Monday, February 27, 2012


     Twila Paris has now released 23 albums, had 33 No. 1 hits, and won numerous Dove Awards including three for 'Female Vocalist of the Year'.  Her latest release is GOD SHED HIS GRACE-SONGS OF TRUTH AND FREEDOM (2012, eOne Christian Music).  It is a collection of eleven previously recorded tracks that have been re-mastered, and two new patriotic recordings, they being 'God of our Fathers' and 'America the Beautiful'.  Of this project Paris says: "I'm getting more and more concerned about the direction of the nation and more and more passionate about the things I believe...We've gotten to a place where we think every generation is smarter than the last, and none of us need to hear anything from God.  Our founders got it right.  They really did.  We need to get back to what they intended and not be reinterpreting and superimposing agendas.  We have been moving away from what makes us great as a nation; and this isn't about politics.  Politics is simply a reflection of who we are." 
     The album begins with the inspirational 'God of Our Fathers (National Hymn)' written by Daniel C. Roberts and George W. Warren.  It is a song Paris' 77 year old Dad learned in school, not in church.  She shares: "In recent years, singing our National Hymn in church has caused my heart to ache with grief rather than swell with pride, because the conflict between the words I'm singing and the world I live in is undeniable.  But I believe these words can be true again.  It's clear that God's people are praying.  And as we pray, He is showing us how to think, speak and act in ways that can truly be salt and light in a darkened culture."  Some of the lyrics are: "Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise/Thy love divine hath led us in the past/In this free land by Thee our lot is cast/Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay/Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way."  'True North' is the soft pop title track from her 1999 album.  It is about coming to the realization that we need divine guidance: "How did we ever wander so far?/And where do we go from here?/How will we find it again?/True North/There's a strong, steady light that is guiding us home/True North/In the lingering night we were never alone/We need an absolute compass now more than ever before/True North, True North."  'Wisdom' makes the bold claim that there is only one true God: "Wisdom is granted in the name of Jesus Christ/In the name of Jesus Christ/You are the only way/You are the only voice/You are the only hope/You are the only choice/You are the one true God/No matter what we say/You are the breath of life/We need you here today." 
     You can hear the passion in Twila's voice as she sings 'I See You Standing' from 1990's CRY FOR THE DESERT.  It was inspired by the courageous young man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square: "I see you standing in the fire/Standing on the Word/Remembering the call/I see you standing, standing/I see you standing tall/In the dire struggle you have held your ground."  'The Warrior is a Child' was Twila's first No. 1 back in 1984 and is one of my all time Twila faves.  It is a ballad that shows a vulnerable side of Twila: "People say that I'm amazing/Never face retreat/But they don't see the enemies/That lay me at His feet/And they don't know that I go running home when I fall down/They don't know who picks me up when no one is around/I drop my sword and look up for a smile/'Cause deep inside this armor (3X)/The warrior is a child."  'There is a Plan' from 2007's SMALL SACRIFICE has a more contemporary feel to it and puts total confidence in God: "He is working through the night/Behind the scenes, behind the eyes/Though we would never realize it at a glance/When He comes to work in me/The building of eternity/I pray I do not miss the moment/Do not miss the chance (2X)/I still believe/There is a plan/Moving just beneath the surface of the world we understand."
     'God is in Control' was a hugely popular, upbeat song on 1993's BEYOND A DREAM.  It was "written in response to her own anxieties about the direction of our nation", according to a press release.  Some of the lyrics are: "There is only one thing that has always been true/It holds the world together/God is in control/We believe that His children will not be forsaken/God is in control/We will choose to remember and never be shaken/There is no power above or beside Him, we know/Oh God is in control (2X)."  'How Beautiful' is a worshipful wedding favorite that opens with these words of praise to Jesus: "How beautiful the hands that served/The wine and the bread and the sons of the earth/How beautiful the feet that walked/The long dusty roads and the hill to the cross/How beautiful (2X)/How beautiful is the body of Christ."  'I Can Do All Things' contains a nice electric guitar solo and draws from Philippians 4:13.  It reminds us of the life-giving power of Christ: "You are my solid rock/You are my victory.../Through Christ who strengthens me/I can do all things/Through Christ who strengthens me/I can do all things."  A  nice surprise is the inclusion of 'Runner' from 1985's KINGDOM SEEKERS.  It was written by Twila and Starla Orene Paris.  It sees life as a race and is a song of encouragement: "Faster and harder, run through the night/Desperate relay, carry the light/Carry the light/Runner when the road is long/Feel like giving in but you're hanging on/Oh runner, when the race is won/You will run into His arms." 
     'What Did He Die For' from 1996's WHERE I STAND "was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, after Paris watched World War II footage on TV, tears filling her eyes."  The song includes these words: "Just a young American who chose to rise above his fears/And as I watch him struggle up that hill/Without a thought of turning back/I cannot help but wonder/What did he die for, when he died for you and me?/Made the sacrifice so that we could all be free/I believe we will answer each to heaven/For the way we spend a priceless liberty/Look inside and ask the question/What did he die for when he died for me?"
     'America the Beautiful' was recorded in Twila's living room.  Scott and Christine Dente from Out of the Grey appear on it.  Twila says "I wanted it to feel more like a prayer than a performance, because it IS a prayer if you look at the lyric."  Witness these words: "America, America, God shed His grace on thee/And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."  A song of gratitude towards God, 'What am I Without You' closes the album: "You are the day that rules the night/You are the hope in me/All that I have descends from You/All I could ever be/What am I without You? (2X)" 
     GOD SHED HIS GRACE runs over an hour long.  Not only is it a superb collection of patriotic songs, it also serves as a great career retrospective of Twila's work!  I'm rating it 87% and recommending it to fans of her contemporaries, Sandi Patty and Scott Wesley Brown.  For more info visit and

Sunday, February 05, 2012


     On his website Scott Wesley Brown writes: "Being a part of the early days of Contemporary Christian Music or 'Jesus Music' as we called it in the 70's was as exciting as blazing the new frontiers of the wild west!"  In 2005 Scott turned his attention the the hymns and released HYMNS-THE OLD MADE NEW produced by Billy Smiley of White Heart, Jeff Nelson, and himself.  It was released by Devotion Music.  The worship team vocals are performed by Michael Mellet, Tammy Jensen, Lisa Bevill, Drew Cline, and Billy Smiley.  The Scottsdale Bible Church Choir is also used.  A nice touch is the penny whistle played by Sam Levine.  Scott introduces the project with these words: "As I've travelled to over 50 countries worldwide, I've heard these great hymns sung in many cultures and in many tongues often to different melodies and indigenous rhythms.  Many of them were originally sung by missionaries who gave their lives to proclaim the very words of truth these hymns contain...I hope that these new renditions will carry them even farther, to new generations; to new places where the glory of our Lord Jesus will be proclaimed and countless more will worship Him!"
     'Praise to the Lord the Almighty (He is Worthy of Honor)' sounds majestic and extols the Lord:  "Praise to the Lord, oh let all that is in me adore Him/All that hath life and breath/Come now with praises before Him/Let the 'Amen' shout from His people again/Gladly forever adore Him (2X)."  'He Will Reign in all the Earth (Jesus shall Reign)' features great guitar work, will get your feet moving, and includes these bold lyrics: "Jesus shall reign wherever the sun/Does its' successive journeys run/His Kingdom stretched from shore to shore/Till moon shall wax and wane no more."  Scott provides some background for the song: "This great missionary hymn was sung in the South Sea Islands in 1862 by King George of England along with the chiefs of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa and some 5,000 natives as they dedicated their islands to Christ and denounced heathenism and cannabalism under a new Christian constitution."  'Come Christians Join to Sing' is jubilant and includes these instructive lyrics: "Come lift your hearts on high/Alleluia, Amen/Let praises fill the sky/Alleluia, Amen/He is our Guide and Friend/To us He will descend/His love shall never end/Alleluia, Amen (2X)/Amen to the Lord, Amen to His grace/Amen to the One who is worthy of praise."
     'For the Beauty of the Earth' showcases the soft vocal touches of fellow Devotion artist Kristina, and corrects those who worship Mother Earth: "Lord You are more beautiful than all that You have made/We marvel at creation/But You alone we praise."  'May Jesus Christ Be Praised (When Morning Gilds the Skies)' is a modern praise anthem with a great guitar solo by Brennan Smiley.  New words and music were written by Brown, Aaron Shust, and Billy Smiley.  These words remind us how powerful our praise is: "The night becomes as day when from the heart we say/May Jesus Christ be praised/The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear/May Jesus Christ be praised/Jesus You are holy/Jesus be praised."  Next up is a somewhat subdued version of 'Immortal Invisible (God only Wise).'  It is a song of reverence: "Great Father of glory, pure Father of light/Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight/All praise we would render/O help us to see/'Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee."
     In introducting 'All Hail the Power', Scott writes: "Worship is the goal of missions!"  The song is upbeat and keeps the tune we're all familiar with, but adds some contemporary, modern flourishes.  It anticipates taking part in the coronation of Jesus in Heaven: "O that with yonder sacred throng/We at His feet may fall/We'll join the everlasting song/And crown Him Lord of all (2X)."  'He Hideth my Soul' is a ballad of testimony.  Original words are by Fanny Crosby.  New words and music are by Billy Smiley, Ryan Dubes and Brown.  The lyrics include the following: "A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord/He taketh my burden away/He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved/He giveth me strength as my day/He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock/That shadows a dry, thirsty land/He hideth my  life with the depths of His love/And covers me there with His hand (2X)."  'Love that will not let me Go' is tender and carried by acoustic guitar.  The original words are by George Matheson, a Scottish theologian and preacher, in 1882.  New words and music are by Brown, who introduces the song this way: "This hymn was the fruit of the severe anguish Matheson suffered as his fiancee deserted him when he learned he was going blind.  He stated that it was written ever so quickly as if someone were dictating it to him.  Witness these words: "Oh love that will not let me go/Like an anchor to my soul/Forever in Your sovereign hold/Love that will not let me go/Oh joy that seekest me through pain/I cannot close my heart to thee/I trace the rainbow through the rain/And feel the promise is not vain/That morn shall tearless be (2X)."
     'Thy God Reigneth' uses an angelic vocal chorus and engages in some encouraging self-talk: "Sinful soul thy debt is paid/Thy God reigneth/On the Lord thy sins were laid/Thy God reigneth/On the cross of Calvary Jesus shed His blood for thee/From all sin to set thee free/Thy God reigneth (2X)...Church of Christ awake, awake/Thy God reigneth/Forward then, fresh courage take/Thy God reigneth/Soon, descending from His throne/He shall claim thee for His own/Sin shall then be overthrown/Thy God reigneth! (2X)"  'Jesus I Come' is a ballad that builds.  Like 'Trading my Sorrows' it is about trading our poverty for God's riches: "Out of my bondage, sorrow and night/Jesus I come/Into Your freedom, gladness and light/Jesus I come/Out of my sickness, into Your health/Out of my want, into Your wealth/Out of my sin and into Yourself/Jesus I come/I come...Lord I am thirsty, Lord I am down on my knees/And through all of the valleys Your Word is spoken to me (2X)/You are my Shepherd/All that I want, all I need (2X)/So Jesus I come/Jesus I come/Jesus I come."  'The Church's One Foundation (Christ our Foundation)' is beautiful and finds Jeff Nelson on piano.  Original words are by Samuel Stone (1866) and original music is by 'Aurelia' Samuel Wesley (1864).  New words and music are by Brown and Billy Smiley.  Introducing this closing number, Scott writes: "Written in opposition to a theological position in Capetown, South Africa when a bishop of the church denied the doctrine of eternal punishment and the authorship of the Pentateuch and Book of Joshua."  The song uses ceremonial language to speak of the Christian faith: "Elect from every nation yet one o'er all the earth/Her charter of salvation-one Lord, one faith, one birth/One Holy Name she blesses/Partakes one holy food/And to One Hope she presses/With every grace endued/Christ our foundation, our joy of salvation/O how we praise Your Name (2X)."
     If you are tired of hearing the same old hymns done the same way, if you enjoy the hymns but wonder what they might have sounded like if written today, or if you are unfamiliar with the hymns, HYMNS-THE OLD MADE NEW is a good starting point.  The hymns are good at putting the focus on God and His attributes.  I only wish Scott had included a few more upbeat numbers; the project is a bit mellow.  I'm rating it 85%.  For more info visit

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


     Remarkably this year marks 38 years since the release of Scott Wesley Brown's self-titled debut album.  Over the years he has become one of Contemporary Christian Music's most beloved male vocalists.  His latest album is SONGS FROM THE VALLEY (2010) produced by Billy Smiley of Whiteheart, and himself.  In the liner notes Scott writes: "Special thanks to the Pastors, staff and congregation of 'Valley' Presbyterian Church, Paradise Valley, AZ.  Many of these songs were written and premiered by our awesome worship team from our contemporary service where it is always a joy to see our people worship together."  Guitarists on the album include George Cocchini, Brennan and Billy Smiley, and Scott Dente of Out of the Grey.  Other instruments used to good effect include the Irish whistle and cello.  What results is a strong album!
     'O Worship the King' is a joyful, almost Christmas sounding song.  The words to it in a way lay out the purpose of the album: "O worship the King, All glorious above/And gratefully sing God's power and God's Love;/Our Shield and Defender, and girded with praise/O tell of God's might, O Sing of His grace/Whose robe is the Light, Whose canopy space/Whose chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form/And dark is His path on the wings of the storm."  Scott wrote 'I Believe in God' as a declaration of faith in response to atheist Richard Dawkins.  The song is a contemporary rocker: "When I look upon the wonders of creation/And such intricate design in all there is/I know my faith is not a mere delusion/And I rejoice to know the Lord of All exists!/And I believe in God/I believe in God/I believe in God my Maker."  'Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing' is given a fairly traditional treatment and features a nice female harmony vocal.  The song gives a chief reason why Scott feels the need to praise and worship God: "Jesus sought me when a stranger/Wandering from the fold of God/He to rescue me from danger/Interposed His precious blood/How His kindness yet pursues me/Mortal tongue can never tell/Clothed in flesh till death shall loose me/I cannot proclaim it well."  Of 'You are the Center (Rev 4)' Scott writes: "This song is in no way endorsing pantheism or panetheism in stating that God fills all there is with all He is.  Rather God is omnipresent and immense."  Here are some of the lyrics: "You are the center, You are the keeper/Sustaining all things by Your Word/You are the power, You are the glory/All that there is encircles You O Lord/And who could ever comprehend/Before there was, You've always been/Filling all there is with all You are/Immortal and Invisible/So incomprehensible/And yet You choose to dwell within my heart."
     'Saint Patrick's Prayer (May Everything be Christ)' is adapted from the breastplate of Saint Patrick, 5th century Ireland.  It relates a desire to be completely taken over by and lost in Christ: "Christ before me, Christ behind me/May everything be Christ/Christ beside me, Christ within me/May everything be Christ/Christ above me, Christ beneath me/May everything be Christ/Christ around me, Christ surround me/May everything be Christ."  It is a beautiful ballad.  'All that is Within Me'  has an upbeat, modern sound and testifies to the Lord's greatness: "Who have I in Heaven?/But You alone oh Lord/There is nothing here on earth I desire more/My heart and flesh may fail/But Lord You are my strength/You are my portion forever."  'Lord Most High (Day is Dying in the West)' was written with and features Centricity Music sensation Aaron Shust.  It is a great song of praise that further proves Scott is not stuck in the 1970's or 1980's!  The song includes these lyrics: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts (2X)/Heaven and earth rejoice/All creation lift your voice/Heaven and earth rejoice/O Lord most high, Lord most high!"  'Jude's Benediction (Jude 24-5)' is melodic and ascribes worth to God: "To the only God our Savior/Through Jesus Christ our Lord (2X)/Be glory and majesty/Dominion and authority/Before all time and now and forever/All time and now and forever (2X)/Amen."
     'Just as I Am (Yet Never the Same)' is credited to Scott and Charlotte Elliot.  It relates what only Christ can do for the sinner: "Just as I am and waiting not/To rid my soul of one dark blot/To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot/O Lamb of God, I come, I come/And I come to the cross/Where I know I am safe/Secure in the arms of Your mercy and grace/And I come to You Jesus/And call on Your Name/Just as I am, yet never the same/O Lamb of God I come."  'You are the Rock' has a powerfully delivered chorus: "You are the Rock/That never crumbles/Your Word will never change/A mighty tower/Lord when I stumble/You are the God who saves."  It also includes this statement of faith: "I trust in You/Even when my prayers seem unanswered/I am not moved/For I hope in the plans You have made/I shall not fear/For You walk in the valley beside me/You draw me near/And I am healed by the touch of Your grace."  'I Can't Get Enough' has a choral vocal and would not have been out of place on an older Randy Rothwell or Bob Fitts album.  The words sung are of one totally taken with the Lord: "I can't get enough of loving You/I wanna love You Jesus/I can't get enough of praising You/I wanna praise You Jesus/I can't get enough of serving You/I wanna serve You Jesus/I can't get enough of knowing You/I wanna know You Jesus."  'Gloria Patri' is a doxology partly written by Bob Kilpatrick.  I can picture the words of it being sung in Heaven: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son/And to the Holy Ghost/As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be/World without end, Amen, Amen (2X)/Glory be to the Father, Glory be to the Son/Glory be to the Spirit, Three in One/Amen (6X)."
     Two live tracks close out the album.  A live version of 'Lord Most High' has lots of energy and an enthusiastic crowd.  'Not I, But Christ' is quiet and reverent.  It is about losing oneself in Christ: "Not I, but Christ/Be honored, loved, exalted/Not I, but Christ/Be seen, be known, be heard/In every look, in every word/Not I, but Christ (2X)."
     SONGS FROM THE VALLEY finds Scott and his team of worshippers in fine form.  The songs on this project are right on par with those of contemporary worship artists such as Chris Tomlin and Lincoln Brewster.  It is a shame that many Christian radio stations do not give much airplay to the more veteran and independent artists, opting instead for what is popular or trendy at the time.  I'm rating SONGS FROM THE VALLEY 88% and recommending it to those seeking a fresh, vibrant worship experience of Almighty God.  For more info visit and