Thursday, May 26, 2016


Jon Bauer was born on March 1, 1977.  He lives in Alberta, Canada with his wife Andrea and their two kids.  Jon has been a worship leader for twenty years, performing in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Asia.  He has toured with such artists as Newsboys, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Francesca Battistelli.  He has won 7 GMA Canada Covenant Awards and has had one Juno Award nomination.  In addition, he has had 12 Canadian Christian radio hits.  Jon’s 7th and latest studio album is THE LIGHT IN US (Crossway, 2016).  The album was produced by Rusty Varenkamp, with whom Jon co-wrote all ten songs.  In a press release, Jon states: “This album shares a healing journey I have been on the last couple of years as I have leaned on the faithfulness of God even when I have not felt Him near.  In His time-not my own-He has brought complete healing and has used the trials of this life as a testament to His greatness.  My prayer is that these songs would draw others who are walking through a valley to press in even closer to Jesus”.

Opening the album is ‘Your Love is Beautiful’, a terrific modern pop song that begins with these words of testimony: “You broke the chains that were secured around my heart/And tore down every wall/And it’s like gravity had pulled my world apart/But You would break my fall/I can see/The sun is rising on the horizon/From the sky/Down to the ocean/Love is in motion/We will shout/Your love is beautiful (2X)”.  ‘Light in Us’ is the cheery pop title track.  It speaks of God’s goodness: “Through all the doubt and the fears we’ve known/Your love is stronger and it makes us whole/We can feel it now, feel it now/Joy is in our hearts, it’s in our eyes/Hope is in our blood/It’s running wild/This fire can’t be hidden/It’s burning deep inside/Oh God, You are the light/The light in us”.

‘You Just Want My Heart’ is a lovely ballad of spiritual surrender: “I give You everything I am/I give You everything I’m not/You just want my heart (2X)/I give You all that’s left of me/I lay it down cause I believe/You just want my heart (2X)”.  ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ is an adult contemporary ballad that reminds us to tend to the least of these: “There’s a man down on the corner/He can’t be more than my own age/He’s tired of sleeping in his cardboard box alone/And I don’t think he expects his luck to change.../There’s an orphan in Uganda/Collecting bottles on the streets/And all he really wants is a chance to go to school/So he can leave the slums for a better place to sleep.../This could be the only shot/We could be all they’ve got”.

Next up is ‘Say Something’, a light rock number about those times when God seems silent and afar: “Sometimes I feel all alone/I’m at the end of my rope/I’m trying to keep my head above the water.../Will You come and speak to me?/Lord, say something/Oh say something/I need to know that You are here with me”.  ‘Come Alive’ is a soft country track of gratitude to God: “You paint the colors of the sky a different shade/Creating beauty in my life that doesn’t fade/Each day now full of wonder/And as I watch the pages turn and life unfolds/I feel the goodness of Your hand and all it holds/Your Spirit greatly guides me”.

‘Even If (No One Can Separate)’ contains this bridge of strong Christian testimony: “You have overcome the grave/You have broken every chain/Our only hope is in You/You alone have set us free/You alone are all we need/Our only hope is in You”.  ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ is not a cover of the classic hymn.  This modern worship song does though, also declare who God is and what He has done for us: “Your love is patient/Your love is kind/And Your love brought me/Yeah, it brought me to the light/Great is Thy faithfulness, oh my God/Your mercy is all that I see/Great is Thy faithfulness, oh my God/And all that You’ve given to me”.

‘You are my Everything’ is a well-written love song to Jesus Christ: “Forgiveness holds me to Your side/How I long to know You/Nothing else will satisfy/For You are my refuge.../Glorious Lord/You are my desire, my desire/King of my heart/You are my desire, my desire”.  Last up is ‘Starts With Us’, a call to action for Christians: “Let’s come together/Light it up tonight/Cause if the world needs love/It’s got to start with us/Tear down the walls and break ‘em open wide/Cause if the world needs love/It’s got to start with us.../So paint your piece of the mosaic now/Let love make it beautiful/Sing your melody above the crowd/Let love make it beautiful (2X)”.

THE LIGHT IN US is a marvelous light pop album heavily influenced by modern worship and adult contemporary music.  These ten songs will appeal to fans of artists such as: Jason Gray, Jeremy Camp, and Bebo Norman.  This is an album that has daytime Christian radio written all over it.  These songs help us declare our love to God and also remind us of His love for us.  Jon’s vocals are quite pleasant and the instrumentation is skillful.  Instrumentalists used were: Ben Phillips, Jacob Lowery, Mike Payne, Peter Mol, and Rusty Varenkamp.  This record, which I’m rating 100%, glorifies God and God alone!  He is depicted as being actively concerned about us and directly involved with transforming our lives if we let Him.  For more info visit:



Saturday, May 07, 2016


Long time Contemporary Christian Music fans will remember what a treat the album SPEAK (1996, Sparrow) by Dogs of Peace was.  Well, fast forward to 2016 and the Dogs are back with a dandy new project, HEEL (Suite 28 C Records).  The group members are: Gordon Kennedy (vocals, guitars), Jimmie Sloas (vocals, bass), Blair Masters (keyboards, background vocals), and John Hammond (drums, percussion).  Kennedy is a former member of White Heart and Sloas is a former member of The Imperials.  Besides this, the group members have either written for, or worked with, the likes of Eric Clapton, Keith Urban, Twila Paris, and many, many more artists.  HEEL was co-produced by Dogs of Peace and Jeff Balding.  Balding’s credits include Little Big Town, Taylor Swift, and Don Henley.  In the CD booklet Gordon Kennedy thanks the Lord: “If the only thing that ever happens with this music is that we place it before You and You find it to be a fragrant offering, then ‘Amen’”.

Starting things off is one of five songs solely penned by Kennedy, ‘One Flight Away’.  It is a classic rock song that reflects on our mortality and on eternity: “The world knew my mother for just 50 years/She wasn’t here long/While she was here/She prayed for my soul (3X)/I see my connection/It’s one flight away/The terminal beckons/Until that day/Pray for my soul (3X)”.  ‘Sacrifice’ is an experimental classic rock track that expresses gratitude for the atonement which paid for and erased our sins: “Oh/This is a self made wound/It was me all the time/So how can it be/The blood that covers me/I see it is not mine/What a sacrifice (2X)/Love was the device/What a sacrifice”.

‘Dark Without’ incorporates a heavy, percussive, march-like beat and a great lead vocal.  It also offers a blunt commentary on society that evangelical Christians will really relate to: “There’s a lunatic gunman/And a group of children at play/Not before this thing begins/Only when it ends will they let us in to pray/Dark without, Christ within (2X).../See the moral compass/We can see it fade into night/We are losing our direction/We are seeing our reflection/When there is no light/Dark without, Christ within (2X)”.  ‘If it Weren’t for You’ is a short, softer, more laid back song that openly admits it is God who gives us true purpose and meaning: “There is me the self made man/There is me without a plan/All of I that I can stand/If it weren’t for You/There’s a puzzle with no peace/And a hurt with no relief/No turning a new leaf/If it weren’t for You”.

‘All this for a Piece of Fruit’ is a catchy pop/rock number that is told creatively from the perspective of Adam and Eve and is about the fall of humankind: “Just left paradise, shut the door/We had forgotten what we came here for/There was a voice said we could have it all/We took the bite, we took the fall/Now all this for a piece of fruit/A serpent’s wish for a twist of truth/We got applesauce on our birthday suit/Now all this for a piece of fruit”.  Ricky Skaggs plays mandolin on the fast-paced ‘Only the Gold’.  It clearly rebukes the devil:  “I know you and what you’re doing/You want me to follow you to ruin/My soul is not for sale though you try to buy it still/Only the gold that is God ever will.../I was walking through this world your prisoner/I signed my name, then came the finer print/I was condemned/I turned to Him, my Savior”.

Michael Omartian, who co-produced the ‘Happy Days’ tv show theme song back in the day, plays piano on the pop/rock song ‘Friend of the Groom’.  It gleefully anticipates Heaven: “Friends and family/Good Christian travelers/The ones who got there early/Waving to me/Angels and ushers/They’ve been waiting for me/I see them in that room/Seat me with friends of the groom/I stepped inside to see with my eyes/The Christ who died for His bride/I see Him in that room/Let me in/Friend of the groom”.  Kennedy, Masters, and Hammond wrote ‘Healed’.  Mainstream rock legend Peter Frampton plays terrific solo guitar on it.  This song looks at our mortality in a positive light: “We’re only temporary, then gone with the wind/But if we’re with Him/We won’t disappear/Heaven comes clear/Yeah, that’s the deal/And there’ll be a day/When time will give way/We may not ever leave this world cured/But we can leave it healed”.

The next song ‘He’s the Light of the World’, is a rock one that features guest vocalists Joel Hanson of PFR, Rick Florian of White Heart, and The McCrary Sisters.  It offers these words of testimony: “Now the Son has come up/I’ll never be the same/Feel my spirit rise up/At the sound of His Name/He’s the light of the world.../Jesus, He is matchless/See the wounds of God’s wrath/Brilliant in the chaos/Illuminating my path/With the light of the world”.  What follows is a great medley of three songs that runs over nine and a half minutes long.  The songs declare what God has done and can do, and encourage us to be a Christian witness to those around us.

Last up on the physical CD is a short, bluesy guitar instrumental version of ‘Amazing Grace’, which is a nice note to end on.  Now, if you buy the album on iTunes you get a bonus track called ‘Crush’.  It is also on Youtube.  This splendid rock song is aimed at the devil, our enemy: “You threaten me with unforgiveness/You would condemn me with the past/You know that He has made me blameless/You see your time is going fast/I feel something under my shoe/I got to crush on you!/I’ll have the covenant blessing/I’ll have the pardon for sin/I’ll have none of what you’re sayin’”.

HEEL is a must have for collectors of CCM music and good music on the whole  The instrumentation, particularly Gordon Kennedy’s guitar work, is something that will make you want to play this record over and over again.  The artistry is second to none and it is easy to see why these guys are such highly sought after musicians to work with.  A second strength of HEEL is the lyrical content.  The basics of the Christian faith are shared in a clear, concise manner without sounding trite or holier-than-thou.  The vocals are pleasant, but not as memorable as those of bigger named CCM stars.  The artwork contained on and in the CD booklet by Nathaniel Mather is just wonderful!  I’m rating this album 93%.  For more info visit: and




Thursday, May 05, 2016


Brittany Hargest was one of five members of the Christian pop/dance music group Jump5, originally called Jump Start.  Jump5 put out their self-titled debut in 2001.  They toured with the likes of Aaron Carter and Zoegirl.  The group eventually became a quartet and put out their final studio album in 2007.  Brittany Hargest released her solo debut LOVE ALL THE WAY in 2011 on SoulStride Records.  In her thanks she writes: “Lastly, to my God-the only reason I do what I do.  You have given me so much more than I deserve.  Thank You for loving me beyond anything I could ever imagine, and allowing me the opportunities to do what I love”.

Brittany, Aaron Rice, and Joe Pangallo wrote the opening peppy pop/dance song ‘Critical’.  It has a spiritual urgency to it: “Red lights, sirens screaming, a level 10 emergency/It’s getting critical, out of control, too many doing 95 down a dead end road/It’s only natural in a fallen world/We gotta do something quick/It’s getting critical/We can’t sit back like it’s got no effect on us/Everything is on the line/It’s life and death/It is that serious/We see too much to act so blind”.  The title track, ‘Love all the Way’, is a pop song of gratitude to God: “Your love is like a hard heart grenade/I love it how Your love can’t be tamed/You rush in like a soul hurricane/And time will never change the way Your love stays the same/Cause You love, yeah You love all the way/And even if I try, I’ll never find a kill-switch to Your love/No matter what I do/You’re never through, it never ends”.

Ironically, ‘Slow Motion’ is a very fast-paced song that encourages us to be a patient people: “If you’ve lost your hope and you’re crying, but you know inside that you’re trying/Sometimes slow motion is just part of growing/If you know your heart is broken, that’s the moment that it’s open/Even in slow motion, gotta keep going/Just keep, keep going in slow, slow motion”.  Aaron Rice and Jason Walker wrote ‘Miracle’, while Alex Hawkins plays guitars on it.  This adult contemporary track reminds us just how much God values us: “I’m on my knees today/Want to run, want to chase all the things that I love, but I don’t feel good enough/I’ll mess it up again/But You see a miracle/You see something beautiful/When You look at me You see what I could be/You call me one of Yours/You said that my heart was worth dying for me/Cause somewhere in me, You see a miracle”.

‘You Met Me’ is the only song that hits the four minute mark.  This pretty ballad serves as a personal testimony: “You met me, right then and there/When and where I needed love but did not deserve to be loved/You met me in spite of my shame, You called my name/Who knows why?/Only love does/But right where I was, You met me”.  Brittany, Aaron Rice, and Sam Mizell wrote ‘I Believe in You’.  It is delivered in a cheesy, but catchy, pop music manner, in the vein of some of Carman’s material: “I believe in You (2X)/The one thing more than anything/I believe in You (3X)/It don’t really matter what the world can bring, cause I believe in You.../Shining like a star, even in the dark, You can find my heart/I believe in You/Every single day, the only One that stays/Others go away/I believe in You”.

Krystal Meyers is a co-writer on ‘He Can’.  It points to God as our sure and able Source: “Want to do right, walk right, but I always slip/When you can’t, He can/When you fall, He stands/For the weak, for the hurt, for the broken man/When it’s way too much and you can’t, He can.../When you can’t find a way/When You can’t stand the pain/Don’t wait till you need the help/Because we can never save ourselves/We can’t save ourselves”.  ‘Like a Fire’ is a strong pop/dance song about spiritual passion: “So God, I’m begging You/Let me burn for all that You are/And the fire got started and it’s burning so hot/And the flame keeps rising and it’s blazing my heart/It feels so right/I don’t want it to stop/It’s like, like a fire/And I can’t tame it/Cause it’s out of control/And I won’t contain it, gonna let it roll/So fan the flame and ignite my soul/It’s like, like a fire”.

‘Bring the Party’ is a fun pop song all around: “Throw up your hands/Get on your feet/Call all your friends/There’s a party in the streets, yeah/Just gotta dance if you’re feeling the beat, can’t wait/So we gonna bring the party on down.../Don’t understand why we’re waiting for heaven to celebrate”.  Last up is ‘Put it all Together’ on which Brittany and Micah Wilshire sing background vocals.  The song speaks these wonderful words of truth about God: “You take the pieces that nobody wants and You hold them, You mold them/You go for all the impossible people like me”.

LOVE ALL THE WAY is a fun, celebratory, upbeat pop/dance album that I recommend to youth and young adults who enjoy artists such as Britt Nicole, Superchick, and Natalie Grant.  This album not only celebrates God’s love for us, but encourages us to love Him back with all we’ve got.  Sure, this album isn’t a deep theological study, but I don’t think Christian pop is meant to be so, for the most part.  It is more meant to entertain and uplift.  Brittany’s vocals are great and she is a beautiful young lady.  I’m rating LOVE ALL THE WAY 90%.  For more info connect with Brittany on Facebook or visit: