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The Journey EP by JAXON The Journey EP by JAXON
What You Need to Know:
New artist Jaxon began his musical career at a young age and is finally ready to catapult to new heights with his new...
Reckless Love by Cory Reckless Love by Cory
Young, enthusiastic worship leader Cory Asbury began leading at the International House of Prayer (IHOPKC) in 2005. His debut album with Forerunner Music released in 2009, titled Let Me See Your Eyes....
Surrounded by Michael W. Surrounded by Michael W.
Christian music legend Michael W. Smith remains uncontested after thirty-five years in the industry. "Smitty" has won nearly fifty Dove Awards and continues to sell a groundbreaking number of...

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​Passionate and Soulful Pop Rock | Posted April-10-2018
What You Need to Know:

New artist Jaxon began his musical career at a young age and is finally ready to catapult to new heights with his new EP The Journey. While incredible opportunities have already opened up for the new artist, Jaxon's greatest hope is that his EP will offer encouragement to those in need. 

What it Sounds Like:

The Journey has a 2000s pop/rock sound, a soulful gospel flavor mixing nicely with Jaxon's higher flexible vocals and lead guitar backing. Three of the four songs on the EP are songs to blast on the highway with your windows rolled down, the exception being the passionate "Disciple." 

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

There are two major messages on The Journey. "What He is to Me" and "I Need You" focus on how much we need Jesus and how we cannot live without Him. "Disciple" and "The Journey" focus on being His hands and feet and reaching out to those around us. 

Best Song on the Record:

"Disciple" is definitely my personal favorite as Jaxon heartfully sings about his deep desire to follow Jesus, even when we can't see where He is leading us. 

For Fans Of:

Anthony Evans

Final Word: 

Deeply passionate and rooted in the Word of God, The Journey is a refreshing EP from an up-and-coming artist to keep an eye on.

Listen on Spotify and iTunes.

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Songs of the Father's Compassionate Love | Posted March-14-2018
Young, enthusiastic worship leader Cory Asbury began leading at the International House of Prayer (IHOPKC) in 2005. His debut album with Forerunner Music released in 2009, titled Let Me See Your Eyes. Featuring his hit "Where I Belong" and other powerful songs (including "Faithful to the End" and "Always Faithful"), his debut established him in the prophetic worship movement as his songs beautifully illustrated the Father's deep love and compassion for His beloved children. Cory has since appeared on several Onething Live albums and various compilations, but after nine years, he returns with another solo project and his Bethel Music debut: Reckless Love.

The soft title track "Reckless Love," destined to be one of the greatest worship hits of the year, opens the album. Already sung in churches around the world, the song describes the Father's love chasing us down until we are found: "There's no shadow You won't light up / mountain You won't climb up coming after m e/ there's no wall You won't kick down / lie You won't tear down coming after me." Cory's flexible vocals perfectly sing this touching message, and he is backed by stellar Bethel Music vocalist Amanda Cook for a phenomenal vocal mix. 

"Water and Dust" follows with a soothing, acoustic feel completed by ethereal effects and gentle harmonies. Cory tenderly echoes the Father's heart to His children: "Gently Your voice like a calming embrace calls me from out of the noise / You whisper to me, 'Child, forget not your dreams' as we lie awake in the dark / just don't lose heart." "You Won't Let Go" follows as almost a sequel, my personal favorite cut off Reckless Love. Based heavily on Psalm 23, this powerful track reminds us that God's love will never abandon us, even through life's deepest, darkest valleys.

Perhaps the most congregational worship track on the album is "Endless," steadily reminding us that God's love for us cannot be measured. "Death Where is Your Sting" follows, a completed version of Cory's earlier hit "He's Alive," made popular by IHOPKC's Laura Hackett Park. The familiar chorus remains the same, powerfully declaring, "Death where is Your sting? Grave, where is Your victory? He's alive/ He's alive / He is risen!" Definitely a perfect Easter worship song, the power of God's resurrection pulsates through every line Cory sings, especially in the bridge: "No weapon formed against us will prosper / The gates of hell won't stand / Your Church will rise from glory to glory / in the name of Jesus!" Cory's resounding vocals and powerful truth combine to make this track another definite highlight off Reckless Love. 

The most upbeat track off the album is "Only Takes a Moment." The hopeful lyrics and dance-provoking rhythm explore the truth that though we are in need of God, "it only takes a moment for You to fix what's broken in me." The contemporary "Garments" contrasts our weak views of ourselves with those of our Father's: "You gave me garments of praise / fullness of joy / unending mercy new every morning." Featuring a co-write by Housefire's Nate Moore, this track contains such a level of joy and thankfulness. 

With a gentle swing and tight harmonies, "Your Love is Strong" invites the listener to bask in God's strong love for us, as does the following "Born Again." Simply heavenly and tranquil, this track describes walking side-by-side with our Father and feeling His warmth; the response is a prayer for Him to take us still closer into His gentle presence. 

With great anticipation of the day we rise to meet Jesus face-to-face, "Endless Alleluia" beautifully completes the Reckless Love album. Stunning strings create a perfect soundtrack that breathtakingly describes multitudes of saints praising Jesus forever. This angelic track is a powerful closing to the album. 

The Bottom Line: Every word and every line Cory Asbury sings in Reckless Love resonates with the warm and gentle love of God. Cory describes our Father as One who is passionate and will stop at nothing to win our hearts. Serene melodies mix with stunning harmonies to bring an album that invites the listener to sit back and simply receive God's unending love. Reckless Love has certainly been worth the wait!

For Fans Of: Matt Gilman, Laura Hackett Park, Onething Live, Amanda Cook, Steffany Gretzinger 

Song to Download Now: 

"You Won't Let Go" (Get it on iTunes here.)


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Organic Worship Hits and Originals | Posted February-23-2018
Christian music legend Michael W. Smith remains uncontested after thirty-five years in the industry. "Smitty" has won nearly fifty Dove Awards and continues to sell a groundbreaking number of records with each release. The polished singer/songwriter isn't about to slow down now. Following the release of his critically-acclaimed album A Million Lights last week, Michael W. Smith now releases a live worship album titled Surrounded, recorded live at The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee.  

Surrounded isn't unlike the living room sessions recorded live by Elevation Worship, United Pursuit and Housefires, in which a small live audience enhances the listening experience. For this album, Michael remakes a healthy number of well-known worship anthems such as "King of My Heart" and "Reckless Love," and he also introduces several worship songs of his own. 

Light synthesizers open up Surrounded with "Your House," but they quickly give way to a cheerful, upbeat pop tempo and the audience's noticeable clapping. One of Michael's originals on the album, this opening track borrows most of its lyrics from the Psalms, speaking of rejoicing as we enter God's house with thanksgiving and praise. 

The tempo slows down with the standout track "Light to You," another welcomed original. Very soft in its opening, Michael tenderly sings "My hope has found its resting place / and I'll search no more." It remains mostly acoustic throughout as Michael sings lyrics borrowed from Psalm 139: "It's hard to believe it, but You say it's true / Even the darkness is light to You." The audience participation blends in well with the light swing tempo and Scriptural lyrics, definitely creating one of the highlights on Surrounded

The two opening originals are followed by a handful of today's most popular worship songs, beginning with John Mark McMillian's "King of My Heart." Michael's cover is not far off from the original version, containing heavy response from the audience during the influential bridge ("You're never gonna let, never gonna let me down") and catapulting from there. Soft with Michael's beautiful signature piano addition comes a nearly eight-minute cover of Cory Asbury's "Reckless Love," followed by Jenn Johnson's "Here I Bow." Both have a strong sing-along feel as Michael's vocals blend well with those of the audience, worshiping Jesus wholeheartedly. 

Two songs declaring the miracle-working power of Jesus follow: Jesus Culture's "Miracles" and Elevation Worship's "Do It Again." While they remain close to the original versions, they both build strongly in their bridges, declaring the powerful message that what we've seen Jesus do before, we can know He'll do again. 

The album's first single "Surrounded (Fight My Battles)" is another standout track on the album. Though it was originally a spontaneous moment by worship group Upper Room, Michael's rendition is the first official recording. Its simple chorus and bridge powerfully declare that we win our battles through praise and worship: "This is how I fight my battles/ It may look like I'm surrounded, but I'm surrounded by You." Listeners can easily feel the freedom in the air as the audience loudly proclaims the truth that God is fighting for us as we simply praise Him. 

An organic version of Housefire's "Build My Life" follows nicely, flowing into the original song "Washed Away." Beautiful piano begins this congregational celebration of the blood of Jesus that has cleansed us from our guilt and shame. Its strong bridge is the hymn "Nothing But the Blood," which is sung in unity by all present at the live recording. 

All Sons & Daughters' "Great Are You Lord" is the album's official closing track, but a soft reprise of "Light to You" closes Surrounded, leaving the listener with the powerful reminder that "even our darkness is light to You." 

The Bottom Line: Surrounded is a live worship album much like what we've come to expect from Housefires or United Pursuit: living room-feel worship that listeners can sing along with in complete unity. This album is one to be enjoyed by Michael W Smith fans and modern worship fans alike for its excellent combination of today's worship hits with Michael's solid original tracks.

For Fans Of: United Pursuit, Housefires, Elevation Worship

Song to Download Now

"Light to You" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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Refreshing Original Worship | Posted January-30-2018
In 1999, the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC) inaugurated 24/7 prayer and worship. Two years later, IHOPKC began Forerunner Music, their home record label, to release the songs and prophetic worship birthed by artists in the prayer movement. Besides phenomenal releases by their artists, Forerunner Music has given us several compilations that highlight some of their up-and-coming artists, greatest hits and special nights of worship. These albums included Joy, Constant, Majestic, Immersed and Simple Devotion

It's been several years since one of these compilations, but now Forerunner Music brings us Fully Alive, a beautiful worship album recorded live with a studio audience. Like previous compilations, the album features staple IHOPKC Worship artists (including Jonas and Laura Hackett Park, Jaye Thomas, Jon Thurlow and Chris Tofilon) and offers a refreshing mix of up-and-coming prophetic worshipers. 

IHOPKC instrumentalist Sammie Lee opens Fully Alive with "Awake My Soul," featuring stunning vocals from Odeta. Fully orchestrated, the modern-day Psalm is a powerful call for our soul to praise Jesus with our entire being. Abi Bennett follows with her impressive debut titled "Fingerprints." Strong drums and full guitars create a soundtrack that is hard not to crank up. This prayerful song asks Jesus to be magnified through us, reminding us that "my life has the fingerprints of Christ."  

A favorite IHOPKC worship leader, Laura Hackett Park, leads "Heart's Celebration." Energetic and uplifting, this track is a snapshot of her Onething sets, as she not only brings the original song but perfectly follows up with a spontaneous moment titled "Loved By You." In both songs, Laura sings about giving our whole being in worship in exchange for the great love of God. Almost the same musically, Jaye Thomas leads an upbeat cry for God's glory to invade our lives titled "Fill Us With Glory." Especially moving is the bridge, where Jaye's flawless vocals exclaim "God of glory / voice like thunder/ come and show us mighty wonders!"

Brandon Oaks, who made his first appearance on last year's Onething Live: All Cry Glory, returns with "Drawing Close." The deeply worshipful track simply states "because of Your love, I'm drawing closer to Your heart." Not only are Brandon's vocals perfect, but the slight techno beat and soothing background effects make "Drawing Close" one of my personal favorites off the Fully Alive album. 

Next, Jonas Park leads "Grateful Love," which sings of how God's love has stolen our hearts, and the only fitting response is for us to give Him our love back. Laura's angelic vocals mix stunningly with her husband's in the full-string bridge, where together they powerfully sing "Grateful love is my unending song / I pour out all my love here at Your feet!

The most upbeat track on Fully Alive follows: "Forevermore," led by David Forlu. An African techno beat mixes with the simple truth, "You're the same yesterday, today, and You'll be forevermore," making a fun celebration of God's faithfulness. 

"Torches" is led by Lauren Alexandria. Much like her popular "Victorious in Love," this track is made very full with strong guitars and pounding drums as Lauren prophetically sings that "we're gonna shine with light / we're gonna rise up without fear like burning torches in the night." Newer artist Olivia Buckles appears next with her angelic vocals on "All I Need," simply declaring the timeless truth that "all I need is found in You." 

"How Awesome Are Your Works," strong and based heavily on Scripture, is beautifully sung by Laura Hackett Park. It is also the only track on Fully Alive that features supportive vocals from Jon Thurlow. In the techno bridge, Jon sings, "Miracles start with praise / Obstacles swept away / This is why I was made: to worship You!" This moving bridge is a highlight not only of the track, but also of the Fully Alive album as a whole. 

Chris Toflin's "Jesus My Brother" beautifully declares "Jesus, oh my brother/ I love You more than ever / from the cross Your love is carrying me now." My favorite IHOPKC Worship leader Justin Rizzo follows with "Come Now Joy," which is very simple and hymn-like with little else than acoustic guitar and backing group vocals. 

Celebrating our God who breaks chains, "Freedom Song" is led by Lauren Alexandria. The bridge is a powerful moment where background vocals all sing "Amen!" as Lauren prophetically sings, "I see the darkest story shining with Your light / I see the King of glory breaking up the night!

Jaye Thomas perfectly closes the Fully Alive album with "I Have Decided." Beautiful strings mix with Jaye's phenomenal gospel vocals in a passionate cry to follow Jesus wherever He goes: "I have decided to leave all I have, all I've known / I have decided to follow wherever You go." As moving as this closing track is, it's hard to not repeat!

The Bottom Line: Fully Alive is a refreshing worship album of original tracks from the IHOPKC worship leaders both well-known and up-and-coming. Each track finds the prophetic worshipers at their best with phenomenal vocals, heart-felt cries of hunger and fun celebrations of God's love. 

For Fans Of: Onething Live, Audrey Assad, Misty Edwards

Song to Download Now

"Grateful Love" (feat. Jonas and Laura Hackett Park) (Get it on iTunes here.)

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Songs of Intimacy and Devotion | Posted January-04-2018
Jon Thurlow is one of the International House of Prayer (IHOPKC)'s staple worship leaders, penning worship anthems such as "Strong Love," "Shout Your Name," "Take Your Place" and my personal favorite, "Storm All Around You." While half of Thurlow's songs are emotionally-driven cravings for intimacy with Jesus and the other half are piano-pop ballads to dance to, without fail his songs drive the listener deep into praise and worship. Thurlow's debut with Forerunner Music, Stand in Awe, released in 2013. For his second release, titled Different Story, Thurlow teamed up with talented producer Ben Shive and polished songwriter Anna Blanc. 

Instantly, "Your Light" gives the listener a Stand in Awe vibe, as the infectious pop tempo celebrates God's light that took our cold, motionless hearts and gave us purpose and meaning. Baring his heart, Thurlow borrows Peter's Scriptural words for "I Want You," stating: "God where else could I ever go / when the truth is You're my only good?" He creates a powerful prayer for fresh fire and invites the listener to cry out along with him. 

Electronic beats give the title track "Different Story" a high level of celebration. Thurlow takes the listener down memory lane, reminiscing about our dark days without hope and how Jesus found us there and gave us redemptive stories of freedom. Two tear-provoking tracks follow, "For You" and "I Want Your Heart." In the first, Jon's graceful piano-playing and flexible vocals find us hearing God's heart as He eagerly plans redemption after the fall in the Garden of Eden: "I'm gonna to die for you / I'm going to give it all away / I'm going to rise for you / because I want to see you on that day, when I come for my Beloved." Similarly, with added slow strings, "I Want Your Heart" is God calling us back to our first love: "Years have come and years have gone / but am I still your only One?" Both songs call the listener to open their heart and embrace intimacy with their Creator once again. 

A song Jon has already played often during his worship sets, "Your Love is Better" follows. With a catchy swing, it acts as a response song to the previous two tracks, stating, "You're the one thing that my heart is needing / I just know Your love is better." It reminds the listener that nothing in this world is worth more than the love of God. 

Returning to an upbeat, catchy pop tempo, "Closer" is a fun-sounding yet desperate cry to know God more deeply, while "Power of Your Love" again celebrates the transformation God has done in our lives. The supportive addition of saxophone and Gospel organ will make the listener want to dance along to Jon's testimony!

Much like the famous "Footprints in the Sand" poem, Jon explores moments of loneliness in "Need to Know." Through the peaceful swing tempo, he asks God to remind him of His nearness in those difficult moments. A perfected studio version of "Shout Your Name" follows; its strong drumbeat emphasizes the lyrics of the healing Jesus does in our lives. 

Breathtaking piano and strings close the album with "Still Looking Back at Me." This deeply touching track lets us overhear the heart of Jesus as it yearns over a heart-broken girl who refuses to stop looking to Jesus for the answers. Jesus' heart, overwhelmed with love and joy says, "She's still hurting / she's still waiting to be free / But she's not quitting / She's still looking back at Me," and answers that cry with, "If she only knew how much My heart is moved." It is a powerful closing to the Different Story album. 

The Bottom Line: Jon Thurlow's Different Story is a must-have worship album to add your collection. It meets all expectations of IHOPKC listeners as Jon delivers what he does best: a healthy mix of touching songs that will move your heart and cause you to hunger for God, with a number of catchy songs that will cause you to rejoice over God's redemptive work in your life.

For Fans Of: Bethel Music, Onething Live

Song to Download Now

"For You" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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Heartfelt Songs of Surrender | Posted January-02-2018
Louisiana-based singer/songwriter Brooke Robertson has been posting covers of popular worship songs on her YouTube channel for about a year. After a risky season of learning to surrender completely to God, Brooke's music fell into the hands of Seventh Day Slumber's Jeremy Holderfield. Together, the two worked on her four-song debut EP, appropriately titled Have My Heart

With a voice like Bethany Dillon's and the heart of Lauren Daigle, Brooke's carefully-crafted EP is an instant sensation with a worshipful pop sound. Acoustic guitar gives the title track "Have My Heart" a tasteful pop tempo as Brooke's impeccable vocals narrate a story of how God's loving arms wrapped around us can cause us to surrender our all, even when we are confused about our life's direction. 

With a solid piano backing, the heart-felt prayer "Back to the Shore" builds strongly throughout. Brooke's excellent songwriting is also evident in this track's chorus: "Don't let me forget the sorrow / Don't let me forget the pain / With every struggle I go through, Lord, I'm learning how to trust You more / The same waves that held me under are the waves that led me back to shore."  In this song's bridge, Brooke resolves to cling whole-heartedly to Jesus, inviting the listener to do the same. 

"Cannot Be Moved" is a modern-day Psalm, exalting Jesus as our strong tower in uncertain times. The closing "I Am Yours," with its strong drumbeat, resounds with the message that we are God's and He is worth our complete surrender.

The Bottom Line: Though Brooke Robertson's debut EP is short and sweet, it puts her on the radar of artists to watch carefully in 2018. While her message is a personal testimony of how God's plans are far better than our own, it also encourages the listener to join her and step closer into God's presence. 

For Fans Of: Bethany Dillon, Lauren Daigle, Meredith Andrews, Lindsay McCaul

Song to Download Now

"Back to the Shore" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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Come Back for More | Posted November-22-2017
In 2006, we first heard Jeremy Riddle with the debut single "Sweetly Broken," which stayed on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Chart for twenty weeks (peaking at #17). The enthusiastic young worship leader then released four albums with Vineyard Music before becoming the worship community pastor of Bethel Church in 2011. He has appeared on most of Bethel Music's worship albums, delivering worship anthems such as "To Our God," "God of the Redeemed," "Furious" and "This is Amazing Grace."

Six years after his last album Furious, Jeremy has released his debut solo album with Bethel Music, titled More. Riddle dives deep into spiritual hunger, exploring the endless possibilities of adventures with God that are yet undiscovered. While his mature vocals and heartfelt lyrics are better than ever, Riddle mixes up the tempo with each track; the album is deeply worshipful, but it also contains rich beats that leave the listener eager to hit repeat. 

The title track opens the album with an infectious disco beat. Jeremy's vocals soar as he cries out to discover the deeper things of God: "When you move, I can't recover / I get wrecked when I rediscover more / When You speak, I see new colors / And all my heart longs to uncover more." This is an excellent opener to the album, leading into "Even If (All the More)." It has a synthetic drumbeat as Riddle resolves to praise Jesus all the more through defeat or heartbreak. These deeply passionate lyrics aren't just a reflection of Riddle's heart; they also encourage the listener to worship, leaving their burdens at Jesus' feet. 

"It Only Gets Stronger" is my personal favorite track off More. With peaceful echoes and an acoustic guitar backing, this song celebrates that our journey with God only goes deeper and stronger as we grow. It also showcases Jeremy's excellent songwriting, especially in the bridge that beautifully describes Jesus' love that makes all lies and fear disappear. With the same theme of God's love, "Overwhelming" follows with a light techno beat. 

The hymn-like "All Hail King Jesus," featuring a co-write by Bethel's Steffany Gretzinger, extols the risen King Jesus as victor over death and sin. With descriptive lyrics and excellent building throughout, it's no wonder that this song is already being sung in churches around the world. With a fun vibe, "No Fear in Your Love" calls us to run into God's love and receive the healing that He brings. The bridge is particularly notable: "I run into Your presence / I come as I am." 

In "Holy Ground," Jeremy gently sings from Exodus 3:5: "Holy, holy, You are Holy / We are standing on Holy ground." Stronger guitars and strings come in along with ethereal effects, culminating in a heavenly sound. It leaves the listener in awe, not just because of the breathtaking music, but also because of Jesus' holiness. Almost a sequel to the previous track, "Sing to My Heart" is a delicate prayer that in our most broken moments, Jesus would sing to our broken hearts. Though mostly serene, Jeremy cries out as all instruments strongly build, leading to the powerful closing chorus. 

In celebration style, the upbeat "Love Like Fire" describes dancing before the Lord like David the King in 2 Samuel 6. On the digital version of More, a beautiful three-minute intermission track titled "Yeshua" follows, a musical reprise of the previous track. "Shadow" tackles identity issues and shame from the Father's perspective. Soft, sweet and a bit emotional, this song lets us hear God's heart crying out over His lost children: "Even though you're just a shadow of yourself / I still see who you are/ I still love who you are." With a bit of a futuristic feel, the soft "Made in Love" closes out the album as Jeremy again celebrates God's powerful love which is worth living for. 

The Bottom Line: More is a solid collection of heartfelt cries for more of God and a hunger to understand His love on a deeper level. It celebrates this love which heals and restores us and brings us through our toughest times. Jeremy Riddle's rough vocals bring this message strongly, while creative rhythms leave the listener coming back for more. Though this is a powerful worship album, it's also a fun album to enjoy!

For Fans Of: Bethel Music

Song to Download Now

"It Only Gets Stronger" (Get it on iTunes here.)


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Raw and Honest Christian Rock | Posted October-30-2017
In 2011, Christian rock group Ashes Remain burst into the broader music scene with their album What I've Become. The solid album boasted a handful of chart-topping singles, which were a mix between grunge rock and heart-felt worship. A long six years later, the band has finally released their sophomore album, titled Let the Light In, with BEC Recordings. It seems evident that Ashes Remain has been through many trials in their intermission. This has shaped their latest album, themed with honest songs about struggles and addiction, as well as the answer to them all: Jesus. 

Opening track "Rise," sure to appease fans of their previous album, steadily builds with grunge guitars and pounding drums. Catchy lead guitar solos also season the track. Its message is no less powerful: no matter how cold the world around us grows, the fire of God can burn brighter in us, causing us to rise out of the ashes. Along the same thematic line with the surprising addition of saxophone follows "On Fire," which speaks of leaving the past behind and running forward in freedom.

The strong but more worshipful "All of Me" (similar to "Without You") passionately declares how our all-sufficient God wants all of us, including our struggles. The single boasts of lead singer Josh Smith's full vocals, as well as the band's excellent songwriting: "you are my faith, you are my doubt / the things I don't wanna talk about / all that's broken, healed, and somewhere in between." Following solemnly is my personal favorite track "Always Faithful," which again crosses the rock/worship barrier. Mixed in with all of Ashes Remain's honest lyrics about addictions and struggles, this highlight on the album focuses straight on the heart of Jesus, who will always be the answer.

Blaring guitars and vocal screams return with "Six Feet Down," a battle cry lyrically based on the history of the Alamo. "Greater Things" again finds the band on an earnest note, exploring how we can change the world through the smallest acts of love: "One spark can start a fire / One drop begins a flood / As small as they seem, these are the greater things."  

Tackling addiction, "Captain" states "I've been down to the bottom, drowning in a bottle." The song not only features awesome lead guitar work, but also features a rare appearance of rhythm guitarist Ryan Nalepa on supporting vocals. "Criminal" explores how Jesus, though an innocent man, died like a criminal, and how we are all called to follow Him ("to follow You must be criminal"). 

Closing Let the Light In are two mellow tracks: the string-infested "Follow" beautifully describes complete surrender to God, and the romantic "All I Need" explores the depth of commitment in marriage and how that love sustains through the darkest times of life. 

The Bottom Line: Ashes Remain has delivered a sophomore project that lives up to the expectation of their fans. The heavy rock blends impressively with touching worship, but the band's highlight is their honesty. While they openly admit their struggles and doubts, they also turn the listener's attention to the answer to everything: Jesus Christ. 

For Fans Of: Decyfer Down, RED, Kutless

Song to Download Now

"Rise" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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Powerful Standouts | Posted September-15-2017
Southlake, Texas based Gateway Worship has been bringing us live worship albums ever since 2006. The Gateway Church team, including Kari Jobe and her husband Cody Carnes, has consistently brought us stellar worship hits including "The More I Seek You," "Oh the Blood," "Stay Amazed" and (perhaps their most popular) "Revelation Song." After five successful live worship albums, Gateway brings us an all-new album titled Monuments

Monuments is brought to us by the Gateway collective, featuring worship led on multiple Gateway campuses. It also introduces listeners to a new generation of worship leaders along with a fresh sound aimed at a younger audience. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mark Harris, formerly of 4Him (and later a solo artist) leads the talented collective. 

Cole Novak leads the opening track "Open the Heavens." Speaking about a deep hunger for more of God, it is filled with synthesizers and strong techno beats. Though I at first felt it was a bit typical, higher volume definitely helps to appreciate the fullness of this track. Title track "Monuments" follows nicely with a similar tempo, led by Mark Harris. Mark's smooth vocals stand out here, as do the creative lyrics that remind us that God's fulfilled promises and even we ourselves are monuments that testify of His goodness. 

"It is Finished" by Matt Birkenfeld follows on a slower note. A beautiful description of what Jesus has done for us, the track builds nicely throughout. Its highlight is the powerful bridge, where Matt's fantastic vocals sing "At the cross You took my place / You traded death so I can live again." 

My personal favorite track off this album was brought to us by Anna Byrd. Anna has been with Gateway Worship for a while, but also sang background vocals for Kari Jobe on the phenomenal Majestic album. Here with "Precious Jesus," Anna's flawless vocals are stunning, and she sounds much like Kari. Anna powerfully declares her love for Jesus, using the refrain of "Tis' So Sweet To Trust In Jesus" as the bridge. Although there are many good songs on this Monuments album, "Precious Jesus" is in my opinion a real treasure and the best track here. 

Matt appears next with his second track "I Am Found, I Am Free." Beginning with a nice piano that sets the tempo, this contemporary track is soothing, inviting the listener to bask in the finished work of Christ that sets us free. The song's powerful bridge declares over and over "I lift my hands to glory" and builds strongly from there.

An electric dance/pop track follows next, led by Maddison Harris. Imagine Hillsong Young & Free and you have "For All My Days," a celebration of God's faithfulness throughout all our lives. Lauren Dunn brings us "Living Water," another of my personal favorite tracks. Lauren's vocals are phenomenal, similar to Lauren Daigle as she passionately cries out for more of God. She asks, "Water of life, what if I said I was thirsty?" and asks Jesus to fill us all up. The song is full and beautiful, containing anticipation especially in its bridge when the Gateway Worship team cries out together, "pour Your glory down!"

Sounding hymn-like with its poetic lyrics and light acoustic guitar tempo, "My Only Hope" is led by Austin Benjamin. Based strongly on Psalm 23, "Won My Heart" by Levi Smith is a soft acoustic track with beautiful piano mixed in, also containing a nice swing tempo. With nice vibrato, Mark Harris brings "Have Your Way," a smooth song that invites Jesus to come do whatever He wants. 

Closing the Monuments album is "Let My Soul" and "Wilderness," two more of my personal favorites on the album. "Let My Soul," Lauren Dunn's second appearance on the album, is a beautiful song of gratitude for God's immeasurable goodness to us, complete with strings. In the stunning bridge, Lauren wonderfully sings "With every breath in me / With creation I will sing / For all eternity, praise the Lord."

Anna Byrd closes the album with the tranquil "Wilderness." Anna beautifully sings of our confusion with being in the wilderness where we can't feel God or see what He is doing, but rather than asking the "why" questions, this song is a prayer that we choose to trust in God, "cause even in the wilderness You won't let go." 

The Bottom Line: Gateway's Monuments is definitely a good worship album for those looking for new music to play during their quiet time with God. While all songs on this album are good and grew richer with each listen, there are several that stand out high above the rest. These standout songs--"Precious Jesus," "Wilderness," "Living Water" and "Let My Soul"--are above-standard worship tracks that have such a depth and tranquility to them, causing the listener to be able to relax in God's love and presence. 

Song to Download Now

"Precious Jesus" (Get it on iTunes here.)


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A Worship Album Like No Other! | Posted September-14-2017
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” -- John 15:5

In the Gospel of John, Jesus compares His Father to a gardener. God is pruning us, the branches of His vine, enabling us to bear more fruit and glorify our Father God. This is the concept of Kari Jobe’s stunning fourth album, The Garden. Birthed out of loss and heartbreak, this album resonates with the message that God is a miracle-working God who always comes through for His children. Kari resolved to praise and worship more than ever during her season of pain, and to see how God would take the ashes and make beauty from it. The Garden is the phenomenal result.

The Garden is the follow-up to Kari Jobe’s award-winning, best-selling live worship album Majestic. Three years after its release, Majestic is still one of my favorite albums, containing worship songs such as, “I Am Not Alone,” “I Lift My Eyes,” and Kari’s cover of the worship staple, “Holy Spirit.” I was very much looking forward to hearing The Garden, which also features Kari’s husband, Cody Carnes. I was not at all disappointed!

Beginning on a haunting note with soft piano and deep cello sounds, the title track opens the album. Kari sings deeply and softly, “I had all but given up.” She solemnly describes searching eagerly for a sign of beauty and finding the answer in the garden that God is designing out of our pain. The highlight is the stunning bridge, where Kari angelically sings, “You crush all my fears with Your perfect love!” Complete with orchestral strings, the opening track “The Garden” does a phenomenal job of turning the listener’s attention away from their troubles onto the God who makes all things new and beautiful.

Let Your Glory Fall,” consisting of a piano/techno mix, comes next with a very strong chorus that perfectly matches the cry for the glory of God to rain down in our midst. Like “The Garden,” its highlight is the bridge, where Kari simply sings, “Oh let it rain!” as the drums and strong guitars build. The strength of this track is inevitably catchy – you will find yourself crying out with all your heart along with Kari for more of God’s glory in your life!

Track three, “Heal Our Land,” is my personal favorite off The Garden, though it was available as a single before the release of the album. Based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, this soft track – sounding like the majority of the album Majestic – is a touching prayer-song, asking God to breathe on His church and pour out His presence on us so we can accurately represent Him to this lost world. Following is another techo-based track, titled “Lover of My Soul,” where Kari sings her love for Jesus and His love, in return, for us.

Also deep-rooted in Scripture is “Speak to Me,” co-written by Bethel Music’s Amanda Cook. It is a very soft track, based on John 10:4 – Jesus’ sheep can hear His voice and will by no means follow the voice of a stranger. Kari softly sings about listening in the silence for God’s voice, confidently expecting Him to speak to us. Closing the track is a heavenly instrumental, where Kari’s vocals are echoed in the background, singing “I can hear You!” The listener is invited to sit still and listen to what God would speak to them, even as they worship along to the album.

“Fall Afresh,” the sixth track on The Garden, is another personal favorite of mine – also released before the album. Similar in style and lyrics to “Always Enough” off Majestic, Kari passionately sings for a fresh outpouring of God’s presence. Very tranquil with its background synthesizers, I loved the lyrics that were easy to remember and sing along to – especially the bridge: “Holy Spirit, fill this heart again/ Holy Spirit, burn like fire within.” I have had this track on repeat, and it will no doubt be a favorite of fans of Kari Jobe’s Majestic album.

I Will Sing,” is a reminder to never cease singing and worshiping Jesus, “even when my breath is weak” and “even in my suffering.” I was reminded that God inhabits the praises of His people, which is the message that Kari sings about – we sing even when we can’t see Him moving, because we can be confident that He is! The slow strings and piano build strongly when Kari, very stunningly and angelically sings, “Hallelujah! I surrender all to You! Hallelujah! You are God, You won’t be shaken!” And then follows a string instrumental with strong, pounding drums. This track is simply breathtaking.

Next, Kari covers Jesus Culture’s song “Miracles,” off their latest release Let It Echo. Though it has more of an emotional sound to it than Jesus Culture’s version, it is a powerful reminder that we believe in the God of miracles, who gives sight to the blind, makes the deaf to hear, and raises the dead. We can be confident that our miracle-working God is also working in our impossible situations, as the second verse shares: “The One who does impossible is reaching out to make me whole/ The One who put death in its place, His life is flowing through my veins!” It’s not possible to compare the two versions, as both versions are passionate and invite the listener to sing their way into the truth.

Following are two tracks almost identical musically, very serene and worshipful. First comes “Closer to Your Heart,” which features Kari’s husband Cody, who sings the second verse and supportive background vocals through the choruses. Speaking of being in awe of His beauty and love for us, we are reminded that God draws us into His love. The track “Oh the Power” is a narrative of the agony Jesus endured during the last few hours of His life, yet how He chose to forgive and say, “Not my will but Yours be done” and “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do!” The track automatically challenges the listener to do the same as they worship, forgive and surrender to the Father’s will for us. When Kari sings the bridge, “Oh the power of the cross!” it is impossible to not worship along whole-heartedly.

The Cause of Christ” ends the standard release of The Garden on a contemporary note. Stating that the only reason we live; why we will die; and why we surrender everything to Jesus in the time in between is “for the cause of Christ,” this closing track invites the listener to abandon everything and live for Jesus alone.

The deluxe edition of The Garden features three more tracks, which, in my opinion, are must-haves! First is “Here as in Heaven,” a cover of Elevation Worship’s popular worship anthem. Calling down the kingdom and will of God, based on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, Kari and Cody sing this phenomenal cover together. “Come Alive” aptly sounds very alive and energetic, while Kari sings about how the presence of God makes us come alive, while “On The Throne,” the album’s closer, borrows lyrics straight from Isaiah 43. Kari puts this message that we will walk through the fire and not be overcome, together with the fact that our King reigns on the throne and is able to bring us through any troubles we may face – the perfect story-book closing to this album.

The Bottom Line: The Garden is simply phenomenal beyond words! Each and every track focuses on God’s goodness and beauty no matter how heartbreaking seasons of our lives may be. It takes the listener’s focus totally off themselves and invites them to come along, lay their burdens down at Jesus’ feet, and worship Him whole-heartedly. Complete with orchestral sounds, Kari’s angelic singing and the vocal support of her husband Cody, The Garden is easily Kari Jobe’s finest album yet (with Majestic as a close second). This is a worship album like no other that will definitely be on my repeat list!

Song to Download Now: "Heal Our Land"

Also see this review on www.jaysmusikblog.com!

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