REVIEW: Sojourn – The Water and the Blood

ARTIST: Sojourn
RELEASE: The Water and the Blood: the Hymns of Isaac Watts Vol. II
LABEL: Independent

I’ve been listening to Sojourn Community Church’s music since 2006, when they were still mostly unknown outside their home-base of Louisville, KY.  Upon first listen I was struck by a number of things: these folks are creating music missionally, in a style that connects directly with their community, not following fads or fashions to get radio play or label attention.  Secondly, they care about doctrine, and history, crafting songs that express and pay homage to not only where the church may be headed, but where it’s been.  Lastly, their music consistently manages to be modern, paradoxically,  by being so faithful to crafting genuinely timeless songs. [Read more…]

The Hardest Words to Say

I’ve gotten rather good at saying “I’m sorry

Over the years I’ve had to learn an important phrase, and no – it’s not “Goodbye“- as is often rumored. These words have the power to free me of self-centeredness, breaks down barriers between myself and others, demolishes pride in a single blow, and it’s one of the hardest things to say genuinely… “I’m sorry.[Read more…]

REVIEW: Elevation Worship – “Kingdom Come”

ARTIST: Elevation Worship
RELEASE: “Kingdom Come
Independent

I’ll admit it: I’m not familiar with Elevation Church’s past worship CDs – I’ve never heard anything they’ve written or released prior to “Kingdom Come”.  I can’t say that it’s a step forward or back.  So, from this fairly limited perspective, I will give my rather one-sided opinion.

If you are tired of the Coldplay-inspired, Hillsong United sound (well, until their new CD – they abandoned that sound themselves!), then you may want to pass on this, as well-produced as it is (and it sounds GREAT – open, expansive – plenty of breathing room for the instruments), it fits firmly within the Hillsong United/Planet Shakers/Generation Unleashed/Alm UK territory, and doesn’t pull any surprises there. [Read more…]

THE BIKE…

Out of the mouth of babies and infants you have established strength…” – Psalm 8:2a

It was a normal Tuesday afternoon.  A two year old was sleeping and a 4 year old was doing an art project. I was on the phone sitting in our family room generally facing the direction of our back yard. Sunlight was streaming in through the bay window filtered by the glistening leaves on the towering oak in our back yard. Sometime during the conversation – for no specific reason – Cyle turned around to look out the window.

What she saw baffled her. [Read more…]

REVIEW: Brian Wurzell – GRACE OCEAN

Artist: Brian Wurzell
Release: Grace Ocean
Highlights: “Grace Ocean”, “Great Redeemer” – other notables included “Sing”, & “Floodgates

Brian Wurzell, the Worship Arts Director at Hillside Community Church inRancho Cucamonga, CA (formerly at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Chandler, AZ), has delivered to us a refreshingly unique, modern rock worship album.  GRACE OCEAN subtly tips its hat to indie-rock bands like Pedro the Lion and Starfler 59, while never becoming inaccessible.

Obvious corporate highlights  (take note, fellow worship leaders) are the hook-laden title track, which is pure ear candy (Can a “worship song” also be “ear candy”?  I guess so.  See exhibit A: “Grace Ocean”), and the mid-tempo ballad “Great Redeemer” – a prayer that God would “take our weakness and show Yourself strong”.  [Read more…]

REVIEW: Over the Rhine – THE LONG SURRENDER

Artist: Over the Rhine
Release: The Long Surrender
Highlights: “Rave On”, “Only God can save us Now”, “Oh Yeah by the Way”, & “The King Knows How

I still remember the night I first heard Over the Rhine. I was mostly into indie-rock and metal, and only went to hear them because some friends had invited me. It was ’92 when I walked into a dingy bar in Columbus, Ohio, and the stage was covered in candles, with little paths amongst the candle-light to a stool for each musician. When the band took the stage, it was like an angelic visitation – I don’t think I could even bring myself to clap during the performance. I sat still, jaw gaping wide, just taking in the subtle beauty – the understated excellence – of what poured from the stage. Needless to say, I’ve followed the band faithfully since.

That said, the Long Surrender, Over the Rhine’s 11th studio album, and – counting live CDs and compilations – 19th overall, took some well-spent listening to really come to terms with, even though it is truly one of the masterpieces of their catalogue. [Read more…]

REVIEW: Joshua Seller – MY KING IS COMING

Artist: Joshua Seller

Release: My King is Coming
Highlights: “Came to Save”, “Greater”, “My King is Coming”, & “Worship Rises”

Joshua and I met while we were both speaking at the Forge Conference this past October, at which time he gave me a pre-release of his forthcoming CD, “My King is Coming”.  However, I got so much new music at that conference that it honestly took me a few months to really give it a good listen.

Joshua is the worship pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel [Read more…]

Aaron Keyes Interview, part 2: Lead PEOPLE

We’ve got to do more than lead songs – we’ve got to lead people.
– Aaron Keyes

In preparation for the international re-release of Aaron Keyes‘ last CD, NOT GUILTY ANYMORE, Kingsway Records had contacted TWC to request an interview. Knowing that I’d occasionally led worship at Aaron’s church, Fred McKinnon – founder of TWC – suggested that I take this on.   Aaron came into town to lead worship for SuperWow over on Jekyll Island, which is practically next door, so I snagged the opportunity, and what an interview it was!  You can see Part 1 Here.  Sadly, a number of technical delays led to the loss of some alternate footage, but I have the continuation of the interview right here as we discussed issues that concern us regarding the current state of “worship” and ask the question, “Are we really worshiping?”  In Summary, Aaron says, “We’ve got to do more than lead songs – we’ve got to lead people.

 

Aaron Keys Interview – Part 2 (Shannon Lewis for TWC) from Russ Hutto on Vimeo.

Not Guilty Anymore

We have met and connected with some marvelous people the past few years. Some such folks would be Aaron Keyes and his family.

 

Aaron has penned some beautiful worship songs, but on of my favorites is “Not Guilty Anymore.” This tune truly resounds with my soul, echoing the heart of God our Father to us, his children.

I could describe it.

I could write the lyrics.

I could tell you the story behind the song.

I could further describe how the song has impacted me.

However, I think I will stop and persuade you to watch this. [Read more…]

the Beauty of a Capo well-used (& the horrors of cheap capo-dom)

Hello.  My name is Shannon, and I use a capo.

*GROUP RESPONDS: “Hello Shannon!

I admit it – I’ve thought that before about “Capo Users”. I’ve gotten hand-cramps for the sake of my glorious anti-capo-dom. I’ve forced complex songs into simpler keys, far outside my sweet-spot vocally, to massage my ego and not use a capo.  I’ve played chord-shapes that don’t ideally befit the riff/hook for the sake of being that guy who’s “better than the capo users.”  Yes, on rare occasions I used a capo, but only on open tuned guitars – the fact that I once had 4 guitars on stage, 3 of which were in alternate tunings, gave me enough “cool points” to counteract the evil capo – sorta like buying “Carbon Credits”.

Back in ‘03, however, I saw Shane & Shane live.  Those guys have MASTERED the guitar, and they’re capo maniacs: capos upon capos – cut capos inserted at odd angles into other cut capos.  I think at one point he had to be using a capo on his vocal chords, too – Mr. Bernard’s range is pretty …well… “pretty” [Read more…]