Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Sandra McCracken is a singer-songwriter and hymn writer from Nashville, Tennessee. A prolific recording artist, McCracken has produced 14 solo albums over two decades. Her best selling release, Psalms (2015) received critical acclaim, followed by God’s Highway (2017) which made the top 50 on Billboard Heatseekers chart without a major label. She has had songs featured in TV, including ‘Ten Thousand Angels’ on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and has over 15 million streams. Blending the old and new, Sandra has also shown a unique ability to recast sacred scripture texts into theologically rich yet accessible songs. Her thoughtful lyrics and gospel melodies in songs like “We Will Feast In The House Of Zion,” “Steadfast” and “Thy Mercy My God” have become staple anthems in churches across the U.S. As a published writer, she contributes a regular column in Christianity Today and released her first book “Send Out Your Light” in September 2021.  She has released three full-length albums in 2022. Here are reviews of each of them:

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  • Song of the Week Lyrics ~ Rejoice by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Rend Collective

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Christ Our Hope in Life and Death – Keith and Kristyn Getty
****

Keith and Kristyn Getty follow-up their 2021 album Confessio – Irish American Roots with Christ Our Hope in Life and Death, their first major collection of new hymns since 2016’s Facing A Task Unfinished. The new album, one of my favorites of 2022, features guest artists such as Michael W. Smith, Skye Peterson, Matt Boswell and Matt Papa, and Rend Collective.
Below are a few comments about each of the songs:
Christ Our Hope in Life and Death (Radio Mix) – This song was written by Keith Getty, Matt Boswell, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker and Matt Papa. It was produced by Bryan Fowler and features Michael W. Smith on vocals. Inspired by the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, this is one of our best modern hymns. The song features backing vocals, drums, bass, piano, guitar, and strings.
Key lyrics:
O sing hallelujah!
Our hope springs eternal;
O sing hallelujah!
Now and ever we confess
Christ our hope in life and death 

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  • More of this review and reviews of Together for the Gospel Live V – Matt Merker and New Creation (Deluxe Version) – Mac Powell
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  • Song of the Week Lyrics ~In the Valley by CityAlight, featuring Sandra McCracken

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


There is One Gospel (Deluxe Edition) – CityAlight
****

There is One Gospel is a collection of new music for congregational worship by CityAlight, a music ministry from St. Paul’s church in Sydney, Australia. I recently got to see CityAlight for the first time at the 2022 Sing! Getty Music Worship Conference in Nashville, one of many highlights from the conference.
In a session at the conference entitled “Behind the Songs Live with CityAlight,” I learned that they intentionally write simple folk melodies, which might even sound familiar to us, to go along with their biblically informed lyrics. It is not unusual for them to take six months to write a song, as each song goes through several reviews.
Here are a few comments about each song on this excellent new album:

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  • Song of the Week Lyrics ~ The Lord Almighty Reigns by Keith and Kristyn Getty

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Life After Death – TobyMac
****

Life After Death is 57-year-old TobyMac’s eighth studio album, and his first since 2018’s The Elements and the 2019 death of his 21-year-old son Truett from an accidental drug overdose. The 15-song album is the best I have heard this year.
Eight of the fifteen songs were released prior to the official album release date. The songs, which date from 2020’s “21 Years” and “I’m Sorry (a lament)”, include themes of loss, lament, hope, racial equality, the goodness of God, relationships, living for Christ and rest. Toby has said that there is life after death, and that the album chronicles the journey he has been on over the last two years. And somehow, through it all, he has experienced the goodness of God.
There are several collaborations on the album, including with Blessing Offor, Tauren Wells, Sheryl Crow, Zach Williams, and former DC Talk bandmates Michael Tait, and Kevin Max. Musically, the songs feature excellent, catchy melodies and beats, and the production is top notch. In other words, exactly what you would expect from a TobyMac album.

Below are a few comments about each song:

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


There’s a Rainbow Somewhere: The Songs of Randy Stonehill – Various Artists
****

This album, by some of the best Christian artists from the 1980’s to the present time, is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Contemporary Christian Music pioneer Randy Stonehill’s 1971 debut album Born Twice. Just looking at the names of the artists that contributed to this album brought a smile to my face and many great memories of the music I listened to as a new believer. Tom Gulotta and Ray Ware served as executive producers of the project.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album. Here is the track list, and just a few comments about each song:
Lazarus Heart – Phil Keaggy. The song was produced by Phil Keaggy and Rex Schnelle. Keaggy provides vocals, acoustic and electric guitars.

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  • Song of the Week Lyrics ~ On Jordan’s Stormy Banks by Keith & Kristyn Getty

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Worship Forever – Michael W. Smith
***

Michael W. Smith’s best-selling album is Worship, which was released on September 11, 2001, the day our nation was attacked. As a way to honor the tragic September 11 anniversary, Smith has released a reimagined version of the album. Worship Forever was recorded in front of a live audience in Nashville in July with a full symphony orchestra, choir and guest appearances by Amy Grant, Matt Redman, and Tauren Wells.
Smith adds a few newer songs to the track list including “Surrounded/Waymaker” and the new studio recording, the piano and orchestra driven “Sing Again.” Below is the chorus for “Sing Again”:

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  • Song of the Week Lyrics:  Send Out Your Light by Sandra McCracken

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


What Are We Waiting For? for KING & COUNTRY
***

The Australian duo for KING & COUNTRY, comprised of brothers Joel Smallbone and Luke Smallbone, follow up their 2018 album Burn the Ships and their 2020 Christmas album A Drummer Boy Christmas with What Are We Waiting For? Their fifth studio album features their distinctive sound of bass, drums and strong vocals. Themes on the album include being the same in different ways, letting go of mistakes we’ve made, God loving us as we are, racial unity, holding on till the pain ends, parents, commitment in marriage, differences, and worship.

Below are a few brief comments about each song:

Relate – This song was the first single from the album and was written by Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Josh Kerr and Tayla Parx, and produced by Kerr, Tedd T and for KING & COUNTRY. The song, which reached number one on Christian radio, features keys, bass, drums, and backing vocals, and tells us that we don’t know what it’s like to be one another but by the grace of God we’ll see each other’s heart.
Key lyric:
I don’t know what it’s like to be you
You don’t know what it’s like to be me
What if we’re all the same in different kinds of ways
Can you, can you relate?

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  • More of this review and a brief review of Milk & Honey Tour: Austin City Limits Live – Crowder
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  • Song of the Week Lyrics ~ Christ Our Hope in Life and Death – Keith and Kristyn Getty & Michael W. Smith

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


What’s It Gonna Take? by Van Morrison
*** ½

This is Van Morrison’s 43rd studio album, following 2021’s Latest Record Project Vol. 1. See my review of that album here. With the fourteen new songs here, Morrison has now released an amazing forty-two songs over the past year.
The album cover features a couple running away from the city on puppet strings with “Wake Up” in the background. Many of the songs on the album are about Morrison’s reaction to the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. I write this review from the perspective of living in a state that had some of the strongest COVID restrictions in the U.S. I’m also writing from the perspective of someone who nearly lost his brother to the virus.
My wife and I saw Morrison in concert two weeks before this album’s release. His voice is still an incredible instrument at age 76, as he leads his incredible band, showcased on this album. Morrison did not perform any of the songs on this new album in the concert.
Although some may disagree with some of the lyrics on the album, few will disagree that Morrison and his band deliver excellent performances here. Themes on the album are the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions (depression, misery and strife), the need to fight back, freedom, government lies, the media/fake news, free speech and celebrity.
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  • Song of the Week Lyrics ~ The Goodness by TobyMac, featuring Blessing Offor

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


New Creation – Mac Powell
****

I’ve long enjoyed Mac Powell’s music, mostly from his time as lead singer of four-time Grammy winners Third Day. I also enjoyed his 2019 album Back Again with Mac Powell and the Family Reunion. In fact, my wife Tammy and I saw Powell with his band the Family Reunion in November 2019, which was the last concert we saw before concerts were shut down due to the pandemic.

Me and Mac

Powell has also released two country music solo albums, but this is his first solo album of Christian music, and it’s a good one. He brings his distinctive baritone voice – one of the best in music – to these songs with a bit of a country/southern flavor. The album is produced by Jonathan Smith, Hank Bentley, Jeff Pardo, Seth Mosely, Colby Wedgeworth, and Ed Cash. Powell co-wrote each song, collaborating with Jonathan Smith, Ethan Hulse, Seth Mosley, Jeff Pardo, Brenton Brown, Hank Bentley, Matt Maher, Benji Cowart, Casey Beathard and Tommy Iceland.
Below are a few comments about each song:

 

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Sing! In Christ Alone. Live at the Getty Music Worship Conference – Keith & Kristyn Getty and Friends
****

This is the fifth live album that Keith & Kristyn Getty have released from their annual Sing! conferences (one for each conference). I always enjoy these albums as they bring back special memories from attending the conference. Sing! In Christ Alone was recorded at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville in September 2021. The sixteen songs on the album feature artists such as Keith & Kristyn Getty, Matt Boswell and Matt Papa, Dana Masters, Laura Story, Chris Tomlin, Sandra McCracken, Jubilant Sykes, Bill Gaither, Buddy Greene, CityAlight and more.
Below is the album track list:
Psalm 150 (Praise the Lord) – This song was written and performed by Matt Boswell and Matt Papa.
Come Thou Almighty King – This song was written by Felice De Giardini, and arranged by Tommy Bailey, Sarah Gehri, Nathan Mickle and Tom Yarbrough. The lead vocal is performed by Tommy Bailey.
Amazing Grace – The lyrics of this song were written by John Newton. The lead vocals are performed by Kristyn Getty and Dana Masters, with saxophone from Kirk Whalum.
Christ is All in All. This new song, which debuted at the conference, was written by Kristyn Getty, Ben Shive and Dwan Hill. The lead vocal is performed by Kristyn Getty.

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  • More of this review and a review of Milk & Honey Deluxe Edition by Crowder
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  • Song of the Week Lyrics ~ This is the Day by CityAlight

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