally/Thank God for forgetfulness sea/Through His grace I now stand here/Redeemed, whole, and free”.

‘Only one ship of Zion’ is a happy Southern Gospel toe-tapper: “As the angels are singing, bringing down the golden mast/The Captain of captains will put Zion to rest/When Jesus drops anchor there will be no encore/There’s only one ship of Zion, only one Heaven’s shore/Near the threshold of glory where the angels now dwell/The old ship of Zion’s lifting anchor to sail/When that ship crosses Jordan, it’ll sail never more/There’s only one ship of Zion/Only one Heaven’s shore”.  ‘So Close to Home’ is a ballad that values spiritual intimacy: “Call me foolish, call me strange/I just love to speak His Name/On bended knee, then suddenly I am not alone/When I speak ‘Jesus’/I feel the glory from the throne/And it makes me feel so close to home/I like to break the bread of life/His words are such a welcomed sight”.

Luther G. Presley wrote 1937’s ‘Gettin’ Ready to Leave this World’.  It features Terry McMIllan on harmonica and the talents of the Christ Church Choir here.  Gold City took this peppy Southern Gospel track right to #1.  It reminds us this earthly life is not all there is: “Laying up my treasure in that home above/Trusting, fully trusting in the Savior’s love/Doing what I can for Heaven’s Holy Dove/I’m gettin’ ready to leave this world/I’m gettin’ ready to leave this world of sorrow/I’m gettin’ ready for the gates of pearl/Keeping my record bright/Watching both day and night/I’m gettin’ ready to leave this world”.  Joe Fowler wrote ‘Look Around’.  Bass vocalist Tim Riley takes the lead on it.  It is another song about life in Heaven: “Well, I can’t wait to see my Lord/Over on the other side/I know that He’ll be standing there/With His arms stretched open wide/I’ll shout up and down the streets of glory/When my feet touch the holy ground/All you have to do to find me there is/Brother, look around”.

‘Love Went Deeper’ is an inspirational song that reflects on one of God’s most powerful and defining characteristics: “Love went deeper than the crown of thorns they placed upon His head/Love went deeper than the stripes He bore/When the blood ran crimson red/Love went deeper than the hole they dug/When they dropped that old cross in place/Love went deeper than the depths of hell/Deep enough to take my place”.  ‘That’s What I Am’ is the song of one confident of their true identity as God’s child: “I have been adopted by the Kingdom most high/Have all the things I’ll ever need in bountiful supply/And I’ll wear His finest garments/If I take upon His Name/He’s changed my life completely and I’ll never be the same/If I sound like a rich man, well, that’s what I am/If I speak with authority, there’s a reason that I can/My Father has all power/He’s placed it in my hands/If I seem like royalty/That’s what I am”.

‘Under Control’ is a calming ballad that places full trust in God’s faithfulness: “The Bible speaks of famines and trials/In the last days, how they’ll sweep through our land/But we have His assurance that through all these trials/We’ll be led by His mighty hand/Manna from God will come down from above/To restore and to nourish our souls/So, through all of your trials and all of your fears/Remember, God has it under control”.  Carroll McGruder wrote ‘I’m Going Home With Jesus’.  It ends the album on an upbeat note both lyrically and musically: “I’m going home with Jesus in the twinkling of an eye/I’ve made my reservation for a mansion in the sky/I may not know the moment or I may not know the day/But I know that I’ll be leaving when He calls His church away”.

GOIN’ HOME is good Southern Gospel fare that reminds Christians what God has done for them both in this life and in the next.  These ten songs should encourage those who are doubting or who are going through hardships and having trouble seeing the Light at the end of the tunnel.  Instruments played skillfully on this project, that also includes strong vocals, are: piano, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, steel guitar, fiddle, banjo, drums, and percussion.  I’m recommending GOIN’ HOME to fans of Liberty Quartet and The Torchmen and giving it an 86% rating.  For more info visit:


Monday, September 21, 2015


Carman Domenic Licciardello was born on January 19, 1956 in Trenton, New Jersey.  He got saved at an Andrae Crouch concert.  Carman put out his first album GOD’S NOT FINISHED WITH ME in 1980.  His 1983 live album SUNDAY’S ON THE WAY did quite well.  In 1985 he released THE CHAMPION (Myrrh Records).  It stayed on the Billboard overall sales charts for a record 168 weeks!  Carman’s current bio says: “No matter what Carman does, it will be different, never seen before and unusually original.  This is exactly what we’d expect from a musical icon.  It goes without saying that still, to this day Carman defies description and definition and remains a cultural phenomenon-a true American original”.

‘Prepare to Die’ is one of several songs on this project penned by Carman alone.  Jimmie Lee Sloas plays bass on this effective 80’s pop/dance tale about spiritual warfare: “I’m depression, I’m your enemy/The power of death is within my command/Hey, I’m leukemia, open your eyes/I can bury you right where you stand/I’m your ultimate nightmare, the reality of fear/My threats have been intimidating people now for years/You dumb religious fool, just get on out of here/Cause I’m cancer.../You come against me with your fearful evil spell/But I come against you in the Name of the God of the armies of Israel/Prepare to die/Leukemia, prepare to die.../Disease, hatred, jealousy/Enemies of the cross/Prepare to die”.  ‘Abundance of Rain’ features great background vocals by First Call.  It is a fast-moving Christian pop cry for revival: “Lately I’ve been feeling dry as a bone/Like the Holy Spirit has found a new home/Yet by faith I still can see/The cloud of glory that’s been so familiar to me/My spirit’s been dry/Abarren to rain/Yet I hear the sound of the abundance of rain.../Lord, send the rain/Let it fall/Lord, send the rain/Send Your rain/Lord, let it rain/Lord, send Your Spirit (2X)/Let it fall”.  Carman co-wrote the adult contemporary anthem ‘Revive Us, Oh Lord’ with Steve Camp.  Background vocalists are: Pam Mark Hall, Kim Boyce, Lisa Bevill, Pete Carlson, Rick Cua, and Brent Lamb.  The song includes both honest confessions and bold requests to God: “We’ve turned from Your ways/Lord, Your fruit we’ve ceased to bear/We lack the power/We once knew in our prayer.../Revive us, oh Lord (2X)/And cleanse us from our impurities/And make us holy/Hear our cry/And revive us, oh Lord”.

‘A Little Bit More Conviction’ has a strong rock edge.  My beef is that it puts a bit too much emphasis on works for my liking: “Well, I saw me a Christian man with a cigarette in his hand/He was smoking in front of children/Acting bad/He didn’t care how it appeared/He didn’t show no godly fear/His witness could have been more than it had.../Two sisters scantily dressed leaving nothing left to guess/They go to a dancing club and drink some beer/While the parents watch TV/The kids play in the street/What happened to the Bible and some prayer?”  Tom Hemby plays acoustic guitar on ‘It Happened to Me’.  It speaks of the great difference Christ makes in our lives: “Now that Jesus lives inside of me/And sees me through each day/I know Jesus lives inside of me/And answers when I pray/Something marvelous has begun to rule my life/Yes, it’s love I feel/Oh, it’s made my soul alive/Could it be?/Yes, it happened to me”.  Keith Thomas co-wrote the energetic rock song ‘The Destination is There’ with Carman.  It sounds like something David Meece would have recorded.  It encourages us to follow God’s leading and purposes for our lives: “Don’t borrow someone else’s dream/Keep your own in sight/For the vision that God gives you will keep you all your life/Your desire is the confirmation the destination is there/God wouldn’t have put it in your spirit if it wasn’t going nowhere/So set your sights on the promises and don’t you be scared”.

‘Fear Not My Child’ is a tender ballad duet with Kim Boyce in which God speaks lovingly to us, His children: “He said ‘My child, don’t look behind/Discouragement is all you’ll find/Don’t watch the waves that roll the sea/But just focus your eyes on Me/And I will make you strong and then/Your shattered courage I will mend/And if you fall and should get hurt/Remember these eternal words/Fear not My child/I’m with you always/I feel every pain and every tear I see/Fear not My child/I’m with you always/I know how to care for what belongs to Me’”.  If we would heed this advice from the easy listening ballad ‘Love Can’, our world would be a better place with less quarrels: “God made everybody different, giving each a special call/There are some talents that He gave to you/That He did not give to me at all/We all see the same horizon and feel the teardrops of the rain.../Love can bring our worlds together/Love can cause the boundaries to fade/And love can help us like each other/And love the only you that God has made”.  Last up is Carman’s first #1 song, ‘The Champion’.  It runs 8 minutes and 39 seconds long.  It is his truly remarkable signature story song in which he uses humour, memorable one-liners, and vocal distortions to good effect.  It centers in on the cosmic battle between Satan and Christ: “In the vast expanse of a timeless place/Where silence ruled the outer space/Ominously towering it stood/The symbol of a spirit war/Between the one named Lucifer/And the Morning Star, the Ultimate of good.../Proclaim the news in every tongue/Through endless ages and beyond/Let it be voiced from mountains loud and strong/Captivity has been set free/Salvation bought for you and me/Cause Satan is defeated/And Jesus is the Champion!”

Keith Thomas produced and arranged THE CHAMPION, while Lynn Nichols executive produced it.  This album is proof positive that Carman is a unique artist within the world of Contemporary Christian Music.  His songs are seldom boring.  They are creative and portray God as alive, well, and victorious over the enemy of our souls.  They also encourage us to draw nearer to God.  Fans of 1980’s pop and rock music need to add this one to their collection.  I’m rating THE CHAMPION 86%.  For more info visit:




Saturday, September 19, 2015


The Speers, also known as The Speer Family, were founded in 1921 by George Thomas (‘Dad’) Speer, his wife Lena (‘Mom’) Speer, and his sister and brother-in-law Pearl and Logan Claborn.  In 1925 Logan and Pearl left the group due to financial need.  Five year old Brock Speer and three year old Rosa Nell Speer joined the group.  In the 1930’s two more siblings, Mary Tom and Ben, joined.  After Mom and Dad Speer died, brothers Ben and Brock kept the group going with various line-ups.  The group was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1998 and were the first group to receive the Gospel Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  They have also been inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and have won 14 Dove Awards.  In 1990 The Speers released the album HALLELUJAH TIME (Homeland).  It was produced by Ben Speer.  Joining him on vocals are: Brock and Faye Speer, Karen Apple, and Bill Itzel.  Hal Rugg plays steel guitar and dobro, while Gary Prim plays piano and keyboards.

Emma Pearl Moore wrote the opening celebratory Southern Gospel title track, ‘Hallelujah Time’.  It recalls miraculous stories from the Bible, including this one: “The giant stood up on the hill and laughed at Israel’s God/David sang and praised the Lord as down the hill he trod/Then he threw the stone in Jehovah’s Name/It went right down the line/The giant fell dead/David started to sing and had a Hallelujah time/Come on in, the water’s fine, you’ll receive a blessing/Never fear, the Lord is here/He’ll wash your cares away/Then He’ll take your hand in His/You take hold of mine/Never doubt, just start to shout/And have a Hallelujah time!”  ‘Changed by the Power’ is an upbeat Southern Gospel number that speaks of spiritual life transformation through Christ: “The very power that raised up Jesus from the grave/Made me a new creation on the day that I got saved/Those filthy rags I used to wear are spotless robes of white/I just can’t keep it quiet/I’ve got to testify/That I’ve been changed by the power, resurrection power/That conquered death forever and won the victory/I’ve been changed by the power, resurrection power/Even now, it’s working mightily in me”.

Next up is one of three Tim Hill compositions on this album, ‘When life is at its Worst’.  This one is a ballad that points us directly to God in times of trouble: “He’s at His best when all the rest have left you all alone/He’ll dry your tears and calm your fears like none you’ve ever known/He holds today, He’ll make a way/Just trust and let Him lead/And when you find He’s all you have, you’ll know He’s all you need/He’s the best I know at caring, drying tears and burden bearing/When others try and fail, He stands the test”.  Brock Speer wrote ‘Going Home’.  It runs just two minutes in length and has an old school, up tempo quartet feel to it musically.  It anticipates eternity in Heaven: “I’m going home to mansions in the sky/I’m going home where people never die/How glad I’ll be, no more in sin to roam/O Praise the Lord!/I’m going home”.

‘Lord, Draw Me Closer to You’ finds the group conversing honestly and earnestly with God: “Life’s disappointments, pain, and agony/Daily pressures are falling on me/In my closet of prayer, down on bended knee/I cry ‘Lord, draw me closer to Thee’/Lord, won’t You draw me closer to Thee/Hide me in Thy Spirit till Thy light I see/And when life’s heartaches seem to conquer me/Won’t you draw me closer to Thee?”  J. D. Sumner wrote the peppy Southern Gospel classic ‘I Believe in the Old Time Way’.  Fundamentalists will appreciate these lyrics: “Well, I went down to an old camp meeting/I prayed through it the old time way/Oh, it was there at an old time altar/I was saved by amazing grace/I confessed my sinful livin’, I was sorry for my sin/I opened up my heart to Heaven”.

‘My Hope lies in You’ speaks of contentment in Christ: “Since my search has ended Your joy fills my soul/I have perfect rest in You/Now I’ve left all my burdens at the old rugged cross.../So my hope lies in You/My hope lies in You/Whatever I have need of/Lord, You always come through/My hope lies in You”.  ‘I Claim this Mountain’ is a gospel anthem that encourages us to be a people of great faith: “Oh, the land lies before you, it’s yours to possess/Go forward in Jesus/Reach out for God’s best/And don’t fear the giant no matter how tall/Long ago someone said it/’The bigger they are, the harder they fall’/Oh, I claim this mountain, I take this land/I am well able through the strength of His hand/To bring down the giant that before me now stands/I claim this mountain, I claim this mountain/I take this land”.

Ken Apple wrote ‘Your Reflection in Me’.  It expresses a desire to be sanctified and purified by God: “Lord, I want to be holy in Your sight/You’re coming back for a sanctified bride/I long to be, my sweet Lord, what You want me to be/And if I should pass through the fire/You’ll bring me forth as gold that’s been tried/For this had to be so You more clearly can see Your reflection in me/Lord, if You please/I’m longing to see/Your reflection in me”.  ‘Do it God’s Way’ is a happy song about trusting in God: “Now who would think that walkin’ round the mighty wall would bring it down?/But that’s what God told Joshua to do/While some in doubt just scratched their heads and marvelled at what God had said/God moved and proved His power to be true/So do it God’s way and watch what happens/The walls will fall, mountains tall will be cast into the sea/Now some may say when life is tense/Trusting in the Lord doesn’t make much sense/But release your faith today and do it God’s way!”

I’m recommending HALLELUJAH TIME to fans of The Happy Goodmans and The Nations Quartet.  Salvation, hope in Christ, and trust in God’s goodness are themes that come through on this record.  Southern Gospel is The Speers’ strong suit.  It is when the group experiments with inspirational and adult contemporary music here and there, that they are the weakest.  All in all though, this is a good album with dandy vocals and harmonies, for the most part.  The older crowd will appreciate this album which I’m rating 88%.  For more info visit:



al Hal Rugg

Friday, September 18, 2015


Patricia Lynn Yearwood was born on September 19th, 1964 in Monticello, Georgia.  Her mom was a school teacher and her dad was a farm agent.  Trisha grew up listening to the likes of Kitty Wells and Hank Williams.  She put out her self-titled debut album in 1991.  The lead single from it, ‘She’s in love with the Boy’, became a #1 hit.  Trisha’s tenth studio album was JASPER COUNTY (2005, MCA Nashville).  It was produced by Garth Fundis, reaching #1 on the Billboard country albums chart, and peaking at #4 on the Billboard 200.  Later pressings of the album included a duet with husband Garth Brooks, called ‘Love Will Always Win’.

The album opener ‘Who Invented the Wheel’ is a slow country song of heartache with Aubrey Haynie playing fiddle: “I wanna know who invented the wheel/Tell me who discovered steel/It was the wheel and the steel that caused this pain/And made the car that took him away/I wanna know who invented the wheel/I wanna know who found the rock/Tell me who laid the blacktop/It was the rock and the blacktop/That caused this pain/And made the road for the car/That took him away”.  ‘Pistol’ is a peppy country tune with a great musical hook.  Many women will be able to relate to these lyrics: “Well, you’d think by now I’d learned my lesson/But I keep makin’ them same mistakes/Must be some clue I keep missin’/How many times can a good heart break?/I keep fallin’ for all them bad boys/Poor or rich as dirt/Lots of fun, and I ain’t jokin’/But every time I think I won’t get hurt.../Well I wanted trouble, now I got a fist full/That’s what happens when you fall for a pistol”.  Beth Nielsen Chapman and Bill Lloyd wrote ‘Trying to Love You’.  The former is also a harmony vocalist on it.  It makes use of the mandolin and The Nashville String Machine.  It is a ballad of great honesty: “The secrets I have kept/The nights I haven’t slept/I’ve laughed until I’ve wept/Trying to love you.../Trying to love you/I’ve screamed your name/I’ve slammed a thousand doors/Trying to love you/And I’ve worn a million miles across the floor/Trying to love you/Still I could not ignore/Trying to love you”.

‘River of You’ serves as a reminder to be careful who you fall for: “I told myself I’d stay away/I got no business ‘round here today/You are so not good for me/And everybody knows/The way you break my heart again and again/But before I know I’m too close/One sweet look and then/You pull me under with a touch that’s like no other/I’m driftin’, drownin’, there’s nothing I can do/But fall into the river of you”.  Jessi Alexander, Austin Cunningham, and Sonya Isaacs wrote ‘Baby Don’t You Let Go’.  It is a groovy, optimistic country tune that uses lap steel, harmonica, and leg slaps: “Baby, you make me feel safe enough to fly/Hold me forever and ever, never say goodbye/Gonna plant our dreams in the sacred ground/Gonna watch love grow when the rain comes down/Gonna say a prayer for the strength we need/Put your hand to the plow/Baby, don’t you let go now (2X)”.

‘Standing out in a Crowd’ is a pretty song that reflects on struggles with self-esteem: “Too short, too tall/The flower against the wall, the last one chosen to play/Too smart, too dumb/Too strange a place to be from, same shoes everyday/With all these ways to be different then/Maybe that’s how you fit in/Standing out in a crowd where the spotlight finds you and singles you out.../It’s funny how now it’s not such a bad place to be”.  ‘Georgia Rain’ is a terrific ballad penned by Ed Hill and Karyn Rochelle.  Fiddle, steel guitar, piano, and The Nashville String Machine are used. Garth Brooks contributes harmony vocals on this terrific ballad that will make some blush: “And I don’t remember what was poundin’ more/The heart in my chest or the hood of that Ford/As the sky fell in and the storm clouds poured worlds away outside/The Georgia rain on the Jasper County clay/Couldn’t wash away all the love we made/Just you and me down that old dirt road/No one saw a thing/Except for the Georgian rain”.

Steve Cox plays the organ on ‘Sweet Love’.  It is a sultry country rock number: “Summer breeze/Easin’ back the curtains in my bedroom/Ceilin’ fan/Stirrin’ up the heat of the afternoon/I’m putting on my lipstick/My ruby red lipstick/Nice and thick, baby/It ain’t the gettin’, it’s the wishin’/It ain’t the catchin’, it’s the fishin’/Anticipation got me waitin’ for your/Sweet love, baby/Sweet love”.  Liz Rose and Stephanie Chapman wrote ‘Try Me’.  Ronnie Dunn is on harmony vocal.  This one finds Trisha urging a guy to open up his heart and give her a chance: “When you go to sleep and you can’t find a dream/Won’t you try me?/A place you can whisper the secrets you keep/That’s what I’ll be/And when you’ve given up and there’s no one to trust/Come and find me/Then maybe you could leave lonely for good/Try me (6X)”.

Hillary Lindsey is on harmony vocals on ‘Gimme the Good Stuff’.  It is the melodic country song of one wanting to experience joy, love, and happiness: “Maybe it’s time to put it in drive/Pull the top down and feel alive/Let the sun take over my sky/How ‘bout it?/Hey, gimme the good stuff/Hey, I’m tired of this hard luck/Hey, gimme the good stuff/More than a taste/It ain’t so tough/I’m not askin’ for much/I don’t wanna wait”.  ‘It’s Alright’ is an infectious, cheerful honky tonk song: “Well, I’m thinkin’ everything’s alright/It might be alright for the very first time/Walkin’ with a made up mind/Everybody comin’ up wants to know why/I tell ‘em ‘bout the love, I tell ‘em bout you/And me skinny-dippin’ in the fountain of youth/Yeah, I’m thinkin’ everything’s alright/It’s alright, it’s alright”.

Though Trisha did not write any of the eleven songs presented here, based on the passion and feeling she sings them with, you would think she had.  Trisha is one of my all-time favourite female vocalists!  What I like about this album is that it is ‘earthy’.  That is to say, it deals with down to earth, real-life experiences, mainly the bliss of being in love and the pain of break-ups.  The photos of Trisha in the CD booklet are gorgeous and tasteful.  I’m rating JASPER COUNTY 95%.  For more info visit: and



Tuesday, September 08, 2015


Audio Adrenaline was originally known as A-180 and traces their origins to Kentucky Christian University.  Their self-titled major label debut came out in 1992.  Their next album DON’T CENSOR ME (1993) contained the song ‘Big House’ which would become the most loved song of their career.  LIFT is the band’s sixth studio album.  It came out on ForeFront Records in 2001.  The group’s roster on LIFT is: Mark Stuart, Will McGinniss, Ben Cissel, and Tyler Burkum.  Bob Herdman, no longer touring with the group, assisted with the songwriting.  LIFT is the first album where Tyler Burkum contributes significantly to the lead vocals, assisting Mark Stuart.

‘You Still Amaze Me’ is a Christian rock song of wonder: “Once I was excited for the things the world could give/But no more/I’m only thrilled by You, and You/You, You, You still amaze me/You, You still amaze me/Bigger than the sky/Brighter than the sun/You’re the One.../You’re the reason for the stars that decorate my night/So I sing, yeah I sing/You’re the Maker”.  ‘I’m Alive’ conveys enthusiasm to the band’s audience: “The sun is always bright and the skies are always so blue/There must be something bigger that makes me feel like I do/So if you come to the show, then I want you to know/I’m alive/The moment I let go brought passion to my soul/I’m alive/My heart’s been re-arranged and never be the same/I’m alive (2X)”.

‘Beautiful’ is a lovely pop song of praise: “When I lift You up they come running/When I sing Your song the world’s turning to You/Just the sound of Your Name is a beautiful thing/And I love You, I love You, I love You/Your Name is beautiful/It drips off of my lips like drops of gold/It makes me wanna dance/You’re my treasure/My deliverance”.  ‘Ocean Floor’ is one of the best CCM songs of this millennium!  It deals with regret and redemption: “The mistakes I’ve made that caused pain/I could have done without/All my selfish thoughts, all my pride/The things I hide/You have forgot about/They’re all behind you, they’ll never find you/They’re on the ocean floor/Your sins are forgotten/They’re on the bottom of the ocean floor”.

‘Rejoice’ is a celebratory rock and roll tune: “You’ve got to tell everyone in the land/Come on, come on/Tell every girl, boy, woman, and man/Rejoice, rejoice/That God’s been good, yeah, good to me/Come on, come on/I’ve been forgiven and it feels so free/It’s a beautiful thing when I sing to You Jesus/The days are a joy/The nights are all bright”.  ‘Speak to Me’ is a quieter song that finds the band conversing openly with God: “Speak to me/Tell me all the things I need to know/I want to hear You now/Can You speak to me?/I’ve opened up Your Word to free me/I want to hear You now/It’s amazing/How I forget/Can’t live my life for lack of it/But the light of day I’ve always known/It’s in my heart, I’m not alone”.

‘Glory’ is a modern and pretty love song to God: “I long to walk hand in hand down a golden road with Father/Where choirs of angels praise His Name and I want to learn/To sing ‘Glory!’/To sing ‘Glory!’/And I can’t find the words to say/Life gets in the way/Lord, You know my heart’s desire/When it all comes down/To who You are/Words cannot convey/When it all comes down/To who You are/Words get in the way”.  ‘Summertime’ is a fun, carefree rock song that looks ahead to Heaven: “I know You’ve got a place/Designed for me someday/I’ve got a mansion there/A royal getaway/And when my work is done/You’ll fly me there at last/A place that doesn’t take credit cards/Or lots and lots of cash”.

‘This is Everything’ is a  song of total surrender to God: “With ambitions put aside/I crawl in Your arms to hide/I have given everything up to You/This is all, this is everything (2X)/Everything I’ve got/The good things and the bad things are in Your hands”.  The title track ‘Lift’ is a terrific, original worship song: “Lord, I love You/You’re a Father’s hand at night/You’re the sunshine in the day/And I long to be with You/All my days/In old age if I’m still hanging ‘round/I’ll be found around with You.../I love to lift You up”.

‘Tremble’ is a quiet worship song that runs over seven minutes long: “Shaking like a leaf/Afraid to lift my eyes/Afraid of all Your glory/Ashamed of all my pride/Then You call me in to Your holy place/I fall down/Down on my face/And I beckon You for mercy/And I beckon You to forget everything that I’ve ever done/And I, I, I tremble (2X)”.  Two bonus tracks complete the album.  A radio remix of ‘Beautiful’ is first up.  Second is ‘Lonely Man’ from the demo sessions.  It is a meaty rock number that includes the rap stylings of T-Bone.  It is sung from the viewpoint of one who is hurting and searching for purpose.

LIFT is a great Christian rock record that includes themes of worship and great joy.  Many of the songs are infectious and will soon have you singing along.  This is one of my favourite Audio A albums!  It clearly points out that God is alive and well and wants to be involved on a daily basis in our individual lives.  God is not some far off, aloof force.  The photos of the group included in the CD booklet are cool.  I’m recommending LIFT to fans of Aerosmith and Newsboys and rating it 96%.  For more info visit:


Friday, September 04, 2015


Cindy Lavonne Morgan was born on June 4, 1968.  She released her debut album REAL LIFE in 1992.  1998’s THE LOVING KIND was seen as a creative highpoint for her.  It deals with Christ’s final days on earth.  Cindy is a two-time Grammy nominee and a 12 time Dove Award winner.  She has had twenty-one #1 hits and has written songs for the likes of Amy Grant, Point of Grace, Rascal Flatts, and Francesca Battistelli.  BOWS & ARROWS (2015, Lucid Artist) is Cindy’s tenth studio album.  Kyle Buchanan is her co-producer on it.  The album is said to be “a musical continuation of stories and life observations shared easily, yet intimately, from Morgan’s poetic pen”.  Cindy is quoted as saying: “I think what I have always desired to do as a writer and as an artist is to use music, and especially songs, to connect and encourage other people.  I feel like that is my spiritual commission in life”.

The album opens with ‘Breaking Heart’ penned by Cindy and Chris Donohue, who also plays upright and electric bass.  Cindy is responsible for vocals and ukulele.  This pulsating folk/pop song speaks of life’s struggles: “Wait for a rescue, pray for a sign/For someone to read your mind/And you wait and you wonder and you push against the dark/Everyday going under/Wishing someone felt/And you crave and you hunger for a glimpse, just a spark/Everyday going under wishing someone felt the beat of that breaking heart/The devil whispers that he’s your friend/He comes callin’ when the door’s unhinged/Will you let him in?”  Gabe Dixon co-wrote ‘Can’t Help Yourself’ with Cindy.  He also sings and plays upright piano.  Famed bluegrass mandolinist Sierra Hull appears as well on this sad song: “Well the warm wind came and it thawed the freeze/Found the woman locked up she longed to be/They drank deep of love that she now regrets/Cause you can’t forgive what you can’t forget.../Oh the ways of love, they are hard and steep/With no sanctuary, no blissful sleep/But you risk it all for that phantom taste/But the seeds you sow lay the garden waste”.  ‘I Know You’ features Andrew Greer on harmony vocal.  It is a hand-clapping bluegrass number that finds Cindy conversing in an open and childlike manner with God: “How am I more than a grain of sand?/How does the world fit inside Your hand?/And why do we fall down again and again?/I’m asking You (2X).../Was it Your tears that made the world flood?/Did You cry when they crucified Jesus?/How far will Your arms stretch to reach us?/And why would You?/And why would You?”

The title track ‘Bows & Arrows’ is one of many songs that Cindy wrote alone on this project.  It is a beautiful ballad that includes these poetic words: “In haunted woods she’s queen, he’s Pharoah/She slays the dragons, saves the sparrows/Flesh and blood and bone and marrow/We’re the bow and she’s the arrow/Searching for that pot of gold/Everything new’s getting old/And she just wants something real/Something she can feel/Something she can feel”.  ‘Wandering Child’ finds Travis Patton on violin and Viktor Krauss on upright bass.  It is a story song that deals with grief: “She used to walk along the peaceful streams of home/Memories of falling leaves, her dearest love to hold/But then the winter came and they buried him beneath the bitter snow.../She used to dream her dreams/With eyes lit with hope/Now she lies awake at night and shivers from the cold.../Then came that sacred day when she knelt upon his grave/And she cried ‘Lord you took him/Can you take this pain away and save this wandering child?’”

‘Unbroken’ is a soft adult contemporary song.  Cindy sings and plays upright piano and glockenspiel, while Justin Saunders plays cello.  The lyrics speak both of being wounded and restored: “When you’ve been cut too deep it never really heals up/And it aches and it bleeds/And finally you bandage it up/And you say this is the way it is/And walk around with a gash wide open/People stare so you just show them/And your heart feels frozen/And you can’t be unbroken/Till the Healer comes when you’re not expecting/And He shines a light on the ghost you’ve been protecting/And the salt in His tears heals the wound/And He gives something back that was stolen from you”.  ‘Do You Know Jesus’ features a great harmony vocal by Jonathan Kingham.  Cindy wrote the song with Ben Cooper.  It is one that is tender and offers a spiritual invitation: “Do you know Jesus?/Do you know who Jesus is?/Do you think Him a liar and His story just a myth?/Did He climb Golgotha?/Did He bleed for you then die?/And was His life a worthy sacrifice?.../Come, Come/And taste the living water that He gives/Come, oh Come/That you’ll know who Jesus is”.

‘The Sound of a Train’ has a country music feel to it with Jerry Evans on pedal steel.  It reflects on the end of time as we know it and the beginning of eternity: “Now the wheels are already rollin’/We will hear that trumpet blow/Don’t know exactly where we’re goin’/But until that day, oh I don’t wanna miss out on nothin’/I love my father’s eyes/The good book about the Lion you can’t tame/I love Jesus Christ/When He calls my name/It’s like the sound of a train”.  ‘I Want to Live Like Jesus Part 1’ is an acappella selection that runs just 49 seconds.  It expresses Cindy’s heart’s desire: “I want to live like Jesus/I want to live like You Jesus/I wanna do all You say/Like you wrote down in red/I want to live like You Jesus/Help me to live like You Jesus”.

‘In The Red’ is a cool bluegrass track written by Cindy, Lucas Thompson, and Kyle Buchanan.  The latter plays drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, and dobro.  This song expands on the sentiments in the last song: “I gotta live in the red/By the Word, by the deed/Be a sower of good seed/Be the hands and the feet/I wanna do what He said/The way He walked and the way He led/’Have faith like a child’/That’s what He said/In the red”.  Lucas Morton provides harmony vocals on the slow country song ‘Bring Balloons’.  Cindy reflects on the peaceful hereafter: “I’m going up to a party where no storm clouds ever come/Gonna run when I see Jesus/And I hope that He says ‘Well done!’/And if I should go I know you’ll want to cry/Cause nobody knows how to say goodbye/So say a few words, sing some old gospel tunes/But don’t weep for me, bring balloons/And it won’t be too long, I’ll be seeing you soon/Don’t weep for me, bring balloons”.

‘How Could I Ask For More’ is a terrific new recording of one of Cindy’s most beloved adult contemporary songs ever.  Here, it is a duet of gratitude with Andrew Peterson: “There’s nothing like the warmth of a summer afternoon/Waking to the sunlight, being cradled by the moon/Catching fireflies at night, building castles in the sand/Kissing mama’s face goodnight and holding daddy’s hand/Thank You, Lord/How could I ask for more?”  Last up is ‘I Want to Live Like Jesus Part 2’.  Lyrically it conveys the same message as Part 1 does.  Cindy is joined by her mother, Lola, on vocals this time.

In the liner notes for BOWS & ARROWS Cindy writes: “Thank you to the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost for beauty and ashes.  For the hope of what we cannot fathom”.  This particular album is intimate, honest, and well thought out.  The lyrics deal both with relationships between human beings and the relationship between God and us as individuals.  Hope and comfort in Jesus Christ are themes that shine through on this album that does not shy away from the fact that life on this earth can be arduous, tragic, and a hard go.  Fans of folk, bluegrass, and mellow musical sounds will enjoy this album.  Cindy’s vocals are strong, passionate, and well textured.  This project gets high marks from me for artistry and creativity!  It is a real treat.  I’m rating BOWS & ARROWS 94%.  For more info visit:






Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Cheri Keaggy began her career as a worship leader at a small church in Southern California.  She put out her debut album CHILD OF THE FATHER in 1994 and was nominated for a Dove Award for New Artist of the Year.  She has had nine #1 songs and has won one Dove Award.  Three of my favourite songs of hers are: ‘Make My Life An Altar’, ‘My Faith Will Stay’, and ‘What Matters Most’.  Cheri’s latest and ninth full-length album is NO LONGER MY OWN (2015, Psalm 91 Records).  Cheri produced it and is quoted in a press release as saying: “I have often referred to my last album SO I CAN TELL, as my beauty-from-ashes project or my bleeding heart album.  But the Lord heals.  And this album feels a little more broad.  Brokenness humbles you and makes you more sensitive to the world around you and, perhaps even more in tune with the Father’s heart”.

Starting things off is ‘Overcome’ which is an emotional adult contemporary song that is said to be “a response to recent news reports of believers facing persecution, even unto death, and the increase of moral decay in our nation”.  In the song Cheri asks God what she should tell the world in the face of such darkness and adversity.  This is His response: “Tell them I AM here/I AM watching it all/Please don’t you fear/Don’t you know I have overcome?/Tell them I AM here/I AM lifting you up/The end is near/Don’t you know that I have overcome?/Haven’t I already overcome?.../I’m coming back for you/It won’t be long”.  ‘You Save Me’ is a beautiful ballad based on Psalm 119 and begins with these words of spiritual maturity: “It was good for me to be afflicted/That I might learn Your decrees, Lord/And all of those years in the desert/Kept me thirsting for Your Word on my knees/If Your law had not been my delight/I would have perished in the fight/And I will never forget Your wisdom/For by it You renewed my life/And You save me with every word/And You show me what I am worth to You/Age to age, Your truth remains/I meditate on it day and night/Your Word is light, it is life”.

‘You Go Before Me’ is a soft inspirational number that confidently declares who God is: “You are the comfort for every heartache/You were the healing before there was hurt/Doling out strength for the worn and weary/With storehouses brimming with gifts none could earn/You’re the Great King and Your Kingdom will come with sure victory after the war/Brave on the frontline of all these battles/You go before”.  The title track ‘No Longer My Own’ was inspired by ‘A Covenant Prayer’ popularized by John Wesley.  The former is a sweet song of complete surrender to God: “Put me to doing/Put me to suffering/Put me to what You will/Let me be full or let me have nothing/To You I wholeheartedly yield/For I am no longer my own but Yours/I am no longer my own but Yours/Let me be working/Or lay me aside/Exalted for You or brought low/All to your pleasure/I’m at Your disposal/Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/For I am no longer my own but Yours”.  ‘Lucky To Be Breathing Your Air’ is the breezy pop song of one completely in love with God: “Lucky to be breathing Your air/Lucky to be filling this space/Lucky to be counted as one who gets to know amazing grace/Lucky to be one of Your own/Lucky to be never alone.../Lucky to be freed of my shame/Lucky just to utter Your Name”.

A mostly quiet gospel song, ‘Lead me to Your Love’ is next.  It thoughtfully reflects on the supernatural: “I don’t claim to understand the mysteries of the spirit man/All I know is if there’s more then, Jesus lead me to it/Standing at the altar now, my hungry heart gets fed somehow/A sweet release, a sacred vow/Deep down, in truth, I knew it/The Love of God is like that, strong/It cuts you to the core/You might dread that you came early then wish you stayed for more”.  ‘Be My Sabbath’ is a delightful light rock song that serves as a prayer delivered with raw passion and urgency: “I can’t do this anymore/I’m empty/Be My Source, Be My Sabbath/Take this poor and tattered life/You can have it/Come swallow me up/I’ve had quite enough/I’m ready to crash into Your arms/Be My Source, Be My Sabbath”.

‘Jesus, One and Only’ includes the chirping of crickets and is again prayerful: “Jesus, One and only/Jesus, come and hold me/For the night is getting long/Jesus, send Your Love down/Jesus, drain this fear out/For the night is getting long/Heart so tender, knees so weak/Frail against the aching need/Jesus, won’t You please just take my heart as I bring it to You?”  ‘I Love Your Company’ presents God as a loving Father to us, His children: “You can sit, you can cry, or simply abide/Find your rest by My side/You don’t have to do a single thing/Peace be still, you’ll be fine/Be My branch, I’ll be Your Vine/I have loved you all this time/I just want your company/And I long to meet your need/How I love when you just...breathe”.

Cheri’s legendary Uncle Phil Keaggy plays ukulele on ‘Whatever is True (Phil. 4:8)’.  It has a playful, folk sound to it and reminds us to guard our thoughts: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble/Whatever is right, whatever is pure/Whatever is lovely and most admirable/I will think on these things, Lord/I will think on these things.../Jesus, You’re true/Jesus, You’re noble/Jesus, You’re right/Jesus, You’re pure/Jesus, You’re lovely and most admirable/I will think on Your Name, Lord/I will think on Your Name”.  The lyrics to ‘The Giving Song’ are adapted from Annie Johnson Flint’s ‘He Giveth More Grace’.  It is a testimony to God’s goodness: “He gives us more grace when the burdens grow greater/He sends us more strength when the labors increase/To added afflictions He adds on His mercies/To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.../His love has no limits/His grace has no measure/His power no boundary known unto men/For out of His infinite riches in Jesus/He gives and He gives and keeps giving again”.

It is a rare occasion when I give an album a perfect 100% rating.  NO LONGER MY OWN, is however, one such album.  While listening to it, you will feel as if you are reading Cheri’s personal journal.  These are songs directly from her heart that detail with honesty her love relationship with God.  Her deep faith in God has been shaped by His faithfulness to her through the good and the bad times in her life.  Cheri’s vocals are moving and have a depth and texture to them not found on her earlier projects.  Stylistically this album falls mainly into the adult contemporary and inspirational categories.  Cheri’s piano playing is wonderful.  Other instruments used include: pump organ, accordion, and mandolin.  Background vocals are performed by Cheri, Christine and Scott Dente, and Jason Eskridge.  The photos of Cheri accompanying this project are very beautiful.  I recommend NO LONGER MY OWN to fans of Amy Grant and Cindy Morgan.  For more info visit: