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- Worth Fighting For
Encouraging, convicting and comforting are words that describe Warren Barfield’s new album Worth Fighting For. The 11-track project, which is Barfield’s third, has catchy tunes behind lyrics that are filled with life experiences that everyone can relate to. The first single off the album, “Love Is Not A Fight,” speaks of what love is and why it is worth fighting for. “Say It With Your Life,” reminds believers to let their life reflect what they believe. While “The Singer Not The Song,” tells that worship is not something we sing, but something we live. This new album shows the maturity of Barfield as a man and the growth in his walk with Christ. It is one that his fans will appreciate. Album Highlights: “The One Thing,” “As It In Heaven” and “Love Is Not A Fight.”
- kimberly a. lilly
What I love about Warren Barfield’s sophomore release Reach is twofold. First, he lets the natural soul in his voice shine through – especially on the first track “I’ll Be Alright.” His confidence level has grown to feature not only quality songwriting but the vocals to go with it. Secondly, track after track, Warren maintains a smooth groove with vulnerable passion that almost sounds a bit like Maroon 5 but still very much Barfield. Warren continues in the vein of “Mistaken” and “Soak It Up” with lyrics you can identify with (i.e., “I’m on top of the world / And my world’s upside down / All I have is you” on “Closer”). On Reach, Warren reaches for soulful heights and grasps them with near perfection. Album Highlights: “Closer” and “Shadow” - jennifer e. jones
- Love & War
Since their debut album released in 2004, the Barlow girls have encouraged fans with their faith-filled songs. With an album title that seems a bit contradictory, Love & War seeks to shower God with love and hit on the tough blows life can throw your way. One particular song, "Running Out of Time" speaks to the reality of spiritual warfare with lyrics such as "This is war, So pick your side. It's time to move, not time to hide. Don't let lies, make up your mind.
Cause you will see, We're running out of time." Love & War is intimate with a few string pieces and energetic with the group's Superchic[k]-esque anthem beats. Fans and newcomers to the BarlowGirl sound will not be disappointed. Album Highlights: "Come Alive", "Beautiful Ending", "Sing Me a Love Song", "Tears Fall", "Hello Sunshine" - hannah goodwyn
- Another Journal Entry
Don’t let the lackadaisical title fool you. Another Journal Entry is something you want to read. On their sophomore release, this sister act serves up more rock beats and power ballads. Their lyrics still strive to go deeper than the typical teenage angst (as seen in “I Need You to Love Me” with lines like: “Your love makes me forget what I have been”). Vocally, BarlowGirl mix their sweet voices with hard riffs. While nothing on this album will rock your world, BarlowGirl fans will be satisfied, and even the toughest cynic can’t deny that these little ladies have promise. Album Highlights: “5 Minutes of Fame,” “No One Like You,” and “Never Alone (Acoustic Version)” - jennifer e. jones
- Worlds Collide
Musician and songwriter, Brian Bates, has found new inspiration in the past couple of years. His second album, Worlds Collide, clearly indicates this, showing a passion and love of missions, travel, and other “worlds.” More specifically, Bates has partnered with World Vision in an attempt to bring water, food, healthcare, and education to people in Sierra Leone in Africa. Brian’s newest CD tells the stories of his work there, with songs like “You Danced” and “Elijah” exploring issues of poverty and brokenness while also revealing an awe for the simple joy some of the poorest people have. While the music may seem like anything else on the radio today, Brian’s insight and heart will easily keep you listening. Album Highlights: “Under” and “You Danced.”– amy nickerson
- My Paper Heart
With a style reminiscent of Sara Bareilles (especially on the album's first single, "I'm Letting Go") Francesca Battistelli's soulful voice and unique songwriting ability make My Paper Heart shine. Whether it is celebrating God’s unconditional love and acceptance of us (“Free to Be Me”), trusting Him with our future (“I’m Letting Go”), or allowing Him to heal our wounds (“My Paper Heart”), Battistelli’s lyrics are as authentic as they are vulnerable. Well I’ve been treated like a valentine / That’s been ripped apart and left behind /I’m a fragile girl /In a crazy careless world, she writes in the album’s title track. Her versatile styles range from piano-driven pop to a more funky jazz sound (“Blue Skies”). This album has it all -- powerful vocals, stick-in-your-head choruses, and refreshing lyrics. Expect to be hearing a lot more from this talented artist. Album Highlights: ‘I’m Letting Go,” “Free to Be Me,” “Time in Between” – belinda elliott
- Brooke Barrettsmith
You might remember Brook Barrettsmith from American Idol’s Season Five; she made it to the top 40 before being eliminated. Well, Brooke is back. Her self-titled debut album, Brooke Barrettsmith, was released on June 10 and is very impressive. The pop/rock artist has a style that is similar to something you’ve probably heard before, but nevertheless, she makes every song personal and unique by sharing her life experiences and her faith. The ten tracks on the album give insight on various topics including: the comfort of God, letting go of past mistakes, and faith in God. Album Highlights: "Quiet My Heart," "Farwell," and "More Real." - kimberly a. lilly
- Yesterday, Today and Forever
When female worship leaders who praise on guitar are few and far between, Vicky Beeching arrives with Yesterday, Today and Forever. It’s essentially Chris Tomlin meets Jennifer Knapp. Her songs are fetching with enough of a hook to catch on in any church service. Lyrically, Beeching lets her devotion run deep and never strays from Scripture. She offers solid songs of her own like the title track, “Call to Worship” and others. Yet she provides a soft touch to worship standards like “Above All Else” and “Turn Your Eyes.” Certainly, Beeching is sharing songs from her heart that you’ll be singing on Sunday mornings in 2006. Album Highlights: “Call to Worship” and “Turn Your Eyes” - jennifer e. jones
Big Daddy Weave
- Every Time I Breathe
Every Time I Breathe is not so much a step up for Big Daddy Weave as it is a step sideways. They’re still rocking with the same sound that started their career on One and Only. Although it smacks of typical Christian radio fluff, a few bright tracks make it a pleasurable listen. “All the Same” is a venture into Dave Matthews Band’s world with a full band sound. They cover Rich Mullins’ “Hold Me Jesus,” and their edgier version of “Let It Rise” isn’t half-bad. However, these songs get lost in a sea of familiar riffs and lyrics that are the same as Weave’s contemporaries. A decent new album but if this is a sign of what’s to come from Big Daddy Weave, I’ll stick with an “Audience of One.” Album Highlights: “All the Same” and “Every Time I Breathe” - jennifer e. jones
The Blind Boys of Alabama
The Blind Boys of Alabama resurrect collaborations with an all-star cast of vocalists and musicians on their most recent album, Duets. Ben Harper, Randy Travis, and Jars of Clay each headline a track in this sacred melting pot of gospel, blues, rock, and reggae. The gritty harmonies of The Blind Boys dish out back porch southern Americana that authenticates the organic mid-fi production style. This ain't "chicken noodle soup for the soul." This is "grits and collard greens for the soul." Before auto-tune and digital hackpop, The Blind Boys of Alabama sang. After seven decades, they're as good as ever. Album Highlights: "Perfect Peace", "Nothing But the Blood", and "How I Got Over" - rob vischer
- God of This City
Bluetree’s latest record features rock anthems for the church who isn’t afraid of getting a little loud in their praise to God. This band of Irish brothers in Christ, with its rock and ballad-style songs, is sure to be the next big leader in bringing new songs to worship services around the world. The band’s fun rock sound, backed by strong lyrics that glorify God, is definitely their strength. Favorites: “God’s Plan”, “Life’s Noise,” and “Burn Me Up” - hannah goodwyn
- Glory Train: The Lost Sessions
Originally intended to be a cutting edge crossover release when it was recorded in 1975, this album is easy listening by today’s standards. But you can’t help but like the man who made white buck shoes popular. What sets this album apart is not the novelty of lost recording sessions but the inclusion of a newly recorded all-star tribute to the world’s most famous evangelist, Billy Graham. Entitled “Thank You Billy Graham,” the ensemble single and supplementary DVD features a diversified line up including, Bono, Leanne Rimes, dcTalk, Andre Crouch, to name a few. Album Highlights: "Thank You Billy Graham" Album Highlights: "Fire," "Confused" - chris carpenter
- Now is Not Forever
With the heartfelt endorsement of tobyMac and the catchiness of Jason Mraz, it's difficult not to envision B.Reith's freshman album, Now is Not Forever, scaling the charts like a knight tangled in Rapunzel's braids. The singer/rapper/songwriter/producer sports a knack for the do-it-all approach that defies the traditional "jack of all trades, master of none" philosophy. He even sprinkles a Dippin' Dots size portion of pop comedy and Kanye-esque arrogance throughout his otherwise artistic shtick. A rapper rapping about rapping usually borders on lyrical puke, but somehow B.Reith makes it taste like ice cream. He's just that good. Album Highlights: "Comeback Kid", "Mess", "Antidote", "Just For You", "Breathe" - rob vischer
- An Irish Christmas
There’s something very enchanting about the Celtic melodies of Moya Brennan. Her voice is light and airy as she softly sings both traditional and new holiday songs. Obviously, fans of Enya, Michelle Tumes and other like singers are more likely to enjoy this Irish rendition of yuletide joy. Listeners will get an earful of sweeping vocal arrangements and the gentle plucking of a harp. Brennan is a one-woman choir on “Carol of the Bells,” yet she gives the most delicate of performances on the final track “Silent Night”. An acquired taste but well worth it. Album Highlights: "Carol of Bells" and "Silent Night" - jennifer e. jones
- Today is the Day
Today is the Day, gives Lincoln Brewster fans two things: an appetizer of the expected CCM hits, and then a musically diverse, meaty entree. Like his other releases, this album has several accessible hits for corporate worship. The title track, a solid praise tune co-written with Paul Baloche, is already getting heavy Christian radio play, and worship teams will easily adapt the meditative “Power of Your Name.” But while each song has its definite merit, the main course begins with his newer, less-predictable material. Highlights: The soulful, jazzy, gospel styles he introduces on “Give Him Praise,” “The Arms of My Savior,” and “This Love,” and his shredding guitar solos on songs such as “Let Your Glory Shine” and “Salvation is Here.” - rebekah wilson
- Building 429
Building 429 released their self-tilted album on October 21 and it is not so pleasing to the ear. Personally, after hearing this album I’m not ready to be one of their fans. I do not doubt that Jason Roy, Michael Anderson, and Jesse Garcia are talented young men, but that talent is just not heard on this album. The lyrics of many of the songs are interesting and thought provoking, but in others if the vocals don’t put you to sleep, then the tunes are bound to give you a headache. Nevertheless, I won’t completely write the album off because admittedly I’m not a huge fan of the band’s style of music, and because of that I do recommend that you give it a listen and evaluate the album for yourself. Highlights: “Shoulder,” “Always” and “End of Me” – kimberly a. lilly
- Iris to Iris
I know it’s unfair to wish that Building 429 would make another hit as easily catchy as “Glory Defined”. However, I believe that a band as evolved as this one should have a sound that matures with every album. I’m not finding that to be the case on Iris to Iris. While I appreciate the sold-out devotion to Christ in every lyric, the tracks don’t pop out of the mundane. For example, “Amazed” sounds like every other song on Christian radio today, as does “Waiting to Shine,” in spite of its sincere tenderness. This ship doesn’t sink completely. “Constant” comes up for air with a light melody and a guitar riff that echoes behind Jason Roy’s voice. Iris will pacify the absolute Building 429 fan, but we should all hope for better. Album Highlights: “Constant” - jennifer e. jones
- The Space in Between Us
There’s nothing terribly original about Building 429, but they sure do know how to craft a catchy pop-rock song. Read the full review...
If you loved Building 429’s first album The Space in Between Us than you will absolutely love their sophomore release Rise. The reason is simple; it sounds nearly identical. While the disc is certainly enjoyable to listen to, the boys from Nashville have not really broken any new ground. This is a concept album through and through. Beginning with the title track and continuing through “Fearless” and “Alive,” the theme of rising from a world of brokenness to a life filled with potential, promise, and hope is quite prevalent. A confession, I absolutely love their cover of Blessid Union of Souls’ “I Believe.” It is a gritty performance that will resonate for hours after you hear it. Album Highlights: “Searching for a Savior,” “Empty” (featuring Tait), and “I Belong to You” - chris carpenter
By the Tree
- World on Fire
I love the theme of By the Tree’s new album, and it's beautifully illustrated in the title track: “There is a Savior in the sky / Giving His life to set this world on fire.” However, the musical vehicle to get that theme to your ears is running tired. World on Fire is more adult contemporary Christian rock that’s suffering from a lack of originality. Their knack for covering worship songs is helpful to distinguish one song from another, but the effort to be novel is missing. "Rain Down" is grand, but it’s hard to mess up a delirious? song. On “Shine” (not the newsboys’ song), former drummer, now lead singer Aaron Blanton says it all when he sings, “What can I do that’s never been done / What can I sing that’s never been sung?” My sentiments exactly. Album Highlights: “How Beautiful You Are” and “Rain Down” - jennifer e. jones
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