Archive | —Music Reviews

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A New Soundtrack for the Psalms

A few weeks ago I came across an album called Psalm Songs, Vol. 1, put out by The Corner Room, aka Adam Wright. I hear hundreds of albums each year and when one stands out, it’s obvious. Psalm Songs stands out. These aren’t congregational songs, but Scripture songs, word for word from the English Standard Version. It’s really difficult to set longer Biblical passages to music without making it sound forced and un-musical. Adam and friends overcame those obstacles. Combining elements of bluegrass, new country, pop music, and folk, these songs are musically fresh, skillfully played, and a joy to listen to. After listening to the …

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Matt Searles – Now and Not Yet

The worship song outpouring in the last two decades has resulted in thousands of new songs for the church to sing. Many have been expressions of praise, thanksgiving, love, and commitment to God. Others intentionally seek to help us engage directly with God’s Word to us. That’s one of the purposes of music Paul refers to in Colossians 3:16 when he says that we’re to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly as we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I was encouraged a while back to come across an album by Matt Searles, a 32 year old assistant pastor at Dundonald Church in Wimbledon, London. The album is called Now and Not Yet – Acoustic …

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Love Divine - Cover

Love Divine – The Hymns of Charles Wesley, Updated (and win a free copy)

I think it was about 6 weeks ago that I received a copy of the CD, “Love Divine:The Songs of Charles Wesley for Today’s Generation,” which came out April 19. It’s a collection of Charles Wesley (1707-1788) hymns that have been set to music by John Hartley and Chris Eaton. There are a lot of hymns albums being made these days. In fact, I’m working on a post now that highlights some of the ministries and individuals who are participating in rearranging, rewriting, or composing hymns. Very exciting to see more people realizing that the songs we use for praising God can’t be restricted to ones that are driven more by melody and beat than lyrical …

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Man of Sorrows Glorious King – Album Review

I’ve been encouraged by the attention hymns have been getting recently. Not because I’m a fan of hymns in general, but because hymns tend to allow for a greater development of the truths we’re singing. I currently have hymns albums from Sojourn Music (The War & The Mercy Seat), Indelible Grace (The Hymn Sing), and Page CXVI (Hymns III), which I hope to review in the near future.  Mike Cosper has also started a series on hymns over at the Gospel Coalition site. But this post is about a hymns album I received last fall and am just getting around to reviewing. It’s the work of David Potter and is called Man of Sorrows Glorious King. The …

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New Matthew Smith CD – Watch the Rising Day

Recently I’ve been listening to Matthew Smith’s new CD Watch the Rising Day. Matthew has been contributing to the contemporary hymn-based music of Indelible Grace for years, but has also produced a few of his own albums. He asked me to preview his new CD which I was more than happy to do. Like Indelible Grace, all the songs on Watch the Rising Day are drawn from hymn texts, although not ones you’d necessarily be familiar with. As I’ve read through a few words-only hymnals I’ve been amazed at the wealth that still remains to be explored in old hymn lyrics. Matthew is seeking to mine those treasures and modernize the settings. LYRICS Drawing …

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A Few Christmas Songs Worth Checking Out

I know it’s late in the season, but I wanted to post some of the more solid Christmas songs, mostly for congregational worship, that I’ve come across this year. From my experience, Christmas carols are a mixed bag. Some beat around the “gospel bush” and hint at a universal brotherhood, while others clearly proclaim the good news that a Savior has been born to rescue rebellious sinners. I lean towards the second. Every year I’m on the lookout for new songs that express the wonder of the Incarnation in a fresh way. Here are a few that I’ve found this year. On Christmas Day – A song by Matt Osgood from that contains …

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Paul Baloche Talks About His New Album, Glorious

Yesterday I reviewed Paul Baloche’s new album, Glorious. I emailed Paul a few questions which he was kind enough to answer. As long as I’ve known Paul he has always been gracious and  humble. His songs are sung across the world, yet he consistently encourages those around him, laughs at himself, and directs people’s hearts to the glory of  Jesus Christ. He’s also been serving in his local church for the past 20 years. So grateful for his example of humility. Here’s the interview: 1.  How do you hope people who listen to this album will be affected? I hope that they will be inspired to wonder- to inquire- to lean in to the glory and mystery …

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Album Review – Glorious by Paul Baloche

My first lengthy conversation with Paul Baloche took place about 5 or 6 years ago. Early on the conversation turned to theology. Paul assured me that his theology was “Jesus,” and he didn’t think it needed to be more complicated than that. I’m happy to report Paul’s views have changed. Paul’s new album, Glorious, is filled with intentional, gospel-centered theology that’s expressed in tunes that are both singable and memorable. Yes, you can find albums that are denser theologically and more cutting edge musically. But when it comes to writing accessible songs that communicate biblical truths clearly and sincerely, few do it as well as Paul …

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Matt Redman Interview

I asked Matt Redman if he could fill us in on some of the background to his latest album, We Shall Not Be Shaken, which I reviewed yesterday. His responses give some insight into the songwriting process, as well as Matt’s humility. Themes of God’s sovereignty pervade the songs on this album. Why did you choose to make that focus for this album? I had a sense that many people right now need re-assurance that God is in control in their lives. So many recent events, particularly economic ones, have reminded us that much of this life and this world is fragile, temporary and changing. We’ve heard so many statistics about mortgage payments defaults …

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Matt Redman’s We Shall Not Be Shaken – Review

I first met Matt Redman in 1997 when I was over in England for a worship conference. In a few minutes of conversation a few things stood out to me. He was a young man passionate about impacting his generation with worship songs that communicated biblical truth about God and not simply emotional responses. He was theologically aware and gospel-focused. He was articulate. And he was humble. Over the past years my first impressions have not only been confirmed; they’ve been deepened. After listening to his latest album, We Shall Not Be Shaken, I found myself thanking God once again for Matt’s faithfulness to serve the church with his songwriting …

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Christianity Today Reviews Psalms CD

Yesterday I learned that Andree Farias of Christianity Today Online reviewed our latest CD, Psalms. It’s the second Sovereign Grace CD he’s reviewed. Last month he also reviewed Looked Upon, a project that my sons Devon and Jordan were involved in. While I don’t always agree with everything in the CT reviews, I appreciate that they give specific reasons and examples for what they like and dislike about a project. Along with providing exposure, reviews also tell us something about what we’re doing right and what we can do better. Andree summarized the CD in these words: Sounds like … melodic corporate worship that recalls Matt Redman, Charlie …

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New Christmas CDs (and One Old One)

Christianity Today offers a review of twenty Christmas CDs that are new this year. Hard to believe that many are being published. Artists include Travis Cottrell, Sara Groves, Fernando Ortega, Shane & Shane, and more. I hope to post any songs I find that may be worth considering. If you haven’t heard Sovereign Grace’s Christmas CD, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, you can preview samples at the Sovereign Grace Music site. We put this CD together a few years ago to add to the songs that glory in the Incarnation of our Savior. You can download the whole CD for 6 bucks at the Sovereign Grace store, purchase it  for 8 bucks, …

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What’s the Best Worship Song You’ve Learned Recently?

Just when I start thinking all the best worship songs have already been written (which I don’t really believe), I hear a new song that affects me profoundly. A friend recently sent me an email letting me know that he just taught his church My Soul Finds Rest (Ps 62) by Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend. I have four categories for congregational worship songs. Must Use, Could Use, Personally Use, and Don’t Use. This is one that I’d put in my Must Use file. There are a number of reasons. It’s based on the Word of God (always a plus) The melody is memorable. The melody is creative. The harmonic progression is fresh. The meter is unique. …

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All I Need Is Here – Michael Gungor Band CD

I met Michael Gungor briefly a few years ago at an Integrity Songwriter’s retreat. I was struck by two things. He’s an incredibly gifted guitarist. And he’s a humble man. A great combination. After hearing his most recent CD, All I Need is Here, I’ve learned that he’s also a thoughtful and creative songwriter. His new CD, on the EMI/Worship Together label, goes beyond the “norm” in everything from melodies to production to packaging. His lyrics aren’t among the most profound I’ve seen, but Michael is consciously trying to say something meaningful and biblical that draws our hearts to the glory of Christ and our responsibility to love and obey …

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Our God Saves by Paul Baloche

I met Paul Baloche about ten years ago when we were both part of a panel at the GMA (Gospel Music Association) week. We actually met back in 1985, although I didn’t find out about it until 1998. Paul had just become a Christian and Rita had persuaded him to attend a Christian conference in the Philadelphia area where some guy was teaching a session on writing songs for worship. That guy happened to be me. I’ve joked with Paul that I should probably be getting a cut of his royalties since what he learned at that seminar has probably been a key part of his success all these years… Paul is a humble man. We’ve talked about the unfortunate ending …

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