Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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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
 Music News
 Music Quotes from Keith Getty
 Song of the Week Lyrics
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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


The Narrative – Sho Baraka
****

Three years in the making, Sho Baraka returns with his fourth album. The fourteen songs address themes of race, faith and love. Each title has an accompanying year that symbolizes something important. It is an important album that is musically diverse and creative, and lyrically relevant. Below are a few comments on each song:
Foreward, 1619 – The opening track was written by the Beatbreaker (who also produced it), Adam Bean and Baraka. It features C Lacy and Bean. 1619 was the start of American slavery, which is addressed in Adam Bean’s verse. From 1619 and beyond, here he stands. He is a man. Baraka asks whether he should he pray or riot. He states that we are all desperate and broken.
Don’t close the book, I got more to write
You can change the story, that is my advice
I read in color, they see black and white
You just saw the cover, but there’s more to life

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§  More of this review
§  Review of The Narrative Vol. 2: Pianos & Politics by Sho Baraka
§  Music News
§  Music Quotes
§  Song of the Week Lyrics

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NEW AND UPCOMING ALBUMS

Below are a few new and upcoming albums that I’m looking forward to:

Forever On Your Side Niles City Sound Sessions – NEEDTOBREATHE  

This four-song EP will be released on July 13. The band has already released three of the songs – “Bridges Burn”, “Darling” and “Bullets”.

Noble Ape – Jim Gaffigan
This album will be released on July 13. The film will be available on that date in select cities. I’m looking forward to this release as I saw a concert on this tour that this album was recorded on.
From the artist’s website: “In his all new Noble Ape stand up special, Jim Gaffigan gets personal as he discusses the medical crisis that befell his wife and family this year, which almost led to his retirement”.

My New Moon – Amos Lee
This album will be released August 31. It is Lee’s follow-up to 2016’s Spirit.
From the Amazon description: “Singer/songwriter Amos Lee says his seventh studio album My New Moon is “a dedication…it’s an offering – an altar of sorts to those who have shared their sorrows with me.” It is a product of profound human experiences; loss, grief, hope, healing, love, sorrow, and rejuvenation. Each track on My New Moon takes a journey through these intense and personal experiences. Opening track “No More Darkness, No More Light” was rewritten entirely after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and speaks to the hope for change that lies in amongst tragic situations and challenges. “Little Light,” written for a young girl who beat cancer, is a positive message of spreading light for the world to see, even if you’re facing hardship. “Hang On, Hang On” reflects the helplessness that comes after the loss of a loved one, “Crooked” brings to light the difficult and confusing times we’ve faced throughout history in America, and “I Get Weak” is a beautifully dark love song to something that might kill you, but you need it to go on living. The album as a whole reflects the darkness and the light that we all both experience and bring into the world, and how through these personal experiences and hard times, we grow more connected to one another.” Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Today We Rebel by KB
****

This is KB’s follow-up to 2015’s Tomorrow We Live. Much has happened in our county since that album was recorded. The album cover was illustrated by Alex Castro and directed by Alex Medina. It can be confusing at first, as the artist appears to be on the throne with a halo over his head. He has stated that the halo represents spiritual devotion and he is sitting on steps, not a throne. There are a number of symbols of people and objects that have impacted KB’s life.
This is an excellent album, and has KB collaborating with a number of producers and special guests including Lecrae and Andy Mineo. Below are a few comments about each of the songs on the album:

DNOU – This song is produced by Mykalife and written by Natalie Lauren and KB. DNOU stands for “Don’t Nobody Own Us”. About the song, KB has stated that if it honors God and your conscious is clear, do what you want. We should not let anyone rule over our decisions with their own fears and insecurities. This song has a good beat over keys. Key lyric: Does it honor God and conscience? You owe nothin’ but your love man. 

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Let the Trap Say Amen – Lecrae and Zaytoven
****

Lecrae returns to Reach Records after his excellent 2017 major label debut All Things Work Together, which featured the gold record “I’ll Find You” with Tori Kelly. On this album he teams up with producer and DJ Zaytoven for an album that was born out of a mutual respect for each other’s work. In an interview, Lecrae said “When I hear the term ‘trap music,’ I don’t think of glorifying the negativity. I think of a soundscape that speaks a certain language. I think of music that tells real stories.”
Here are a few brief comments about each of the 13 songs on the album, all of which were produced by Zaytoven, who brings great beats to these songs.
Get Back Right – This song was written by Bobby Pressley, CASS, Zaytoven and Lecrae. It was the first single released from the album. It features a great beat with Lecrae telling his story about recent success (made hits with some big names, went to the Grammys), when he was just starting out (everything was rented and he was pinching his pennies), and when he became a believer (new beginnings and he knew who did it).
Key lyric: When you got real power, you can’t lose.
Preach – This song is written by Verse Simmonds, Zaytoven and Lecrae. This song is about Lecrae being unashamed (Romans 1:16) about God, preaching and his blackness. It opens briefly with keys and then goes into a great beat, driven by drums. Lecrae is going to preach and Zaytoven is going to bring the beat.
Key lyric: Don’t have a church, but I reach.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Wide Open – Michael McDonald
****

Wide Open is 65-year old Michael McDonald’s (Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan), first new studio album in more than nine years, and first album of original material in seventeen years, following Blue Obsession in 2000. It follows three R&B/Soul cover albums for Motown, the most recent being Soul Speak, released in 2008. He has also released a few Christmas albums during this time.
The 71-minute album of keyboard-heavy soul and blues ballads was written over several years and recorded at McDonald’s Nashville studio, along with drummer Shannon Forrest (Toto), and session players from Nashville. The album features collaborations with guitarist-singer Warren Haynes, guitarist Robben Ford, bassist Marcus Miller and saxophonist Branford Marsalis.
McDonald has said that most of the songs on the album have to do with sobriety, the journey in his life of getting sober, which he has been since 1986. It is a kind of wide open conversation of many different subjects, both musically and lyrically.
McDonald’s signature voice still sounds great. If I had any criticism of the album, it would just be that a few of the songs go too long, with only one song coming in at under four minutes.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

I: The Arrow (EP) – Andy Mineo
****

This is the first chapter in a series of EP’s that Mineo plans to release. He has stated that he has been going through a period of doubt of himself and of his faith, as he has experienced a season of anxiety and depression.  This is a transparent and honest release from Mineo as he works through anxiety and confusion.  It is unlike any of his releases to date. It’s the follow-up to 2017’s Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Present Magic & Bird with Wordsplayed and is his first solo album since his excellent 2015 release Uncomfortable.
Give these songs several listens.  They require and deserve that. I look forward to the next EP.
Below are a few brief comments about each of the six songs:

I’ve Been…. – This song was written by Wit, Joel McNeill, John McNeill, BEAM and Mineo. It was produced by Weathrman and BEAM. Additional vocals are provided by Willow Stephens. The opener is a slower song and introduces the theme of the record. He’s been lost for some time.
Key lyric: I hope I get the benefit of the doubt
I need a minute just to figure this out

Clarity – This song was written and produced by Daniel Steele, Chad Gardner, GAWVI and Mineo. Additional vocals are provided by Gardner. The song opens with Mineo speaking over keyboards by Daniel Steele. He raps hard in verse two.  The song includes spoken word interludes from a female. He wants clarity because all of his heroes are frauds, just like he is. Watch the video for “Clarity” here.
Key lyric: The opposite of faith ain’t doubt
Family Photo – This heart-breaking song about Mineo’s father Joe was written by Wit, Joel McNeill, John McNeill and Mineo. It was produced by Weathrman and Mineo. He tells about how his father didn’t show up for his wedding. The song starts slow and builds in intensity as his rage about his father builds. The song ends with him reciting Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer”. Key lyric: ‘Cause when you bury emotions, you bury them alive
They only come back stronger, somewhere later in your life

Anxiety – This song was written by Wit, Joel McNeill, John McNeill and Mineo. The song was produced by, and features, Weathrman. The song was recorded in November, 2016 after Mineo had his first anxiety attack. The song describes what he felt as he was going through the anxiety attack. The song has a slower beat and ends with an outro spoken piece that may have been recorded in concert that leads into “I Ain’t Done”.
I Ain’t Done – This song was written and produced by Mineo and recorded on the bus while on tour in 2017. This bold song pounds from the very beginning, as he made up the lyrics on the spot. Key lyric: Man, my problems big, but I know God way bigger.
…Lost – The final track of the EP continues where “I’ve Been…” left off. It is written by David Ham, Joel McNeill, John McNeill, Wit, BEAM and Mineo. It was produced by Weathrman, BEAM and Mineo, and features Willow Stephens on vocals. The song starts slow and builds to a gospel vibe with a nice tip of the cap to his song “Never Land”. It ends with a spoken word piece explaining where he got the cover art for the EP and then some brief keys. It has a more hopeful spirit than the other songs. Key lyric: When I get above those clouds, yeah, I know that the sun’s out, I’ma be alright

Live on Soundstage: Michael McDonald
****

Michael McDonald has had quite a career, spanning 45 years, from Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers to a successful solo career, which has included a number of Christmas albums and a few albums of Motown covers.  This live project (DVD/CD) was filmed and recorded at Soundstage’s Grainger Studios in Chicago on May 25, 2017. It includes some of the five-time Grammy Award winner’s biggest hits, as well as three songs from his excellent 2017 comeback album Wide Open, his first album of new material in seventeen years.
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