AlphaOmegaNews

Leeland – Better Word

Leeland

Leeland
Better Word
Integrity Music

The latest from Leeland, “Better Word,” releases today.  It’s a live worship album and a very welcome return of such incredible talent and heart. 

While I have always enjoyed their more contemporary and mainline worship, I appreciate the live and more “spontaneous” production of “Better Word.”  This format gives you over an hour and a half of uplifting and vertical worship. It’s an overall joyful experience. 

At 15 tracks long it is hard to narrow it down to just a few favorites, but some of the highlights include the title track, “Better Word,” “Wait upon the Lord,” a spontaneous prayer for strength and courage from the Lord, “First Love Fire,” a good reminder of that spark I once had when I first came to know the love of Christ. 

“First Love Fire” is a tear jerker for sure, but it is also an incredible reminder of how I often forget just how much it means to be “in” Christ and not trying to go alone.  Follow that up with “Lead the Way,” and you have a cup filling experience. 

It’s so good to hear from Leeland again.  There’s word of a tour too so check out http://leelandonline.com/ for more on that and the new release. 

  • Ken

Falcone Rising

Falcone Rising
Self-Titled
Creative Soul Records

Right from the start, “Falcone Rising” had me hooked with its classic Christian rock attitude. It takes me back to the awesome ‘80’s – ‘90’s garage band rock like Whitecross or Stryper. A straight up gospel message backed up by melodic hooks and punchy guitar riffs. The simplicity of it is lost on today’s overly polished radio singles. Just take for example “I Never Knew You,” a powerful reminder of Matthew 7:13-23 and the penalties of simply going through the motions of your faith and never really having your heart set on Christ. It’s a commanding guitar driven track that speaks volumes.

“Falcone Rising” is John Falcone, a man of man talents – husband, father, and surgeon. At the uncommon age of 38 John declared his personal faith in Christ and set to find an outlet for his newfound life. He found that outlet in music and subsequently “Falcone Rising.”

Aside from the core tracks that are more rock driving, Falcone also uses this outlet to sing a few love songs to his wife. A peppy “A Year Ago Today” and the more tender “A Wedding Song.” Both fine tracks among many others, but again, my leaning is more towards the more rock driven songs like “You Won’t Break Me” and the aforementioned “I Never Knew You.”

You can check out https://falconerising.com/ for more on “Falcone Rising” including a detailed track listing with corresponding verses, lyrics and links to either buy or preview the new album.

  • Ken W.

Jean Watson – Sacred

Jean Watson

Jean Watson

Sacred

Truthfulmusic Productions

For the past several months I have not been very active regards to writing reviews.  After 19 years of listening and writing I needed to step back and focus on other things.  However, “Sacred” is the one project that never left my top playlists.  It is simply majestic and uplifting.  From the beautiful Celtic tones to the heartening lyrics “Sacred” is a complete triumph.  Watson even brings new life (and lyrics) to a standard – “The Doxology” which inspires praises to the good Lord. 

One of the most delightful songs is “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”  I love the dramatic ups and downs of the soundtrack, the vocal crescendos and the swelling strings.  There are also a handful of classics like “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee,” “Fairest Lord Jesus,” and another favorite on this album, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Cap that off with the tender “How Can I Keep From Singing” as the album just keeps on giving and giving. As a bonus, Watson impresses with her violin playing as well on “Hallelujah.” 

Aside from the new album, Watson has also released a new book, a 40 day devotional titled “Everything Can Change In 40 Days.”  I have not read the book but you can find info on both the book and “Sacred” on her official website at  https://jeanwatson.com.

  • Ken W.    

Phil and Rex – Illumination

Phil and Rex

Phil and Rex

Illumination

Independent

Phil Keaggy and Rex Paul Schnellle joined forces to produce a monumental project.  The new songs include some previous releases from Keaggy, but redone Phil and Rex style.  The rest of the album is full of collaborations primarily from Phil and Rex (and a couple extra friends).  Rex adds a lot to the project by recording guitars, vocals, bass, drums and keyboards.  He also produced and mixed the final songs.  There’s an incredible amount of talent behind this project. 

The opener, “Don’t Hold Back” is a smooth, catchy piece about serving others as Jesus had modeled.  Right off the bat the first track has a perfect amount of guitar work too.  The same flair can be found all throughout the project, but I particularly like “Time,” and the piano led “Let Everything Else Go.”  One of my favorite Keaggy originals is “Full Circle.”  The remake is quite refreshing, and the guitar leads do not disappoint either.

For more on Phil Keaggy check out his official website here:  http://www.philkeaggy.com/

For more on Rex Paul Schnelle check out http://rexmusic.us/.

  • Ken W.

John Waller – Explosion of Light

John Waller

John Waller

Explosion of Light

Radiate Music

The latest from John Waller includes the peppy hit “Awakening,” aka “The Coffee Song.”  It’s interesting because the local coffee shop is often the favorite meeting place for pastors, ministry leaders and local college ministries.  The majority of the album keeps this upbeat tone and in some small way, it reminds me of listening to Jeff Deyo back in the early 2000’s.  It’s a combination of formidable vocals, ambient guitars and overall intensity.  And then you bookend that with the tender “Mamas Prayer” and you have a very well-rounded project.  Two of my favorites aside from the aforementioned songs are “Mine” and “Here’s My Yes.”  The overall feel is upbeat and heartfelt.  For more on John Waller check out his official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/johnwaller/

  • Ken W.  

Meredith Andrews – Faith and Wonder (Live)

Meredith Andrews

Meredith Andrews

Faith and Wonder (Live)

Curb – Word

The latest release from Meredith Andrews is a live EP containing six songs.  From the news release;

The result is a collection of songs that feel like a homecoming, intimately personal while still filling the room with a collective chorus of worship for a God who saves. It was Andrews’ first and only goal in creating Faith and Wonder (Live), for God’s presence to be felt in a deep and genuine way.

I can imagine that “Million Saints” just filled the room with a resounding chorus. This is followed up by the emotive “Faith and Wonder” and later in the lineup is an equally impassioned “On and On.”  While a short project, it is packed with powerful moments of worship.

  • Ken W.  

Imari Tones – Overture

Imari Tones

Imari Tones

Overture

The most interesting thing about this album is the fact that is entirely in Japanese. It’s not the first CD I have reviewed for the band so I wasn’t too worried that I could not understand a lick of the lyrics, but I can understand the guitar “licks!”  I have also been following their YouTube channel as well (https://youtu.be/RlQxdCPLiMM) so I am aware that this a very pivotal album both because it was recorded completely in their home language, but also because it is to be their last album with the original line up.  The band continues to practice and play, and I believe there are plans to continue recording. 

If you’re interested you can check out their band camp site and preview “Overture,” or any of their other many releases.  You really don’t have to be fluent in Japanese to enjoy the throwback 80’s glam rock soundtrack or the more acoustic and poetic sounds of “Kotoba.”  I also have other reviews that you can peruse.

Jesus Wind  http://alphaomeganews.org/reviews/2018/03/24/imari-tones-jesus-wind/

Revive the World http://alphaomeganews.org/reviews/2016/06/22/imari-tones-revive-the-world/

  • Ken W.

Hallowell

Hallowell


Hallowell

Great Comfort Records

At one point in my reviewing career this would have been close to what I would call “alternative.”  It was a style that was unique and not so mainstream and then suddenly it became popular and overly replicated, at least until the average radio format (income generating) pushed out just about everything unique from the market.  There seems to be a positive tread though breaking out of that standard format and back to the more artistically creative sounds similar to Hallowell. 

The subdued vocal tones and atmospheric soundtrack enhance a reflective state where one can focus on the lyrical content of the songs.  They describe it as “modern sacred” as a style and I think that is quite fitting.  The themes and lyrics are like that of a classic poem or hymn with an alternative/modern sound.  All in all it is very pleasing to listen to.  If it is something you might find interesting the whole project is available on Band Camp for $8.00 (https://hallowellmusic.bandcamp.com/).  For a good sample I would suggest listing to “Come Unto Me Ye Weary,” “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness,” and “Greenland.”  I think you will find it all very unique and interesting. 

To learn more of Hallowell check out either https://www.hallowell.online/ or http://greatcomfortrecords.com/.  I think too you’ll find even more distinctively creative artists and projects on the label page as well.

  • Ken W.  

Michael W. Smith and The Newsboys

Michael W. Smith and The Newsboys

Surrounded and United tour

Moline, IL

April 19, 2019

            During this show, MWS noted that while he had toured with dc Talk and Michael Tait in 1992 (!), this match-up with the Newsboys was a first.  It’s a really good show too.

            The Newsboys opened the show with a couple recent songs then were joined on-stage by former members Peter Furler and Phil Joel. Stand-bys such as “Entertaining Angels” and “Breakfast” are always fun songs in concert.

            The big news of the night came when Michael Tait announced that Newsboys United will release on May 10.  The record will feature Tait, Furler and Joel.  Tait sang “Greatness of Our God,” the first single off the new forthcoming record.  Tait called the song the “most favorite” song of his career.  It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the Newsboys live and drummer Duncan Phillips is just awesome.

            MWS set included a few WAY back songs from 1992’s “Go West Young Man.”  I wish he would’ve played more songs from the “Million Lights” release but “Secret Ambition” never gets old, especially hearing that song at the start of Easter weekend.  You could hear a pin drop when Michael introduced “This is Your Time,” his tribute to Cassie Bernall.  This was the night before the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.  Look up her story

            The show opened with two songs from Adam Agee, former lead singer for Stellar Kart and Audio Adrenaline.  He has a solo CD that’s worth checking out.

            The Surrounded and United tour runs through mid-May.  Catch it while you can!

http://adam-agee.com/

Steven Curtis Chapman – Deeper Roots

Steven Curtis Chapman

“Deeper Roots:  Where the Bluegrass Grows”

13 tracks @ 48:51

SCSEE Music

Grade = A

            Throughout his social media and in the liner notes to his new record, Steven Curtis Chapman talks about how he grew up listening to and playing this style of his music.

            On his web site, Steven writes, “My earliest memories of growing up in Paducah, KY are woven together with the sound of bluegrass and folk music, with my dad on guitar and his good buddies, Scotty Henson on the banjo and Jack Curtis Martin (which is where my middle name came from) on the dobro. I loved that sound and couldn’t wait to learn to play the guitar and join in!

“By the time I was 8 years old I was playing and singing in church with my dad Herb Sr., brother Herb Jr. and my mom Judy.”

This is a pretty cool record, featuring some new songs, old time gospel songs, a few reworkings of previous releases.  The title track will get you moving.  “Cinderella,” with its subdued instrumentation, strikes me as even more poignant than the original version.  The gospel standards “I’ll Fly Away” and “Victory in Jesus” come across as fresh.

The real star on this record is Steven’s father, Herb Sr.  Someone sign him to a recording contract!  SCC’s solo tour runs through May.

http://stevencurtischapman.com/