Within Christian music, there is a rich history of artists impacting the mainstream of the industry and popular culture at large. From Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith in the late 80's and early 90's, to Jars Of Clay and dc Talk in the mid-90's, to Switchfoot and Relient K in the mid-00's, artists of faith have continually been breaking out of the bubble of CCM and finding their ways to the ears and hearts of listeners of all kinds.
Lauren Daigle's last album, the Grammy Award winning Look Up Child, was a massive crossover success that found Daigle performing on all sorts of television shows and other events outside of the CCM world. Look Up Child was far from a calculated cross-over attempt though, finishing as it did with a cover of the old hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." With a soulful voice much bigger than...
Devotional pop artist Jon Guerra and his terrific album, Keeper of Days, was my biggest musical surprise of 2020. Releasing in April of what would turn out to be several years of unrest and chaos in the world, there's no way he could have known how prescient and healing this album would become. Needless to say, the album was and is a masterstroke, both critically acclaimed and beloved by fans. So how do you top or match it on your next try? The temptation, and road most traveled, would say "go bigger." The answer comes in the form of Ordinary Ways, the thirteen-song follow up, and with it, I believe he wisely chooses a different direction.
Guerra avoids trying to match the grandiose moments of Keeper of Days, opting to allow Ordinary Ways to describe the mundane majesty of everyday life. While its predecessor was full of big...
Careful. That's the immediate thought that went through my head when Switchfoot announced a re-recorded "our version" of The Beautiful Letdown. This was to be in honor of its 20th anniversary this February 2023, even if the release missed by a couple of months. I suspect they may also be going the Taylor Swift route to gain control of the song masters from a label, though this is strictly conjecture. Regardless, as a longtime fan of the band and this iconic album specifically, it's a fine line to walk when you start toying with new versions of beloved songs. Risking fan alienation takes a level of bravery few artists choose to take on in their active years. Conversely, why risk the inevitable backlash of questions like, "Is this just a cash grab?" by not changing enough to warrant the effort? With any other band, save for a select few, my fears may have been justified, but this is Switchfoot, and I'm happy to report a home run effort...
Ryan Stevenson is quietly one of the most active songwriters in Christian music for the last decade or so. From his songwriting work with TobyMac ("Speak Life," "Lift You Up") to his own notable (and quite hummable) hits, like "Eye Of The Storm" and "When We Fall Apart," Stevenson has shown himself to be a hardworking and talented artist who has a keen ear for a melodic idea and a heart for pointing to the truth of the gospel.
But his latest album, ABLE, finds Stevenson running in place a bit, with a slew of mid-tempo songs that lack the sort of spark that he brings to the songwriting table. There are, however, a few...
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