Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thankgiving everyone! Sorry I haven't posted much recently. I've been busy, but I hope to get some Christmas CD reviews in soon. I have the privilege to sing in a +1000 voice choir backing up the Gaithers at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this Saturday, so I'm definitely excited about that! Here's a song by Greater Vision in honor of Thanksgiving.


Monday, October 28, 2013

CD Review: "Revival" (Karen Peck & New River)

What do redback hymnals, folding chairs, and a canvas tent in the open air have in common? According to Karen Peck & New River, revival! The opening title song of the group’s latest album kicks off in a minor key, lending the tune a somewhat eerie, lonely feel. This is the group’s latest single, and has already done well on radio.

Karen Peck & New River hardly needs an introduction. This successful mixed trio came on the scene in the early 1990’s. Current members are Karen Peck Gooch, Susan Jackson, and Jeff Hawes. Casual listeners are likely to recognize hits like "Four Days Late," "Last Night," and "Hey" among others. I can’t say I’ve heard much of their older music beyond a few singles. But their latest CD, Revival, made me their newest fan.

Obviously not content to produce an album full of fluff, KP&NR picked some of the best tunes to fill this new project. Along with "Revival," nearly every other song is worth hitting the repeat button on.

I particularly enjoyed the slower numbers on this CD. "Finish Well" is a soaring mega ballad and the best slow song on the CD. Led by Karen Peck Gooch, this song should be one of the top contenders for a second radio single. "Everybody’s Going Through Something" is a laidback slow song with a strong message about troubles and trials. The chorus says "So if everybody’s going through something, I’d rather go through something with him."

While the best songs on the album are mainly slow songs, there are several solid upbeat numbers too. "Revival" is the best, but other solid toe-tappers include "I’m Saved," a downright fun song, that, as best as I can tell was originally recorded in 1963 by Sons of Harmony, and "Dancing Like Lazarus," a Joseph Habedank/co-penned number led by Jeff Hawes.

Everybody knows that KP&NR can sing! But this project is strong because of the large number of good songs. The album is mixed evenly with five up-tempo numbers and the same number of slow songs. Though I can’t compare Revival with past KP&NR projects, it is the strongest mixed group release that I’ve heard this year, and a definite must-buy.

CD Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars
Favorite Songs: Revival, Finish Well

Producer: Wayne Haun
Released by: Daywind Records
Available for download? Yes (iTunes)
Artist Website:

Monday, October 21, 2013

CD Review: "Because of Love" (Crist Family)

I’m a new fan of the Crist Family. Several months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to name five of their songs. (I do recall hearing a couple of their songs like “The Rock” and “I Love Lovin’ Jesus” on the radio or at NQC) Though a new fan, I recently gave some of their recent mainline CDs a listen and have been really impressed by what I heard.

The group started part time in 1987 but switched to full time ministry in 2004 when they moved from the West Coast to TN. The current lineup consists of Rich, Lisa, Jackie, and Valerie Crist along with John and Tami Starkel. Their latest release is titled Because of Love.

Through the years they’ve adopted a progressive Southern Gospel/country feel for many of their faster songs, and a pretty traditional approach to their slow numbers.

For example, on this new album, most of the fast songs have a modern country sound. “Through the Roof” is my favorite upbeat song, and uses the seemingly unrelated story of the four men who lowered their friend through the roof to Jesus as a parallel to a unique perspective on worship.

“What a Ride” is a thought-provoking and interesting look at material possessions and what we’re to do with them. Instead of hoarding the things we own, the song says to:

Spend it all, use it up, lay it down, for the sake of love,
Holding nothing back so at the end of this life
I’ll arrive in glory, shouting “glory, what a ride!”

The title seems oddly out of place, but the song has a great message.

All of the fast songs are worth listening to on their own. Stylistically, several start to feel a little repetitive if you listen to them all in a row, but they’re spaced out with slower songs in between on the album.

“The Closer I Get to the Cross” is perhaps the best slow song on the album. It’s pretty laidback until the anthem-style chorus bridge. Particularly catching my attention were the lines:

The closer I get to the Cross, the more I clearly see
The Holiness of you, and the sinfulness of me.

“Live” is a beautiful slow song that speaks on living life to the fullest. It sounds more secular in nature than the average Southern Gospel song, although there are several lines that point to God as the giver of life. (examples: “every minute is given by the Father,” and “look up to Heaven, give
thanks, and live.”)

I enjoyed the modern country/progressive sounds that filled this album, and the two power ballad-style numbers were a special treat too. Because of Love is the strongest CD by the Crist Family that I’ve heard yet and a definite must-buy.

CD rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars
Favorite Songs: Through the Roof, The Closer I Get to the Cross

Available for download: Yes (iTunes, Crossroads)
Artist website:

Review copy provided by Crossroads Records

Monday, October 14, 2013

CD Review: "All Things New" (Gordon Mote)

Gordon Mote, blind from birth, is one of Nashville’s most talented Gospel musicians. He’s a highly sought after pianist not only in Southern Gospel but also in secular country music. His latest CD, titled All Things New, showcases his abilities to sing and play in the country style, and proves that the style fits his voice perfectly.
Gordon secured an impressive list of musical groups and vocalists to back him up. Gospel fans will recognize names like Voices of Lee and the Gaither Vocal Band, and country fans will recognize Trace Adkins, Josh Turner, and others that made special appearances.

While no one would dispute the fact that Gordon is a talented musician, some may not realize that he’s also a songwriter. He co-wrote four of the songs on this project, including the upbeat country-style title track and the worship song "For You."

I’m not sure which songs have been sent to radio yet, but I think a great pick would be "Down By the River," a catchy, upbeat tune, featuring the Gaither Vocal Band and Trace Adkins.

Another good candidate for radio would be the song "Faith Like That." It tells the story of a grieving father who’s just lost his young son. Instead of being bitter or disillusioned, he chooses to keep his faith in God. The song is narrated by an amazed onlooker who reflects in the chorus:

I wanna have faith like that
Let it be who I am
I wanna see the bigger picture and trust it’s in God’s hands
I wanna have faith, I wanna have faith like that.

"God of New Beginnings" narrates a story that’s sadly common in today’s culture. A man and his wife, separated. A marriage that’s all but ended. The first verse is about the wife who’s been left to raise three kids alone. The second verse about the husband who’s sitting in a parking lot with a lot of regrets. It’s a beautiful message of redemption and reconciliation. It’s almost a five-star song if not for the chorus bridge which I think is a little cheesy.

"The Main Event" has to be the most unique song on the album. One blogger compared it to a Randy Newman song written for a Pixar film! It’s a fun, up-tempo, number that talks about how the "main attractions" of this world are hardly ever the "main events" that God has planned. The verses give a whole new perspective to the story about the women at the temple who gave all she had and to the story of Caesar who "built an empire from shore to shore."

There are a few moments from All Things New that fall a little flat. For example, "Sound a Dream Makes" is too sentimental for me. "Do You Believe in Love" also finds me hitting the skip button. But overall, the album is definitely a must-listen. From wild country-infused tunes and upbeat Southern Gospel classics to powerful anthems and tender worship songs, Gordon has proved through the years that he’s not limited to singing just one style. And this album proves that he can do country just as well as everything else. If you like country-style music, you’ll like All Things New.

CD Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars
Favorite Songs: Down By the River, Faith Like That, Broken Open

Producers: Gordon Mote, Wayne Haun, Frank Rogers
Released by: New Haven Records
Available for download? Yes (Amazon, iTunes)
Artist website:

Review copy provided by New Haven Records