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Innocence by 710 Split Innocence by 710 Split
What You Need to Know:
Imagine if Creed, Petra and Stellar Kart somehow all had a baby. Now imagine that baby ate nothing but early-2000s youth...
Tide (Single) by The Youth Project Tide (Single) by The Youth Project
Worship outfit The Youth Project's new singles "Tide" and "All of My Heart" are the product of their creative mindset, aiming at authentic lyrics, paired with members of the group's...
All of My Heart (Single) by The Youth Project All of My Heart (Single) by The Youth Project
Worship outfit The Youth Project's new singles "Tide" and "All of My Heart" are the product of their creative mindset, aiming at authentic lyrics, paired with members of the group's...

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​Rock Rises from Idaho | Posted May-24-2018
What You Need to Know:

Imagine if Creed, Petra and Stellar Kart somehow all had a baby. Now imagine that baby ate nothing but early-2000s youth group literature for breakfast for 16 years. The result might be new indie band 710 Split.

This rising rock star of Boise, Idaho has debuted with their album Innocence, an album sure to intrigue, entertain and remind you why we still need record labels.

What it Sounds Like:

The gritty grunge passion of "Morning News" instantly introduces you to the Creed-meets-pop-punk sound I mentioned above. But make no mistake: this album is #edgy, with songs like stank face inducing "Not Welcome" sticking it to Satan while declaring "to hell I will not go." With songs like "Innocence," the band proves they can play more than one kind of guitar--acoustic is in their repertoire as well. You know it's emotionally heartfelt when acoustic guitar gets involved. 

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

This album covers the full breath of emotional woe common to suburban adolescents. "Strive" shares the deep spiritual struggle of having your friends move away, while "Crash" mourns a Bon Jovi like existence of "living on a prayer." But songs like "Eternal Love" redeem it all, closing the album with the thought "I wish my unsaved friends could know how I feel." "Hey You" might initially be taken as a girlfriend/boyfriend situation, but fortunately the band clarifies it for us nicely with the line "and by the by, I'm Jesus Christ."

The only spiritually questionable song on the album is "Uncensored." Although it sounds like male BarlowGirl, which is a point in its favor, I'm not sure it should be encouraging the uncensored use of language. Is 710 Split endorsing swearing? Unclear, but I'd steer away from this track, just in case.

Best Song on the Record:

The undeniable, self-awareness-lacking passion of "Morning News" is your perfect introduction to 710 Split.

For Fans Of: 

Creed, Petra, Coppe Cantrell

Final Word:

I've waited years to hear an album exactly like this one. Listening through Innocence was an extremely gratifying experience. At the end of the day, there's nothing like a bunch of well-intentioned young guys making music that they may not love a few years down the road, but that displays their undeniable love for Christ and Christian music. 


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A Well Executed 'Project' So Far | Posted September-08-2017
Worship outfit The Youth Project's new singles "Tide" and "All of My Heart" are the product of their creative mindset, aiming at authentic lyrics, paired with members of the group's influences (including their origins as a youth group worship team), and following the call to push musical boundaries within the Christian music culture.

"All of My Heart" is a song that you could easily play as you go for a summer drive with the windows rolled down. With more of a mellow-electronic dance feel, it allows for more space between lyrics to let the synths and pop beats tell a story, too. The joyful, devotional lyrics work well with the uptempo beat in offering a feel-good song with words to remind us of truth no matter what environment in which we find ourselves: "You want all of my heart / because that's just who You are / I'm running out of the dark / crashing back in Your arms where I fall in love again."

The Bottom Line: 

The Youth Project brings a refreshing sound to today's praise and worship scene. With youthful melodies, use of modern music technology, and timeless truths, these songs will be sung on the lips of both youth and adults alike.
- by Stephanie Taylor, NRT

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A Well Executed 'Project' So Far | Posted September-08-2017
Worship outfit The Youth Project's new singles "Tide" and "All of My Heart" are the product of their creative mindset, aiming at authentic lyrics, paired with members of the group's influences (including their origins as a youth group worship team), and following the call to push musical boundaries within the Christian music culture.

The group's first single, "Tide," is an easygoing-yet-heartfelt electronic ballad that speaks of acknowledging God through the storms of life and closes with an invitation in its bridge. There's a musical effect of raindrops that flow through the verses, adding to the picture they're painting of water and what the tide symbolizes in the life of a believer. 

The raindrop effect stops as the chorus peacefully and hopefully declares: "You hold the tide like You hold my life / Just a glimpse of Your light keeps my peace through the night." This patient worship song then winds down to a whisper once the bridge begins, building with repetition: "Come be my guide / in the fight walk with me / a ripple of love brings me down to my knees / come be the tide flood inside rushing seas / drown me." The lyrics take the meaning of the tide from something that is perhaps a threat, to actually being the move of God, coming to flood us. 

The Bottom Line: 

The Youth Project brings a refreshing sound to today's praise and worship scene. With youthful melodies, use of modern music technology, and timeless truths, these songs will be sung on the lips of both youth and adults alike.
- by Stephanie Taylor, NRT

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A project that makes you feel 😌🙏🎹 | Posted April-01-2017
Editor's note: This review reflects NRT's new policy of doing emoji-based reviews for albums. We hope you'll enjoy the brevity and the expressiveness of these reviews. 

Track 1, "Wildfire" : 🌤🌟🤖🌓❤️🗣🤷‍♂️🙏🔥🔥🔥🔥🗣👂👀💃👯🕺🏻🎸🚗🔥🔥🔥🔥🚒

Track 2, "Grace Upon Grace" : 🎹💁💸❌🏃‍♀️🌊💧💘🌊🙌💓💑🌊

Track 3, "As It Is In Heaven" : ⚜️🔜💦🏝🌌💥⚡️👐👑✔️🔛🌎🤛🔥☄️🔦☀️👨‍👨‍👧‍👦

Track 4, "The Cross Stands" : 🙆‍♂️✝️🏞🏔✝️🌀⚔️🗣✝️⛓💥✝️💫🌤

Track 5, "All Eyes On You" : 👋💋⛈☔️🌫🌬⏰👀🌝💗🗣👥☝️🙀👨🏻‍🌾

Track 6, "The Light" : 🎹👌🙀😸😴💪🏼💩💦💔❤️🏰🏃🙏👞🕶🙊🐵😳😎🤠😌🤷‍♂️🎹💡

The Bottom Line: 💦☝️💗✍️🏳️♥️⤴️🎶


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#WOWThatsMyJam | Posted September-23-2016
Rather than review an album full of hits that have already been reviewed as part of their original collections, the NRT Staff got together and shared their favorite songs included in the WOW Hits 2017 collection. What's your favorite song? Share it with #WOWThatsMyJam!

"You Are Loved" by Stars Go Dim

This was my introduction to what has becoming one of my favorite new bands in the past year and I instantly knew it would be massive at radio. With just under 2 million views on the official video and 3 million streams on Spotify, the song has definitely put this band on the map. Lead singer, Chris Cleveland's falsetto vocals perfectly compliment a message that no matter what we've done or where we've come from, God loves us.

- Kevin McNeese, Creator/Founder

"Fierce" by Jesus Culture

Jesus Culture has been something of an underground sensation for many years in the worship world, but in the last several years, has emerged to the forefront as a powerful movement helping shape how we worship. For years, other people were doing their songs--Francesca Battistelli did "Holy Spirit"... Newsboys did "Your Love Never Fails"--but now, Jesus Culture's name recognition and spiritual gravitas affords them the ability to be the ones to carry their songs to the masses.

I'm extremely excited to see Jesus Culture featured on a WOW collection, particularly with this powerful song from Let it Echo which features Chris Quilala--the guy who wrote "Your Love Never Fails"--delivering a passionate song of praise about the powerful, overwhelming love of God. Hopefully inclusion in this collection will get this catchy, congregational standout into more churches!

- Marcus Hathcock, Executive Editor

"Happiness" by NEEDTOBREATHE

My first listen of NEEDTOBREATHE's catchy, somehow simultaneously exuberant and introspective "Happiness" had me hooked (and provided a great indication of how strong their album HARD LOVE would be). In addition to the song's magnetic melody, "Happiness" instantly sparked a mental highlight reel of my own life, the decisions I've made chasing the things I believe matter, and the moments where I've tried to sacrifice things that maybe weren't meant to be sacrificed. It's a sentiment captured well in NEEDTOBREATHE's trademark tight, intentional songwriting: "I got dreams that keep me up in the dead of night / Telling me I wasn't made for the simple life / There's a light I see, but it's far in the distance / So I'm asking you to show me some forgiveness / It's all for you in my pursuit of happiness."

- Mary Nikkel, Associate Editor

"It's Not Over Yet" by for KING & COUNTRY

In the moment Joel and Luke of for KING & COUNTRY penned their recent hit "It's Not Over Yet," they weren't necessarily thinking about encouraging millions of listeners, they were thinking about just one. Inspired by their little sister's battle with Lyme Disease, the uplifting track was written as a message of hope to her during her lowest moments with the disease. While the first verse lays out the honest struggles she faced, the chorus kicks in with a promise of redemption to those who keep fighting -- an anthem for anyone who feels stuck in a weary place.

Personally, the song is a daily dose of hope to me in my own battle with Lyme. It spends many days on repeat, blaring from my car's speakers at full volume as the catchy lyrics speak life into a hard season: "To anyone who's hit their limit, it's not over yet. Even when you think you're finished, it's not over yet. Keep on fighting."

- Caitlin Lassiter, News Curator

"Breathe" by Jonny Diaz

Day after day, year after year, I get used to the same old routine. When I was younger, I thrived on to-do lists. As I get older, I resent to-dos, because it takes away my time from relationships--God, my life, and others. This is the central message in Jonny Diaz's "Breathe: "Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor / It's off to the races everybody out the door / I'm feeling like I'm falling behind, it's a crazy life."

This song echoes the message in Psalm 46:10: "He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The very fact that God calls us to relax and be still is a message that is counter cultural to society's message: "Move fast, and accomplish all you can, for you." I feel that "Breathe" serves as a great reminder that God calls us to: "Breathe, just breathe/Come and rest at my feet / And be, just be/Chaos calls but all you really need / Is to just breathe." I use "Breathe" as my alarm song to remind me to take a moment or two to just breathe. This song is similar to The Bangles 1986 hit, "Manic Monday."

- Phill Feltham, Staff Writer

"Trust in You" by Lauren Daigle

NRT's Kevin Davis spoke with Lauren Daigle about her smash hit, "Trust in You." In that interview, she gave a quote about trust that really resonated with me about my recent circumstances: "Whenever we try to do things in our own strength and recognize our incapability, that's when we have to find our identity in Christ." God recently delivered me through a very difficult season in my life. Through these trying experiences, I found one valuable lesson, which Daigle sings in "Trust in You": "I've tried to win this war I confess/My hands are weary I need Your rest/Mighty Warrior, King of the fight/No matter what I face, You're by my side."

When I give my burdens to the Lord, I find peace. Daigle continues: "When You don't move the mountains I'm needing You to move/When You don't part the waters I wish I could walk through/When You don't give the answers as I cry out to You/I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You."

- Phill Feltham, Staff Writer

"My Story" by Big Daddy Weave

This band can really write a hooky and truth-filled chorus, and lead single "My Story" is catchy, relevant and worshipful. "My Story" is a modern adaptation of the hymn "Blessed Assurance." The song is an upbeat worship declaration sung with a stirring passion and filled with prayerful lyrics. You'll worship our King Jesus right along with Mike, in particular the proclamation in the chorus: "Of the grace that is greater than all my sin, of when justice was served and where mercy wins, of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in, to tell you my story is to tell of Him." Amen to that!

- Kevin Davis, Lead Contributor

"Feel It" by TobyMac

TobyMac was by far my favorite Christian artist growing up. As a young teenager, I had every lyric from Momentum and Welcome To Diverse City memorized, and I somehow always found myself in the front row of his concert every time he was in town. After not completely 'feeling it' after 2012's Eye On It, TobyMac's latest album is a satisfying return to form for one of my favorite artists. What makes "Feel It" so great is how it blends the fun, playful vibe of old-school TobyMac with the slick, classy pop goodness of the artist's latest albums. I've listened to this song hundreds of times since its release just over a year ago and it still hasn't gotten old. That's what makes TobyMac so special.

- Micah Garnett, Staff Writer

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Double the Reactions for Switchfoot's 10th Album | Posted July-07-2016
Some albums are so significant and rich that it's more than one writer can tackle alone-- so NRT's Executive Editor Marcus Hathcock and Associate Editor Mary Nikkel teamed up to bring you their thoughts on Switchfoot's highly anticipated tenth studio album Where The Light Shines Through.

"Holy Water"

MARY: The album opens with the classic Switchfoot sound in the vein of Nothing Is Sound. The instrumentation takes center stage in a lot of ways on this track, building an atmosphere, a feeling of longing, rather than hinging on certain lyrics or a limited hook.

MARCUS: You can tell right away that Switchfoot isn't interested in making the sequel to Fading West on this-- the guitars are back. I'm a big fan of the classic rock jamming on the bridge of this song. There's a definite art to creating both an ethereal vibe and a gritty rock jam. The song is a great prayer about needing God to intervene in our lives. 


MARY: "Float" is a chilled out summer jam, the perfect complement to a road trip or a party on the water's edge. The music is simultaneously understated and just funky enough to be intriguing.

MARCUS: This is the first song I heard from the new project, and at first, I was a tad concerned. It's so different musically from anything Switchfoot has ever done-- to the point that it doesn't exactly sound like a Switchfoot song. That said, in context of the rest of the record, it works-- REALLY WELL. The 7/8 time signature is a signal that the band is continuing to push the envelope musically, and it grooves really well. An intensely metaphoric song, I think "Float" is talking about how in Christ we aren't bogged down by the petty things that occupy the world. It's a chill, surfer-friendly tune, to be sure.

"Where The Light Shines Through"

MARCUS: This is a Sunday afternoon drive kind of song, sonically. It has some soulful elements to it. It has a happy-go-lucky groove that betrays its deeply poignant lyrics about how our greatest weaknesses and pain can be the point of our greatest triumph and the place where God shows up the most. Some more classic rock elements propel the high-pitched summary Jon Foreman sings in the bridge.

MARY: There is definitely a classic rock vibe in Drew Shirley's guitar tone ties itself to a catchy melody as the lyrics displays signature Jon Foreman heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics: "Your scars shine like dark stars / Your wounds are where the light shines through."

"I Won't Let You Go"

MARY: My first impulse was to write this off as just a token ballad, but that would have been tragically missing out. This is the kind of song that makes a soul feel seen, heard and valued. It is quiet grace in musical form.

MARCUS: This feels like one of Switchfoot's classic soundtrack-friendly, emotive hits. The song is an overt message from the Creator to His creation: "If you could learn to trust me somehow / I swear that I won't let you go / If you could only let go of doubt / If you could just believe me somehow / I swear that I won't let you go." It builds in intensity, as the Father's heart cries out the refrain He's clearly singing over all of us. The instrumentation here is simple and serves the lyrics well, allowing the listener to reflect on them. 

"If The House Burns Down Tonight"

MARCUS: One of my favorite songs on the record, this one made me think of Gungor with its acoustic-and-piano intro-- an intro that is so drastically different from the rest of the song that quickly emerges. It's extremely fun and catchy and driving-- and, speaking of driving, it's probably the one that'll get you pulled over for speeding. It crams a lot of sobering truth about the fleeting nature of life into four-and-a-half minutes.

MARY: A slow-burn start builds into a blazing anthem, a reckless, breathless declaration that no matter what we lose in this life, the people we love will always be the only thing that mattered all along. I dare you not to crank the volume on this one.

"The Day That I Found God"

MARY: The pensive lyrics take the listener on a journey through all the voices in our lives that are not God's, settling ultimately on the conclusion "The day I lost myself / was the day that I found God." This is some of Switchfoot's most head-on, deliberate spiritual wrestling in years.

MARCUS: There's no guessing as to what this track is about. This overt song talks about Jon's (and many people's) spiritual journey. It's a laid back testimony with a slow hip-hop beat that is totally honest while not coming across too preachy to non-Christian audiences. Soaring Southern rock guitar tones provide an extra oomph of emotion to already emotional lyrics. I like the electronic staccato "ah" sounds they use at the beginning and end.

"Shake This Feeling"

MARCUS: This mid-tempo song is the album highlight for me, and one that shares what is as close to pessimism as Switchfoot gets, openly asking if people have lost hope. Jon sings, "I'm wishing we could start all over again," reflecting on the broken state of the world. He also sings, "We've got to fight to fall back in love again," in a rallying cry for people to return to peace and brotherhood among people. Jon's passionate, reaching vocals are some of the highest I've heard in awhile, and it works really well. 

MARY: This slightly wistful, introspective piece says "I can't seem to shake this feeling / Maybe it's time we start healing." It challenges soul stagnancy with brutal honesty married to a call towards hope.

"Bull in a China Shop"

MARY: The only previous precedent for this track would be perhaps "Selling the News" from Vice Verses. The funky rock and roll jam has infectious hip hop-infused verses that make it perhaps the most straight forward fun cut on the record.

MARCUS: Yeah, "Selling the News" is a good comparison for this fun, funky song. There's no talk-rapping, but the singing is definitely a step away from that. It captures a little bit of the vibe of the early years of Switchfoot. Sounds like Tim Foreman sings the bridge on this one: "What are you waiting for? The future's here." The song basically describes Switchfoot's mission as a band: "I wanna rock this block like a bull in a china shop" because "I'm singing for more than just a dead solution." Pay special attention to the bass playing gymnastics.

"Live it Well"

MARY: The lead Christian radio single doesn't necessarily push musical boundaries, but the call in the lyrics certainly pushes the boundaries of our perspective and all-too-frequent apathy as it reminds "life is short, I want to live it well / and You're the One I'm living for."

MARCUS: This was the second song from the record I heard, and it concerned me, too, as it sounded a bit too predictable from Switchfoot as an AC radio-ready hit. But again, in context, it works fantastically as the bookend to the song before it. They go from a fun romp about rocking with the truth into a ballad about individually making the most of life. Fans of Switchfoot's Learning to Breathe-era tunes will especially love this one.

"Looking for America"

MARCUS: Hey, it's the first real rap feature on a Switchfoot song! And it's Lecrae! And it's awesome that this collab led to that little tour they did together. Both artists have similar vibes about ministering to the culture, to rallying the Church, and calling people to want more for their lives. This tune is a hard-hitting, aggressive stomper that asks questions about the soul of America in 2016: "America, who are you?"

MARY: This track proves two things: first, that Lecrae really can pull off a collaboration with anyone, and second, that Switchfoot really can pull off whatever they set their creative minds to. The challenge to a chaotic culture rings clear through Jon's melody and Lecrae's rhymes.

"Healer of Souls"

MARY: Rock and roll needs hymns and spirituals of its own. This song 100 percent fills that role. "Ain't we human, ain't we all got problems? / Honey, rock and roll ain't gonna solve them now" Jon Foreman croons before launching into a grooving chorus calling us toward the one true Healer of Souls.

MARCUS: A little more of the Southern edge found its way into the album, one last time. Plain and simple, Switchfoot has found its way back into unabashed, good old fashioned rock and roll. Buzzing, gritty guitars and drum interludes on the verses would make Jack White fans happy on this head-bobbing jam track. 

"Hope is the Anthem"

MARY: The album closer captures Switchfoot's stated mission for the album: "hope deserves an anthem." Doubt, faith, struggle, redemption-- all these themes from tracks past are woven together under the banner lyric "hope is the anthem of my soul."

MARCUS: Let's end this thing with another beautifully poetic ballad. Switchfoot summarizes what they've been trying to say on this record-- and throughout their career-- on the closing track. Check out the octave jump Jon hits when singing the chorus near the end of the song, as if he's screaming out something we might not have caught the first few times he said it. 

In Summary:

MARY: This is every element you hope for on a Switchfoot album dialed up to eleven. After the more slick, pop-influenced sound that governed Fading West, I personally am ecstatic for the return of Drew Shirley's masterful guitar tones. The Foreman brothers crafted lyrics that dig deep into all the richness of human experience, but more than ever before they have done so with phrasing that can resonate with a wide audience-- skillfully tapping universal emotions of hope, doubt, faith, fear and the ongoing fight to see God's face in all of them. Switchfoot's tenth album is one of the best in their catalogue, and the highest contender on my list for album of the year.

MARCUS: Where the Light Shines Through, like many Switchfoot albums, needs a few active listens to fully digest it and understand its intentional flow and continuity. The band continues to try new things musically (and vocally!), which is incredibly exciting and gratifying. After Fading West all but eliminated electric guitars, it's safe to say the rock is back, but they've altered it a bit with new elements of funk, soul, Southern rock, classic rock and new tones. Thematically, they don't rest on their laurels, but they do rest on the same values of love, hope and the fleeting nature of life. Similar themes that the band clearly believes in, and continues to hammer to us, an audience that desperately needs to hear it. 

Song to Download Now:

MARY: "If The House Burns Down" (Get it on iTunes here.)

MARCUS: "Shake This Feeling" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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Reflective, Reverent Worship | Posted May-14-2015
Dove award-nominated Joseph Habedank has experienced success not only as a singer, but also as a songwriter. His compositions have been recorded by many acts, including The Hoppers, Karen Peck & New River, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Brian Free & Assurance, Lauren Talley, Ivan Parker and Gold City. Habedank also spent ten years as a member of Southern Gospel mixed vocal group The Perrys. In May 2013, Joseph exited The Perrys to face a personal trial, checking into a residential center to receive treatment for an addiction to prescription pain killers.

After taking time off for recovery, Habedank reemerged in July 2014, releasing his first solo effort Welcome Home. The album, all original material that largely drew from his personal testimony and struggle, was met with positive reviews. 

I'm sure many have been waiting for his next musical move. And it's no small matter that his new release is a hymns project. Given the recent saturation of the market with hymns recordings, some may look askance, assuming the album to be a half-hearted effort undertaken for commercial gain. They couldn't be more wrong. Take Time to Be Holy: Hymns for Quiet Reflection is the impassioned prayer of a restored man still clinging to his Redeemer.

Like the majority of hymns records, Habedank has chosen many well-known, oft-recorded pieces. Though some have tried to bring a new approach or arrangement to these time-tested standards, Habedank has made a decided effort not to rework the songs, but to approach them in a simple, straightforward fashion with minimal accompaniment. The result is a uniquely reflective, reverent and intimate worship experience.

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" sets the stage, with Habedank supported by only piano. With the lyrics brought to the fore, our eyes are directed to Jesus. Habedank's passion is evident when he powers home the line "His Kingdom is Forever." Several of the early songs are cross-centered, and as such establish a mood of worship. On "It Is Well," Habedank's wife Lindsay joins him. Joseph's soulful vocal on "There's a Fountain" injects some oomph.

Exquisite "Hallelujah, What a Savior" is the brightest gem of the bunch. With their beautiful interplay of light and dark tones, Habedank and his pianist take your breath away. Joseph's tone is deep and resonant in the lower notes and equally clear and bright when he goes into his higher register. This vocal range also comes into play on the beautifully performed "Be Thou My Vision." Elsewhere, Habedank tenderly caresses every bit of the melody on "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross."

Title-track "Take Time To Be Holy" closes the album. While it could easily have been an opening number, it finds its proper home at the finish. Habedank has gently ushered his listener into the presence of God, and it's here, at the feet of Jesus, where he will leave us. The lyric entreats us to "take time to be holy," reminding that discipleship takes effort. Though "the world rushes on," we are asked to "spend much time in secret / With Jesus alone."

Closing Thoughts:

Given only a cursory listen, Habedank's Take Time to Be Holy: Hymns for Quiet Reflection may feel sleepy. But it's a slow-burn that, with each repeated listen, will work its way deeper into your heart. However, there's a caveat: you must do the work. This isn't the kind of record you turn to purely for entertainment, nor is it one you can listen to while multi-tasking. If you do so, its quiet nature will relegate it to background music, and you'll miss the point. But if you listen actively, if you "take time to be holy" by plugging in your headphones and unplugging the noise of the world, you'll be "plugging in" to Jesus. And in His company, you'll reap incalculable benefits.

Song to Download Now:

"Take Time to be Holy" (Get it on iTunes here.)

— Review by Dawn Teresa, dawno

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Happy Harmonies | Posted April-29-2015
Having cut his teeth with legendary group The Cathedrals, Ernie Haase realized a dream in 2002 when he founded his own quartet. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound has since become a best-selling and award-winning Southern Gospel favorite.

Ernie's recent label venture with musical director Wayne Haun has given him the vehicle to allow tenor Doug Anderson and lead singer Devin McGlamery to stretch their legs outside the group. And each has earned a Dove Award for his solo work (Doug, twice). But there is no denying the special sound--and bond--the quartet has together. Indeed, the current lineup (Haase, Anderson, McGlamery, and Paul Harkey) has really gelled.

Through the years Haase has dabbled in many sounds and genres--there's even a Broadway release on the way! But with Happy People, EHSS largely sticks to what it does best. As he did years ago with "Get Away Jordan," Haase again digs into The Statesmen Quartet vault to dust off a classic. This time, the treat is lively lead-off "One Of These Mornings." 

Casual listeners might fiind title track "Happy People" a touch schmaltzy; careful attention reveals a composition that doesn't gloss over pain and heartache. Inspired by Psalm 144:15 "Yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord!", the lyrics explain "...happy are the people who always remember that happiness is the Lord." I dare you to listen to this one and not break into a smile!

Though I would have liked to see him featured more on this project, McGlamery's best moment comes on the sweeping "Thank You For Saving Me," which could garner serious crossover radio play on Inspirational outlets.

Elsewhere, "Love Walked In" has a direct, country-flavored arrangement that suits both McGlamery and Anderson. Haase and Haun have a tendency to favor polished, often grand, production values. Though "Jesus Changed Everything" is lovely, I wonder if the song might not have been better served without the strings and horns.

Haase's tenor still rings clear and true. On "Let Your Love Light Shine" his light tone is nicely balanced by Harkey's rich bass, while "Angels Everywhere" is a gentle, strikingly beautiful example of how, musically, less can sometimes be more.

Of the remaining tunes, "It's Good To See The Sun" would be more at home performed alongside Broadway numbers. As such, it will be a good concert interlude, but it feels out of place here when you consider how the album otherwise has a unified sound. In its place, I would have loved another energetic ensemble piece with an old-timey feel like "Joshua Led God's Children." On the sentimental "A Soldier Fighting To Go Home," Harkey reveals how lyrical his voice can be. Finally, when EHSS presents their take on the Gaither Vocal Band song "I Do Believe," Anderson shows his prowess as an interpreter before the arrangement swells into a big finish.

Closing Thoughts:

Happy People is a strong showcase for the vocal abilities of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. The album more successfully presents a cohesive sound than have their recent recordings; however, in tightening the focus, the album to some degree lacks the panache fans have come to expect from EHSS. Nevertheless, this is a solid offering from one of the most entertaining and talented groups in Southern Gospel today.

— Review by Dawn Teresa, dawno


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A Joyful Noise | Posted April-21-2015
Coming off the success of their 2013 recording Revival, which garnered Album of the Year and Song of the Year awards (for "Revival" and "Finish Well") from several different outlets, Daywind Records mixed trio Karen Peck & New River (Karen Peck Gooch, sister Susan Peck Jackson, and Jeff Hawes) present their newest offering, Pray Now.

Lead single and title track "Pray Now" was born from Karen's own prayer life. She aims to encourage others to feel an urgency about taking their concerns to God in prayer. The inclusion of a portion of the Lord's Prayer is personally significant to Karen, as she and her husband Rickey have been praying it daily for some time. Though they could not have imagined it when the song was written, "Pray Now" couldn't be more timely for the Gooches. Earlier this year, Rickey was diagnosed with squamous carcinoma, for which he is still undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Similar to Revival before it, Pray Now has, in its varied styles and song offerings, a little something for everyone. In fact, from cover to cover, Pray Now is even stronger than its predecessor. And that's a tall order. Whether it's the energetic lead-off number "Calling" or the inspirational modern hymn "Hallelujah For the Cross" (the title track of the Newsboys' recent hymns project), Karen Peck & New River lend their inspired all to their uplifting vocals. 

Thematically, though much of the album speaks to trouble and trials, it is consistently hopeful and joyful. Indeed, songs like "Love With All Your Heart", "Blessed", "I'm Not Letting Go", and "I Choose Christ" all put hardship into faithful perspective by keeping eyes focused on Jesus' abiding grace and giving thanks for His provision. In particular, "Blessed" boasts grand production as sweeping as its vocals and harmonies are soaring, while passionate "I'm Not Letting Go" is soul-stirring and energizing, reminding that "when life gets crazy, God is in control." Doubtless, the affirmative "I Choose Christ" is poised for future Song of the Year honors. Still more riveting is the Celtic-infused masterpiece "Redemption's Holy Lamb." As the pipes and drums play, and the trio's vocals rouse your beating heart, you'll look to the Heavens with awe and praise.

Karen Peck & New River excel at bringing peace. Again reminding us that God knows our struggles, "Peace That Covers All the Pain" will soothe your hurting spirit. Elsewhere, the plaintive "Lord, Send Your Angels" lends voice to your prayers while also serving as a lullaby-like balm. Finally, the optimistic, gently melodic "A Life That's Good" ends the album on a hopeful, humble note. 

Closing Thoughts:

With a mix of styles that includes inspirational, hymns, Celtic, country and bluegrass-tinged numbers, and progressive Southern Gospel, on Pray Now, Karen Peck & New River serve up something for everyone. From first cut to last, they don't miss a beat. An album focused on the power of prayer, Pray Now will bring peace, joy, and inspiration to your day.

— Review by Dawn Teresa, dawno

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Traditional and Tuneful Southern Gospel | Posted April-21-2015
Founded in 1990 by Gerald Wolfe, Greater Vision is the most-awarded trio in Southern Gospel. During their (so far) twenty-five year tenure, the group has seen relatively few lineup changes. The trio is currently comprised of emcee and lead singer Wolfe, tenor Chris Allman, and baritone Rodney Griffin. 

With Wolfe taking hold of the production reins (assisted by the late Lari Goss' orchestral arrangements), and Allman and Griffin doing much of the writing, the unit's latest project, As We Speak, is largely self-contained. Though the album doesn't break new ground--which is hardly the point -- it's an excellent set of songs impeccably performed in an unassuming, straight-ahead style. Please don't mistake that for dull because As We Speak is anything but.

Indeed, with both their music and lyrics, Greater Vision excels in honoring the history and traditions of their genre and their faith in a manner that maintains unmistakable immediacy. "Put Out the Fire" is a perfect example of how the trio turns a biblical story into a lively Southern Gospel nugget. It's easy to imagine this as a live, showstopping encore with false endings and energetic crowd participation. On the disc, though, it's not a closer but an opener--the guys are just getting started!

As the perfectly sequenced tunes continue, "We Can't Tell It All" gorgeously establishes a mood of praise, while toe-tapping "Toes In The Water" invites you to dive deeper into your exploration of faith. The trio then slows the tempo with the comforting ballad "He Does," reassuring listeners that Jesus understands our suffering. Not letting things get sleepy, bouncy, bluegrass-tinged "In The Sandals of Daniel" kicks up the pace, finishing what feels like the ideal Side A of an LP.

If you were playing this on vinyl, it would be time to flip the record. And the second side plays out much the same way as the first, with a balance of tempos that maintains energy and interest. Swelling anthem "Let the Blood of Calvary Speak For Me" is followed by the joyful countrified gem "Never Will I Ever Again" before things quiet down for the beautiful "I Do Know," which answers the doubts of an unknown future with the assurance of the Lord's promise of Heavenly eternity. The album finishes strong, first with "Saved By The Same Grace," a song of two very different people being touched in a similar way by Christ's saving grace, and finally with the title track, "As We Speak," a glowing piano piece that speaks volumes about the restorative love and peace we receive from our Savior through prayer.

Closing Thoughts:

On As We Speak, Greater Vision presents a lovely set of harmonious, melodic songs with meaningful, biblically-centered lyrics focused on faith, commitment, surrender, and praise. This isn't a shoot-the-lights-out, knock-your-socks-off kind of album from singers out to wow you with their prowess. As We Speak is better than that. It's a collection of compositions from committed believers who pool their talents to provide inspiration and comfort by pointing to the Prince of Peace and King and Kings. As such, Greater Vision has served up an old-fashioned, Southern Gospel delight.

Review by Dawn Teresa, dawno


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