Tuesday, November 08, 2011

New Jesus Music - Nov. 2011

My portal to the music world is Rhapsody. Today they review 8 new Jesus-music cds. Here's the entire review.

And yes, Marc Martel's voice is amazing. ("Downhere")

by Rhapsody Editorial
Christian/Gospel Roundup: November 2011
By Wendy Lee Nentwig
November 02, 2011 02:03PM

As we head into the holiday season, the new releases will slow to a trickle, so enjoy this fresh batch of standouts while they're still plentiful. There's a new disc from the band behind Freddie Mercury impersonator Marc Martel, as well as a worshipful disc filled with watery Bible references from Casting Crowns. Singer-songwriters like Sara Groves bring a dose of reality, while Jason Crabb represents the Southern gospel side of things with a new live project. Read on to discover our entire octet of top picks.

1. Downhere
On the Altar of Love
This down-to-earth band of Canadians seems to be traveling back in time, as evidenced by their "mountain men" look on this album cover and their belief that true progress involves looking backward as much as forward. On the Altar of Love is built on a foundation of faith that spans thousands of years. That solid history makes for an album that manages to be pop-friendly and weighty at the same time, with a welcome vulnerability. By not allowing the latest cultural references to creep in, the band has created an album that is truly timeless. Don't miss the anthemic "Let Me Rediscover You."
2. Casting Crowns
Come to the Well
The Christian faith is full of references to water, so it's only natural that Casting Crowns would borrow that theme for their fifth studio album, encouraging us to let the living water of Christ well up in us until it spills over onto everyone around us. That's a lot to tackle on one disc, but they've always been ambitious when it comes to message, and they're only getting bolder. Their passion is front-and-center on tracks like "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" and "Already There," while "My Own Worst Enemy" finds them rocking out. Don't miss "So Far to Find You," cowritten with Steven Curtis Chapman.

3. Sara Groves
Invisible Empires
On her 10th album, Sara Groves continues her habit of laying bare her most intimate feelings and fears in hopes that her warts-and-all truth will inspire the rest of us to live more examined, thoughtful lives. Joining forces with producer Steve Hindalong for the first time, this underrated singer-songwriter sifts through the layers of life that pile up on us all to get to what's really important. This 11-track disc includes the gospel-inspired gem "Eyes on the Prize," a Civil Rights-era anthem that reminds us that the fight for social justice continues.

4. Jason Crabb
The Song Lives On
Jason Crabb really shines in front of a live audience, so on April 19, 2011, he took the stage at Nashville's Loveless CafĂ© Barn (after an intro by Southern gospel legend Bill Gaither) to record his first live disc. The songs are familiar — classics like "Who Am I," "Sweet Beulah Land" and "I Saw the Light" — many of them chosen because Crabb remembers singing them in church as a kid. Each is given this Kentucky boy's unique spin, and his powerhouse vocals more than do them justice. Special guests like Michael English and Oak Ridge Boy William Lee Golden round out this stellar project.

5. Phil Wickham
For his fourth studio effort, Phil Wickham channels the psalmists of old, voicing appreciation and adoration for the different aspects of God that are seen throughout our lives and circumstances. Partnering again with Pete Kipley (MercyMe, Matthew West), Wickham also brought in Brown Bannister (Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant) to coproduce, giving the album the benefit of a collective approach. That carried over to songwriting, too, with multiple collaborations representing more than just Wickham's heart. Don't miss "At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)," a worshipful celebration of the power of God's name.

6. Shane & Shane
The One You Need
They say fatherhood changes you, and that's certainly true for Shane Barnard and Shane Everett, so it's only natural that these college friends would draw inspiration from their daughters for their latest album. The new music was shaped not only by their biological families but also by their church family — a Dallas-area congregation where they're on staff. The title track is a letter from daddy to daughter, sharing a father's hopes as well as the spiritual legacy he hopes to leave behind. As always, all songs stem from scripture and the Shanes' desire to spread the word about the God they love.

7. JJ Heller
An artist can't predict when their music will catch on, so when a song from her year-old disc started garnering attention in 2009, the music JJ Heller had already recorded for Deeper was put in a drawer. Two years later, the album is finally seeing the light of day. It's true, five of these songs appeared on 2010's When I'm With You, but in a more polished format. Deeper features them as they were originally recorded, along with seven never-heard tracks, all boasting a wonderfully acoustic, organic vibe. The low-key guitar really allows Heller's voice — and the songs — to shine.

8. No Other Name
The Other Side
This much-anticipated debut features contributions by award-winning writer/producer Bernie Herms (Natalie Grant, Casting Crowns) along with Jason Kyle and Blake Bollinger, and includes songs chosen as much for their powerful message as for their vocal power. This isn't just music about everyday life from a Christian perspective, this is a spiritual call to arms. You'll hear it in tracks like "Let It Start With Me," tackling the topic of The Great Commission, and in the anthemic single "Lead You to the Cross." The latter could serve as the group's theme song.