Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


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:

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  • 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
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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Never Fold by Tedashii
****

Never Fold is the fifth studio album from Tedashii. The 17-song, 54-minute album is his follow-up to his excellent 2016 EP This Time Around and is his first full-length album since 2014’s Below Paradise. He did release a few songs in 2017 and 2018 that are not included here (“Way Up”, “Messenger” and “Splash”, though a revised version of the latter song is included), and two that are, “Gotta Live” (featuring Jordan Feliz) and “Smile”. It’s been way too long since we got a new full-length album from Tedashii, but the wait has definitely been worth it. The album features a number of special guests, among them Lecrae, Trip Lee and Crowder, and he uses multiple songwriters and producers. Never fold and the pain of losing his son Chase are themes that show up throughout the album.
My favorite songs are “God Flex”, “Get Out My Way” and “Gotta Live”. Here are a few comments about each song on the album.

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  • More of this review; a review of AWAKEN: The Surrounded Experience by Michael W. Smith and Holy Roar: Live from Church by Chris Tomlin
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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Versatile – Van Morrison
****

The 72-year old Morrison follows his excellent September, 2017 blues album Roll with the Punches with the self-produced Versatile, his 38th studio album. The appropriately titled Versatile focuses on his interpretation of nine of the 20th century’s greatest vocal jazz standards, as well as 3 new jazz-influenced originals, three new versions of songs he’s previously recorded, “I Forgot That Love Existed,” “Only A Dream” and “Start All Over Again”, and an arrangement of the Scottish traditional “Skye Boat Song.” I thoroughly enjoyed this album, especially the more upbeat arrangements. It’s hard to go wrong with Morrison’s singing, excellent musicians and some great songs.
Below are a few brief comments about each of the songs:

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  • More of this review and a review of You’re Driving Me Crazy by Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Holy Roar by Chris Tomlin
****

This is Chris Tomlin’s first album since 2016’s excellent Never Lose Sight, which was my top album of that year. Holy Roar is another gift to the church from Tomlin, containing songs that will be sung in churches around the world.
Below are a few comments about each of the songs:

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  • More of this review; The Elements by Toby Mac and Happy Xmas by Eric Clapton
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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Hymns Vol. 1 – Shane and Shane
****

Shane and Shane are a contemporary worship duo comprised of Shane Barnard and Shane Everett. I recently got to enjoy their music at the Sing 2018 conference in Nashville. Prior to that, what I knew about the duo was primarily through the ministry of Desiring God.

Hymns Vol. 1 is a new album featuring new arrangements of ten modern and traditional hymns, totaling in excess of 57 minutes of music.  This is an album that I thoroughly enjoyed. At first listen, it can appear like a simple and basic covering of these wonderful hymns. However, each repeated listening brings out something new about these extended arrangements, which are connected, with no breaks between the songs. The lead and harmony vocals are excellent throughout, as is the musical accompaniment, which never gets in the way of the words of these wonderful hymns. I can’t wait for Vol. 2.

Below are a few brief comments about each song:

Tis So Sweet – The lyrics to this hymn were written by Louisa M.R. Stead in 1882, and the music by William J. Kirkpatrick. This version, which clocks in just under seven minutes, features guitar, light percussion, and violin, and builds powerfully.

How Great Thou Art – This hymn, which is my favorite, was based on a poem written by Carl Boberg in 1885. It was translated into English by the missionary Stuart K. Hine, who also added two additional verses. The hymn was set to a Russian melody. The song features guitar, piano, drums and builds powerfully.

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  • A review of Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station
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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Forever On Your Side (Niles City Sound Sessions) – NEEDTOBREATHE
*** ½

This EP contains four songs that the band recorded over a few weeks while they were in Fort Worth, Texas with the producer trio Niles City Sound. The EP gives us a good idea where the constantly evolving band is now. Below are a few comments about each of the new songs:
Bridges Burn – This was the first song released from the EP. It opens with piano and hand-clap. Bear Rinehart sings that it’s time for moving on as there are some things you can’t forget. He wants to watch all his bridges burn and dance in the light of a lesson learned. He wants to leave everything that hurts and never go back to the way they were. The mid-tempo song builds gradually over a passionate vocal.
Key lyric:  I need to find somewhere I can believe. I need to know there’s a chance we can be.

Darling – This beautiful song has Bear singing over acoustic guitar. He is singing to his wife, wanting to talk to her on the phone while he’s on the road and she’s at home. He just wants to be home with her, the only thing that carries him through. He acknowledges that it’s hard for her to be at home, taking care of the house on her own. As the song builds, light instrumentation, including some horns and backing vocals supplement Bear’s vocals. Key lyric: I don’t wanna do this alone.

Bullets – This song opens with guitar, and then moves into a rock beat, with drum, organ, horns, keys and backing vocals. The song is about how you can’t put the bullets back into a gun, can’t undo what we have done or said, which is a tough lesson we have to learn.  Musically, it’s the most interesting song on the collection.
Key lyric: Don’t let your heart be stone, don’t be the bitter one.

Forever On Your Side – The closing song was the only song that hadn’t been released prior to the full EP being released, and it’s my favorite song on the EP. It features husband and wife duo Johnnyswim (Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez) on backing vocals. The band has indicated that this song was written for their fans who have been with them since the very beginning. The song begins with guitar and then builds with drums and banjo. The lyrics are uplifting and encouraging. We don’t know what’s around the bend but love knows no end and he’ll be forever on her side. Like Jesus, he will carry her every time because he’s forever on her side. With Johnnyswim joining the band on tour, this song will sound amazing live.
Key lyric:  Take my hand when you can’t see the light, ‘cause I’m forever on your side.

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 Reviews of Nobody Loves Me Like You by Chris Tomlin and My New Moon by Amos Lee
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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Review:

Glory Song – Matt Redman
****

Two-time Grammy Award winner and writer of many wonderful worship songs for the church including “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”, Matt Redman follows his excellent 2016 Christmas album These Christmas Lights, with this album recorded at the famed Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. Prior to the Christmas release, his three prior albums had been recorded live. The album was co-produced by Jeremy Edwardson and Jeremy SH Griffith. He intentionally tried to bring more of a gospel sound to the album, including Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Kierra Sheard and a gospel choir. I can’t tell you how much I was blessed and encouraged by this album – it’s one of my favorites.

Below are a few comments on each song on the album:
All Glory – This song was written by Jonus Myrin and Redman, and features vocals from Kierra Sheard (who also appears on Lecrae’s new album), and a gospel choir. The chorus is an adaptation of the Gloria Patri.  Key lyric: All glory to the Father, all glory to the Son, all glory to the Spirit.
The Spirit of our God. As it was in the beginning, and will be in the end. All glory to Your everlasting name
.
Gospel Song – This song blends familiar Redman elements with an excellent beat and even some rap from Guvna B. It starts slowly with piano, then builds with catchy beat, gospel choir, guitar and organ about the joy of singing the gospel song. You’ll hear bits of John 3:16 in here too. I liked him stepping out of his norm.
Greatest Hallelujah – This song is written by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman. It will remind you of some of Redman’s most-loved worship songs. It features a choir and some shouts. A highlight. Key lyric:  From this breath to my last, then forever and a day, I’ll pour out my heart, I’ll pour out my soul
My greatest hallelujah.  

Gracefully Broken – This song was written by Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Redman and was the first single released ahead of the album. It features a gospel choir and strong vocals from Leonard, who also includes a version of the song on her album Heart. Passion. Pursuit. The song starts slow and builds to the worshipful chorus. It will be a wonderful song for congregational singing. Key lyric: Here I am, God                 Arms wide open, pouring out my life, gracefully broken
One Day (When We All Get to Heaven) –  This song, which incorporates the hymn “When We All Get to Heaven”, is written by Eliza E. Hewitt, Beth Redman, Leonard Jarman and Redman. It features a strong Redman vocal with a piano and later organ backing. Again, this is different from the usual Redman song, and I really liked it.
Redemption Ground – This song is written by Nick Herbert, Sam Bailey and Redman. It starts slowly with guitar and then builds with drums and backing vocals from female vocalist Madison Cunningham. On this redemption ground he’ll stand with all the saints. It features a nice guitar solo.
Key lyric: Who can count the souls of all who have been found here on redemption ground.  

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