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Iron Bell Music – God That Saves

Iron Bell Music
God That Saves
Provident

The title and the cover say so much about this album, as it comes from the hearts of the writers who have experienced great depths of anguish. The depths of which only an amazing God could you pull you out of and help you rise above. Those experiences translate into song on “God That Saves.” The title track speaks of being “rescued” and “grace,” two of the strongest characters of a God that cares for His people. Their debut project contains 11 new songs recorded live at one of their favorite venues known as “the barn.” The live recording gives it a more personal feeling that I like in a worship album. I can more easily connect to songs that I hear coming more from the heart than the console. I think with the personal testimonies and the apt ability to write and create vertical worship, Iron Bell Music has a favorable ministry in front of them. For more on Iron Bell Music check out https://ironbellmusic.com/ and in the meantime be listening for the title track as it is already spinning up the charts.

– Ken W.

Mandisa – Out the Dark

Mandisa
Out the Dark
Capital CMG

So often, because of misplaced priorities, it is human nature to think that people that are successful and culturally popular have not problems/worries. It is also uncommon that someone with celebrity status is transparent enough to let the public in on his or her darkest days in such an open way, but Mandisa is the opposite of all that is common.

Having found herself suffering greatly from depression, she now shares publicly her struggles with depression through song. The lyrics are so uplifting and incredibly personal; there is no doubt that God is going to use Mandisa to speak to many hearts. There is such encouragement in songs like “Unfinished” and “I’m Still Here.” She also speaks of social issues on “Bleed the Same.” This is a very meaningful song for the church in this challenging time in history.

The new project also comes with a few guest appearances, with TobyMac and Krik Franklin on the aforementioned “Bleed the Same,” and the energetic Brit Nicole on “What You’re Worth.” Lastly, Jeremy Camp also appears on “My First Love.” Jeremy has a unique testimony himself and I think that adds a lot to the overall meaning of the song.

The deluxe version is 18 tracks long, with a couple of those being short interludes that help tie all the songs together, as well as some recorded messages (“Voicemail Intro”) that she shares as a reminder of how others deeply care for you when you most need it.

“Out of the Dark” is a deeply transparent and relatable project sure to encourage others and serve as a reminder of how much God’s love can lift us up.

– Ken W.

North Point InsideOut – Nothing Ordinary

North Point InsideOut
Nothing Ordinary
Centricity Music

“Nothing Ordinary” is the first of a series of planned worship projects on the Centricity label this year. This EP features five up-tempo worship tunes that have a very large congregation feel. To carry this same experience in the local church would be difficult without the breadth of musicians that North Point can deploy, or without depending heavily on backing tracks. Neither of which fit my preferences during a service, but for casual listening, I can appreciate the upbeat style. Thus, for listening purposes, I wish the album were longer. It seems to spin by very fast when I am playing it at work or home. The album has a subtle intensity and powerful lyrics. A worthy combination for sure. For more on “Nothing Ordinary,” check out the official North Point InsideOut Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/npinsideoutband.

– Ken W.

Covenant Worship – Sand & Stars

Covenant Worship
Sand & Stars
Integrity Music

“Sand & Stars,” the latest from the Dallas area Covenant Worship band, was literally recorded under the stars and live during a special event. The songs are crafted around a message of the covenant established by God that secures the legacy of believers all over the world. It is all vertical worship. While it has been recorded live, it is hard to tell aside from the occasional applause between songs. However, the song selection is still refreshing and uplifting. I have a few favorites, like “All Honor,” and the upbeat “Love Has Overcome.” I also like the familiar, but fresh “Doxology” which has a more organic and flowing production than the original hymn.

For more on Covenant Worship and “Sand and Stars” visit the official website at http://www.covenantchurch.org/covenant-worship.

– Ken W.

Hannah Kerr – Overflow

Hannah Kerr
Overflow
Black River Christian

Already available electronically, Hannah Kerr, a young new aspiring singer/songwriter, is dropping her debut on CD this Good Friday. Her song, “Radiate” is already doing well on radio and I would suspect if she gets radio support, there are plenty more Top 40 singles on this album.

While Hannah is a talented vocalist, she is also a partner in the writing process so she has more invested in this than just her vocal talents. Over all, “Overflow” is a complete joy to listen to and I am not usually a big fan of Top 40 Adult Contemporary. I just find that Hannah’s tender voice is so sincere and she draws you in to the lyrics.

One of my favorites is “Never Leave Your Side,” where she reminds me that God is in control and He’s there to guide us through this complicated (and sometimes scary) world. This is a common theme with “Warrior,” “Your Love Defends Me,” and “Lifeline.” The album also includes a collaboration with Mark Hall (Casting Crowns) titled “Be Still and Know.” I found this to be another gentle reminder of God’s enduring love.

Aside from singing, Hannah is an ambassador for Youth for Tomorrow (youthfortomorrow.org) and she leads worship at her home church in Brentwood, Tn. For more on Hanna check out http://hannahkerrmusic.com/.

– Ken W.

Brooke & Boggs – Wildfire


Brooke & Boggs
Wildfire
Brooke and Boggs Music

One half of Brooke & Boggs is Michael Boggs, formerly of contemporary Christian group FFH. This new endeavor finds Michael partnering with worship leader Brooke Voland. The combination is powerful. The worship style is lofty and vocally emotive, both key elements in leading others in a very expressive style of worship.

Both Michael and Voland had been leading worship in their own churches until Michael set out to find a musical partner to record new songs with. He was led to Voland and together the set out to make original worship songs that would help equip churches.

While this is not an uncommon mission among worship artist, it is different than what they both have done in the past; FFh was more of a contemporary-pop, radio friendly music and Brooke Voland was originally a touring and recording country vocalist. Their new music draws the attention more vertical and the style is more congregational than performance.

The first single is “Grace Upon Grace,” an airy, elegant, worship song with moments of swelling choruses and impassioned vocals by Brooke. Both take the lead on “The Cross Stands,” a story about the power of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and the symbolic nature of the cross; “the cross stands when we can’t.” It sings of freedom from guilt, shame, and hell as the “cross stands above it all.” It’s a beautiful testament to the power of the cross.

They don’t have much of a web presence from what I could find, but they do have a landing page and a Facebook page if you’re interested in learning more about Brooke & Boggs.

– Ken

http://brookeandboggs.com/

https://www.facebook.com/brookeandboggs/

Jaci Velazquez – Trust

Jaci Velazquez
Trust
Integrity Music

It has been a long time since I have heard from Jaci Velazquez, but what a way to reemerge! The new album highlights Jaci’s signature voice and pep that I have always enjoyed. The worship standards like “Great Are You Lord” have a fresh new sound. The new songs, they range from worship to a more pop flavored sound.

In particular, I like the worship song “Praise the King,” as well as the message of hope in that you hear in “Rest.”  Lastly, there is the celebratory sounds of “Sound Of Your King.”

“Trust” is a well-rounded CD musically, and Jaci is still on regards to vocal ranges and abilities. I would suggest checking out https://www.jacivelasquez.com/ for more on “Trust.” The new album is being released in both an English and Spanish version on March 31st, 2017.

– Ken W.

Mercy Me – Lifer

Mercy Me
Lifer
Fair Trade/Columbia

The new album from Mercy Me is chock-full of party tracks that are perfect for the spring season that is setting upon us now. It is a fun album with a lot of pep and uplifting messages. I love the fresh sounds of “You Found Me,” with its infections chorus and upbeat soundtrack, one that gets your body moving and your spirits up.

They still know how to slow it down too and really hit you in the heart. For instance, “Even If.” This is my favorite track on the whole album. It is a more laid-back song musically, but the message is so powerful. I love how it pulls in the old hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” It further reinforces the power of an unshakable faith.

Another song that stuck out to me is “We Win.” It is one of those reassuring songs that remind you that you can trust God no matter what our circumstances are, He is in control. “We Win” is a triumphant proclamation of God’s greatness and it leads perfectly into the next song, “Happy Dance.” We can celebrate and dance for joy as we worship without worrying about what people will think. To paraphrase, “it isn’t how you move, but who moves you.”

Overall, the new album, “Lifer,” is a positive addition to their already deep repertoire. The first single, “Even If” has already landed at #2 on the “Billboard – Hot Christian Songs” chart so you have undoubtedly been hearing this on Christian radio if you are tuned-in.

Check out http://mercyme.org/ for more on “Lifer.”

– Ken W.

Colton Dixon – Identity

Colton Dixon
Identity
Sparrow

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.

-Ken W.

Aaron Shust – “Love Made A Way”

Aaron Shust
“Love Made A Way”
Centricity Music
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.

http://aaronshust.com/