Mar 24, 2017 CD Reviews
The first time around, I dismissed Colton Dixon mostly because of the American Idol connection. I am not a fan of the overall concept of the show or the possible exploitation of the status the show can provide. However, after seeing Colton live and learning more about Colton the person and not the “idol,” I was finding myself more and more drawn to him and his music. I am certainly glad my opinions were challenged and I had been looking forward to this new release with much anticipation.
“Identity” is a concept album that has been broken down into three subjects; mind, body and spirit. The sections are creatively introduced by a spoken-word/instrumental segue. The album overall has a very progressive pop-rock soundtrack with elements of dance-tracks. Having experienced Colton’s live show once before, I am guessing these new songs will take his live show to a whole new level.
Personally, I really got into the album after the “Body” segment and particularly the song “Warriors.” It really seemed to pick up some momentum and further excitement at that point. I also like the Gospel message of “No Greater Love.” The highlight though is “The Other Side,” a peaceful song about life in eternity and how those behind can be comforted by the hope of salvation found in Jesus.
For more on “Identity” and Colton Dixon, check out his official website at http://www.coltondixon.com/ where you can get tour information and song previews.
Mar 21, 2017 CD Reviews
“Love Made A Way”
Grade = A-
After ten years as a Christian recording artist, Aaron Shust decided it was time.
“It felt like a new season, like a little celebration, a tip of the hat to the first ten years. . . . (Its) time to celebrate.” And he’s celebrating with a new, live recording.
There are several familiar songs from Aaron’s catalog, including “My Savior My God,” “My Hope Is I You” and an outstanding version of “Cornerstone.” About that song, Aaron said he wanted to do something simple.
“We played (Cornerstone) without even rehearsing. It was a beautiful worship moment.”
Some new songs are also included. The first single is “You Redeem.”
- Rob S.
Mar 12, 2017 CD Reviews
Love Made A Way
This album is so flawless that aside from the applause between songs, you would have a hard time knowing that it was a live recording. The title and cover art do not even give it away and if you were to just listen to the songs you would think that it was simply a greatest hits project.
However, when you dig deeper, you find out that it is live and that it is more than Shust’s greatest hits. The song selection was very deliberately picked for this live recording. Shust purposely picked songs that would create a powerful night of worship. Also, the standards chosen, like “My Savior My God,” were not performed exactly as they were originally recorded. The live album gave Shust a chance to stretch his creativity a bit more and to build upon an atmosphere of worship that he finds invigorating as he tours.
There was another purpose behind the recording, that being a “celebration.” A celebration of a decade of recording and performing. It’s a mark well worth celebrating and I admire how Shust turned that into a night of worship (forever recorded) instead of a project that simply touts his own accomplishments.
It is most evident in “My Hope Is In You,” one of my favorite tracks on the new project. The fullness of the audience singing along can clearly be heard on this track and to me it is one of the most inspiring songs on the album. Along with the emotive “God Of Brilliant Lights,” and the rawness of “Cornerstone,” which was recorded spontaneously, further embodying the overall worship experience.
In conclusion, “Love Made A Way” is a meaningful testament to Shust’s 10 year anniversary.
Check out http://aaronshust.com/ for more on Aaron Shust and “Love Made A Way.”
– Ken W.
Mar 9, 2017 CD Reviews
Out of the Dust
Discovery House Music
The moniker, Out of the Dust, appears to have many deep meanings for the husband-wife duo of Chris and Stephanie Teague. It speaks of our creation and purpose in life – “All That I am Made For” and their own spiritual journey. The duo was married at an early age and then went through some very rough times which eventually led to divorce. Miraculously, God intervened and brought redemption and restoration to their marriage. It is an amazing story that you can read about on their website.
The new album is a mix of indie, folk, and pop styles that is somewhat like that of another husband-wife duo Waterdeep (not to be confused with Watermark). When I hear the sweet, tender voice of Stephanie, I think of Lori Chaffer singing “When the Cold Wind Blows.” However, there are many differences from that point that make Out of the Dust quite unique. For example, the focus on much of this album seems to be more on the pop format than the folk influences.
The duo does well trading off lead and singing two-part leads. Overall, the tones are soothing and the lyrics are uplifting. I particularly love the redemptive and hopeful song “Make Us Whole.” It has a strong message and it is a very upbeat and worshipful song. Other favorites include “All That I’m Made For,” “Safe to Shore,” and the traditional hymn, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.”
For more on Out of the Dust check out their official website at http://www.outofthedustmusic.com/.
– Ken W.
Mar 4, 2017 CD Reviews
Here I Am Send Me (Live)
As prolific as her name is, I was surprised to read that this was Darlene Zschech’s first project in several years. The first in fact since 2013, which may not seem like a long time unless you consider the fact that she was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. That’s a lot on your plate aside from worrying about new music. While Zschech is at the forefront of the praise and worship genre, the new album is solid, but not ground breaking. That’s not a bad thing either. It takes a heart connection, not an entertainment thrill to worship authentically and that’s what she’s best at doing. When you consider the trials of her recent history, a song like “You Are Great,” proclaiming God’s greatness, is much more meaningful. The new project is full of such songs, “You Will Be Praised,” the emotively powerful “Emmanuel,” and the title track “Here I Am.”
For more on Darlene Zschech and “Here I Am Send Me,” check out her official website at http://darlenezschech.com/.
– Ken W.
Mar 4, 2017 CD Reviews
The latest from songwriter Laura Story has already been impacting the charts with her lead single, the title track, “Open Hands.” This song includes guest collaborator Mac Powel (Third Day). It is a catchy song sure to inspire. As a parent, I immediately connected with “Give You Faith.” I like how she’s taking a common parental desire and put it to such a tender song. There is so much truth and wisdom in this song. For me this is the highlight of the album because I can connect with her on this personally. I also appreciate the fusion of old and new on “For the Love of My King,” a heartfelt song of adoration towards King Jesus. Lastly, I think the song “Every Word You Breath” sums up well the overall theme of the project; God’s character is honorable and his love is abounding. For more on Laura Story and “Open Hands,” check out her official website at https://laurastorymusic.com/.
– Ken W.
Feb 20, 2017 CD Reviews
I am definitely not the leading authority when it comes to Rap and Hip Hop music, but as with most styles of music, I have an appreciation for the art. In the case of Steven Malcom’s self-titled debut, I can appreciate his art of poetry and prose. It reminds me of what was once before referred to as ‘underground’ and artist like Tunnel Rats, Propaganda, and Pigeon John.
Malcom’s background and life experiences mirrors those of some of his predecessors as well. It’s an amazing story of once being lost in life’s struggles and temptations, to being redeemed and renewed with the spirit of God. One thing that was mentioned in Malcom’s bio that stood out was that shortly after embracing his new faith, he was asked about pursuing his music and he wisely declined and took a year to focus on his faith first. In his own words, “…, so I took a year of learning the Scriptures and really getting grounded.” That’s extremely important and a very wise decision.
Now on to the music. I particularly like the second track, “Fire,” with its hint of roots reggae. The song “Party In the Hills” with Andy Mineo and Hollyn is a diversion from the usual underground rap. This song is described as “west coast” and it has a more pop-rap sound. On “Six Four,” Malcom uses a culture reference (the Six-Fo Impala) to possibly describe his new found enthusiasm that’s fueled by his faith, proclaiming that when he hits the stage the game is on. Lastly, I had to listen to this over and over again, but Malcom actually raps about breakfast on “Cereal.” He really likes his breakfast cereal.
Finally, Malcom is on a mission to be the best Christian rapper and with the new album and label backing, he’s ready to hit the pavement and take the music to the masses. I admire his enthusiasm and drive to evangelize with the help of his God given talents. It’s a commendable mission. Check out Malcom’s official website at http://www.stevenmalcolm.com/.
– Ken W.
Feb 17, 2017 CD Reviews
FAITHFULNESS Caspar McCloud Anthology 1988 – 2016
Described as “Revelation Rock,” McCloud’s repertoire takes me back to the guitar driven sounds of the late 80’s. “Faithfulness” is perfect for the guitar enthusiast like myself. These songs remind me of my youthful exuberance and aptitude towards air-guitar. The lyrics are simplistic, but pointedly gospel-centered. It’s a combination that I enjoy immensely. There’s nothing like the power ballad.
“Faithfulness” is 10 tracks long and spans from ’98 – the 2016 remake of “Mind of Christ.”
For more on Casper McCloud visit http://www.casparmccloudmusic.com/
– Ken W.
01 I Need the Lord 1988
02 Mind of Christ 2016
03 Faithfulness 1998
04 Holy, Holy Love 2008
05 Jesus Loves You 2008
06 True Love Waits 2001
07 Back Slider 2001
08 Simple Gifts 2001
09 Sacrifice of Praise 2012
10 Presence of Our Lord 1998
Feb 15, 2017 CD Reviews
The new release from Kari Jobe, “The Garden,” has come out at the top of the charts debuting at the Number 7 Best Selling albums the first week (Billboard). It is no surprise, as all her previous work has been so well received and she continues to inspire with her heartfelt lyrics and tender tones. I just listen to a song like “Let Your Glory Fall” and I am entranced by the spirit of the song.
The depth of the worship is amplified by the background story, as Jobe shares of some very close and personal losses in her immediate family that inspired much of the album. Quoting from a previous press release;
“This album was written out of experiencing God’s closeness, goodness and mercy even through a season of great loss for my family,” shares Kari Jobe about the inspiration behind ‘The Garden.’ “He can redeem any situation we are going through. I was reminded of His desire for intimate, real relationship with us like He had originally designed back in Garden of Eden. If we look up and around us, we will realize that God has been tending to the details of our hearts and souls throughout our entire lives. He is much like a gardener, knowing what to prune and what seeds to sow that will grow in due season and be life-giving to us. The Garden is all about seeing the beauty and kindness of God in the midst of the difficulties. He’s not distant or disconnected from our pain; in fact, He’s been right here the whole time, turning ashes into beauty.”
It’s an amazing story and it gives me chills to know this and then listen to a song like “Miracles.” It’s impossible not to be moved by this song when you consider the heart of the story. The album closes with “On the Throne,” a good reminder that no matter what, God prevails. While we walk through trials, God is there and He can give us the strength to overcome. It’s a beautiful song with so much wisdom and truth.
Check out http://karijobe.com/ for more information and if you’re an Amazon Prime member you can stream the album for free.
– Ken W.
Feb 15, 2017 CD Reviews
You have no doubt been hearing from Zach Williams if you listen to Christian radio considering it’s been 15 weeks at #1 on the charts. While the title track, “Chain Breaker,” is wildly popular, there is more to the album than just one song. There’s an all-out party packed in this album.
The party continues with “Old Church Choir,” and the spirited “My Liberty,” where Williams sings of freedom in Christ and a personal revival spiritually. It’s that general thought that continues to the aptly named “Revival.” It’s a great theme, when we’re feeling defeated, as Williams sings about, God gives us the strength we need.
It all adds up to a lively and encouraging album well worth the accolades that have been pouring over it.
– Ken W.
Official Website: http://zachwilliamsmusic.com/