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Latest Music and Book Reviews
Love Rain Down by Julie Love Rain Down by Julie

You don't have to be a musical genius to spot two major trends that run parallel in many worship albums today.  Take your pick, be it the latest record by Bethel Music or Hillsong Worship or...

Anchor by Colton Anchor by Colton

Maybe it's because of his awe striking performance of Billy Joel's "Piano Man" on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, some had wished Colton Dixon would be the next piano man.  Or maybe...

Runway by Spencer Runway by Spencer

My eight-year-old brother loves pop music (as do I), and so I asked him to listen to Runway and give me his opinion. He said “it has similar vocals to Bruno...


Showing 1-10 of 22 |   View Next 10 Album and Book Reviews
Depths | Posted September-26-2014

Q: You played piano for many, many years. When did you make the move toward songwriting?



Kacey Walkingstick: I began writing at 19, when I was playing keys in my first band. I never really finished anything up to use until after quitting the band. Having played classical piano from age 9, I never thought I could write music, because in my head, it had to be up to the level of classical geniuses. Once the world of chord charting opened up through playing in my first band and at church, I realized that I could do this. Lyrically, I didn't think I had much to write about — and probably didn't yet. The music has always come more naturally to me. When I listen to a new band, I always hear the music first, not the lyrics.




 

Photo -


Q: “The Depths” is your first worship record, correct? Why are you now focusing on Christian writing versus what you'd been doing previously?



KW: This is where the lyrics come into play. Before, I felt like my songs were hollow or missing “depth.” I wasn't writing anything that had much meaning or impact on the world. I finally realized that if I wrote about what was most meaningful to me, then I would be fulfilling my purpose. For me, that was God.



Q: In the album credits, you've got a couple of Oklahoma music scene heavy-hitters on there, including Alberto Roubert of Horse Thief and Zach Zeller (The Non, Z Trio). How did you land your studio crew?



KW: I was having trouble getting the drum sound I wanted in my own home studio. My producer and friend Adam Ray suggested the best drummer for this genre that he could think of — his friend Alberto. We went to the Horse Thief space to record, and it was magic! Great open space for a nice, full sound and an amazing drummer and engineer to boot! On top of that, I was blessed to get to work with longtime friend and bassist Gregory Keithe, of Less Than Greater Than.





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Burn | Posted September-26-2014

It’s rare to find a good southern rock Christian band nowadays. Not including bands like Third Day, Rhett Walker Band, and Building 429 (I know they aren’t southern, but Jason Roy does have a southern twang in his accent), the southern bands are either country or southern gospel. Nothing wrong with either, but to wait for another incarnation of Third Day to come out of the woodwork can seem a little foolish…until now that is. Climbing Blind, a trio from Lubbock, Texas, are the latest band to find a calling to Christian music, and one that instantly reminds me of a cross between the bands Building 429 and Third Day when I started listening to their current radio single, “Help is On the Way”.



With the heart of Dusty, Zach and Tristian being to share their lives to the people they meet, in hope they can be a witness to God and an encouragement to those around them, we hear from Dusty and Zach, just how hard yet equally rewarding this journey of music really is, that ‘…giving your life over to God’s will is something that is a daily struggle and has to be a decision that is intentionally made on a consistent and continual basis…’ (Dusty), while it can be ‘…amazing to see just how faithful God really is when we pursue him whole-heartedly, especially in the times when you feel like you can’t make it any further…’ (Zach). From “Help is On the Way” to their fan favourite melody “You Alone”, this is a perfect band to listen to and enjoy if you are a fan of both Third Day (with Dusty’s vocals reminding me of Mac’s…mind you, Mac’s from way back in the day, not now) and Building 429, as well as similar artists like needtobreathe or Rhett Walker Band as well.



Immediately when you hear “Help is on the Way”, the band’s first single from the EP, it’s almost second nature to project either Mac Powell or Jason Roy into the lead vocals of the song- because that’s who Dusty sounds like (a good thing!). With the band having nods to both Building 429 and Third Day, in not only this song but throughout the rest of the EP as well, we are shown an emotive CCM-esque track about us knowing that our help is on the way, even believing it in the moments when we may not see it and thinking it’ll arrive sooner than it will.



With a powerful southern voice fit to sing CCM, country or gospel, Dusty peels back the layers of acoustic guitars, synth keyboards and the radio sheen that makes the song succeed on the airwaves and reminds us of a theme that isn’t talked about enough in Christian music- not giving up and hanging in there, because in fact, ‘…the night is always dark before the dawn, and hope is all you need to carry on…it’s not too late to run to the arms of the One who saves, He’s reaching out to pull you from the grave…’ A song that’ll hopefully catch the ear and eyes of label record producers (this song is label quality, even though the EP is produced independently), Climbing Blind are a band to stay- and one to hopefully replace (in terms of music style) either Building 429 or Third Day, or both, when both these bands move onto other endeavours.



Originally on their 2011 self-titled EP, “You Alone” is rerecorded again and placed as song three on this EP, as opposed to the album opener of their last EP. With light electric guitars and a strong drum beat, Dusty brings to light a theme that can be often overlooked in Christian songs lately- singing a song that admits we are broken and in need of a Saviour. There are many songs about how awesome God is, and that’s great, but there has sadly not been enough songs about our need to acknowledge we are broken in need of something, or someone else to come pay the debt we were meant to pay. That’s not to belittle the songs that praise God, but rather realise an honest song about real life when I hear one- and “You Alone” is indeed one of those.



With a start lyrically of Dusty declaring that ‘…broken I call on Your name, life has been lived with shame…’, we see something that’ll hopefully bring in listeners to a song that captures what it means for us to be at the total mercy of Christ’s redemption.  To start a song like that shows great vulnerability and openness, a trait ought to be promoted within Christian music, and something that needs to be firmly believed and proactively acted upon in CCM songs both now and into the future. A song that is just as emotive and encouraging, maybe even more so, than “Help Is On the Way”, Climbing Blindshowcase one of the most underrated performances of the year so far, and a song that’ll continually be on my iTunes playlist in months and years to come. Kudos to the band, as we are reminded that ‘…You are my strength when the battle is calling…You paid the price for a debt I couldn’t pay on my own, so I trust in You alone…’



The last two songs on the EP, “Burn” and “Grace”, can’t be any more different in every way musically- “Grace” is a piano ballad, while “Burn” echoes something that you would hear from a Third Day rock album, likening the melody to songs like “Make Your Move”, “You Make Me Mad” or “The Otherside”; yet in both these songs, Dusty shows us vulnerability and emotion that make both songs relay a similar theme- hope. “Burn” gives us his testimony, personally explaining that ‘…of all the things I’ve found there’s nothing that could really satisfy, then I had a running with a special kind of love I can’t deny…’, and is a perfect song to kick off the EP with some great rocking southern goodness, while it is “Grace” that I reckon will impact people the most, with Dusty’s powerful voice showcasing the lyrics in a much more real and honest way as we hear one of the most vulnerable songs ever sung (in my opinion) since Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Glorious Unfolding”.



As the chorus shows us Dusty’s devotion to God, even in moments of doubt and discouragement, it is in these words, knowing they were probably written through pain or hardship, that we can find comfort in the hope that carries us through. The poignant message of how ‘…I don’t want to miss one second without Your love, even if my world slips away…’ is something we all ought to strive to believe, say and act upon; knowing that out of love, we place His desires above our own. A song that’ll continually be in my iTunes playlist for a while yet, Climbing Blind ought to be commended, with “Grace”, personally, my favourite song from the EP, and one of my favourite ballads of 2014 so far.



Climbing Blind’s second EP release is one to thoroughly enjoy if you love the southern/CCM/rock genre, or even if you love independent music, or both. A band that’s almost certain to be within the Christian music industry for a long time yet, it is the eerily similar voice of Dusty’s to Mac Powell and Jason Roy that I reckon will be a contributing factor in Climbing Blind’s increase in popularity, and something that I reckon will continue to propel them into more interest and intrigue from fans into the future. My favourite EP of the year since Jordan and Kristen Rippy’s Seek You First, NF’s debut EP and Summit Worship’s The Now and the Not Yet; well done Dusty and the rest of the band for such an encouraging and poignant EP!



3 songs to listen to: You Alone, Help is On The Way, Grace



Score: 4/5




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Flight EP | Posted September-26-2014
14 year old Youtube sensation TJ Prodigy is making his debut internationally by bringing a message of hope through his music and dance. His natural ability to rap and dance allows him to relate to audiences of all ages. A gifted writer, Tj’s music pierces the hearts of everyone who hears it, especially those who can relate to his anti bullying message of positivity. As his lyrics say, “you were meant to fly, don’t let anybody clip your wings,” Tj’s message is one of hope, inspiration, and change. His message conveys the idea that no matter who you are or where you are in life, it’s never too late to pick yourself up and fly. Whether it’s a small audience or one of thousands, TJ has the audience on their feet with their “hands up,” and leaves them wanting more. His online presence to tens of thousands of fans shows his personal connection, heart to heart, with all that follow him. From small stage to big stage, city to city, TJ travels the country meeting and greeting his fans with an insatiable motivation to reach those in need of his message; a message of encouragement and God’s love. TJ lights up the stage from the very first beat, and captivates his audience until the very last. His passion in bringing the word proves his calling to his God appointed music ministry.

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Runway | Posted September-26-2014

My eight-year-old brother loves pop music (as do I), and so I asked him to listen to Runway and give me his opinion. He said “it has similar vocals to Bruno Mars, the music of Royal Tailor, and the catchiness of Anthem Lights.” I would have to agree with him, and say the Runway is definitely encompasses some of the qualities of the previously mentioned artists/bands.



Spencer Kane’s musical style could perhaps be best described as synth driven pop. The music is upbeat, and the vocals on the album are fantastic (think Justin Bieber/Cody Simpson). Additionally, the lyrics are catchy, positive, and well written. Needless to say, Runway is an all around excellent release! I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Spencer Kane signed by a major record label soon, and have his music featured on soundtracks in the foreseeable future – his music holds all of the qualities of popular major label artists.




“When the rain is falling and there’s no silver lining,

And you just can’t seem to find the light.

When you need reason to help you keep believing,

Let my love be your blue sky.”

– from “Blue Sky”




At the time of release, Spencer Kane was 17 years old. Taking into consideration his age and the style of his music, I believe that he has the potential to become extremely popular in both younger and older crowds.



I would wholeheartedly recommend Runway to fans of Royal Tailor, Cody Simpson, Anthem Lights, and even “Beliebers” (if there are still any out there?). It is a great synth driven pop album – probably the best in this genre so far this year. Spencer Kane is a talented individual, and I for one am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this young artist.




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Anchor | Posted September-26-2014

Maybe it's because of his awe striking performance of Billy Joel's "Piano Man" on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, some had wished Colton Dixon would be the next piano man.  Or maybe it's because of his ultra-moving rendition of Coldplay's "Fix You" on American Idol, others had wished he would translate Coldplay's British melodic coolness across continents. But two albums deep into Colton Dixon's career only reveal that the 22 year-old is very much a star of his own.  He's not just a mere mirage of another superstar wandering aimlessly in the sonic desert dearth of identity.  Rather, Dixon is an oasis himself pegged with his own distinctiveness.  On "Anchor," his sophomore record for Sparrow Records, Dixon has honed in his own sound.  Utilizing a myriad of elements from rock, pop, electronic, dance and punk, his music is very much the product of the Millennium.



 


"Anchor" continues to allow Dixon to express himself in ways that are even more audacious and vulnerable relative to his debut.  The album covers are most telling.  Rather, than posing in his aloofness with his Billy Idol Mohawk hairstyle as on his debut album cover, "Anchor's" front picture depicts a helpless Dixon gasping for dear life in the middle of the ocean.  Thus, if there is a theme that runs right through these 11 songs (with two brief interludes) it is Dixon's heart's cry for God's salvation in midst of our brokenness.  Part of the success of "Anchor" resides in Dixon's willingness to branch out in co-writing with some of the best writers in Contemporary Christian music including TobyMac, Matthew West, Ben Glover, David Garcia among others.



The song that is the most reflective of Dixon's growth as a vocalist and writer is the title cut "Anchor," a song that speaks of our Savior's grace.  Colton elucidates the deftness of such glorious message by decelerating the speed of the song towards the chorus and into the bridge where he deliberately takes his time to pound out the refrain (to God) "save my soul" as if to drill into our souls that God and Him alone can save us.  Though "More of You" is not immediately recognizable as the lead single material, it is also most spiritually uncompromising song.  While many artists are carefully to tone down the religious elements in their songs; Dixon is to be applauded by upping the ante as he prayerfully asks for more and more of Jesus in his life.  



The same can be same about "Dare to Believe;" despite the strong electronic dance beats, it's one of Dixon's most Biblically saturated songs on the record.  Rather than utilizing polytechnics as an end in itself, listen especially to how Colton aptly uses auto-voicing to enhance the echo-ing effect of the message of "Echo;" a creative call for all of us to be more and more Christ-like.  And for those who wonder where the balladeer who used to charm us on American Idol with songs such as "Lately" and 'Time After Time" has gone, look no farther than "Through All of It." "Through All of It" is a gorgeous worship ballad featuring just Dixon's voice and a piano.  It is so good that the greed in us actually wishes that there would be more of such ballads. 




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Love Rain Down | Posted September-26-2014

You don't have to be a musical genius to spot two major trends that run parallel in many worship albums today.  Take your pick, be it the latest record by Bethel Music or Hillsong Worship or Elevation Worship or Desperation Band, it's always the guys that get to rave on the rocking worship tunes quipped with their Stones-ersatz machismo guitar struts.  While the women are mostly assigned to the mellow ethereal ballads as if their fragile vocals would shatter if they were to tackle anything of a higher decibel.  As a result, we have inadvertently cemented stereotypes based unfairly on gender.  Such a divide is tacitly saying that guys,  especially Christian men, are incapable of dealing with the more intimate moments of worship often expressed through the slower ballads.  Conterminously, it is promulgating the message it is somehow improper for gals, especially Christian women, to rock out in holy abandon to Jesus.  With the release of Julie Elias' debut worship album, she's set to rattle such stereo-types.



 


If the face of Elias looks familiar, it's because she has appeared in some high profile TV shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI:NY" before.  She also had acting roles alongside such big screen stalwarts such as Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.  Having moved on to a new chapter in life, Elias is now a song writer and worship leader helping young people worship through her Topic-Driven Concerts.  Inspired by her worship experiences with teenagers, Elias has released her debut worship record.  With two songs that she has written, "Love Rain Down" features Elias tackling worship covers from teams such as Hillsong UNITED, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Chris Tomlin, Jared Anderson, Desperation Band, Kristi Brown and others.  Let's start first with her two originals:  "Let Love Rain Down," a celebrative song that speaks of how God turns the deserts of our lives evergreen with his torrential love, is appropriate quipped with a crisp verdant pop rhythm that is alluring and memorable.



The second Elias original, "I'll Depend on You," is a sonic companion for those of us in our waiting room moments.  It's a song that is going to be prosaic for our anxious hearts as Elias gently leads us into an affirming trust in God again.  As for her covers, though she keeps reverentially to the originals, it's an encouragement to see her tackling worship songs often associated with male voices.  In this regard, her handling of Chris Tomlin's "I Will Rise" is stunning.  Her command on the song through her measured delivery and her thoughtful vocal inflections bring out a depth and dimension of Christ's redeeming power that is truly transformative. 



For an album that was conceived out of Elias work with young people, it's appropriate that Elias has eschewed the trite and often recycled covers (a la "Shout to the Lord", "Happy Day" and "My Chains Are Gone") and has gone after more youthful (and current) choices.  Nothing is more hip and spiritually stirring than Hillsong UNITED's "Oceans."  There is such an in-built drama in the song that it brings us to the water's edge so that when Elias sings "Spirit lead us where my trust is without borders/let me walk upon the waters" you can literally feel your feet moving.  Don't let the balladry feel of Jesus Culture's "Rooftop" camouflage the song's message about the Biblical challenge not to be secret Christians.  And for some sublime moments of worship, Kristi Brown's "God Be Lifted High in Me" fits the bill perfectly. 




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Fading West: 2014's Best Album | Posted January-15-2014
BREAKING NEWS: The best album of 2014 has released. And only two weeks into the new year! Well, that is actually just my humble opinion and it isn't only because they are my favorite band and I have been waiting for this album for over 2 years. In their 8th studio project, Switchfoot once again reaches new heights and has songs that you will hear everyone at the concert singing along to. I describe their music as "Surfer Indie Rock," which is exactly what it is. I found out about this movie/cd combination in June of 2012 when I went to their concert and there were cameras and Jon said "Tonight we are recording a movie called 'Fading West.'" About a year and a half after it, the soundtrack that accompanies the movie is released. Coming off the best 2 albums of their career ("Hello Hurricane and "Vice Verses"), they had a lot to hold up to. They didn't want to just write "another 3-minute pop song." They wanted to reach new heights and I believe they did that and then some. The 11 songs on the album not only reflect their journey as a band, but their memories of being one of America's most popular bands that travel the world for a living. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you "Fading West."



The album's lead-off track is one of the best I have ever heard. "Love Alone Is Worth the Fight" is about how love is such a touchy subject these days. The title says it all. Love is one of the few things that is truly worth fighting for. That's what the band has always focused on. Jon Foreman, rhythm guitarist, lead singer and main songwriter for the band, has always written about probably every kind of love that their is. The band is so successful because they are full of love. "Who We Are," the album's lead single and is the most personal song about the band's journey on the record. At the beginning of their career, they were told a lot that they would never make it far, which is what made them so popular. They even state that the band has came farther than they ever expected.



"When We Come Alive" is basically Jon reflecting on how surprised and excited he is that Switchfoot became so popular. He even states in the film that he never in a million years thought they would release eight full-length studio albums. When they come alive, they light the sky. Being a musician is one of the hardest careers out there, since you are away from your family for most of the year. The fourth track on the album, "Say It Like You Mean It," is my favorite. I love the beginning bass riff. This is the song about people criticizing the band and saying that they would never make it. They didn't believe those words, even if the person saying it said it like they meant it. They took those words and never gave up. In fact, they turned it into eight full length albums.



"The World You Want" features a little snippet of them singing in Bali. The song has very similar lyrics as their 2004 hit "This Is Your Life." Everyday that you live, you make the world that you are living in. Your choices, your actions make the world around you. Who you choose as friends, what you do, etc. For Switchfoot, their music makes their world and if I were them, I would enjoy every minute of it. "Slipping Away" is another reflection of Jon's of how all of Switchfoot's success feels like a dream. He never quit and he and Switchfoot deserves every bit of success they have gotten. They have gone through hell, but survived because of their perseverance.



"BA55" is the longest song on the album, yet has the least lyrics. It's almost like a worship song. In the song, Jon writes on how he wants and believes that God is the fire that can burn him clean of all his mistakes. He is telling God to take his soul in the song because, without God, they would be nowhere near where they are today. "Let It Go" is another one of my favorites on the album. When Switchfoot first started out, all their members were in high school. They were really scared to sing in front of everyone and were scared that they would never be successful. They then realized that life is short and sometimes you got to step out of your comfort zone if you want to be a successful person in life.



"All Or Nothing At All" is basically Jon's song to Switchfoot's fans. They are the reason they kept fighting. It is probably what he told himself even in Switchfoot's darkest times. He wants to have it all or nothing. If you have nothing, then whatever are you going to ever make of yourself? Being from a city that is an ocean city and spending most of their off time in the ocean, there was no doubt you would hear one or two songs that relate to water. "Saltwater Heart" is just that. This is Swichfoot's song to their home city and state of San Diego (where I was also born and lived in for a total of about 10 years of my life). It is the city where all their career started and it will most likely be the place of their final concert (God forbid that ever happens though). "Back To the Beginning" is the perfect way to end the album. First of all, because i will go back to the beginning of the album several times over. But it reflects on, again, how successful they have become. Sometimes Jon wants to just go back to the beginning of the band's career and trying to remember how it felt.



Well, this album makes me completely speechless. It is so good and is perfect in so many ways. I mean, it's Switchfoot for Pete's sake. Like most of Switchfoot's albums, "Fading West" has such a summery sound. That being said, even though I listen to them year-round, Switchfoot is always perfect in the middle of July on the way to the beach. That is very true, considering all of the band members are just about on the professional level of surfing. I can say one thing to you, if you like indie or Switchfoot, you will not be disappointed. They just keep getting better with every release. Cheers to the best album of 2014. 

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Little black sheep | Posted September-26-2013

Three-time GRAMMY Award-winning singer, songwriter Ashley Cleveland receives significant endorsements from Amy Grant, J.I. Packer, Jim Wallis, Dan B. Allender, PH.D, Michael Card and others for her first and self-penned book, Little Black SheepA Memoir.  Releasing in September from David C Cook, the memoir will be available everywhere great books are sold.  In the book, Cleveland shares herpersonal story of pain, music and beauty that shines through brokenness.  Cleveland also lends her voice to the companion Little Black Sheep audio book releasing simultaneously from Oasis Audio.


Prior to the release of the book and audio book, Cleveland shares her “Little Black Sheep Video Trailer” at www.AshleyCleveland.com. The trailer includes clips of Cleveland performing her song “Little Black Sheep,” as well as personal insight into the book.  “[Little Black Sheep] is a story of sadness, trouble, a little bit of tragedy, redemption and a little bit of hope, which, for me, is a lot of hope,” says Cleveland in the trailer.  “Even though it’s a memoir, it’s a biography, ultimately it’s not really about ‘Ashley,’ it’s about the one who rescued her.”


With upcoming covers or features in Publishers WeeklyHomecoming MagazineChristian Musician, The Tennessean and many more, here is what Cleveland’s peers are saying about Little Black Sheep:


“I had barely started the first chapter of Little Black Sheep and I already knew that the lump in my throat and the teary laughter that oddly accompanied it would be with me for the entire read. They were. I laughed and cried the whole way through, so grateful for Ashley’s honesty and for God’s hold on her.” – Amy Grant, singer/songwriter


Little Black Sheep is not really about my friend Ashley in the end. It is not about her life as much as The One who gave her life and redeemed its brokenness. That she could tell such a complete and compelling story in so few pages is a testimony to a gifted writer.” – Michael Card, Bible teacher, songwriter and author of A Sacred Sorrow and The Biblical Imagination Series


“This book … delivers me face-to-face with a God who just might be good news. To say that I enjoyed the book is far from the truth. I devoured it. Wept. Raged. Swore. And said Yes again to Jesus.” – Dan B. Allender, Ph.D., professor of Counseling Psychology and founding president of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology


“Ashley Cleveland, singer of sensitive honest songs, has a way with words and the plain story of sin and mercy she tells here is hauntingly powerful. Some readers will undoubtedly find her to be broken bread for their starving souls.” – J.I. Packer, author of Knowing God


“Ashley Cleveland is one of my favorite singer/songwriters, whose life and music are deeply rooted in her faith and nurtured by the love of God. In Little Black Sheep, she honestly shares her own human vulnerabilities, and joyfully offers her amazing gifts…Don’t miss this.” – Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners


Little Black Sheep roars with a powerful message of redemption that will grip your heart and keep you captivated from cover to cover.” – Matt Bronleewe, award-winning songwriter, producer and author


“Funny, smart, tender, honest—Ashley’s memoir Little Black Sheep is a wonderful story of redemption. It will fill your heart with hope.” – Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of the bestselling and Christian Book Award winning Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing


Little Black Sheep is one of the bravest, most brutally honest and soul inspiring books I have ever read.” – Cindy Morgan, singer/songwriter


Little Black Sheep was hard to put down…This fast-paced and vulnerable tale of a wide-open life pulls no punches. It was worth every minute I spent reading it!” – Bruce Carroll, Grammy and Dove award-winning singer, songwriter and worship leader


“Ashley Cleveland is one of the most authentic humans we have had the privilege of getting to know in over two decades of touring and recording. Her soulfulness shines through on every page of this wonderful memoir.” – Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine


 “Ashley Cleveland confronts us with her honesty and pain so deeply that we cannot help but face ourselves. But she does this in such a soft and tender way in her memoir that it will leave all of us nudged toward change.” – Terry D. Hargrave, Ph.D., professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Forgiving the Devil: Coming to Terms with Damaged Relationships


Sharing her deeply engaging story with an original, authentic voice that is equal parts humor and pathos, Cleveland was born into a Knoxville, TN family fraught with conflict, yet poised to keep up its seamless appearances despite alcoholism, homosexuality, divorce, displacement and a slavish devotion to performance.  She took the rough road of rebellion into her own addiction and self-destruction.  If there was trouble, near or far, she found it.  In the midst of the chaos she discovered music, something she had a natural gift for and the one thing that engendered a positive response from others.  She continued on, precariously attempting to balance a desire for a career as a recording artist with a growing and consuming addiction, increasingly catastrophic behavior and an absence of any foundation or understanding of a merciful, loving God. 


Interrupted by an unplanned, unmarried and unwanted pregnancy that ultimately becomes the starting point of faith and a life of substance and value, Cleveland encounters the transforming power of the Living God who is abundantly forgiving, tenderhearted and relentlessly faithful to her.  Little by little, her life is ultimately rebuilt, taking all the devastation in her wake and using it as a platform of experience to bring hope and courage to others.  Along the way she finds sobriety, a long, devoted marriage and family, as well as success in her musical career.


“I have emerged from my own isolation to find that I love belonging to the body of Christ, to the program of AA, to the human community,” writes Cleveland in her book.  “I have been invited in from the margins, not as a guest artist, but as a family member.”



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Preludes | Posted September-26-2013
Though preludes are a musical construct that came out of the Renaissance, they still brim with meaning for Marthe De La Torre's band new album.  First, historically a prelude often serves as an introductory musical piece to a larger and often more complex work.  Likewise, this album's worth of worship music is also anticipatory of the grander worship we will enjoy in heaven.   As a mere glimpse of heavenly worship, these newly crafted nine-track album serve us (the church) with opportunities to worship God with Marthe's piano-based worship calling to mind the works of Nichole Nordeman and Sara Groves with a heightened electric sound.   Second, preludes in the Renaissance era were often lute compositions (such as written for string instruments).  And a prelude was also a time made available so that lutenists could test their instruments and the acoustics before the performance proper.  Thus, a prelude is a time of grace where lutenists were permitted to play out of tune or miss a note or make mistakes otherwise prohibited in the concert.  Likewise, our time here on earth before heaven is also a time of grace.  Though sin may flourish and though we may fail, God's grace still triumphs.  Thus, when you listen to Marthe De La Torre's "Preludes" the theme of grace will surface is as subtle as a sledgehammer.

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Love Walked In | Posted September-26-2013

Jesus Christ is not just a bouncer waiting at the heaven's pearly gates.  He does not wait to see if we have prayed the sinner's prayer or walked down the aisle at a Franklin Graham crusade in order to let us in.  This is because being a Christian is more than just saying the right prayer or raising one's hands after a preacher's sermon.  Rather, as the Sonflowerz have rightly put it, being a Christian is allowing Christ to walk in our lives to ratify the things which are rebellious to him as we handle the reins to Him in faith and in obeisance.  Such a theme of a divine take-over is at the cynosure of this forthcoming EP by the Sonflowerz.  Every song speaks of the struggles & joys of a life surrendered to Jesus Christ.  The Sonflowerz is a British-American sister duo comprising of Elissa and Becca Leander.  Just like a field of sunflowers that arches towards the sun, it is also the ambition of the sisters to always look to the "Son" in all their endeavors.  And such a Godly aspiration is magnanimously reflected in the songs they have recorded over their five albums including "Legacy," "How Great You Are," "Always Reign" and "The Face of Jesus."


RELATEDFaith."  Produced under the watchful helm of Michael Rossback (New Life Worship, Gungor and Paul Baloche), the sisters burst with a reinvigorating energy over five newly written pop-sounding worship sizzlers and a re-make of their hit "My Adoration."  Much can be said about this EP, but perhaps what is most rewarding about this EP is that it brims with Godly wisdom.  Listening to "Little Lies" is like sitting under the teachings of a wise and gifted spiritual mentor.  Whilst many songs may address the issue of the things that discourage us in our walk with Christ, "Little Lies" teaches us how to overcome the rhetoric of despair that we hear each day.  Inspired by the horrors of the shootings in Connecticut, "Love Walked In" speaks of how God can walk in to repair the most ravaged of hearts.  Spiritual renovations have never been more competent and satisfying than when we have Jesus Christ at the job.


Heavenly sibling harmonies are at their finest with "Offering My Life."  A newly crafted worship number, "Offering My Life" is based on Romans 12:1 quipped with lots of bold heart-tugging lines, with a favorite being:  "my ambition is to love you." Newer fans are given a treat with a reprisal of "My Adoration;" an unadulterated paean of vertical praise that comes right out of hearts of love.  "Love Walked In" is financed through the Kickstarter program.

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