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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Leftover Feelings – John Hiatt with the Jerry Douglas Band
****

I’m been a fan of the now 68-year-old singer-songwriter John Hiatt’s music since his 1987 album Bring the Family. Leftover Feelings is his follow-up to 2018’s The Eclipse Sessions. The new album, one of my favorites of 2021, is a collaboration with the Jerry Douglas Band. It was produced by Douglas and recorded at the historic RCA Studio B in Nashville. Hiatt is joined by multi-instrumentalist Douglas (dobro, lap steel guitar, etc.), Daniel Kimbro on bass, Mike Seal on guitar, Christian Sedelmeyer on violin and Carmela Ramsey on vocals. They chose to record without drums to keep expressive Hiatt’s voice and lyrics in the spotlight. The album features a bluegrass and country rock sound and features a number of Hiatt’s story songs along with a few introspective songs.

Here are a few brief comments about each song:

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Reviews

Departures – Jon Forman
****This is the first solo album for the multi-talented leader of Switchfoot, after releasing multiple EPs, the latest being 2015’s four EP collection The Wonderlands. The album features 12 new songs all of which were written or co-written by Foreman. He also produced or co-produced each song. The mostly acoustic songs feature excellent musicianship, and I particularly liked his use of strings.
Foreman has said that this is an album “born out of the turmoil and desperation of the last year, (and this year, too). It’s an album that’s born from the journey, not the destination.” This is an excellent album with themes such as doubt, fears, lessons learned, thanksgiving, love, loss, and those things that really matter. I’ve always enjoyed Foreman’s solo work, and feel that this is his strongest release to date.
Below are a few comments about each song:

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

All That You Can’t Leave Behind – U2 (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)
****

I have a long, and complicated, relationship with U2. From the Christian content on War the brilliance of The Joshua Tree and through Achtung Baby, U2 was my favorite band. I saw them in concert for the first time on their Zoo TV tour – a concert that I really looked forward to – and was completely turned off. I skipped their Zooropa and Pop albums, and was pretty much done with them. In October 2000, they released All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Pete, a team member of mine, ran over and bought the album over lunch. I didn’t plan to purchase it, but he let me borrow it that night. The U2 I loved was back.
I saw two shows on their tour supporting the album – one before the 9/11 tragedy and one after, two very different shows. The album would go on to win seven Grammy Awards, including record of the year and best rock album.
U2 has released four studio albums in the past 20 years, all good but not great. This was their last great album. Some of their political views (pro-abortion, for example), of the past few years has again soured me on the band. Like I said, my relationship with the band is complicated.
Twenty years to the day of its original release, the band released a 20th Anniversary Edition of the album in multiple formats. The “Super Deluxe” audio edition includes 51 songs, including the unreleased “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”, a previously released (on video) Boston concert, B-sides, outtakes and remixes. The original album has been remastered and sounds great. I’m generally not a fan of remixes, and four dances remixes of “Elevation” seems excessive. Still, I would recommend this for fans off U2’s music.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Freedom (EP) – Justin Bieber
*** ½

Justin Bieber released this surprise six-song EP on Easter, just two weeks after he had released his latest album, the chart-topping Justice. The project, which includes several collaborations, features lyrics clearly affirming Bieber’s faith and trust in Jesus as his savior. My only criticism, and it’s a minor one, is that the energy falls off a bit with the final three songs, after opening with three upbeat songs.
Here are a few brief comments about each song:

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Let There Be Wonder (Acoustic) EP – Matt Redman
****

Matt Redman released Let There Be Wonder, one of my favorite albums of 2020, in January, before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world. He recently released this six-song EP Let There Be Wonder (Acoustic), featuring five songs from that album, plus his classic “Blessed Be Your Name”. What holds all of these stripped-down songs together is that they are all about Jesus, and praising his wonderful name.
Even if you are familiar with these songs, I think you’ll enjoy these new versions. What really stood out for me was the use of strings on these songs. The EP was produced by Steve Marcia, who had the idea to use a string quartet as a signature sound for this project. Recorded during the lockdown, we hear four different string players who recorded themselves in four different locations, with beautiful results. I also enjoyed the backing vocals.
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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Letter to You – Bruce Springsteen
*** ½

I’ve been a long-time fan of Springsteen’s music, though not his politics. The first of his albums that I bought new was 1978’s excellent Darkness on the Edge of Town. I fondly remember humming songs from that album – “Prove it All Night”, “Badlands”, etc. – as I was walking through an office building doing an end of night inspection as the manager of a cleaning crew while going to college.
Letter to You is the 71-year-old Springsteen’s twentieth studio album, and first with the E Street Band (Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent, Stevie Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Charlie Giordano and Jake Clemons), since 2014’s High Hopes. The album was produced by Ron Aniello and assisted by Springsteen.
Springsteen wrote all of the songs, most of which were written in April 2019. Three of the songs “Janey Needs a Shooter”, “If I Was a Priest” and “Song for Orphans” date back to the early 1970’s. The album was recorded live in just five days at Springsteen’s home studio with very minimal overdubs.
This is a very personal album. Themes include loss of friends, relationships, looking back, the power of music, and spirituality.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Skin and Wind – Charlie Peacock
****

I’ve appreciated Charlie Peacock’s music for many years, dating back to his late-night concerts at the Cornerstone Festival when it was held outside of the Chicago area, and his West Coast Diaries releases in the late 1980’s. The multi-talented (artist, producer, author) Peacock writes all of the songs on Skin and Wind, his fourteenth vocal album, and the follow-up to 2019’s Lil’ Willie. In addition, he produces the album, handles lead vocals, and plays multiple instruments (piano, Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric piano, drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitar and percussion). Backing him are son Sam Ashworth (acoustic guitar and background vocals), Ruby Amanfu (background vocals), Bridget Ashworth (background vocals), Jerry McPherson (electric and acoustic guitars and ukulele), Andy Leftwich (fiddle and mandolin) and Dan Dugmore (pedal and lap steel). The album cover is a 1986 photo of Peacock backstage at the Filmore Auditorium in San Francisco.
I thoroughly enjoyed this outstanding album, which features excellence in vocals (Peacock’s voice is still an incredible instrument), production, musicianship and poetical lyrics. Here are a few comments about each of the ten songs:

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Until We Meet Again (Live Unplugged) – Mat Kearney
****

Until We Meet Again features songs from Kearney’s second acoustic tour, his winter 2020 Revisited tour. These songs were recorded in January and February, just before the COVID-19 shutdown. Many of the songs are from early in his career, with five of the eleven songs from his 2011 album Young Love and three from his 2009 album City of Black and White. Most of the songs, are about love and relationships, with other themes including encouragement and trust in God.
If you are not familiar with Kearney’s music, this would be an excellent project to check out. Below are a few brief comments about each song:
Fire and Rain – This song was written by Robert Marvin and Kearney and originally appeared on the 2009 album City of Black and White. They may not be together anymore, but his love for her will not fade. The song features acoustic guitar, drums, bass, and backing vocals.
Key lyric:
My love will not fade
Through the fire and rain

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Out of Body – NEEDTOBREATHE
****

Out of Body is NEEDTOBREATHE’s seventh studio album, and first since 2016’s Hard Love. The album debuted at #1 on iTunes Top Albums chart. It is also the band’s first album as a trio – Bear Rinehart (lead vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica), Seth Bolt (backing vocals, bass, percussion), and Josh Lovelace (backing vocals, piano, organ), following the departure of founding member Bo Rinehart. The album was recorded in Nashville with producers Cason Cooley and Jeremy Lutito. Five of the eleven songs were released in advance of the full album release.
The band has said that the album is about their journey toward their true selves. This is a strong album, one of my favorites of 2020. As you would expect, the lyrics are vulnerable, and the musicianship and production are excellent. Below are a few comments about each song:

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