Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview



Christmas – Sandra McCracken

I love Christmas music and each year add new albums to my collection. Christmas by Sandra McCracken is a new album that I can recommend to you. I became aware of McCracken’s music at a few conferences that my wife Tammy and I have attended recently.
The album was recorded over three days in a studio just outside of Nashville. McCracken wrote that she joined up with Gabe Dixon, Will Sayles, Anthony LaMarca, Joey Bradshaw, Cindy Morgan, Matt Pierson, Don Chaffer and Tim Nicholson to make the record. Russ Long mixed the recordings together with orchestration from Isaac Wardell and friends in Charlottesville, VA, vocals from Josh Garrels in Indiana, and cello from Cara Fox and B3 from Phil Madeira.
McCracken has had the desire to record a Christmas album for years. It was on a trip to Israel two years ago when she visited the birthplace of Jesus and the shepherd’s field near Bethany that pushed her to make Christmas. The eleven songs include both originals and Christmas classics. Here are a few comments on each song:

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review and reviews of Christmas Day: Christmas Songs of Worship by Chris Tomlin and 50 Year Trip: Live at Red Rocks by John Fogerty
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

Joy to the World – This Christmas classic written by Isaac Watts, features McCracken singing over piano, light guitar, bass, cello and drums. She adds a new chorus “Repeat the sounding joy”.
Ring the Bells – This song was written by McCracken and Cindy Morgan. McCracken has said that she wanted the song to provide a picture of a present-day holiday scene, the family gathering together, the candlelight service, the call for peace and comfort from one to another. The song features some nice piano, strings, drums and bass.
Key lyrics:
We’re gonna ring the bells on Christmas day
Let the light bring forth the dawn
We’re gonna ring the bells the joy proclaim
Giving us hope, helping us carry on
All is Well – This song, set around the birth of Jesus, in a manger, a humble landing in a quiet place, is written by McCracken and Cindy Morgan. The song features acoustic guitar, bass, light percussion and piano.
Mary’s Arms – This joyful song, with a memorable chorus, features piano, light percussion, strings, and backing vocals, ending with some excellent organ. A highlight.
Key lyrics:
Now is the time,
Songs fill the skies
Redeeming love, baby child
Resting in Mary’s arms. 
Jesus What A Wonderful Child – This traditional spiritual begins with bass, and then adds guitar, drums, hand claps, piano, organ and some excellent backing vocals from Cindy Morgan and Gabe Dixon. It’s instantly likable0 and my favorite song on the album.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing – This Christmas classic was written by Charles Wesley (lyrics) and Felix Mendelssohn (music). The song features bass, piano, light percussion and organ.
This Is the Christ – This song was written by Martin Luther (lyrics) and McCracken (music). The song features McCracken singing over piano, bass, light guitar and drums.
Key lyrics:
This is the Christ, our God and Lord
Who in all need shall aid afford
He will himself our savior be
And from our sins will set us free
Bright Morning Stars – This short traditional song features McCracken leading a group of singers. The song has a raw sound, much different from the other songs on the album, leading you to believe that it wasn’t recorded in a studio.
Go Tell it on the Mountain – This African-American spiritual song, compiled by John Wesley Work, Jr., and dating back to at least 1865, is one of my favorite Christmas songs. The joyful song features acoustic guitar and some excellent backing vocals. A highlight.
The Space Between – This song was written by McCracken, Cindy Morgan and Gabe Dixon, and features Josh Garrels on vocals. The song looks at the days after Christmas and before the New Year begins. McCracken has said that the song is a reflective, joyful reminder to accept the discomfort of life transitions with grace. It is a call to see what’s next. The song features acoustic guitar, bass, drums, piano and strings.
Silent Night – This Christmas classic was written by Joseph Mohr in 1816. The beautiful version of the song features McCracken singing over acoustic guitar, backing vocals, and strings.
Best songs:
Mary’s Arms
Jesus, What a Wonderful Child
Go Tell it on the Mountain

Christmas Day: Christmas Songs of Worship – Chris Tomlin

Over the years, Chris Tomlin has given us some excellent Christmas music, primarily through his two full-length Christmas albums 2009’s Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship and 2015’s Adore: Christmas Songs Of Worship. His latest release is Christmas Day: Christmas Songs of Worship, a four song EP. The EP features three new songs, and one classic Christmas song.
Here are a few comments about each song:
Christmas Day – This song is written by Ed Cash, Scott Cash, Franni Cash, Martin Cash and Andrew Bergthold. This joyful song features drums, guitar and excellent vocals by Tomlin and We The Kingdom. Classic Tomlin, this song would be a good one for congregational singing.
Key lyrics:
Sing all you people
The Lord almighty reigns
Sing every creature of God
Come bless His name
For He is good, for He is good
He was born to conquer the grave
Light of the world
The reason for Christmas Day

His Name Is Wonderful – This song is written by Tomlin and Ed Cash with a chorus taken from Isaiah 9:6. The song begins with Tomlin singing over piano, and then builds with drums, strings and choir.
Key lyrics:
Come and adore Him
On bended Knee
He came to Ransom
Someone like me

Little Drummer Boy – This Christmas classic was written by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone in 1958. The song features guitar, backing vocals and of course some excellent drum work.
Hope Of Israel
– This song was written by Tomlin, Ben Fielding, Jason Ingram and Reuben Morgan. The song begins with Tomlin singing over piano, then builds gently with strings and backing vocals.
Key lyrics:
God is with us
Christ our Savior
Jesus our Emmanuel
He shall reign our King forever
The hope of Israel

Best song: Christmas Day

50 Year Trip: Live at Red Rocks – John Fogerty

John Fogerty was the lead singer and songwriter for Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR), who dominated Top 40 radio from mid-1968 – mid-1972, with nine of the band’s singles cracking the Top 10 during that period. The band, who sold more than 35 million albums and singles in the U.S. alone, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine has them at Number 82 on its list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.
CCR broke up in 1972, and Fogerty has gone on to have a very successful solo career as well. Now 74, he recorded this live album at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado on June 20 during a tour celebrating his 50-year career, dating back to the release of CCR’s first album, released July 5, 1968. The concert was also filmed and was shown in theatres on November 11 (Veteran’s Day).
Fogerty has released a few live solo albums over the years (Premonition, The Long Road Home – In Concert). As with those albums, 50 Year Trip: Live at Red Rocks features his still excellent vocals and a strong band, this time featuring his two sons. The performances are tight, and the band stretches things out on “The Old Man Down the Road”, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Keep on Chooglin’”. The album features 19 CCR and Fogerty classics and is a must-have for CCR and Fogerty fans. Here is the entire track list:

Born on the Bayou
Green River
Lookin’ Out My Back Door
Susie Q
Who’ll Stop the Rain
Hey Tonight
Up Around the Bend
Rock and Roll Girls
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Long As I Can See The Light
Run Through The Jungle
Keep On Chooglin’
Have You Ever Seen The Rain
Down On The Corner
The Old Man Down The Road
Fortunate Son
Bad Moon Rising
Proud Mary

  • Keith Getty says Modern Worship Songs are so ‘Dangerous’ They’re ‘De-Christianizing’ Christians. Leah MarieAnn Klett writes “In an interview with The Christian Post, Getty said many modern worship songs focus on emotionalism rather than sound doctrine and Scriptural truths. This, he said, leads to a generation ill-equipped to understand or defend the Christian faith.”
  • Voices. Watch this video of “Voices” by Switchfoot, featuring Lindsey Stirling.
  • New Christmas Music. There are a number of new Christmas songs out this year, including collaborations by Jars of Clay and SHEL (“Happy for the Holidays”), Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Marc Martell – who did the Freddie Mercury vocals in the film Bohemian Rhapsody – (“Silver Bells”), and TobyMac with Terrain (“All I Need for Christmas”).
  • Good Music Can Become Your God: Give Reasons Jesus Is Better. Bob Kauflin writes “As much as I love music, I’ve realized it’s possible to confuse feelings produced by music with feelings produced by truth.”

ELIZABETH by Kristyn Getty and Ellie Holcomb

This week’s song of the week is “Elizabeth” written and performed by Kristyn Getty and Ellie Holcomb. The song was recorded live at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on August 19, a day in which the temperature reached 96 degrees!  The song is included on the album Sing! An Irish Christmas: Live at the Grand Ole Opry House. You can watch the live performance of the song here. You can download the song here.

Elizabeth, there’s an echo in your voice I’ve heard before
Such emptiness, all the years of crying out for something more

But you have lived to see
that joy comes in the morning

Come and lay your head
on His promises
Oh find your rest, Elizabeth

Elizabeth, feel the baby dance for joy within your womb
Magnificent, Mary’s Son is sent to overcome the tomb

But you have lived to see

that joy comes in the morning

Come and lay your head
on His promises
Oh find your rest, Elizabeth

Woman after woman who will follow
Will carry beauty and a longing of their own
When I hear the rhythm of your name, oh
I remember once again
That none of us will ache without a living hope

Elizabeth, oh blessed is the one who has believed
In the Rising Sun who will guide our feet into the path of peace

For we will live to see
that joy comes in the morning

Come and lay your head
on His promises
Oh find your rest, Elizabeth

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

4 thoughts on “MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

  1. I know you’ve mentioned some Christmas albums there, thank you, but I’d be interested to know what else you’d recommend in that department 🙂

  2. Pingback: MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS | Coram Deo ~

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