Monday, March 26, 2012
On most of the tracks of this EP, Buck and Randy share vocal duties. The first song, 'We are Here', is the longest, running 5 minutes and 51 seconds. It is upbeat, includes nice background vocals by a choir, and anticipates the 2nd Coming of Christ: "Lightning cuts the eastern sky as night gives into dawn/The devil's screaming in the courts of the kings of Babylon/And aching for that glorious day/All creation groans/When justice has it's perfect hour and Love will take His throne/Oh Lord behold Your people/We are ready to rejoice/For You have known the ending from the start/Awakened by Your Spirit, united as one voice/One single prayer to stir the Father's heart/We are here, hear our call." Next up is 'Jesus', a rootsy, mid-tempo number for fans of the Lost Dogs. It has Randy singing in his unmistakable falsetto at times, and would not have been out of place on his EDGE OF THE WORLD project. The words of the song talk about the importance of how you view the person of Jesus and make it clear it is worth giving a lot of thought to: "Jesus in the woodwork, Jesus in the clouds/Jesus in the stained glass, Jesus in the shroud/Jesus in the music of a newborn baby's cries/Could that be the face of Jesus shinin' in those eyes?/Jesus Christ the Superstar, Jesus Christ the Lamb/Jesus as a curse word of a drunken businessman/Jesus in the measured words of the old and wise/Jesus King of glory in a flesh and blood disguise/I got real good news and real bad news for you/In the end I guess it all depends upon your point of view/I got real bad news, real good news it's true/The way it's gonna all shake down baby that's up to you."
As 'Bones' starts, it has a decidedly old country, Johnny Cash feel to it. The song includes a trumpet solo by Jim Hanson, and marvels at God's miraculous power as seen in the Old Testament: "Linking bone to bone, gonna make 'em alive/He's callin' them home like bees to the hive/God told Ezekiel 'Prophesy!'/Bones/Scattered like seed, beaten by war/But there's a sweet rain fallin' on the killin' floor/Shake off those grave clothes we'll need them no more/Hear the rattlin' winds (2X)/The prophet's callin' them in/Bones (3X)/Hear the rattlin' winds (2X)/See them rising again/Bones." Storm's voice sounds gruff, similar to Barry McGuire's. 'Out of Egypt' is a laid back ballad with nice touches of electric guitar. I take the song as a spiritual allegory of one moving out of the devil's bondage and into the freedom Christ gives. It talks of how it can take a lot of faith to make this journey: "Out of Egypt I have come/The devil barking at my heels/Snappin' at my wheels/Howlin' at the sun/Out of Egypt I have come.../And the sun sets early in these canyons/And the nights get cold sometimes out here/Across the fire from my Companion/He brought this broken man/Out of Egypt.../Sometimes freedom can be frightening/Prison bars can feel like home/Then the Truth breaks through to me like lightning/He brought this broken man out of Egypt."
'Breath of God' is the closing and shortest song (3:38). It is a tender song with Stonehill carrying the vocals accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The song describes intimate communion between God and man: "Oh breath of God, come in and dwell/Please make this aching heart Your home and use me well/For You created me and named me as Your own/To know the wonder of Your love and make it known/Breath of God, teach me Your ways/That I might serve You in these precious fleeting days/Now I know one thing if I've learned nothing else/Until I live for You I do not live myself.../Oh breath of God I'm tired and cold/And all the dreams I've chased have left me feeling old/You've been waiting here/Now I understand/Let me fall into Your loving nail-scarred hands/Breath of God, oh breath of God."
Buck Storm told me he is unsure whether BREATH OF GOD will be fleshed out into a full record in the future or not. Either way, it stands on it's own as a terrific, well crafted group of songs that is sure to move you. For more info visit http://www.candlelightfellowship.org/, http://www.buckstorm.com/, and, http://www.randystonehill.com/. You can also like 'Stonehill and Storm' on Facebook, or buy this EP which I'm rating 90%, on itunes.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Disc One begins with a priest speaking in Latin. This is followed by 'Oh Great God, Give us Rest' written by Crowder and Matt Maher. It is a heartfelt cry to God: "Oh great God give us rest/We're all worn thin from all of this/The end of our hope with nothing left/Oh great God give us rest." 'Lux Aeternam Shine' is a Gregorian chant. 'Come Find Me' is a power-pop song of deep gratitude: "The One who I've searched for/For so long has come/With open arms/Today is the day of glory/Today is the day I'm home/Oh day, what a day/Oh day, I'm Yours/Oh day of resurrection." 'God Have Mercy (Kyrie Eleison)' features heavy percussion and contains these penitent words: "Oh my God what have I done?/Oh my God what have I done?/What have I done?/Oh Lord have mercy/Oh Lord have mercy/Oh Christ have mercy/Have mercy."
Next up is a real treat, that being an old country style, bare bones rendition of Kris Kristofferson's 1972 hit 'Why Me?' It includes these lyrics: "Why me Lord/What have I ever done to deserve even one/Of the pleasures I've known?/Tell me Lord/What did I ever do that was worth love from You/Or the kindness You've shown?" 'Fall on Your Knees' is one of eight songs penned solely by David Crowder. It is a song about being amazed at God's goodness: "To feel this grace rescuing/Lifting us up, washing our feet/Oh my God, oh my God/It's too wonderful/It's too wonderful." 'A Burial' includes these spoken, poignant words uttered amidst pouring rain: "How do you sum up a life in a few words?/How do you measure the weight of a soul in a matter of moments?/You do not/You cannot." 'Let me feel You Shine' shares a desire for the Savior to rescue from doubt and sin: "This place is trying to break my belief/But my faith is bigger than all I can see/What I need is redemption/What I need is for You to put me back on my feet.../God I need a Savior/O come Generous King/O God I need a Savior/To come rescue me." 'Reprise #1' is an instrumental featuring strings. 'Blessedness of Everlasting Light' was written with Mike Hogan and has a circus type '1-2' beat to it. It is an earnest plea to the Father: "God hold back Your hand/Oh God hold back Your hand/Stay Your wrath again/Oh God hold back Your hand.../Oh Lord forgive (2X)/Free from chains of sin/Oh Lord forgive." 'The Sound of Light' and 'Interlude' are two instrumentals that may inspire various thoughts in the listener.
Disc One closes with seven 'Sequences'. 'Sequence 1' musically is very heavy (think Tourniquet) and paints a dismal picture: "Day of wrath/Oh day of mourning/Day of wrath/Oh day of mourning/See the ashes, cities burning/Hear the final prophets' warning." 'Sequence 2' written by Mark Waldrop has a mass choir singing mostly in Latin except for these words: "Oh what wondrous noise the trumpet sounds.../Oh through all the earth it shakes the ground." 'Sequence 3' is a short instrumental that seems to include the use of jingle bells among other things. 'Sequence 4' uses acoustic guitar and is a ballad of great thankfulness: "Faint and weary You have sought me/Oh my Savior God through the cross You have bought me/What a love, Your Son for my salvation/What a cost, Your wondrous incarnation/God You came (2X)/My God You came down." 'Sequence 5' was written by Jack Parker and has a dark metal feel to it, with vocals reminiscent of Passafist. Here are some lyrics: "Oh save a place for me/To Your right hand upraise me (2X)." 'Sequence 6' is a simple statement of worship: "I bow low with all my heart." 'Sequence 7' written with Jeremy Bush serves as a somber reminder for all of us what ultimately lies ahead for us: "When all is done/Judgment comes/And we will stand/Right in front of Him/Spare us, oh God (4X)/Have mercy, oh God (2X)."
Disc Two begins with 'Reprise 2', a pretty instrumental. 'Oh My God' is a song of victory: "Born all over again/Bring Your rain and bring Your wind/I'm born all over/Born all over again/Death will lose and we will win/I'm born all over." 'I am a Seed' written by Mike Dodson and Mark Waldrop is a great, upbeat bluegrass song with banjo: "Oh I've been pushed down into the ground/ Oh how I have been trampled down/Lord I put my trust in Thee/You won't turn Your back on me/Oh I am a seed (2X)/I've been pushed down into the ground/But I will rise up a tree." 'After All (Holy)' is a wonderful song that reflects on how much greater God is than us: "I can't comprehend Your infinitely beautiful and perfect love/Oh I've dreamed dreams of majesty as brilliant as a billion stars/But they're never bright enough after all/You are holy/Oh holy/Holy, holy, holy." 'The Great Amen' has a choir repeatedly singing "Amen" to a crescendo.
Two modern worship gems follow. 'There is a Sound', written by Crowder, looks with anticipation towards a brighter future. It begins with these words: "There is a sound in the highest place/Of exaltation/Of unending praise/Here on the ground/On our brightest day in affectation/Of a coming reign/Peace on earth, let there be (3X)/Peace." 'Oh, Great Love of God', written with Matt Maher and Mark Waldrop, is another song that speaks of a hope-filled future: "Oh great love of God/Who takes away the sin of all of us/Gone forever/Heaven open wide in Your resurrection/You won't be denied bringing life to the dead and dying/You won't be denied we will rise and we'll sing forever." 'Our Communion' is creative and is about how God can restore us: "Sweet dreams of Heaven changing our waking lives/Breath, taken in and bringing what was dead to life/In the recesses of your heart where love had died/Let it rise and lead you across the great divide."
'Sometimes' is a ballad that begins with these brutally honest words: "Sometimes every one of us feels/Like we'll never be healed/Sometimes/Sometimes every one of us aches/Like we'll never be saved/Sometimes." 'A Return' is sure to evoke contradictory feelings in your heart: "My heart runs far from where You intended/Come after me please (2X)/The son has come home, we're rejoicing/The son has come home, rejoice my soul." 'Oh My God I'm Coming Home' is a guitar driven song of great joy: "Oh my God I'm coming home/Dance all day and sing along/To the glory hallelujah/Oh my God I'm coming home."
'Leaning on the Everlasting Arms/'Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus' is for those who miss old style hymn sings. Here they are given a fairly traditional treatment with violin. The lyrics state that Christ is sufficient: "Oh I'm leaning, leaning/Safe and secure from all alarms/Leaning, leaning/Leaning on the everlasting arms.../Jesus, Jesus how I trust You/How I've proved You o'er and o'er/Jesus, Jesus Precious Jesus/Oh for grace to trust Him more." 'Jesus, Lead me to Your Healing Waters' was written by Crowder, Dodson, Waldrop, Hogan and Parker. It is an excellent Gaither style tune complete with applause. It displays a genuine urge for revival: "Jesus lead me to Your healing waters/Take me down to your healing stream/Jesus lead me to Your healing waters/Take me down and wash me clean/Jesus purify me in Your fire/Burn me up until I believe." The album closes with the Gaither classic 'Because He Lives' which won a Dove Award for Song of the Year in 1974, the year I was born. The words of the chorus have comforted many, including myself, when grieving the loss of a loved one: "Because He lives I can face tomorrow/Because He lives all fear is gone/Because I know He holds the future/And life is worth the living just because He lives."
GIVE US REST is an ambitious, edgy, creative, artistic, boundary pushing praise and worship project. It surpasses current worship projects by Chris Tomlin and Michael W. Smith. It is to be praised for the diversity of musical styles on it. I'm rating it 95% and recommending it to those who enjoyed 2011's GHOSTS UPON THE EARTH by Gungor, and 2003's !Hero: The Rock Opera. For more info visit http://www.davidcrowderband.com/ and http://www.sparrowrecords.com/.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
'More Than Conquerors' is a mid-tempo number that starts with drum beats that remind me of the start of Michael W. Smith's 'Secret Ambition.' The song is based on Romans 8:31, 37: "If my God is for me who can be against me?/If my God is for me who can bring me down?/If my God is for me no one can defeat me/If my God is for me/Bring it on!/We are more than conquerors (3X)/Through love/We are more than conquerors (3X)/Through Your love." 'Jeremiah' is a soothing ballad of exhortation directed towards young people: "Get up, the Lord has spoken to you/Get up, you're not too young to be used/Do not be afraid/Stand up and say/Exactly what I tell you to/I set you apart/My Word's in your heart/Now you know what to do/Like Jeremiah (4X)." 'Our Time is Now' is a great, upbeat pop song. It is a song of one confident in their faith: "When I see Your face/I will run to You/When I hear Your Name/I will follow You/Nothing, nothing can stop us, stop us/From spreading the Truth/Nothing, nothing can stop us, stop us/From spreading the Truth/Our time is now (4X)."
'From Death' was penned by her brother Solomon. It is a playful sounding song of praise: "You are/You are/King of my heart/You are/You are/Lord of my love.../You have ripped me from death/Into life/Where I can see/Where I can breathe/You're beautiful/Into light/Where I can see/Where I can breathe and be with You." 'Drowning' finds Izzi acknowledging her desperate need for the Lord: "All this emptiness/Like chains around my neck/It weighs me down/It's gettin' hard to breathe/Rescue Me/I'm gonna drown/They pull me down/I'm confused/I need some help/Cut me loose/You need to set me free." 'Here I Am' begins with a keyboard solo and these words, inspired by Isaiah 6: "Woe is me for I am undone/I dwell in the midst of unholy ones/But You're takin' away all these things/My eyes have seen the holy King/Here I am/Send me/I'm willing/I'm ready/I'll say what You said/I won't be afraid or discouraged."
'Crazy' has a funky groove to it, and finds Izzi love sick and a bit angry: "Stop gettin' inside my head/Just go to her instead/Just stay away from me/Don't be so nice to me/Make up your mind/You need to pick a side/Can we please stop this game?/I don't know how to play/I'm on the losing team/So why did you lead me on?/This heartache's going on and on/Don't know which way to turn/You're making me crazy." 'Your Eyes' is a slow, romantic love song: "You're the one, you're the one/I've been prayin' for/You're the one, you're the one/I've been waitin' for/You're the one, you're the one/I've been hopin' for/You're the one, you're the one/I've been holdin' out for/When I stare into your eyes/You're all that I need/When you stare right back into mine/You're everything/When you say something so sweet/It makes me sing/When you look at me/My heart stops beating." These two human relationship songs really round out the album.
'Running' shows Izzi's sincere passion for God and appropriately has a driven sound to it with heavy percussion: "I'm running/I'm running to You/Can't go any faster/I'm running/I'm running to You/Can't go any higher/Running, I'm running to You/Can't go any faster/Running, I'm running to You/I'll praise Your Name." The album ends as it started, on a mid-tempo note. 'I Know I'll Make It' showcases creative instrumentation and makes it known Izzi wants to share her faith with others before it is too late: "This world is crazy/There's so much fear/Gotta get ready/The end is near/So let's make Him famous/Let's make it clear/It's almost over/He's almost here/I know I'll make (2X)/I know I'll make it through."
IZZI RAY has a maturity and artistry to it not found on projects by her contemporaries such as Miley Cyrus and V. Rose. You can really tell she poured her heart into this one. Izzi Ray is a beautiful girl in love with the Lord. She has a promising career ahead of her. I should mention she is the teenage daughter of CCM legend Crystal Lewis and music producer/record company executive Brian Ray. I'm rating IZZI RAY 85%. For more info visit: http://www.izziray.com/, www.twitter.com/izziray, www.youtube.com/izziraymusic, or find her on Facebook!
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Mark Stuart points out: "We have to be clear that this isn't Audio Adrenaline anymore. It isn't run around and get crazy rock and roll music like 'Big House' was. I loved every minute of that, but this is a moment for us to go out and encourage people that there is hope even in brokenness." He continues: "I'm amazed that God is doing this through someone whose voice is broken. It's a sweet, unique place to be and a complete surprise."
Know Hope Collective's first release is self-titled and was released by Integrity Music in 2011. It begins with 'Attention', a mid-tempo track that lyrically sounds like a modern day take on Psalm 23: "You call me here from all the things I'm chasing/You bring me to this place to lie down/You pull me from the wars I've been waging/And remind me there's a table set for us/Exhale/Shut my eyes and make me/Slow down and be still/Speak/You have my attention." 'Sanctuary' speaks of the work the Lord does in our lives when we completely open up to Him: "Jesus, You are worthy/And You have made us holy now/These walls have been my refuge/Offering an anchor/Resting in Your sacred love/You've drawn me to Your altar/I'm here but I have nothing." 'Build us Back' written by Mark Stuart and Jason Walker was previously recorded by Newsboys on their 2010 release BORN AGAIN. It is a great song that finds them crying out to the Lord and being answered: "Redeemer/Redeem us/Restorer/Restore us/You build us back/Though the mountains be shaken/The hills be removed/Your unfailing love remains/After all that's been taken/Your promise still sacred/You build us back with precious stones."
'Hands and Feet' is an Audio A classic. Here it is performed nicely by Mark Stuart and Julia Ross and has a decidedly missional chorus: "I wanna be Your hands/I wanna be Your feet/I'll go where You send me/I'll go where You send me/And I'll try, yeah I'll try/To touch the world like/You touched my life/And I find my way/To be Your hands." 'We Remember' is catchy and displays an intentionally thankful attitude towards the Lord: "How could we forget death has no power and we are free/That You thought of us there on Calvary?/We remember/Your story burns upon our hearts/A beautiful and binding scar/Forever we will (2X)/Think of You/For the things that You have done/And great things You've yet to do/We remember You." 'Ocean Floor' doesn't hold up to Audio A's version. It is, however, a song of good news that reminds us while we may remember our sins even after confessing them, God most certainly does not: "Your sins are forgotten/They're on the bottom/Of the ocean floor."
'Spirit Speaks' is a ballad that builds and is about making oneself available for the Lord's use: "With every breath I breathe/With every song I sing/I want to shout it out/Lord I am listening/To every word You speak/I'll go where You will lead/To love the least of these/My greatest offering." 'Jealous God' has a tender, not angry musical feel, and is inspired by Deuteronomy 4:24 which reads: "For the LORD thy god is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." Some of the lyrics are: "Through this life everyday You've chased me/Like a treasure underneath the sea/When hope was gone, Jesus You came running/To the ends of the earth for me.../You're beautiful and furious/I tremble at the thought of this/That You would go to Calvary/How deep Your love must be for me."
'Good Life' was originally penned about Mark's friend's divorce. Later on Mark himself would become divorced. The song is about finding the Lord to be sufficient. It opens with these words: "This is the good life/I've lost everything/I could ever want/And ever dream of/This is the good life/I found everything/I could ever need/Here in Your arms." The album concludes with 'Just to Be Here' written by Mark Stuart and Jason Walker. It reflects on God's holy and powerful nature: "You walk in our midst like the wind that sweeps the trees/Deeper still You beckon us into Your mystery/And we come to this place/Come to this altar/And we hide, we hide our face/Hide from You Father/And You open our eyes and we're washed in Your light/Overcome just to be here."
KNOW HOPE COLLECTIVE is a good contemporary worship album that should satisfy fans of that particular genre. I would have liked to hear even more vocals by Mark Stuart and Julia Ross. I also would have enjoyed a couple more faster paced songs on the project. This being said, any Audio A fan should add this album, which I'm rating 82%, to their collection. For more info visit http://www.integritymusic.com/, http://www.handsandfeetproject.org/, or go to wikipedia.org and search for 'Know Hope Collective.'
Sunday, March 04, 2012
'Suitcases' is a great pop song. Of it, she says: "This song is my encouragement to us all to let go of the baggage of the past." Some of the lyrics are: "How can you move when they're weighing you down?/What can you do when you're tied to the ground, yeah?/You carry your burdens, heavy like gravity/Just let them go now, there's freedom in release/You can't run when you're holding suitcases/It's a new day, throw away your mistakes/And open up your heart, lay down your guard/You don't have to be afraid." The title track is a toe-tapper that includes the use of trumpet and saxophone. It is about being fixated on the Lord: "You got my attention now/You captured me/You got my attention now/I can't take my eyes off of You/You're the One I need/You've stolen my affection/You got a hold of my heart/I'm so caught up/Nothing compares to how beautiful You are/So I'm givin' all of me to You/Cause no one loves me like You do." 'Unreachable' offers hope to the sinner: "You're not too far away/You can't fall too far to save/Sounds unbelievable, but you're not unreachable/Just take the hand of grace/Your sins have been replaced/By something beautiful, you're not unreachable/You've been waiting to be rescued from your shame/But He was there, before you called His name."
'What Love Looks Like' slows things down and has the impossible task of describing love: "It's losing yourself and/Discovering the truth/More than a feeling/Your love is living proof/The only thing that gives me any hope/Knowing I'll never be alone/That's what love looks like/Words fail to say/Just what love looks like/When you give your heart away/It takes you in, holds you close/Never lets you go/So picture all the best things in life/That's what love looks like." 'Free' is one of three songs written solely by Dara. It has Christian pop radio written all over it and speaks of God's goodness: "I was caged in, then You opened/Every door that held me bound and You gave me the key/No more pressure I can just breathe/The girl I tried so hard to be, has always been me/My strength alone will never be enough/But Your arms keep lifting me up." 'Yours Forever' is a song of intimacy with God: "I'm with You/You're right beside me/I feel You near/Right here to guide me/I'm with You/You're right beside me/To guide me home/Thank You for finding me when You did/You changed my life, now I believe/That love is all that I'll ever need/I promise my heart and all that I am/I'm Yours forever my Love."
'Nothin' You Won't Do' co-written with Ben Glover, declares God's love for each person on the planet and has a high energy chorus: "There You go (2X)/Doing what You do/Chasing me, lovin' me/You ain't afraid to/Move the universe, just to prove/Yeah, that if I was/The only one/Here on the planet/You would still send Your Son/Cause You couldn't stand it/To see me anywhere but next to You/Ain't nothing that You won't do." 'The One' features keys by Tim Lauer, and is a declaration of faith: "I know You're the way/I know You're the risen One/Sent from above, to deliver us, in You we trust/I know You're the truth/I know You're the only One/You hold the key to this mystery, no more captivity/Jesus You're the One/You're the only One (2X)." 'Had to Be You' is a pleasant love song that could be addressed to God or a boyfriend: "I've been waiting all my life/Just to find/Someone like you/Love you caught me by surprise/One look and I/Just knew/It had to be you/No one else can love me like you do/Eternally I'm yours/You know it's true/Nothing in this world could ever/Change the meaning of forever/Me and you."
'So Good to Me' testifies to God's upright character: "Why would I ever worry?/Why would I ever live in fear?/I know my God is for me/There's a peace surpassing every single tear/His eye is on the sparrow/He's even livin' in the little things/I'm stickin' to the narrow/Cause His heart has captured me." Dara wrote 'Gratitude' with Ronnie Freeman who also contributes background vocals on the album. The song opens with these words of testimony: "I was in trouble and You rescued me/Torn to pieces now I'm complete/Fatherless till You called me Your own/No direction, till You showed me where to go." The album closes with a wonderful ballad about finding security in God. 'Home' was written with Paul Alan and utilizes cello, violin and viola. The lyrics include these words: "Still a fire burns, lighting up the room/I know You're here with me/You wrap me in Your arms/Like only You can do/I know You're all I need/With You, I'll always be/Home."
Her website says: "Just 25, she has forged a sound rooted in the '70s Motown, funk and soul her parents loved and filtered through a thoroughly contemporary urban pop lens." It also says she was influenced by Adele, Natasha Bedingfield, Ray LaMontagne, John Legend and Marc Broussard. I would also make vocal comparisons to fellow CCM artists Ayiesha Woods and Fracesca Battistelli. YOU GOT MY ATTENTION is a breath of fresh air in an oft stale musical environment. I'm rating it 90%. For more info visit http://www.daramaclean.com/ and http://www.wordlabelgroup.com/.