Kingdom-focused songs | Posted January-13-2022 What You Need to Know
This long awaited tenth studio album Dominion by Skillet has captivated my spirit. Over the past several years, I've had the opportunity to speak with Skillet’s John Cooper about several songs from their prior albums, including "Awake and Alive,""One Day Too Late" and "Lucy,""American Noise,""Good to Be Alive,"“Stars,”“Lions,”“The Resistance,”“Legendary,”“Anchor,”“Save Me,”“Terrify the Dark,” and “Surviving the Game,” and with each discussion we've built on how John’s biblical life verses Romans 8:38-39 have shaped his songwriting. “Surviving the Game” sets the tone for the album. We're all united in our struggles and spiritual warfare, and in our desire for truth and relationship. These songs are prayers for God to teach us to realize that this life isn't forever. Help us to realize what we're living for. What am I wasting my time on? What am I doing with my life? We also need to think about what we are doing for His Kingdom. That's our dominion, and the theme of this album. That’s one of the threads that weaves its way through all twelve of these Kingdom-focused songs.
What it Sounds Like
Over the years, it's been a treat for me to watch their meteoric ascent into one of rock's biggest bands in the world and the incredible success of their last five albums, Comatose, Awake, Rise, Unleashed and Victorious. Each album has reached another level of popularity. Arguably the bar has been set so high there is a possibility that some people may have unreachable expectations of how much higher Skillet can “Rise,” and I’m pleased to say that after repeated listens through all twelve tracks in order, I’m all in on these songs and the ear worms including "Surviving the Game," "Valley of Death," "Beyond Incredible," "Refuge" and the energetic track, "Forever or the End," keep me coming back for more with an excitement that builds with each listen.
The project opens with "Surviving the Game" which has a celebratory vibe, and it builds to an exciting refrain that stirs my soul to cry out loudly “I am more than a conqueror." I'm really engaged by John Cooper’s emotional vocals and the sincere, enthusiastic and thought-provoking lyrics throughout the album. When I first heard "Surviving the Game," I was immediately hooked by the message, connected to the theme found in Romans 8:37: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” That is how we can show the world what we are for instead of what we are against. Be followers of Jesus and make your life count.
"Refuge" features introspective lyrics and a beautiful refrain with John displaying emotive vocals. It is yet another reflective track in the vein of "Stars" and "Anchor" and includes another catchy musical vibe and the vertical message. As followers of Jesus, we can live out the words: “I can face my darkest night/'cause I trust You with my life/I'm not afraid/For You are my refuge/When it's heavy on my chest/You're the place I catch my breath/You are the only One I hold onto.” These are some of the strongest lyrics I've heard by this talented band, all in extremely catchy songs. John’s and Jen’s emotive vocals and the exciting musical bed takes me on an emotional journey that causes me to excitedly worship along with the stirring lyrics every time I hear the song.
Best Song on the Record
All of these songs are poignant and powerful with earnest worshipful lyrics. "Valley of Death" features introspective lyrics and a beautiful refrain with John displaying emotive vocals. It is yet another reflective track in the vein of "Lucy" and includes another catchy musical vibe and the poignant message based on Psalm 23. Longtime Skillet fans will be most excited by the standout tracks, "Surviving the Game," "Standing in the Storm," "Dominion," "Beyond Incredible," "Refuge," and the energetic track, "Forever or the End."
Skillet is back with Dominion, one of my top rock albums of the year from both the Christian and mainstream music markets. The album includes standout recordings like the sing at the top of your lungs anthems “Surviving the Game,” "Standing in the Storm,” “Dominion,” and “Beyond Incredible,” along with the reflective vibe of “Valley of Death” and “Refuge.” From my first listen, I wanted to tell others about this great new album. If you’ve always liked Skillet, you'll love this new album. Dominion is one of the catchiest, most energetic, and emotionally engaging rock albums I've heard this year. This is my favorite overall Skillet record and I have been a “panhead” from the self-titled debut. Right as I got to “Forever or the End” in listening to the album in track order, I realized this is the Skillet album I’ve been waiting for and Dominion is the album that is needed “for such a time as this.”
Redemptive and Moving | Posted November-11-2021 What You Need to Know
I was a new believer, and I became completely hooked when I first heard Sara Groves sing "The Word." Sara's albums have received well-deserved acclaim for her premier songwriting ability. Twenty years ago, Sara's major label debut album Conversations led to her nomination for Best New Artist. She has followed up each album with her next "best" albums with All Right Here and The Other Side of Something.
With Add to the Beauty, Tell Me What You Know and Fireflies & Songs, Groves focused on a theme and wrote poetic commentary with songs about social justice and the impoverished. Invisible Empires was my top album of 2011. Floodplain was one of my top albums of 2015. What Makes it Through is Sara Groves' 14th album and first collection of original songs since Floodplain. The album’s themes are a reflection on events of the last several years and speak to the hard work of what it means to arrive at something like truth and reconciliation.
What it Sounds Like
Stirring opener “Soul of Things” sets the tone for this exceptional album, which is not be missed. Sara has once again captivated me as it features her unique brand of gourmet lyrical phrasing embedded with the truth of the Gospel for those "with ears to hear." What Makes it Through showcases not only Sara's gifts as a songwriter, but her shimmering, emotion-laden voice. In the style of my favorite singer-songwriters, I can’t get enough of Sara’s thought-provoking songs. Several of Sara’s songs over the years are accessible pop and worship songs that are deep in meaning and content and this album is no exception. So many people can relate to the messages of these songs.
Sara has consistently impressed me with her mature faith. You'll be blessed by these powerful songs that are rooted in scriptural truth. “Soul of Things” is inspired by John 4:29 (The Voice): “I met a stranger who knew everything about me.” The messages of reconciliation and forgiveness are found throughout the album including “Rendezvous” which opens with the lyrics, “Forgiveness is a tour of duty.” The song’s theme is based on several biblical truths, including 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NIV): "All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” The song includes the album title in the lyrics, “I forgot, then remembered, it’s so strange what makes it through, it’s so heavy what we carry on our way to rendezvous.” Whatever struggle or depression you are facing, you can know that God is with you, always.
“Reach Inside’s” lyrics take me on an emotional journey that causes me to self-reflect on the stirring message every time I hear the song. These anthems are the cry of my heart with the much-needed call to action messages looking at the injustice and lack of emotional response to the tragedies we see around us. “Reach Inside” will raise your heart and voice as you self-reflect on the words: “Gather round your cross of execution, pass the peace and pass the bread. What do you remember when you take the cup, what do you forget?” The theme of loving one another and being known is bookended with “Loving a Person,” which has the reminder, “Loving a person just the way they are, it's not small thing, loving a person right where they are, it's the whole thing.”
Best Song on the Record
This album is filled with several of my new favorite songs by Sara Groves. I generally rank my favorite songs based on how they move me emotionally. On this album, that’s every song. “Soul of Things” stirs my heart and increases my convictions to grow closer to God and evaluate my relationships during my mindfulness and personal devotional time like Sara’s songs “Miracle” and “It’s Me.” The lyrics of this song completely wreck me: “Somewhere in the vast waters of my mind a memory resurfaced and I’m looking in your eyes, you are trying to tell me a better way to see into the soul of things.” I can’t listen to “Reach Inside” or “Nothing” without welling up, and you’ll get emotionally swept up in “Nothing.” The song is an instant classic, with the clever and thoughtful lyrics, “I like to believe you’ve been catching all the words in a net, and one day you'll let loose with a speech we won’t forget, all the words will go flying.”
I listen to literally everything released in Christian music, and What Makes it Through is a profound listening experience. This album dramatically affects me personally and spiritually and is my top "gourmet" album of the year. Sara Groves is an incredibly anointed singer-songwriter in the style of Ellie Holcomb, Christa Wells and JJ Heller. It is the ultimate privilege for me to experience her gift of music making with all my senses "in Spirit and in truth." Sara has always had a knack for hitting me where I am spiritually and expressing the prayerful yearnings of my heart.
The songs are all captivating, and if you like Sara's emotional songs "Miracle," "This Cup" and "It's Me," then you absolutely must have this album. She is a uniquely gifted singer/songwriter with a tender voice that is memorable and dynamic, yet intimate. These songs all have lyrics that poignantly capture life's complex and vital messages. There are several personal songs that melt my heart. If you like female singers that make you think while you enjoy their catchy and empowering songs, What Makes it Through is for you. This is one of my top albums of the year in any genre.
One of the best of the year | Posted November-04-2021 What You Need to Know
Following up their standout worship album Awake, which featured hits, "King of Kings" and“Awake My Soul,” churches and believers around the world celebrate the release of Hillsong Worship's These Same Skies.
I have consistently been blessed by each album from this popular worship band with their staples "Cornerstone,” “Stronger," "God is Able," "O Praise the Name," "What a Beautiful Name," and "Who You Say I Am." Each song is sung at church worship services worldwide and puts the Word of God into the minds, mouths, and hearts of Christians everywhere.
These Same Skies is about proclaiming our dependence on God and crying out in awe and wonder of His presence. Every moment completely focuses me as a listener on joining in praise, worship, and adoration of our beautiful King Jesus.
What it Sounds Like
If you enjoy Hillsong Worship’s corporate worship anthems, you’re in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of male and female-led vocals, as well as songs suitable for personal reflection and in-church worship. Many songs, such as the gorgeous "Never Walk Alone," are arranged in a very singable and catchy style.
The aforementioned song is filled with great statements of faith, celebrating our freedom in Christ: "Every hour/Every minute/You have always been there/You are faithful/And You always will be/In every triumph/Every failure/You are loyal to me/You are faithful/And You always will be."
You’ll be raising your hands and heart in worship with the stirring opener, “That’s the Power,” which invites listeners to sing: “That's the power of Your name/Just a mention makes a way/Giants fall and strongholds break/And there is healing/That's the power that I claim/It's the same that rolled the grave/There's no power like the Mighty name of Jesus.”
“Hope of the Ages” features lead vocals from singer-songwriters Reuben Morgan and Cody Carnes in a declaration of God’s unrelenting love and grace for all humanity. The song showcases the group's ability to provide emotional messages rooted in biblical truth. It reminds us of our standing before God. We know what love is because God is love.
He showed us His love when Jesus laid down His life for us, and He gave us His whole heart. Make the lyrics of this song your prayer, "Though Christ was dead, now surely He's risen/Yeah, He's coming back again/And Christ will reign in triumph forever/Yeah, all praise belongs to Him/Yeah, all praise belongs to Jesus."
As a father of three daughters, and a chosen son of my heavenly Father, I can't listen to the gorgeous song, “Never Walk Alone” without being moved. The picture of God's unconditional love is profoundly captured in the chorus: "I have never walked alone/I’ve never been abandoned/You are my inheritance/You are my strength and shield/And I have confidence/You go before me/You’re my deliverer/I know I never walk alone.”
There are several album standouts: “That’s the Power,” “Hope of the Ages,” as well as the instant classic “Surrounds Me.” “Freedom” stirs my heart into an immediate state of worship and takes it up a notch with its passionate bridge: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is/There I will be, where the Spirit of the Lord is/I am free/Where the presence of the Lord is/There I will be/Where the presence of the Lord is/I am free.” “Resurrender” is catchy and biblical. A song that I can’t get out of my head is “Never Walk Alone,” so I’ll highlight that song as the must-download track, but you’ll want the whole album.
These Same Skies is loaded with several stirring new worship songs that really set me in the proper mindset to praise God for loving me so much that He gave His life away for all that was lost. I really enjoy the exciting musical vibe of this album, and the melodies are catchy, and the lyrics are prayerful.
The album is loaded with stellar vocals, catchy melodies, and solid lyrics reflecting unashamed faith in Jesus. These are very passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence with biblically-inspired lyrics. There are several instantly singable and worshipful arrangements that you'll want to add to your Sunday morning set-list including “That’s the Power,” “Freedom,” “Hope of the Ages,” “Resurrender,” and “Never Walk Alone.” Don’t miss out on this incredible worship album, one of the best of the year.
I eagerly await each new Hillsong Worship release, and These Same Skies is a truly stellar offering of worship. If you want to experience a fresh, biblically-inspired and Jesus-focused worship album, look no further. The album is a wonderful reminder that there is immeasurably more to our God that we can think or imagine, and this album captures that sentiment. This album is a must-have addition to your worship collection, creating moments of deep connection with Jesus.
Worship Forever His Name | Posted September-09-2021 What You Need to Know
Known for his live worship albums, Worship, Worship Again,A New Hallelujah, and Surrounded, in tribute to the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001 (the date Worship released), Michael W. Smith has delivered Worship Forever, an intimate and stirring recording that will make you feel like you’re in the room. This collection brings Smitty back to the heart of what he does best-- leading people in worship.
What it Sounds Like
If you’ve always enjoyed Smitty’s corporate worship anthems, you’re in for a treat with this album. The exciting Tomlin-penned opener "Forever" sets the tone with the spoken word Bible verse intro, the upbeat orchestral musical arrangement, and the crowd reactions (that is, clapping and singing along).
There's an energetic and urgent tone in every song, starting with the stirring lyrics “Forever God is faithful/Forever God is strong/Forever God is with us, Forever." The call to worship flows seamlessly from song to song, as I find myself frequently singing these catchy and familiar choruses throughout the day.
The songs all have catchy and singable melodies, so you’ll want to crank the volume. Not to mention you'll want to sing along with Smitty and the choir, which can be heard throughout each song. I found reconnecting with these songs an enjoyable experience.
Each song includes tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about our faith in Jesus. Every song is completely anointed, spirit-led, and emotionally captivating. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in every song.
Recent popular songs “Surrounded” and “Waymaker” are reminders that our worship of God should not be based on our circumstances and instead is based on who God is. Commit your life to Jesus and offer Him your heart and your life as you sing along with these great songs. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album.
Best Song on the Record
There are several standout songs on the album. Many of the songs are arranged in a very singable and catchy style. My personal favorites are “Above All,” and “Agnes Dei” featuring Amy Grant. People can certainly relate to the "This is how I fight my battles" imagery of the song “Surrounded (Fight My Battles).”
The lyrics in the chorus, "It may look like I'm surrounded but I'm surrounded by You" have been resonating with me since I first heard this compelling song (it makes me realize that Jesus commands us to trust God completely no matter the circumstances or personal distractions or concerns).
"Surrounded (Fight My Battles)" was written based on scriptures that any follower of Jesus can sing and say yes and amen to every word. The song represents life and includes some great challenges to step out in faith and trust in God--even when you want to give up or can't see where you're going.
We aren't the source of the power to overcome our challenges. God is our greater power source that brings true power. In our weakness, God's strength is perfect. Remember that if God is for us, who can be against us? The beauty and majesty of our King Jesus is reverently captured throughout the album with anthem after anthem.
This is a completely worshipful album, in the passionate style that Michael W. Smith has become known for. This is a must-own collection for worship leaders looking for congregational friendly arrangements of recent and classic standout worship songs ranging from songs by artists Upperroom and Leeland to popular songs by iconic artists Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and Paul Baloche, and Smitty’s original classic, “Agnes Dei.”
These are very passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence with biblically-based lyrics. Musically, this album is very soothing, and the songs are all edifying, challenging, and filled with very biblical lyrics. Backed by an orchestra and choir on every song, Smitty’s personal and vulnerable vocals have never sounded better.
Captivates My Spirit | Posted July-29-2021 What You Need to Know
South Carolina's Grammy-nominated band NEEDTOBREATHE hooked me 15 years ago with their major-label debut Daylight, which featured the single "Shine On." My takeaway review comments were "Great album. Even better group." Since then, the band has managed to improve their craft with each album, garner an opening slot for Taylor Swift, play on late-night television, and collaborate with Gavin DeGraw on one of their biggest hits to date, "Brother," from my Top Album of 2014, Rivers in the Wasteland. That album earned a Grammy nomination for "Multiplied" and features the standout song "Difference Maker."
During quarantine, NEEDTOBREATHE created—composed and recorded—their eighth studio album, Into the Mystery, which includes standouts "I Wanna Remember," featuring country superstar Carrie Underwood, and the successful title track. This is the second studio full-length album the band has released in less than a year. In 2020, the band released Out of Body, which includes hit songs "Who Am I" and "Survival."
What it Sounds Like
What I take immense joy in discovering with each new NEEDTOBREATHE release is the incredible songwriting and musical excellence with nuggets of lyrical connection weaving their way throughout the tracks. This surprisingly quick follow-up new studio album captivates my spirit. The album includes standout recordings like the sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anthems "Carry Me," feat. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, "Sunshine," "I Am Yours," and "I Wanna Remember," featuring Carrie Underwood, along with the reflective vibe of "What I’m Here For," "Into the Mystery," "Innocence" and "Chances." I have long been hooked by their enthusiastic songs, layered with a southern rock musical vibe. I've felt the band has improved with each new album. I can’t get enough of the emotional vocals and the sincere, enthusiastic, and thought-provoking lyrics throughout the album, which has echoes of Out of Body both in content and musical vibe as the band has undergone a transformation to a trio-Bear Rinehart [vocals, guitar], Seth Bolt [bass, vocals], and Josh Lovelace [keys, vocals].
We're fearfully, wonderfully and perfectly made, which is expressed in the standout “I Am Yours”: “’Cause I am yours/And you will always be mine/It seems like madness I’m invited to the table by your side/Cause I am yours/And you will always be mine/I'm a man whose one ambition is to dance with my divine.” An artistic answer to their previous song "Who Am I," "I Am Yours" is a soaring work about God’s undying love for us. It's clear that the themes of relying on God's grace and mercy and seeking and speaking truth flows throughout this excellent album, highlighted by several of my new favorite songs, "What I’m Here For," "Into the Mystery," "Sunshine," "Carry Me," "Innocence" and "Chances." You'll be hooked right from the opening notes of "What I’m Here For," which really sets the tone for this album. As Christians, we can all relate to the vulnerable and sincere crying out: "I feel like we could find it/If we knocked on heaven's door/I'd say God, I'm only human/You'd say that's what I'm here for!”
Best Song on the Record
"I Am Yours" is a daily prayer, asking God to come and change our hearts and our lives. Our thoughts are constantly under attack by the enemy. We're aware of many situations involving people taking their own lives after dealing with depression. If you're struggling with depression, especially with this past year of social distancing due to COVID-19, please know with certainty the truth in the song’s life-giving words. Allow the Holy Spirit to cast the light of life into your body. I am really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, inspirational lyrics throughout the album. There are several standout songs I can’t wait to hear in concert including "Into the Mystery," "Carry Me," "I Am Yours" and "Sunshine." If you've always enjoyed NEEDTOBREATHE’s soulful anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of upbeat rockers and reflective songs. Many of these songs express my emo feelings, and yet remind me that I wasn't made for this world. These songs will have you singing along in one listen. "Into the Mystery" connects deeply with the lyrics, “We are sons and daughters/We are flesh and dust/We are pulled from the wreckage/We are not alone/We are lovers broken/We are vicarious dreams/We are tumbling/In space out of control/Into the mystery.”
NEEDTOBREATHE consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we're in humble submission to God. Don't play it safe. Ask for God to be real in your life. You'll never see true beauty if you don't fully submit to God. This is one of my top albums of the year from both the Christian and mainstream music markets. They have long been my favorite band. I truly enjoy their entire catalog and especially their stand-out hit songs "Happiness," "Hang On" and "Who Am I." If you like those songs, you'll love this new album. Into the Mystery is one of the catchiest, most energetic, and emotionally engaging albums I've heard this year and it is sure to be one of my top albums of the year.
I've long been a fan of Brit-rock bands like U2, Keane, Snow Patrol and others who make emotional alternative rock music, but don't always have edifying messages. The first time I heard Phil Wickham's song "Grace" from his self-titled major label debut, I was hooked by his enthusiastic and reverent songs, layered with a Brit-rock musical vibe. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and Hymn of Heaven takes me to another realm of holiness and thirsting for God's presence. Phil Wickham has breathed several new worship anthems into the Church, like "You're Beautiful," "Cannons," "Because of Your Love," “This is Amazing Grace,” “Stand in Awe,” “Great Things” and “Living Hope.” We sing all of those songs at my church on a regular basis and you’ll want to add “Battle Belongs,” “House of the Lord,” “Hymn of Heaven,” “It’s Always Been You,” “Where I’m Standing Now” and “God of Revival” to your worship set-lists immediately.
“Battle Belongs” is exactly the type of catchy corporate worship song I’ve come to love from Phil Wickham. What I love about this powerful standout anthem is its convicting declaration: “So when I fight/I'll fight on my knees/With my hands lifted high/Oh God, the battle belongs to You." The song’s energy and excitement are infectious. It makes me lift my hands up to God and sing before Him, like King David—passionately unashamed. You’ll also instantly sing along with "Hymn of Heaven,” “It’s Always Been You," “Where I’m Standing Now” featuring Brandon Lake, "His Name is Jesus," and “God of Revival.” Each song includes tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about our faith in Jesus. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in every song, with expressions including “Who stood with me in the fire/It was You, it was always You/Who pulled me out of the water/It was You, it was always You/And who carried me/On their shoulders/It was You, I know it’s You" in the standout instant classic, “It’s Always Been You.”
Best Song on the Record
“House of the Lod” gives me a lot of joy, and my heartbeat is to please the Lord. I love songs that allow me to have fun and praise God at the same time, and this song certainly does that. I really enjoy how my love of fun, uplifting music and biblical truth is perfectly married in this song. The song is also a great reminder that our circumstances don't define our joy. Our position in Christ and His unending faithfulness is worthy of all our gratitude and adoration. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in this instant classic song. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. There are several standout songs. If you've always enjoyed Wickham’s corporate worship anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance upbeat and reflective songs and it is chock-full of songs for the Church and songs for personal reflection and worship.
This album provides listeners with songs that proclaim acceptance of God’s love in any circumstance. Hymn of Heaven provides words of appreciation and adoration of God. Phil’s enthusiastic and reverent style of writing and singing praise and worship songs has consistently been a draw for me. His prayerful sentiments are consistently filled with his personal adoration of God. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and this is my top worship album of the year. It is a completely worshipful album, in the style of Phil's previous offerings of enthusiastic praise and worship. Every single song could be added to your Sunday morning worship set.
Moving and Prayerful | Posted June-23-2021 What You Need to Know
I first heard Ellie Holcomb sing with her husband's band Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors when they opened for rock band NEEDTOBREATHE. Ellie is the daughter of legendary Christian music producer, Brown Bannister. So far, Ellie has quite a storied career as a solo artist. First, she dropped two EPs, Magnolia and With You Now. Then, she released her debut full-length album As Sure As the Sun, which features the hit songs “The Broken Beautiful” and title track “As Sure As the Sun,” That album earned Ellie the GMA Dove Award for Best New Artist. Afterward, Ellie released Red Sea Road, a thirteen song album featuring standouts "Find You Here" and “He Will.” That release was one of my Top 10 Albums of 2017. Now, four years later, Ellie is back with her latest release, Canyon.
What it Sounds Like
The opening track, “I Don’t Want to Miss It” is an engaging song with Ellie's passionate vocals setting the tone for this exceptional effort. The song is an unashamed declaration of faith based on Zephaniah 3:17 which reminds us that God is singing over us. Ellie hooked me with the lyrics: “No, I don't want to miss it/No, I don't want to miss a thing/I don't want to miss the melody/That You've been singing over me.”Canyon’s songs “I Don’t Want to Miss It,” “Color,” and the title track showcase Ellie's passionate vocals, thus setting the tone for an exceptional album. “Canyon” is a wonderful prayer-song capturing Ellie’s heart for God, allowing us to eavesdrop on her deep thoughts and musings about God. She sings the song with the reminder, “There’s a river running through/My deepest pain/There’s a river running through/Every dream that never came true/Made me a canyon but there’s/A river running through,” which is in essence the thesis statement for this compelling album.
Ellie is an anointed songwriter. She has a profound way of bringing me closer to God with her poignant words, tender singing, and inspirational truths. Ellie has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. God promises us in His Word that His mercies are new every morning. Whatever situation you are facing you can know that God is with you, always. That truth is tenderly portrayed in “Color.” Ellie praises the loving and sacrificial attributes of our Savior as she achingly sings, “Am I worthy of the chances that I'm surrounded with/The shame that I am drowning in/The salt in my woundedness/Am I worthy of the pain that I buried in the dust/Of a God who I'm scared to trust/Tell me am I worthy of it.” The album is loaded with that type of profound lyrical truth as Ellie tenderly sings about her source of hope, Jesus. Throughout the song she achingly sings “this world is made of color” which is a worshipful response to her Savior reflecting the blessed hope of someone who understands the Good News of grace.
Best Song on the Record
I generally rank my favorite songs based on how they move me emotionally. On this album, that's “Constellations” which I can't listen to without welling up. Ellie’s emotive and powerful vocals take listeners on an emotional journey that gives me goose bumps every time I hear the song and I lift my eyes and heart to Heaven every time I hear the song, filled with truth. Your heart will be moved to sing along with Ellie, “Out here in the dark/Underneath a canopy of stars/Constellations falling from Your heart/They tell me that I'm not alone/I know that I'm never alone/'Cause You find me and bring me back home.” I also can’t get enough of “Sweet Ever After,” which features Bear Rinehart from NEEDTOBREATHE and “Mine” which features Ellie’s husband Drew. You can sincerely sing these prayerful lyrics, and cling to the truth of these powerful songs. Every song will have you hanging on each word that Ellie tenderly sings. Her vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus.
This is a Spirit-filled and emotional listening experience filled with profound lyrical truth. All the songs are catchy, worshipful, and biblically inspired. The artist expresses her prayers to God, allowing listeners to eavesdrop on her worshipful offerings and captivating ballads, one of Ellie's strengths. The album tells the story of redemption as each song gives a glimpse of how Ellie offers her Psalm-like prayers to God. Ellie is an anointed songwriter and she has a profound way of bringing me closer to God with her poignant words, tender singing, and inspirational truths. I get welled up singing along with several of the emotion-laden songs. Don't hesitate to pick up this great return from one of CCM's top female artists. These songs are all stand-out tracks filled with overwhelming biblical truth and are companions in my personal prayer and worship time. Ellie has captivating and catchy songs filled with inspirational lyrics. Ellie brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen. Canyon is sure to be one of the top albums of the year. This is truly a moving and prayerful album.
Godsend features an empowering theme of the Lord reigning in our hearts and minds in song after song and how we are reminded that the Lord's glory, His strength, is found in our weakness. Opening song “Healing” celebrates that truth. These lyrics are totally encouraging: “Gave myself some grace/And my soul began to feel the change/I let love flood my heart/Like the sun upon a tear-stained face.” Hit song “Over and Over” also declares the thesis statement of the album, "You keep running to me/No matter where I am/Over and over again.” The album gives listeners words to “Keep on Hoping” with declarations like, "There’s hope for a better tomorrow/There’s hope for joy over sorrow/Cause God’s still good/And He’s still got it all in control.”
Riley has impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. We’ve spoken for a behind the song devotional about “Fighting For Me” from this album and Riley wrote that song based on many scriptures where the Lord tells us “Do not be afraid,” including 2 Chronicles 20:17: "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” A sincere desire for God to take our thoughts captive is found in every song such as the declaration, “With all those voices in your head/Just don’t, don’t ever forget/That God’s still good and He’s still got it all in control“ in the standout, “Keep On Hoping.” Each of her songs are about proclaiming her dependence on God throughout this stellar offering. The album is designed to be listened to in track order as you’ll go on the journey with Riley from “Healing” with the confession-“I found strength through the pain/What was broken is standing again/And I’m healing,” to the standout “I’m Not Alone” with the declaration-”You are for me/Not against me/I call on Your Name/You silence the shame/You hear me, You’re with me/I know I’m not alone.”
Best Song on the Record
I can’t get enough of “Godsend” and it sets the tone for the entire experience with the beautiful declaration of dependence in the chorus of God’s provision in our lives—“What if maybe every broken place I’ve been was a Godsend?” His love is never-ending, and He is our refuge and our strength. If you are looking for a firm foundation in your life, make these lyrics of “Fighting For Me” your personal prayer: “Cause You love me like nobody else, You stand up for me in the darkest night, when my faith is weak You’re still by my side, You will never stop fighting for me.” Faith is when we are empty of ourselves and are filled with Him and His Holy Spirit. This album is filled with moving prayers of thankfulness including the gorgeous “Over and Over.” You’ll be singing along, “I thought I was unlovable till You told this heart of mine, I’m worth more than my past mistakes, I’m never too far gone to save.”
Godsend is about proclaiming the majesty of God and crying out in awe and wonder for His Presence. All of the songs are memorable, personal and worshipful. These moving and reverent recordings are all prayers and personal confessions of submission to God and they are poignant songs of adoration. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. Riley’s powerful and gorgeous vocals keep me hanging on every word she sings. She invites listeners into her life by sharing what's on her heart and relying on God’s grace in her edifying lyrics. The standout songs each feature an engaging and emotive musical style while phrasing her prayer-filled songs in a creative and personal way, making it my top album of the year.
Let Yourself Be Loved | Posted April-29-2021 What You Need to Know
MercyMe has topped the charts for more than 20 years since they released their multi-platinum single "I Can Only Imagine," which is the most downloaded song in the history of Christian music. They have followed that up with hit after hit, including "God with Us," "All of Creation," "Beautiful," "The Hurt & the Healer," "Greater” and “Even If." Inhale (Exhale) has been one of my most anticipated albums of 2021. It has songs with inspirational story-style lyrics that will immediately cause you to worship and sing along with these ultra-talented musicians, lead singer Bart Millard, guitarists Mike Scheuchzer and Barry Graul, bassist Nathan Cochran, and drummer Robby Shaffer. The very relatable and transparent words of these songs perfectly depict our daily walks as believers wrapped around catchy songs. All the tracks really display the musical and lyrical excellence and intentionality of MercyMe. These are catchy melodies and biblically-based lyrics reflecting unashamed faith. Every song on this stellar collection displays the band’s heart of what they do, leading people in worship of our Savior, reminding us as believers that, “With all your strength/Sister run wild run free/Hold up your head/Keep pressing on/We are almost home.”
What it Sounds Like
This band can really write a hooky and truth-filled chorus, and the single “Say I Won’t” is catchy, relevant and worshipful like their previous hit songs “Hold Fast,” “Flawless” and “Even If.” The song has an uplifting message based on the inspirational story of Gary Miracle. The chorus is very stirring and convicting, “I'm gonna run/No I'm gonna fly/I'm gonna know what it means to live and not just be alive.” “Let Yourself Be Loved” features Bart Millard’s tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about faith in our God and to live out the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In many ways, the main message of this album is to “let yourself be loved/See yourself as Jesus does.” If you’ve always liked MercyMe, this album will absolutely connect with you.
“Say I Won’t” reminds us, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Other highlights include “On Our Way (feat. Sam Wesley),” “So Yesterday,” “A Little Love (feat. Gary Levox),” “Bright Side of Broken” and “Almost Home.” Poignant song “The Moment” is a stirring testimony song reminding us of our salvation day with a convicting declaration: “The fire in your bones will never let you down…Praise the Lord and say, here’s to the day that I met grace." Like previous MercyMe albums, these songs are all filled with spiritual truth. The hope of the Gospel is heard loud and clear, “Love is patient, love is so kind, because He loved us first we know…the world is going to know us by our love” in the standout “A Little Love.”
Best Song on the Record
I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. “On Our Way” is an upbeat and catchy song in the vein of “Greater,” and “Move,” which are among my favorite MercyMe songs. I find myself singing the worshipful lyrics throughout the day, “As long as we have hope, we have everything!” That theme is echoed in “Bright Side of Broken,” which will have you crying out, “It’s gonna be okay!”
“Almost Home” is an especially beautiful song. The faith anthem is the cry of my heart, “I know that the cross has brought heaven to us/But make no mistake/There’s still more to come/When our flesh and our bone/Are no longer between/Where we are right now/And where we’re meant to be.” There are several stand-out songs, and “Say I Won’t” is an uplifting offering of praise to the only One who has power to save. It is a very sing-able song, and I love singing, “The world's gonna hear/Cause I'm gonna shout/And I will be dancing when circumstances drown the music out/Say I won't.”
This new album demonstrates once again the passion and energy that have made MercyMe one of Christian music's most compelling acts. True to form, this new project Inhale (Exhale) reflects real life and emotion, from longing and struggle to breakthrough and gratitude, with front man Bart Millard’s forthright songwriting and intimate and unmistakable vocals backed by powerful arrangements and stellar musicianship. It derives its power from the fact that life and music intertwine so fully. These are very passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence with biblically based lyrics.
This has been my most anticipated album of 2021, and I’m pleased to say it exceeds my expectations as I could not “imagine” they could outdo themselves. This incredible band has once again released their newest best album. It has a very warm musical style that will immediately soothe your soul and cause you to worship and sing along with these ultra-talented musicians. The album has a comforting and cohesive theme as each song threads the message of how “I will be dancing when circumstances drown the music out.” This is sure to be one of the top albums of the year.
Free Like a River! | Posted April-17-2021 What You Need to Know
NEEDTOBREATHE has very quickly become one of my all-time favorite bands. They know how to move me with such amazing and spiritual lyrics that truly reflect how I feel as a Christian.
Live From the Woods, Vol. 2 is an incredible live album recorded after a year of quarantine and not touring to support their recent album Out of Body. The new live project celebrates our freedom to sing together after we’ve been--and continue to be--socially distanced from one another.
To me, this new release is an ode to freedom and a celebration of the fellowship of community that brings people together. You'll want to sing along in unison with this outdoor crowd in the woods of Tennessee.
What it Sounds Like
Listening to “Mercy’s Shore” to open the 15-track collection, it's clear that the themes of relying on God’s grace and mercy and seeking and speaking truth flows throughout this excellent album, highlighted by several of my new favorite songs, “Alive,” “Who Am I,” “Banks,” “Survival” and “Child Again.”
You’ll be hooked right from the opening notes of “Mercy’s Shore” which really sets the tone for this album. As Christians, we can all relate to the vulnerable and sincere crying out: “One day we’ll wash up on mercy’s shore!” Fans of the band’s trademark high energy live shows will flock to “Prisoner,” “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Alive,” “Great Night” and “Riding High.”
This album reminded me of how much I really miss live music. If you feel the same, then don’t miss out on this amazing live recording. I also got choked up at first listen. At the piano intro of “Prisoner,” I realized how much I miss the community of fellowship, singing songs in-person with strangers.
We're fearfully, wonderfully and perfectly made, which is expressed in the standout, “Who Am I”: “Somehow You really love who I really am/I push You away/Still You won’t let go…Who am I to be loved by You? The beautiful strings accentuate the biblically inspired message of “Garden,” which lead vocalist Bear Rinehart describes as one of the band’s most requested songs from their album, The Outsiders. The song features the gorgeous prayer, “Let the songs I sing bring joy to You/Let the words I say confess my love/Let the notes I choose be Your favorite tune/Father let my heart be after You.” It’s a moving song that celebrates the freedom we have in Christ based on His sacrifice for us.
“Who Am I” is a daily prayer, asking God to come and change our hearts and our lives. Only Jesus can give us our identity. What a powerful expression of what it means to accept that God never leaves or forsakes us. I'm profoundly moved by the lyrics, “You grow Your roses on my barren soul/Who am I to be loved by You?”
There are several standout songs. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, inspirational lyrics on other songs, specifically “Alive,” Banks,” “Garden,” and “Bridges Burn/Forever On Your Side.”
I’ve had the privilege to see this band in concert a dozen times. This album is the next best thing to seeing them live. “Child Again,” is a beautiful standout song, musically and perhaps even more so lyrically, reflecting the band's wide range of sounds and emotional expressions. The lyrics to “Child Again” are prayerful and moving: “I know that gettin' hurt/Is really how redemption works/My ego is a ball and chain/My instincts only make it worse/In the mornin' light/I don't want to run from pain/You know I can't afford to cheapen grace/I know that pain just means my soul's awake.” The takeaway message of unity and freedom to the band and for all of us is found in the moving bridge, “You're my hope unbroken/You're my innocence/I am free like a river/I'm a child again.” It’s that range of songwriting that sets this album on the highest level for me, and is why they are my favorite band.
NEEDTOBREATHE consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we're at in humble submission to God. Don't play it safe. Ask for God to be real in your life. You'll never see true beauty if you don't fully submit to God.
Live From the Woods, Vol. 2 is one of my top live albums I’ve ever heard from both the Christian and mainstream music markets. NEEDTOBREATHE has long been my favorite band.
If you've always enjoyed the band's soulful anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of upbeat rockers and reflective ballads. Many of these songs express my emo feelings. Yet, remind me that I wasn't made for this world.
These songs will have you singing along in one listen. “Banks” connects deeply with the lyrics, “I wanna be there when the darkness closes in/To make the truth a little clearer/I wanna hold you close but never hold you back/I'll be the banks for your river.”
No matter your situation, this band has songs that can really bring healing and reflect the cry of your heart. The very relatable and transparent words of these songs use poetic descriptions and biblical language throughout these stellar tracks, resulting in NEEDTOBREATHE’s celebration of the freedom of community gathering around live music. Sing along, “I am free like a river, I’m a child again.”