In the search for intimate but fresh worship music, it wouldn't hurt to reach back a handful of years to 2001 when former 5 Minute Walk Records (anyone remember them?) singer/songwriter Justin McRoberts released his first worship project, Untitled EP. The stripped-down acoustic venture had only been recorded in a few days and showcased the singer's wonderful and passionate vocals in a very personal, very vulnerable way that made worshipping in a quiet setting easy and intimate. The album title is beautifully simplistic -- allowing the listener to use the songs as a tool for worship in a way becomes their own. McRoberts raised the bar with the Untitled EP... and I'd love to hear him try his hand at another release like this.
Our synopsis: "Stripped down, intimate acoustic worship for those necessary quiet times alone with God." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Quiet Times, Worship Song Highlights: "Learning To Need You," "Making Noises," "I Will Come"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Untitled EP? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
In my review of Chris Sligh’s record last April, I wrote that I wouldn’t be surprised if he garnered a nomination or two at this year’s Dove Awards. Well, now he’s nominated in perhaps the most sought after category for rising Christian music stars, New Artist of the Year! He may as well be the most deserving nominee in the category this year as well. Running Back to You was an incredibly impressive and surprising debut record – something that I personally wasn’t expecting. Sligh takes worship and makes it exceptionally relevant and unique, unlike artists such as Chris Tomlin and Casting Crowns, who haven’t given us anything exciting or fresh for years now (though the Gospel Music Association loves them more than anything; go figure). Chris Sligh’s passion for Christ and love for making career defining music are clearly evident on this record, and because of this, it’s definitely worth your time to give it a listen. ~ Logan Leasure
Our synopsis: "
A sizeable debut that gives Chris Sligh extremely solid footing in the Christian music industry." (Recommended by JFH's Logan Leasure) Perfect For:
Understanding God’s love, Worship Song Highlights: "Loaded Gun," "Vessel"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Running Back to You? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
Ah yes, solo ventures. Few seem to really be able to spark the same kind of impact that the brave band member's original venture can. The same is not so, however, for Switchfoot's Jon Foreman. His first solo project, the 6-song EP "Fall" is undoubtedly my favorite of his four EP's (perhaps also because it's my favorite season?), but Foreman has created a wonderful 12-song set by the pairing of the Fall and Winter EP's together into one set. Released to retail together originally last year, EMI has unfortunately decided to discontinue the set at retail (along with the Spring and Summer set) and have stores now only carry the 12-song compilation from all the four EPs, "Limbs and Branches." But still, the best way to experience these EPs are individually (which you can still get digitally online). "Winter" offers the phenomenal prayerful ballad "White As Snow." Foreman's weary and emotional vocal style injects a lot of passion into his acoustic folk songs, which cover an array of topics from relationships and self-inspection to all-out worship. So while "Fall" may be my favorite EP, to experience it along with "Winter" is a recommended approach.
Our synopsis: "Fantastic emotional and passionate acoustic folk musings featuring a mix of introspection, observation, and worship." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Quiet Times, Reflection, Worship, Faith Song Highlights: "The Cure For Pain," "Lord, Save Me from Myself," "Southbound Train," "White As Snow"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Fall? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
It's a little weird to be writing this one, but since seeing the band in our hometown on March 1st - just over a week ago - on the Join The Tribe Tour, I've been on a bit of a Newsboys kick, listening to all of the records from Not Ashamed through to Thrive and so on. Then, this past weekend, the rumors (as well as the confirmation) dropped that dc Talk's Michael Tait is replacing Peter Furler (in live shows at least)... so it's just been a surreal couple of days. But, alas, no matter what's going on, the fact remains they have a wealth of music past and present that still makes for fantastic listens. Their 1994 album Going Public was a real gem. Not only was it the debut of their smash hit "Shine" (whether you love it or hate it), it's home to some extraordinary ballads like "Let It Rain," "When You Called My Name," "Be Still," and "Elle G," while also offering fun ones like "Truth & Consequences," "Lights Out," and "Spirit Thing." It's a great record that should not be forgotten. Check it out if you need a little melodic pop with heart and soul in it -- and don't mind a mid-90's production sound.
Our synopsis: "A solid melodic pop record that balances the fun and the serious quite nicely. Still a gem." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase) Perfect For: Encouragement, Fun, Worship, Faith Song Highlights: "Let It Rain," "When You Called My Name," "Spirit Thing," and of course, "Shine"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Going Public? Do you recommend it? If so, why?
I dig Brad Pitt. In my opinion, he’s a phenomenal actor. And from what I’ve learned about him, I think he’s good guy. He's a cool dude. He’s down to earth. He pranks and can take a prank. He loves his kids (and I would say his wife, but he and Jolie aren't married. Which hurts his dudeness). He drinks untainted black coffee and even rides a motorcycle (which fits well into my personal definition of “dude”). Nevermind that our culture worships him as a “beautiful” man, and a “cinema god.”
He recently appeared on the cover of W Magazine’s February ‘09 issue. He did the photo shoot on one condition—that artist Chuck Close, known for his super detailed portraits that reveal every skin flaw, do the shots. Pitt would wear no make-up and there would be no airbrushing of the years of wear on his face.
I saw the magazine in the airport. Sure enough you could see lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet, and all. He looked more like his 45 years of age rather than how the magazines and movies usually portray him. And he wanted it that way. Click here to see article.
I must admit that I felt pretty good about myself when I saw that photo. I just wish he was going bald too. Maybe include a slight pooch at the midsection . That would’ve helped my feelings even more. But I’ll take what I can get.
“Beauty and Bodies” are worshiped in our culture. And we just can’t help but compare ourselves. We can always find something wrong with us—too tall, short, chubby, skinny, acne, acne scars, flaky skin, thin lips, thick ankles, mid-section spare tire, hump-shouldered, stretch marks, crooked teeth (or tanned teeth), big feet, hairy back, flat butt, big butt, no butt, uni brow, bushy brows, bad nails, frizzy hair, oily hair, thin hair, flat hair, missing hair, skinny calves, white skin, leather skin, wrinkled face, and on and on and on and on.
(By the way, if you don’t find yourself in any of the above, your day is coming. Just ask Brad Pitt (okay, maybe ask him in another 5 years)).
“All flesh is like grass…it withers away,” says the Psalmist. So why do we do it? Why do we torture ourselves? Agreed that a person can also compare himself or herself in such a way that it makes him or her prideful. But one, I would argue that is not the norm. Two, I’d bet there’s also a lurking insecurity too. Thus the comparison.
Is it cliche’ to say God looks at the heart… the inside of us? After all that is what Scripture says. I know, I know. To point us to this truth is kind of like the friend saying about the guy you haven’t met, “well, he has a great personality.”
But God is “other-than” us. Indeed opposite in his attraction to us. He woos our hearts in Christ. And our hearts woo him. Not our bodies. . Could it be that He joyfully let’s our bodies droop in hope that our hearts would find their value, worth, and joy in Him? Does he allow it to remind us of what He finds beautiful? Self-worth and self-peace are found in the God who dotes over our hearts. As we admire and marvel at the outside without much thought to the inside, God loves us from the inside out.
So today I am thankful for balding head. I’m thankful for my crooked bottom teeth. And I can say with a straight face that I’m thankful I don’t look like Brad Pitt. I’m so grateful that God loves me from the inside out. What a relief. And what joy. God dotes over my heart. And in this moment I dote over His.
I know with a music site like this one, it's crucial to keep up with what's new each week when things hit retail and online music stores, etc. But the truth is, there is already lots of fantastic music that can be "new" to you that has been out for years -- even decades! Sometimes it can be tough to find new music that really sparks something in your heart and spirit, but then there are those classics... records you've listened to for five, ten, fifteen years - or more even - that are old faithfuls. Sometimes it's nice just to revisit those.
I fairly regularly keep my iTunes Library on shuffle, so I don't usually listen to full records in one shot unless it's for review purposes. I said in a recent "We Recommend" blog that I had had a day where an Audio Adrenaline song from their 1996 record bloOm came on and it really sounded so good, so I took my iTunes off shuffle and just listened to AudioA record after AudioA record. It was one of the best days I'd had in a long time! There's just something about those records that really hit me in a deeper spot than a lot of current music. It could be the songs, perhaps just because I first listened to them when I was 14 (in 1994... yeah, I'm really dating myself here), or maybe the songs just had a special anointing on them. Or all of the above? Whatever it is, the "oldies" still hit home.
So this week I've been jamming to some "oldies." I think I started with Hoi Polloi's 1995 album Happy Ever After, then I listened to Holy Soldier's 1995 album Promise Man, and just yesterday I picked out Hokus Pick's Brothers From a Different Mother and then their later records Snappy and Super Duper. Oh, and Dakoda Motor Co's Into The Son album. Classic. Speaking of classic, I also jumped to PFR's Great Lengths, then their self-titled and the "new" tracks from Late Great PFR. Then I hopped over to Eric Champion's 1996 rock album Transformation and now? Hahaha. The FIRST Christian band I ever listened to -- yup. Idle Cure! As I'm typing, I'm totally listening to Idle Cure's 1991 album Inside Out. Where will I go from here? Probably another one of their records (yup, as I'm finishing this up, it's their 1988 album Tough Love!).
There's just something about that time in Christian music... maybe it was just the time in MY life?? I don't know. But in some cases, it seemed like the lyrics were deeper and bolder... the spiritual lyrics weren't limited only to worship artists. Rock bands weren't afraid to say "Jesus" in a song. ... Any thoughts on this, guys? I don't know... Just writing this makes me want to go listen to stuff like Poor Old Lu's A Picture Of The Eighth Wonder... Guardian's Buzz... All Star United's self-titled... Common Children's Skywire... Steve Taylor's Squint... Imagine This... Good times.
Any one else got some thoughts on this? Any older records that stir your soul? Think it's just music from a time in your life? Or really the music itself?
Don’t laugh when you hear this story – I was listening in to a live webcast the Jonas Brothers did two weeks ago where fans had the chance to ask the band questions. One of the questions the guys chose to answer was “What is your favorite Christian band?” Their response: “Leeland! We love Leeland. Buy their records everyone.” They completely raved about them. Well, I’d heard of Leeland of course, and heard a few of their tracks (although none of them in their entirety) used in ad promotions and on the radio, but I’d never really delved into their music. With a lot of time on my hands, I clicked over to their MySpace and was intrigued after listening to the track “Opposite Way.” ["Amazing song!!" - John D.] I sat there for a minute after listening to it twice, taking in the powerful message and songwriting, and wondering why I hadn’t discovered their talent before. Within an hour I had listened to the whole record (thanks, YouTube), and was blown away. These guys have to be one of the most genuine bands to ever hit the industry – I’m not exaggerating either. Opposite Way is the biggest set of life-altering songs I’ve heard in quite some time, and if you haven’t discovered them yet, well, you should probably put it right at the top of your to-do list. It’s not worth it to wait any longer. ~ Logan Leasure
Our synopsis: "A fantastic album from the first band to come up in a long time that actually seems to know who they are and what they’re about." (Recommended by JFH's Logan Leasure) Perfect For: Perseverance, Worship, Spiritual healing Song Highlights: "Opposite Way,” “Count Me In,” “May Our Praise"
So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Opposite Way? Do you recommend it? If so, why?