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Love And Worship by Seventh Day Slumber Love And Worship by Seventh Day Slumber

Seventh Day Slumber returned earlier this year with “Love & Worship”, a collection of praise and worship songs for the post grunge set. Taking songs that were already popular in the...

Fortunate Fall by Audrey Fortunate Fall by Audrey

Until this album I was unfamiliar with the music or career of Audrey Assad, but after hearing one of these songs on the...

Inspired by Joey + Rory Inspired by Joey + Rory

For their fourth effort, the husband/wife country bluegrass duo spin out a heartwarming gospel album. This wasn’t...

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Love & Worship or Welcome to the post grunge church | Posted November-12-2013

Seventh Day Slumber returned earlier this year with “Love & Worship”, a collection of praise and worship songs for the post grunge set. Taking songs that were already popular in the worship arena, they infused them with their brand of alternative rock, transforming them into something with a different dynamic. Most of the songs start off ‘normally’ enough with soft acoustics and keyboard but soon the dynamics kick in with loud drums and heavy guitars. One would think that would detract from the worship aspect but it does not. While they don’t bring anything drastically new to these songs, they have molded them into power anthems for their fans, new and old alike.

I guess I’m one of those who weren’t a fan. I knew who they were, had heard a song or two by them, but had never listened to an entire SDS album until now. I admit it was the promise of worship that drew me into this release, and in that I am not disappointed. Not only did I hear new versions of songs made famous by Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, and Matt Redman, I was introduced to worship tracks I’d never heard before. And if I had heard them they didn’t sound out like this.

One thing I noticed here, and liked very much, was that the album seems to start out a little slow, beginning with the popular favorite “Our God” and steadily increases in tone and power as we move further into it. We are treated to one of the best songs early on though -  “I Am Not The Same”, which praises and celebrates the saving grace of Christ and the way it changes us from who we were.

Nothing much new is found in Redman’s “10,000 Reasons”, but then they unleash the double punch of “Stronger” and “Forever Reign”, the latter being a prime example of a worship song as a hands in the air rock anthem. This seems to be a rallying cry for the rest of the album, for it is here both the energy and decibels increase the longer we listen. First with “Here With Me”, and then coming up strong and triumphant with a rousing version of “White Flag”, a song I first heard on Chris Tomlin’s Burning Lights CD. This track should have you shouting the refrain from the top of your lungs. It’s difficult to bring feeling into a standard rock song, but here they do it well, working the listener into flurry of praise and surrender.

“Your Name High” is another choice track, and probably the fastest song on the album. Again, it is the type of song that will get you pumped for Jesus, with a great chorus hook and loud sing-along vocals. I can imagine in a live setting this song will be a transforming experience indeed.

The album ends with “Never Let Go”, an affirmative statement of rousing faith and praise. Beginning with quieter guitar, it builds and builds until you can help but sing along when the chorus comes forth with heavy guitars and power drums. This is a perfect ending to the album with its message of hope and declarations of deliverance. If you feel the need to tell everyone how you feel about Jesus and what he has done for you, just play them this track….Then go back and start the album all over again.

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Inpired: Songs mama used to sing and other tunes that won't leave your head quickly | Posted November-11-2013

For their fourth effort, the husband/wife country bluegrass duo spin out a heartwarming gospel album. This wasn’t my first exposure to their music, but I was drawn in quickly with this album of traditional favorites and new songs that made me want to host a gospel jamboree from my own front porch. Released in July 2013 this is a rootsy record that is one part praise with two parts Joy.

Beginning with sparse acoustic guitar and Joey’s voice we are treated to an old favorite “In The Garden”, and this sets the stage for what we are about to hear.

Rory next gives us a wonderful look at marriage and making it last with “Long Line Of Love”. This is a wonderful country story song, and it won’t be the last one on this album either.

Guitar and fiddle dominate another old favorite “Are You Washed In The Blood?” Complete with a down home style and handclapping, this track is aided by The Isaacs, providing a high gospel sound. Not long after we are treated to another special guest, Bill Gaither, adding his deep baritone backing vocals to “Turning To The Light.”

Another story song comes in the form of “The Preacher & The Stranger”, a cleverly told and heart tugging tale of redemption and forgiveness. If you liked Randy Travis’ Three Wooden Crosses, you won’t be able to resist the power and message of this song. This is perfectly followed by a rustic version of “Amazing Grace”, and with these two songs played back to back, the effect it has on the listener packs a one- two country punch to the soul.

Things get back to jumping with “It’ll Get You Where You’re Going”, an upbeat bluegrass jam that answers the question what does a car and a Bible have in common. Joey then brings us back down with the contemplative “Gotta Go Back”. Here she is joined with country star Josh Turner, as they sing about returning to the good old days and away from the craziness of the modern world and culture of today.

Rory tells us how to build a good home in the song “Hammerin’ Nails”, and then they give an answer to those who say they don’t see God in “I See Him.” Here Joey tells us of the places we can see evidence of God in this mixed up world.

The final track on the CD, “Leave It There” is like a southern gospel altar call imploring us to ‘take your burdens to the Lord.’ This brings us to a perfect close, whether listening to this in the car or on the front porch. If you like traditionalist country and gospel bluegrass you will absolutely love this CD. Especially recommended if you are an Allison Krauss or Randy Travis fan…

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Audrey Assad's Fortunate Fall into Praise & Worship | Posted November-11-2013

Until this album I was unfamiliar with the music or career of Audrey Assad, but after hearing one of these songs on the radio, I felt the desire to take a chance on this melancholy adult contemporary CD. Mostly comprised of soft piano rock, I am reminded of someone like Sarah McLachlan or Tori Amos sitting in front of the keys and pouring their heart out. The difference here is Assad is pouring her heart out for God.
Beginning with a song of quiet ethereal tones we soon realize her focus is on praise and worship, with self-reflecting, quietly uplifting music that praises God. Next comes Piano and bells, along with angelic choral voices on “Oh Happy Fault”, a track that is near instrumental and just a little over two minutes long. This seems to be designed to get one into a worshipful mood.

As if to prepare you for her church of musical worship, she implores “Lead Me On”, a song of the Lord’s presence and guidance. As she declares ‘I will dwell in your house forever’, we are nothing less than moved.

Piano and chamber strings take us into “I Shall Not Want”, before they bring us to the album’s centerpiece, “Good To Me.” This track, a celebration of God’s love, features a full band with light distorted guitars and a confident rhythm section. The listener may easily find themselves singing along for the lyrics at one point seem to be taken straight from a page of her Bible: “Your goodness and mercy shall follow me all my life.” The final refrain with its sing-along phrasing made me want to walk into my local community church and lead a revival, it’s so uplifting and encouraging.

As we move into the latter half of the Cd we are treated to “Felix Culpa”, an instrumental dominated by piano and chamber strings. Quiet and reflective, it gives us time to take in the full message of the previous song and prepare us for what comes next. What I noticed at this point was the album runs like a church service on CD. Moments of reflection, worship, praise, and even hushed instrumentals afford you a moment to pray without being too distracted.

“Spirit Of The Living God” makes this evident with lyrical phrasing that reminds one of a Celtic chant, before easing into the album’s finale, “You Speak”, where Assad ends these musical praisings with the truth that ‘In this silence of the heart, you speak.’ A great ending to an equally good CD. I recommend this to those who want to take a moment to reflect on God’s glory and how he works within us, or those who like their worship music just a little quieter than other worship albums on the market.

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Switchfoot Takes A New Kind Of Step | Posted November-09-2013

This 3 track Ep, Released in Sept. 2013, is a step in a new direction for the alt rock band who has found success in both Christian and mainstream circles. A preview of the new film and album, we can expect more from the band in January, but for now this will have to do.

Most EP's that come out these days generally suffer under the weight of one good song followed by weaker material, but that is not the case here. Switchfoot makes every second count on this release. Starting off with "Who We Are", we are treated to a different sound, and hopefully this is a sign of a new style for the band because it works. Gone are the grungey guitars and alt rock sound. Here the focus is on Synths, rhythm, and a shout along chorus. If this had been released a few months earlier it would have been the runaway hit of the summer. With a sound that reminds me of another mainstream act, Imagine Dragons, this song should get everyone moving.

With track two, "Love Alone Is Worth The Fight" they don't let up and continue in the anthemic pop rock direction. This is the not quite the Switchfoot I am accustomed to, but I love it. You can rock to it, dance to it, sing with it, and if they continue in this direction I think they will find themselves endeared to a brand new generation that didn't grow up with "dare you to move."

For the final track, they do return to the alt rock sound they are more noted for. Here we are treated to those distorted megaphone in a box style vocals that seem to dominate the alternative scene these days. But instead of sounding copycat to other acts, it sounds brand new in the hands of Switchfoot.

Overall, this release is one of the most excited sounding Switchfoot records in years. I can't wait to hear the full album when it comes out. Listen to this, and I think you will be just as pumped.

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In the eye of this hurricane there is the Truth | Posted November-08-2013

In the eye of Natalie Grant's new cd, "Hurricane", there is peace, conviction, salvation, and truth, all wrapped up in a neat package that spans modern danceable pop, country, folk rock, and moving ballads. On its musical surface it seems she wished to craft an album that would appeal to a broader audience than usual, and if that was the intent...well, it works.

Kicking off with the upbeat "Closer To The Heart", she gets her listener moving right away. By song's end if you aren't dancing around the room you are at least tapping the beat out somewhere. Forget all the Katy Perrys out there, this is the dance pop anthem for the girls of 2013.

Another track. "For All Of Us", enters the praise and worship arena, taking the listener to the cross and celebrating the victory of the crucifixion. I can imagine this tune carried across the festival stage and crowd, hands raised high in the air.

Then there's the piano pop ballad, "Burn Bright", an encouraging and uplifting ode to self worth and esteem. "You were made for so much more", she sings triumphantly, and we believe it wholeheartedly. If there's a young female, or even male, that you know is struggling with these types of self issues, play them this song. It lifts me up, and I'm pushing 50 here!

In "This Love" she returns to the dance pop sound that is so popular on modern secular radio these days. But instead of celebrating false notions of love that get preached to the masses in today's world, she delights in Truth and tells us what love really is. This is another pop anthem that not only gets you moving but lifts you up as well.

This album is really good, and plays out well on a whole. Though, I have picked only a selection of tracks to talk about here, this album isn't a random selection of tunes that she or her producers just threw in here. From its upbeat anthemic opening, to its equally anthemic closer, "In The End", the songs have a certain order and theme that is best listened to in its entirety. This makes that final song even more triumphant. "In The End" takes the indie folk sound of secular groups like Of Monsters And Men, or Mumford & Sons, and brings them into the Christian music scene. Laced with banjo and a sing along chorus, this leaves you at album's end feeling like you've been to a tent revival meeting, especially with its nod to traditional hymns and its sing-with-me refrain of Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.

So, we go through the hurricane, settle down in the eye with some life affirming, soul convicting assurances, then come back out the other side feeling changed and lifted. Amazing work, Natalie Grant. Can't wait to see what you do next...

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