REVIEW: John Mark McMillan – “ECONOMY”

I remember the first time I heard John Mark McMillian’s debut indie CD, HOPE ANTHOLOGY vol.1 (you can buy it for a reasonable price HERE).  It was later Summer ’02, & I was coming off of a multi-month Wilco-induced musical high brought on by the brilliance of YANKEE FOXTROT HOTEL and John Mark’s artsy indie-folk was just what the doctor ordered.  A couple years later I was one of the early-adopters who introduced “How He Loves” as a corporate worship song (thanks in part to the encouragement of Kelanie Gloeckler) years before the “sloppy wet kiss” controversy burned like wildfire through the church, much to my surprise: my only concern was the song’s wordiness, but it moved me to tears every single time I led it – even listened to it – so I didn’t really much concern myself with the debate. [Read more…]

Guilty as charged…

Back in ’02 while on a solo tour in support of Set on Edge’s “A Story to Cling To” I stopped at a tiny little church in some tiny little town in a big field somewhere out in the middle of nowhere.  You see, I believe – unashamedly and unswervingly – in the importance of the local church.  And I love to get a taste, on occasion, of those various expressions of Jesus outside my culture and comfort zone.  On this unique occasion, I accomplished that. [Read more…]

Double Review: Aaron Keyes & David Walker

For the sake of honesty, I’m reviewing these two CDs because I am friends with their creators.  I admit that – to a degree – I may be biased by the fact that I personally love the hearts behind these songs.  That said, I truly believe that – whether or not I knew either one – I would still consider these two of my favorite worship CDs of 2011. [Read more…]

Time to Grow Up?: on idealism and maturity

(A few lesser loved idealists: Lenin, Stalin, & Hitler)

As many do, I grew up an idealist. It’s a natural part of child development, to see everything “black & white” – a phase we, for the most part, grow out of.

[Read more…]

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…]