Thursday, December 22, 2016


Eilleen Regina Edwards was born on August 28, 1965 in Windsor, Ontario.  She grew up in Timmins, Ontario.  She released her self-titled debut studio album SHANIA TWAIN in 1993.  It was her next album, 1995’s THE WOMAN IN ME, that really put her on the map with such songs as ‘Any Man of Mine’ and ‘Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?’  In 2002 Shania released her fourth and latest studio album, UP!  It was produced and arranged by her then husband, Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange.  It contains 19 songs and comes with a red CD, said to have “an electric, rockier-edged sound”, and a green CD “with a more acoustic, down-home feel”.  Here, I will be reviewing the red CD.

Starting things off is the upbeat pop title track ‘Up!’  It offers these words of encouragement: “When everything is goin’ wrong/Don’t worry, it won’t last for long/Yeah, it’s all gonna come around/Don’t go let it get you down/You gotta keep on holding on.../Up, up, up/Can only go up from here/Up, up, up/Up where the clouds gonna clear/Up, up, up/There’s no way but up from here”.  The catchy pop/rock hit ‘I’m Gonna Getcha Good!’ is next.  It’s told from the perspective of a lady looking for commitment: “Don’t wantcha for the weekend/Don’t wantcha for a night/I’m only interested if I can have you for life, yeah/Uh, I know I sound serious and baby I am/You’re a fine piece of real estate/And I’m gonna get me some land/Oh, yeah/So, don’t try to run/Honey, love can be fun/There’s no need to be alone when you find that someone”.  ‘She’s not just a Pretty Face’ looks at the advancements women have made in society: “She has a fashion line/A journalist for ‘Time’/Coaches a football team/She’s a geologist, a romance novelist/She is a mother of 3/She is a soldier, she is a wife/She is a surgeon, she’ll save your life/She’s not just a pretty face/She’s got everything it takes/She’s mother of the human race/She’s not just a pretty face”.

‘Juanita’ is a ballad with a tropical music feel to it.  It includes these interesting lyrics: “She is the restless river running through my veins/She rides without the reins/Her name’s Juanita/She lives in the heart of every woman in the world/Within the reach of every girl who wants to meet her”.  ‘Forever and For Always’ is a pretty ballad of commitment: “And there ain’t no way I’m lettin’ you go now/And there ain’t no way and there ain’t no how/I’ll never see that day/Cause I’m keeping you forever and for always/We will be together all of our days/Wanna wake up every morning to your sweet face/Always”.

‘Ain’t No Particular Way’ has a neat musical groove to it and reflects on love: “Oh, it could come so fast it fools ya/Might take its time to move ya/There ain’t no particular way/It might just drift in while you’re dreaming/It don’t sleep, always schemin’/There ain’t no particular way.../There ain’t nowhere it won’t hide/There ain’t no speed it won’t drive/There ain’t no law it won’t break/There ain’t no chance it won’t take...”  ‘It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing’ is a sad country ballad: “And it only hurts when I’m breathing/My heart only breaks when it’s beating/My dreams only die when I’m dreaming/So, I hold my breath/To forget”.

‘Nah!’ is a fun country/pop tune about a girl who is moving on: “Well, I hope you learned a lesson/Cause you’ll never be messin’ with my head again the way that you did/It was never gonna work, you were too much of a jerk/I’m finally fed up with it/That’s it, that’s all/We had fun, we had a ball/It was good while it lasted, but now I’m past it/It was sure, it was sweet/Sure you swept me off my feet/I miss you now and then/But would I do it all again?/Nah”.  ‘(Wanna Get to Know You) That Good!’ is about a desire for true intimacy: “I’ll be there when you’re sleepin’ and every hour you’re awake/I wanna hear your secrets, wanna share your worries/Wanna go the deepest/I don’t wanna hurry/I wanna take a lifetime to memorize your face/Wanna hold you closer, kiss you longer/Wanna hear your heartbeat/Stronger and stronger/Wanna know you all over/Till I know you by heart/Gotta know you with all that I got”.

‘C’est La Vie’ is an encouraging modern country song: “It must be Monday!/What a dumb day!/Can’t drag my butt outta bed/Somebody stop me/I need another coffee like a hole in my head/When every day begins this way/Gets you down and can drive you mad/The daily grind can freak your mind/But life isn’t all that bad/Don’t let it get to you/C’est la vie!/That’s life and that’s how it’s gonna be/C’est la vie!/Hold tight/It comes right eventually/Oh”.  ‘I’m Jealous’ contains these thoughts: “I wish I were the rain runnin’ down your neck and drippin’ from your fingers/Then I could be the drops rollin’ off your back/I’d love to let it linger/Jealous of the rain/Oh, I’m jealous of the rain/Oh, I don’t wanna share you with nothing else/I gotta have you to myself/Oh, I can’t help it/I’m so in love/I just can’t get you close enough, no”.

‘Ka-Ching!’ is a pop indictment of North American society: “We live in a greedy little world that teaches every little boy and girl/To earn as much as they can possibly/Then turn around and spend it foolishly/We’ve created us a credit card mess/We spend the money that we don’t possess/Our religion is to go and blow it all/So it’s shoppin’ every Sunday at the mall/All we ever want is more/A lot more than we ever had before/So take me to the nearest store”.  ‘Thank You Baby! (For Makin’ Someday Come So Soon)’ has very relatable lyrics: “Oh, thank you baby for lovin’ me like you do/I didn’t like datin’ and trying to find someone/I gave up waitin’ for love to come along/There had to be someway/I knew I’d find it someday/Yeah, thank you baby!/For makin’ someday come so soon/Yeah, thank you baby!/For lovin’ me the way you do”.

‘Waiter! Bring Me Water!’ follows.  It’s a fun pop song as evidenced by these words: “He took me to our favorite spot/A place we go to hang a lot/Something seemed to catch his eye/Oh, over my shoulder (2X)/I turned around to see what’s up/A pretty young thing sure enough/She was new/He wanted to/Know her (2X)/Oh, yeah/Then she flicked her hair, yeah/Oh, yeah, he began to stare/Waiter! Bring me water!/I gotta make him keep his cool/Waiter! Bring me water!/He’s acting like a fool/Waiter! Bring me water!”  ‘What a Way to Wanna Be!’ is a peppy pop song directed to females: “We like to buy, we like to spend to keep up with the latest trend/But we don’t get no satisfaction living like a slave to fashion/No more thinking for yourself, just get it off a shelf/Oh why be perfect, no it’s not worth it/Don’t be so obsessed, c’mon give it a rest/This is not some contest, just do your best/Cause nobody’s perfect!/What a way to wanna be!”

‘I Ain’t Goin’ Down’ is a great pro-life story song: “I had a baby at fifteen/Daddy never did forgive me/I never heard from the guy again/I had to drop outta high school/Everybody treated me so cruel/But I didn’t give in and give her away.../Her smile got me through the years, dried away the tears/And filled me with hope/At night I’d lie awake and cry/Prayed we would get by/And for the courage to cope”.  ‘I’m Not in the Mood (To Say No)!’ isn’t about sex, but is, rather, a song about not being lazy and shy.

‘In My Car (I’ll Be the Driver)’ is a carefree modern country number: “You can choose the channel when we’re watchin’ the T.V./Oh, babe, it’s okay/And you can pick the flavor when we’re orderin’ ice cream/I don’t mind, yeah, that’s fine/I’d do anything for you.../But in my car, I’ll be the driver/In my car, I’m in control/In my car, I come alive and/In my car/I am the driver/Watch me now!”  The song has a rock influence.  Last up is ‘When You Kiss Me’.  It is a poetic, romantic ballad: “Oh, when you kiss me/I know you miss me/And when you’re with me/The world just goes away/The way you hold me/The way you show me that you adore me/Oh, when you kiss me/Oh, yeah.../I can see the two of us together/I know I’m gonna be with you forever/Love couldn’t be any better”.

UP! is a perfect album from the lovely and very talented Shania Twain.  It blends the best of pop music with the best of modern country music.  I don’t have to tell you how rare it is to get 19 original songs on one album in any genre these days.  These songs here explore life and love in ways that the average Joe and Jane can easily relate to.  Both happy and sad songs are found here, but Shania’s optimism and zest for life prevail!  This is a real fun album to listen to!  I’m rating it 100%.  In 2004 Twain released GREATEST HITS which included three new songs.  In 2011 she released the single ‘Today is Your Day’.  She’s been working on a new album!  For more information visit:

Monday, December 19, 2016


Martina McBride released her debut album THE TIME HAS COME in 1992.  It was two songs from her second album, THE WAY THAT I AM, that cracked the Top 10.  ‘My Baby Loves Me’ hit #2 and ‘Life No. 9’ hit #6.  SHINE (2009, RCA) was her tenth studio album.  It peaked at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums Chart and at #10 on the U.S. Billboard 200.  It only spent seven weeks on the latter chart.  SHINE was produced by Dann Huff and Martina.  Martina writes: “Dann...I have loved making this record with you and I have so much respect for you as a musician, as a producer and, most importantly, as a person.  Thank you for helping me discover new ground and helping me grow as a singer and as an artist”.

Stephen Barker Liles, Robert Ellis Orrall, and Brad and Brett Warren wrote the album opening ‘Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong’.  It is a country/pop tune that offers hope: “It won’t be long baby long/’Til you find somebody new/Come on now/Everyone falls down/Everyone crawls now and then/Then they get up again/You cry if you want to/That’s what we all do/But if you think you’ll never move on/You’re wrong baby”.  ‘I Just Call You Mine’ is a great modern country ballad.  It finds a gal smitten with a guy: “I fall apart and just a word from you/Somehow seems to fix whatever’s wrong/Ohh, you reach into the weakest moments and remind me that I’m strong/You gotta know/I’d be a fool not to see or even worse to forget/That you’re more than I deserve.../You’re a standing ovation/After years of waiting for a chance to finally shine/Everyone calls you amazing/I just call you mine”.  Martina co-wrote the cheery ‘Sunny Side Up’ with Brad and Brett Warren: “Today everything is sunny side up/I’m hangin’ on to happy and pushin’ my luck/You’re lookin’ at a girl who’s lookin’ at the world/And no matter what/Sunny side up (2X)/Yeah, yeah/It seems like everybody’s way too sad/Come on, let’s lift each other up/Look at all we have/Baby, it ain’t so bad”.

Nathan Chapman, Liz Rose, and Jesse Walker wrote ‘Walk Away’.  It’s a country ballad about admitting when a romantic relationship is over: “I can read your mind right now/You want me to stick around/But nothing ends if I don’t leave right now/Let me go/Let me walk away, walk away baby/I can’t stay/Let me walk away, walk away baby/I’ll be fine/I will recover/And I will learn to love another/Sometimes goodbye is the hardest thing to say/So I’ll walk away”.  ‘I’m Trying’ was originally recorded by Kevin Sharp on his 1998 album LOVE IS.  It’s a moving story song about an alcoholic and his partner: “He said ‘I don’t know why I’ve been the fool, but I can tell you this/Not a day goes by that I don’t curse myself and all my sins’/Then he dropped down to his knees/By now they both were crying/He said ‘I haven’t been the man I want to be/But I’m trying’”.

‘What Do I Have To Do’ makes use of The Nashville String Machine.  It is a country power ballad of one struggling to get over a former love interest: “I even met somebody who I thought would be the one/To turn me down a new road far enough to finally lose you/This losing game I’m playing, smile I’m faking, road I’m taking/You’ll be waiting, heart still breaking, just keep on praying/What do I have to do?/Where do I have to go?/To get you off my mind, leave you behind, give me a sign/What do I have to do to make me stop loving you?”  ‘Don’t Cost A Dime’ is yet another slow song.  It includes these quaint thoughts: “It’s a big world to walk through, honey/And if you’ve got love, you don’t need money/You’re gonna get caught in the toughest times/You hold each other and you hold the line/You kiss on the mornings when the sun won’t shine/And that don’t cost a dime.../Climb out of bed and step outside/Look up ahead, it’s all blue sky/You already have what really matters most in this life”.

‘Ride’ was one of three Top 20 hits from this project which made it on to the Billboard Country Chart.  This upbeat country song reached #11.  It is motivational in nature: “You can hide beneath the covers/Or you can run outside, head up high and carry on.../Life is a roller coaster ride/Time turns the wheel and love collides/Faith is believing you can close your eyes, touch the sky/So shine while you have the chance to shine/Laugh even when you wanna cry/Hold on tight to what you feel inside and ride”.  Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson, and Troy Verges penned the real fun, toe-tapping ‘You’re Not Leaving Me’.  Here are some of the words: “Go on, pack your suitcase if you want to/Yeah, pitch a fit till your face turns blue/You can say what you want and think what you think/Sit right down and pour yourself a drink/’Cause/You’re not leaving me (4X).../Yeah, you’re my husband and you need my loving/That ain’t gonna change/So keep on big talking/Go on, start walking/Come back anyway”.

‘Wild Rebel Rose’ is a touching song about child abuse: “Wild Rebel Rose/The kids used to tease you/Wild Rebel Rose/Every time they’d see you in those black turtle necks in mid-July/Wearin’ too much makeup ‘round your eyes.../It’s hard for anyone to understand why at sixteen you just up and ran/But they didn’t know you only knew your daddy’s love like the back of his hand/I heard the shots/I saw you hit the door/I snuck in and grabbed the pistol off the floor/Don’t worry they won’t find it, that’s for sure”.  ‘Lies’ is a soft song about what else-lies: “Lemons are sweet as honey, usually life is fair/Purple’s a shade of money/And Jesus doesn’t care/Hummingbirds can’t fly backwards/Lovers don’t say goodbye/Saturn has 7 rings and I have never told a lie.../And even though I’m waiting by the phone/I don’t want you to call/I don’t miss you at all/Lies”.

SHINE is a marvelous modern country music album!  On it you will find seven slower paced songs and four faster paced.  The song topics are varied.  They include: happy love songs, positive songs about moving on when a romantic relationship is over, a positive motivational number, sad songs about relationships ending, and a couple of songs about family dysfunction.  Additional background vocalists used are: Sarah Buxton, Lisa Cochran, Jerry Flowers, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Harry Stinson, Russell Terrell, and Jenifer Wrinkle.  Martina’s vocals are some of the best anywhere and the pictures of her accompanying the CD are beautiful.  Fans of the music of Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood should acquire SHINE, which I’m rating 100%.  For more info visit:



Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Michael Harrison Sweet was born on July 4, 1963 in Whittier, California.  He is best known as lead singer and guitarist of pioneering Christian metal band Stryper.  Their debut album was 1984’s THE YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK, and their latest album is 2015’s FALLEN.  Michael Sweet released his self-titled, full length solo debut in 1994.  ONE SIDED WAR is his seventh full length solo effort.  It hit #1 on the Top Christian Albums chart and on the Hard Rock Albums chart, and #4 on the Rock Albums chart.  It hit #77 on the Billboard 200 and CCM Magazine gave it 5 stars.   Musicians Michael uses here are: Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra, Evanescence drummer Will Hunt, Ethan Brosh (guitar), John O’Boyle (bass), Charles Foley (additional background vocals), and Paul McNamara (keys/moog).  Sweet wrote ten of the twelve songs alone and he also produced the album.  In a press release he says: “I’ve been doing this my entire life and although it’s been a tough road at times, I’ve never lost my faith or my passion for music”.  ONE SIDED WAR was released on Rat Pak Records in 2016.

‘Bizarre’ is a blistering heavy metal track that urges Christians to wake from their spiritual slumber: “Take me back when we gave a damn/Strength of a lion, kind as a lamb/Society has weakened our wall/Integrity was once in us all/We have the heart and the soul of a king/If we only knew who we are/We could move mountains and do anything/But we just stand back from afar/Bizarre”.  The heavy metal title track, ‘One Sided War’, is a call for a ceasefire between opposing sides: “I found forgiveness and washed my hands clean/But you keep on pushing if that’s what you need/I don’t wanna fight no more/I’ve made my peace/It’s your one sided war/I’m layin’ all my weapons down/But you drag it out/It’s your one sided war.../I won’t fight, fight no more/This is your one sided war”.  Michael co-wrote the song with Blair Daly.

‘Can’t Take This Life’ keeps things rocking and comes from a place of confidence: “You’ll never understand/That I have power far beyond what your dark, evil mind can comprehend/Cause I’m rooted in the ground/My seeds have grown/I am a tree of strength with many branches/I am sound/You can take this moment, but you can’t take this life”.  ‘Radio’ is a rock song that pokes fun at rockers who go or try to go country.  It’s a parody: “I’m gonna find me a big truck and drink beer from a bottle/Buy a house down in Nashville/And some boots that I can model/I’ll get a five gallon black hat and a big belt buckle/A shotgun and gun rack/And some scars on my knuckles/I’m gonna write a country song/And it won’t be long ‘til I’m on the radio/And when it goes to number one/Gonna fake the fun like a clown in a rodeo”.

Musically ‘Golden Age’ is influenced by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.  It’s essentially a rockin’ praise and worship number: “Like lightning and thunder He’ll part the sky/The wind and the waves He controls/He owns the power to live or die/He is the collector of souls/Creator/Word after word, page after page/Golden Age/With just one breath He’ll blow away/The lies and deceit formed below/He holds the earth and the milky way/In the palm of His hands/Don’t you know?”  ‘Only You’ is a co-write with Bruce Wallace.  It’s a melodic heavy metal song that declares God’s faithfulness: “You’re that place I can go to/You’re always there/When I wrestle my demons You always care/With every struggle right here You stay/You take my fears and wash them all away”.

‘I Am’ is aggressive musically and vocally.  It finds God speaking: “I’m the great Creator/I’m the Warrior/The sunrise and sunset that you need/I’m the resolution/The answer to be/I’m the owner of your destiny/So, fear me!/I am the beginning and the end/The measurer of all things/Impossible to comprehend”.  ‘Who Am I’ is a rock ballad that serves as a great love song: “Don’t you know you’re everything/That this simple man will ever need?/And when I look into your eyes/I can see my destiny/Who am I to take your love for granted?/Who am I to make you feel obscure?/Who am I?.../Baby, don’t give up on me/I can see the land and the shore in sight”.

Next up is a rock love song, ‘You Make Me Wanna’.  Here are some of the sentiments: “No one makes me feel the way you do/No one makes my heart and soul come to/Baby, but you do/Been dreamin’ day in and out of you/I see your face in the light of June/You make me wanna feel/Yes, you make me wanna kneel, yeah/I want to live every life with you/Heaven and earth and any other too/You make me wanna love/Yes, you make me wanna love”.  ‘Comfort Zone’ is another song of romantic devotion: “I’d fight a battle, take a bullet just for you/And I’d fall a million times from the heavens to be with you/You’re my peace, my hiding place/The place to rest my head/And every moment spent with you is like rising from the dead.../I’m not alone/You always take me to the comfort zone”.

‘One Way Up’ looks back at one’s past: “I remember walking the wrong side of the tracks as a kid/Always looking for trouble in everything that I did/And there was right and there was wrong/But I just didn’t care at all/’Til I climbed so high and soon I began to fall”.  Last up is a cool rendition of Track #3 ‘Can’t Take This Life’, but this time it includes the terrific vocals of the young and talented Moriah Formica as well.

In the liner notes, Michael Sweet writes: “My goal is to always inspire and to direct people towards God’s love and salvation with the gift of music.  I hope that in some small way you will be moved, touched, and energized when you hear this music.  God bless you all and let’s rock!!!”  Musically, this is the heaviest Michael Sweet solo album I have heard!  Heavy metal and hard rock sounds combine here for a very lively, passion filled record.  The musicianship is top notch.  I really enjoy the electric guitar playing here.  Michael’s strong vocals and screams are also in mighty fine condition.  Lyrically, the two most common themes are who God is and who we are in Him, and romantic relationships.  If you appreciate Stryper’s bold Christian lyrics, you will applaud this album.  I am encouraged to see Michael Sweet is still so devout in his faith after all of these years of musical ministry.  I’m rating ONE SIDED WAR 98%.  For more info visit: and



Saturday, December 10, 2016



Patricia Lynn ‘Trisha’ Yearwood was born on September 19, 1964 in Monticello, Georgia.  She released her self-titled debut album in 1991.  The lead single from it, ‘She’s in Love with the Boy’, peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Chart later that year.  THE SWEETEST GIFT (1994, MCA) was Trisha’s fourth studio album.  It was produced by Garth Fundis and peaked at #17 on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums Chart.  Trisha writes the following in the liner notes: “Christmas is about a lot of things.  It’s about families getting together, about seeing old friends, about little children’s smiling faces, and it’s about the birth of our Lord and Savior.  This collection of Christmas songs celebrates all of these”.

A very slow and stripped down version of ‘Sweet Little Jesus Boy’ opens the album.  It starts with these words of confession: “Sweet little Jesus boy/They made You be born in a manger/Sweet little holy child/We didn’t know who You were/Didn’t know You’d come to save us, Lord/To take our sins away/Our eyes were blind, we could not see/We didn’t know who You were”.  Hank Snow, Charlie ‘Peanut’ Faircloth, and Cordia Volkmar wrote ‘Reindeer Boogie’, an upbeat, old  school country and western tune with these playful lyrics: “A little piano then started to play/Santa began to swing and sway/Thought he heard a toy drum startin’ to beat/But he found it was the rhythm of the reindeer feet/The reindeer boogied in the middle of the road/Tonight we have a mighty big load/Don’t boogie to the left, now boogie to the right/Do the reindeer boogie this Christmas Eve night”.  Aubrey Haynie plays the fiddle.

Ashley Cleveland (who also provides harmony vocals), John Barlow Jarvis, and Wally Wilson wrote ‘Take a Walk Through Bethlehem’.  Steve Nathan plays piano on this country ballad that reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas: “Every heart longs for more than tinsel/Something more than just a holiday/Come and celebrate the baby King/Let’s take a walk/You don’t have to travel anywhere/Faith and hope and love will bring you there/Bring you there/Take a walk through Bethlehem/Come and kneel before the Lamb/Good news for every man/Walk through Bethlehem”.  ‘Santa Claus is Back in Town’ is a fun blues-rock number: “Well it’s Christmas time pretty baby/The snow is fallin’ on the ground/Yeah, it’s Christmas time pretty baby/The snow is fallin’ on the ground/Well, you be a real good little baby/Santa Claus is back in town/Got no sleigh with reindeer, no sack on my back/You gonna see me comin’ in a big black Cadillac”.

Skip Ewing wrote the beautiful adult contemporary song ‘It Wasn’t his Child’.  It reflects on things from Joseph’s perspective: “He was her man, she was his wife/And late one winter night he knelt by her as she gave birth/But it wasn’t his child, it wasn’t his child/Yet still he took him as his own/And as he watched him grow, it brought him joy/He loved that boy/But it wasn’t his child, it wasn’t his child”.  Paul Franklin plays steel guitar on a traditional version of ‘Away in a Manger’.

J.B. Coats wrote the title track, ‘The Sweetest Gift’.  It dates back to 1942.  Here it features harmony vocals by Trisha and her sister Beth Yearwood Bernard.  They dedicate this track to their parents.  It’s a beautiful story song: “One day a mother went to a prison/To see an erring but precious son/She told the warden how much she loved him/It did not matter what he had done/She did not bring him a parole or pardon, free/She brought no silver, brought no gold/No pomp nor style/Longed to see/It was a halo, bright/Sent down from Heaven’s light/The sweetest gift, a mother’s smile”.  ‘There’s a New Kid in Town’ quietly reflects on Christ’s birth: “We’re looking for the King/The new Messiah/We’re following the star shining brighter/Old man won’t you help us if you can?/He shook his head, but he pointed his hand/There’s a new kid in town/And He’s lying in a manger down the road/There’s a new kid in town/But He’s just another baby I suppose/Heaven knows/There’s a new kid in town here in Bethlehem”.

‘Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!’ is romantic: “It doesn’t show signs of stopping and I brought some corn for popping/The lights are turned way down low/Let it snow (3X)/When we finally kiss goodnight/How I’ll hate going out in the storm/But if you’ll really hold me tight/All the way home I’ll be warm”.  Last up is the Mel Torme/Robert Wells classic ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)’.  Kirk ‘Jelly Roll’ Johnson plays harmonica on this song some will find sentimental and some will find sappy.

By far, the majority of the songs on THE SWEETEST GIFT are on the slow, meditative, and contemplative side of things.  Half of the selections are specifically about Jesus’ birth, while the others speak of Santa, snow, reindeer, and human relationships.  If you enjoy older country music, and the vocals of Reba and Martina, you will find something to like here.  There are also influences of adult contemporary music to be found.  Trisha’s vocals are a real treat!  I’m rating this album which clocks in at 32 minutes and 42 seconds 83%.  For more info visit:


Friday, December 09, 2016


Kathleen Colleen ‘Kathy’ Troccoli was born on June 24, 1958 in Brooklyn, New York.  She lost her Dad to colon cancer when she was fifteen and then lost her Mom to breast cancer in 1991.  Kathy gained recognition when she opened for CCM group GLAD in 1980.  Her debut album was 1982’s STUBBORN LOVE.  In 1991 she released PURE ATTRACTION and had a Top 20 mainstream pop hit with ‘Everything Changes’.  LOVE & MERCY (1997, Reunion) was her seventh full length album.  It was produced by Peter Bunetta and Rick Chudacoff.  In the liner notes Kathy shares: “God is moving among His people...And it is the supreme blessing of my life to be a part of what He is doing through music...My desire is that the music on this album will move you closer to the Lord...and I also pray that you will let God so move in your heart to share His life and Word with those waiting to receive it.  They will thank you forever”.  At the time, Kathy was a strong supporter of The American Bible Society.

The opening adult contemporary ballad ‘I Call Him Love’ was penned by Ty Lacy, Joanna Carlson, and Kevin Stokes.  It offers these words of testimony: “I call Him love, I call Him mercy/I called Him out of my darkness and pain and He answered my need/I call Him love, I call Him healing/He is the One who has filled me with hope and restored life to me/I call Him love”.  The easy listening ballad ‘Water into Wine’ declares God’s goodness: “You turned the water into wine/Looking back I see the many times/You made the simple things divine/With a touch of Your hand/You changed this heart of mine/You turned the water into wine/Your still, small voice will speak the truth/Your love alone will see me through”.

‘Love One Another’ is one of four songs Kathy co-writes on the album.  This one is with Bill Cuomo and Robert White Johnson.  It is an upbeat pop number encouraging unity in the Body of Christ: “And I know that it grieves His heart when His people stand apart/Cause we’re the only Jesus they will see/Love one another and live as one in His Name/We must love one another/We can tear down walls by His grace/Love is patient, love is kind/Love is faithful all the time”.  Guests on this great song include: Carman, Sandi Patty, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Vestal Goodman, and Kevin Smith.  Jacquelyn Gouche-Ferris wrote ‘How Would I Know’, a beautiful inspirational ballad that comes from a mature spiritual perspective: “If it wasn’t for the times that I was down/If it wasn’t for the times that I was bound/For all the times that I wondered/How I would ever make it through/All of the times that I couldn’t see my way/And I had to turn to You/How would I know You could deliver?/How would I know You could set free?/If there had never been a battle/How would I know the victory?” Brad Cole plays piano.

‘A Baby’s Prayer’ is a moving song, I believe from the perspective of an aborted baby: “Cause if I should die before I wake/I pray her soul You’ll keep/Forgive her Lord, she doesn’t know that You gave life to me/On the days when she may think of me/Please comfort her with the truth/That the angels hold me safe and sound/Cause I’m in heaven with You/I’m in heaven with You”.  ‘He’ll Never Leave Me’ is yet another ballad, this time penned by Dawn Thomas.  It speaks of God’s faithfulness: “He’ll never leave me/I know how much He loves me/He’ll always stand beside me/Even when I fall/He’ll be there to defend me/When I’m wrong forgive me/He’ll never hold my past against me/But he’ll be there when I call/I’ll never be lonely/When the nights get long, He’ll hold me/He promised He’d be with me/And that’s how I know/He will never leave me (2X)”.

‘All Glory to God’ is a somewhat soft praise and worship tune: “All glory to God/All honor is His/No other is worthy of His Name/All glory to God/I’ll always be His/Forever I’ll live to sing His praise/Every day I know I’m blessed/Just to know my heart/It rests in the hands that gave me life”.  Scott Brasher programs the strings and keyboards on the pretty ‘Faithful to Me’.  It finds the vocalist intimately conversing with God: “I know that one day I will look at You/And I long to see the pleasure in Your eyes.../I’ll die for You, the One that I adore/That someday I may hear the words I hold so dear/’Well done My child/You have believed/You’ve been faithful to Me (2X)’”. 

‘Call Out to Me’ written by Diane Warren and featuring Michael Thompson on guitars, is a splendid, upbeat pop highlight!  It’s catchy and all about friendship: “Call out to me/When nights are cold and loneliness has got the best of you/Call out to me/When you’re feeling down/I’ll be around, I’ll be right next to you/Remember, if you need love/I’ll be right there (2X)/Just call out/Call out to me”.  Madeline Stone and Allen Shamblin wrote ‘Help Me God’, a song that acknowledges need, straight up: “Help me God, I’m scared and I’m unprepared to face the night alone/Hear me, hear my prayer/My soul it aches and I’ve nowhere to go/Help me God”.

In some ways Kathy Troccoli has a voice you would expect to hear on Broadway.  She sings with such passion and longing.  These aren’t just meaningless lyrics she is delivering.  This is an album of personal testimony.  The songs speak of God’s love, mercy, healing, and faithfulness.  There are also a couple of good songs about human relationships, including one on abortion that is non-judgmental.  This album will appeal more to the 30 and over crowd I would say.  It leans heavily towards the easy listening side of things musically, but there are a couple of exceptions.  Fans of Sandi Patty may want to check this one out.  I’m rating LOVE & MERCY 93%.  For more info visit:

Monday, December 05, 2016


Guardian began as the band Fusion in 1982.  In 1988 after various member changes, eventually they ended up calling themselves Guardian.  In 1989 they released their first album, FIRST WATCH.  It was produced by Oz Fox of Stryper.  Guardian toured in the U.S. and in Japan.  BOTTLE ROCKET was the group’s sixth English language studio album.  It was put out in 1997 on Myrrh Records.  Group members were: Jamie Rowe (vocals), Tony Palacios (guitar), David Bach (bass), and Karl Ney (drums).  The album was produced by Steve Taylor, who also co-wrote ten of the fourteen songs on the album, including the title track.  Jim Chaffee served as executive producer.

‘Are We Feeling Comfortable Yet?’ is the hard rock opening track.  It begins with these words of invitation: “Welcome, dear listener/Are you comfortable?/Put your feet up, close your eyes/Let your senses dull, float like a beach ball/Wearing cordless phones/Let the tide take you/Groove to the mellow tones”.  The song is sarcastic as is the case with many Steve Taylor lyrics.  The title track, ‘Bottle Rocket’, is about Christ’s power working in and through us: “The light of Jesus can’t be overcome/I’ve got a bottle rocket (3X)/Got a little light to testify/No power’s gonna block it/No darkness gonna stop it/I’ve got a bottle rocket/Gonna let it fly/Let it fly”.  John Painter plays the theremin on this rock song.

Lyrically, ‘Coffee Can’ reminds me of Newsboys’ ‘Breakfast’.  The Guardian song here reminds us our good works don’t gain us eternal life: “Pull that bucket over/Let me see your registration/You’ll be questioned at the station by a good cop/bad cop/If they find you guilty they’ll impound your can in Hades/Where the grounded lads and ladies/Had it good ‘til the last drop/Bad dream, but I understand/That you can’t get to Heaven on a coffee can”.  ‘Revelation’ includes some great electric guitar work and reminds us that once we invite Christ in, we are not the same persons we once were: “I’ve got a revelation/You’re a new creation, baby/The world can’t bring you down/I’ve got a revelation/ You’ve been elevated, baby/The world can’t bring you down”.

‘What Does it Take?’ is a melodic rock ballad.  The words are delivered from the perspective of one wanting their friend or loved one to come to Christ: “What does it take to make you see the love inside of me?/What does it take to make you see the truth that I believe?/What does it take to make you see the pain it’s causing me?/Why can’t you see?/The days are getting shorter, but I won’t surrender hope”.  ‘Babble On’ speaks out against gossip: “Every time I add a line, I wish I could subtract/Too late to take it back/And if talk is cheap, the price is high/When I let another arrow fly/Better to be seen and never heard/Than to babble on with every word”.  Russ Long plays tambourine.

‘Blue Light Special’ really rocks and includes these interesting lyrics: “Psych line, tone your belly/Hair elixir, royal jelly/Shark attack, legal weasel, dial-a-honey/Drive a diesel/Slash film Sunday/Buy the set/QV shop/Shovel debt, funny, funny/Like a fool and his money, money/Don’t let it outta the box!/Yeah, the blue light is good, yeah the blue light is great”.  ‘Break Me Down’ tackles pride: “If my Father shaped the universe/Then why do I still insist on playing God when I’m a fraud?/I’m a certified narcissist/You fashioned every part of me/I’m ready/Break me down (2X)/Do what You do to me/I know You see through me/Break me down”.

‘The Water Is Fine’ is a strong rock number with pointed lyrics: “You’ve got a hobby and you play it every Sunday/A little fire insurance keeps you coming back for more/Nice man in the suit says you should live it every weekday, you forgot by Monday/Who knows, maybe someday/You know He’s somewhere but you don’t know if He cares about the way you live/So you throw Him up a prayer/You hope He hears you but the odds are even split that when He answers you’ll be ready to commit”.  John Painter plays the mellotron on ‘My Queen Esther’, a pleasant rock ballad about a woman who is struggling: “And she wants to believe but the image won’t play/And she wants to be loved but that’s a long time away/Kingdoms collide as she tries to rule the world inside/She starts to cry/Take that crown off my Queen Esther/It’s too much for anyone to bear/Don’t hide your face Queen Esther/My King says He’ll meet you anywhere”.

‘Hell to Pay’ is a hard rock song that admits we don’t care enough about poverty: “Checking out channels, in for the night/Catch sight of a starving innocent/Her eyes are swollen shut from neglect/I wonder, is it mine?.../But who’s to blame for this child’s lack?/Some ethnic war?/Some crack maniac?/I wonder, is it me?/Hold on, pizza man’s at the door”.  ‘Fear the Auctioneer’ is a heavy song that warns against materialism: “Caught red-handed in the act/Gavel’s dropping/Can’t retract/Shopper beware before you buy/Check your motive, lust is in the eye/Drop the pretense, put down the checkbook/Buddy, you just got hit with the ‘Sold’ look/No telling how far you’ll go.../Fear the auctioneer!"

‘Harder than it Seems’ gets philosophical: “Can you have a perfect Lover without understanding love?/Can you see a brighter future without seeking what you hide?/And I understand that simple truth is deeper than is wide/Still I know/Sometimes it’s harder than it seems”.  Last up is the pounding rocker ‘Salvation’.  It’s a real contagious praise song: “You are the One who gives me everything my soul desires/All I desire is the perfect work You’ve done/Salvation! (3X)/Is God alive?/Oh yeah!”

BOTTLE ROCKET finds Guardian in fine rocking form.  If you enjoy the sounds of Bride and Def Leppard, this album should turn your musical crank.  I really like the electric guitar solos and gritty vocals.  These songs don’t mince any words.  They challenge believers and non-believers as to how they live.  In fact, the lyrics may even make you squirm a little bit or cause you to want to defend your lifestyle.  The band greatly benefits from Steve Taylor’s songwriting skills for sure!  If you want to both be entertained and grow in your Christian walk, BOTTLE ROCKET is for you.  I’m rating it 93%.  For more info visit: or connect with the group and its members on Facebook.

Thursday, December 01, 2016


Martina McBride’s debut studio album was 1992’s THE TIME HAS COME.  None of the songs on it cracked the Top 10 and two of the three singles didn’t even make the Top 40.  It wouldn’t be long though before Martina’s fortunes would change and she’d become known for such songs as: ‘Independence Day’, ‘Wild Angels’, ‘Valentine’, ‘I Love You’, ‘This One’s For the Girls’, and ‘(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden’.  Martina’s ninth studio album was WAKING UP LAUGHING (2007, RCA).  It peaked at #2 on the U.S. Top Country Albums Chart and at #4 on the U.S. Billboard 200.  Martina produced the album and in the liner notes writes: ``Thank You, first and foremost, to God.  Hopefully I am using Your gifts in a way that pleases You”.

The album’s opening track, 'If I Had Your Name', is a modern country song delivered with attitude: “If I was a wise man I would be doin’ what I should be doin’ by now/Cause you’re like a new key made with the wrong cut/Stuck tryin’ to break into my home/You’re like a bottle sent with a message/But you’re sinkin’ like a stone/If I had your name/I’d be changin’ it by now”.  ‘Cry Cry (‘Til the Sun Shines)’ was penned by Marv Green, Chris Lindsey, Hillary Lindsey, and Aimee Mayo.  It’s an upbeat modern country number on which Brent Mason, Dan Dugmore, and Paul Worley play electric guitars.  It offers hope: “We’re all here just tryin’ to live our lives/Payin’ our electric bills and spendin’ up our time/When there ain’t a friend to be found/You can’t break through the concrete clouds/When the rain, when the rain comes crashin’ down/Cry, cry ‘til the sun shines baby/Cry, cry ‘til the sun shines/It’s gonna be alright (2X)”.  Keith Urban sings harmony vocals and plays a guitar solo on ‘Tryin’ to Find a Reason’, a sad country ballad: “I don’t know how long this pain will last/All I know is it can’t go on forever/Isn’t this just pointless anyway/If you’re tryin’ to find a reason to stay?/It’s hard to admit it, what we know inside/We’ve tried everything, everything but goodbye/Say goodbye”.

‘For These Times’ is a gospel infused song featuring The Settles Connection and harmony vocals by Vicki Hampton, Kim Fleming, and Robert Bailey.  These lyrics take the listener to church: “Blessed is the believer who knows love is our redeemer and the only breath of life/For these times in which we live/Well, give me a heart full of tender mercy and arms I will open wide/Yeah, give me words full of loving kindness/And hands ready to hold up a light/For these times in which we live (2X)”.  ‘Anyway’ is one of two songs written by Brad Warren, Brett Warren, and Martina.  It hit #5 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart.  ‘Anyway’ is a marvelous inspirational anthem: “You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach/And you know it might not ever come your way/Dream it anyway/God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good/And when I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should/But I do it anyway, I do it anyway”.  Gordon Mote plays piano and The Nashville String Machine is used to good effect on the song.

‘How I Feel’ is a happy country/pop tune: “Your lucky coat, the first day of Fall/When you wake up laughin’ just because/An old church door that stays wide open/A perfect heart that’s never been broken/That’s how I feel when I’m with you (2X)/That’s how I feel/That’s how I feel when I’m with you”.  Brett Warren’s harmony vocals are terrific here!  ‘I’ll Still Be Me’ is a pretty ballad on which a lady declares her steadfast devotion to her man: “I’ll still be me/Just a normal girl from small town nowhere/I’ll still hold your hand and wear this ring/I’ll still be me/If you can count on one thing, I’ll be here/The same girl that you’ve known for centuries/I’ll still be me.../Empires could rise and fall/The sun could swallow the moon/And I don’t hold a crystal ball/But I promise you/I’ll still be me”.

‘Beautiful Again’ is a breezy country song on which Carolyn Dawn Johnson contributes harmony vocals.  The lyrics display a positive outlook on life: “Her boyfriend said ‘I’m way too young to get married’/But she made up her mind that somehow she was gonna find a way to keep that baby she carried/And he just walked away/And then she smiles ‘cause she knows in the end/The world gets beautiful, beautiful again”.  Steve Nathan plays the B-3 on ‘Everybody Does’.  These lyrics offer hope: “How many times have you said ‘He’s the one’/And found out that he wasn’t?/Always thinking it’s gonna hurt forever/But then one day it doesn’t anymore/You’ve come so far/Still a long way to go/Just remember, you’re never alone”.

Billy Montana, Jenai, and Ilya Toshinsky wrote ‘House of A Thousand Dreams’.  Mandolin, steel guitar, pump organ, and accordion are used on this quaint country story song about a family who doesn’t have much, but they have each other.  Last up is the touching story song ‘Love Land’.  Here is part of it: “Amazing all the progress we’ve made since the days of Thomas Edison/Still only God gives life in spite of modern medicine/Doctor`s voices whispered ‘We did all that we could do, but your baby wasn’t strong enough to make it the whole nine months’/And as my world broke in two/He said `I`ll carry you to Love Land’/For the longest time I blamed myself/Thought I was paying for my mistakes/But we tried again/Now we’re watchin’ him blow three candles out/He’s Daddy’s little man”.

WAKING UP LAUGHING is a splendid return to modern country music after Martina’s 2005 venture into country and western classics on TIMELESS.  Martina’s vocals are strong indeed on this 2007 release.  If you are a fan of Trisha Yearwood or Kelly Clarkson’s voices, you will enjoy Martina’s.  Musically, there is a good mix of slow, fast, and mid-tempo songs.  The most common lyrical theme is hope in the midst of life’s problems.  The trials included on this album include romantic relationship break-ups, poverty, and the loss of a child.  There are also a couple happy love songs included.  The pictures of Martina that come with the CD are gorgeous!  I’m rating WAKING UP LAUGHING 95%.  For more info visit: