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Maher, Matt

  • Empty and Beautiful 
    Matt Maher’s Empty and Beautiful is one of the best new albums I’ve heard this year. The album was released on April 8 and is sure to be a favorite of all who hear it. Joyful upbeat songs such as “Your Grace Is Enough,” “Look Like A Fool,” “Great Things” and “Shine Like The Son” are bound to have you on your feet leaping around praising God. Similarly, the songs “As It Is In Heaven,” “Leave A Light On,” “Unwavering” and “Lay It Down” will quickly lead you into a quiet place of worship. “Empty and Beautiful” is an album that is fun and one that has something for everyone. It will not disappoint! Album Highlights: The entire CD! – kimberly a. lilly


  • True Beauty 
    Refreshing and revealing, thought-provoking and truthful, Mandisa’s debut release True Beauty is an absolute delight.  Stellar vocals and a rich full musical sound add to the pure joy of a CD that reflects the heart of a woman who has found the love of Jesus in the midst of heart-wrenching pain.  I’d like to give this CD to everyone I know with the words, “Listen to this.  This is what Jesus is all about.”  If you only buy one new CD this year, make it this one. Buy it for yourself and buy it for someone you love. Album Highlights: "God Speaking" - linda michaels

Manic Drive

  • Rest & Rewind
    In their latest album, Reset & Rewind, Manic Drive has managed to beat the sophomore lull and turn out an album sure to be a favorite. Though the messages are traditional, the band doesn’t hold back in how these messages are presented. In “Obvious” they challenge listeners to deepen their faith, singing, “Sing your melodies, but would you ever think to die for it, like many men who have devoted their whole lives for it?” For those already on their way, but unsure of where to go next, “Eleven Regrets” vents the frustration of loving God and having nothing left to offer. After the harder material that makes up most of the album, listeners will be happy for the 11th (“L-O-V-E”) and 13th (“The Inventor”) tracks, which let up for some light praise. Though decidedly a rock album, Reset & Rewind has a little something for everyone. Highlights: “Obvious,” “December Mourning,” and “L-O-V-E"- bethany duval

Mars Ill

  • Pro Pain  
    “This ain’t just a rhyme / It slips into your skin.” The words of manCHILD properly sum up the long-awaited Gotee Records release Pro Pain. After a year of stalling and false starts, Mars Ill finally unleashes a powerful album. In raw hip-hop beats that sample old school soul (“I Is”), rock guitars (“Glam Rock”), and ‘70s bass lines (“Say So”), the duo describe life stuck in between greatness and reality. Honesty about fame's rough side in “Dog Ear Page” and “The Moment” give this reviewer more respect for the men who added essential bricks the foundation of Christian rap. You have to dig deep for the spiritual content but songs like “When Heaven Scrapes” will leave little doubt of where Mars Ill’s convictions lie. Album Highlights: “More” featuring Ahmad Jones and “Effortless” - jennifer e. jones

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives

  • Souls' Chapel  
    Aside from having a cool band name, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives offer this blues/country medley that is southern comfort to the soul. Inspired by the Staple Singers as a child, you can hear the influences of the southern and black gospel as well as the blues legends in his downhome guitar licks. It kicks off with “Somebody Save Me” that has the Soggy Bottom Boys-esque harmonies with a lot of soul. It rocks on to the last song, which is the title track, where the guitar echos in a dream-like haze. Definitely for the blues lover in you. Album Highlights: “Souls’ Chapel,” “Lord Give Me Just a Little More Time,” and “I Can’t Even Walk” - jennifer e. jones

Mary Mary

  • The Sound 
    “The Sound” is completely opposite of what you’ve heard from Mary Mary in the past. The album features many R&B/Hip-hop like tunes that will appeal more to the younger generation. Technically and musically, the album is very well put together, as it explores a variety of musical elements that I am sure many people will appreciate. However, on a spiritual and intellectual level the album is suffering drastically and as a result the best thing about it is the sound of the beats to many of the songs. Album Highlights: “I’m Running” and “Seattle” – kimberly a. lilly
  • Mary Mary  
    The princesses of Christian R&B return with more hip-hop soul. Heads are still bobbin’ from “Shackles,” and the ladies did not disappoint for their third album. They have a little something for everyone with the big band sounds of “Biggest, Greatest Thing” to the disco-flavored “The Real Party.” The collaboration with Kirk Franklin, “And I,” is an airy, mellow mix -- unexpected but went with the album’s flow. Lastly, Mary Mary really showcases their spectacular singing. Their vocals are solid from track to track. Album Highlights: “Believer,” “What Is This,” “Biggest, Greatest Thing,” and “Yesterday” - jennifer e. jones

Max, Kevin

  • The Imposter  
    KMax has one of the most recognizable voices in music. It’s sweet to hear that it’s not only the highlight of The Imposter, but has only gotten stronger with age. The sophomore release on Northern Records holds nothing that’s typical and everything that’s relevant about today’s “Killers-Franz Ferdinand” rock scene. “Confessional Booth” kicks off the album with a good scream and total rock’n’roll flare. “Sanctuary” is a solid radio hit, and lines like “I find your beautiful mind in everything / And everything is all I need” in “Beautiful Mind” highlight Max’s hidden sensitivity to the divine. In my favorite surprise of all, listen to KMax go gospel on “When He Returns.” You just gotta love this guy. Album Highlights: “Platform,” “Confessional Booth,” “Sanctuary,” “When He Returns” - jennifer e. jones

McDonald, Shawn

  • Scattered Pieces: Live  
    Shawn McDonald is raspy and full of heart on his live CD, Scattered Pieces. He starts off with the breathless “Ramblings of a Beggar” from Ripen and bleeds right into “I Am Nothing” from his debut album -- showing how much this artist has truly grown in the last three years. McDonald keeps it cool with his mostly acoustic blend. If I had one complaint, it’s that certain songs sound dangerously like their album versions, thus making the performance less exceptional. However, within the 17 tracks, McDonald tries to mix it up (i.e., the up tempo “Gravity”, “Take My Hand” and the sweet serenity when Shawn and his audience join in the chorus of “Amazing Grace”). Shawn McDonald fans will get their money’s worth with Scattered Pieces but others may want to wait for new material. Album Highlights: “Gravity” and “Amazing Grace” - jennifer e. jones
  • Ripen  
    Shawn McDonald has grown up from the shy guy with a lone guitar, and his sophomore album Ripen shows every inch of that evolution. McDonald’s sound is much more full now with a wide array of instruments. Listen to Ripen with headphones on, and you’ll hear a rainforest of sounds, especially on songs like “The Rider on the White Horse.” Lovers of Simply Nothing may be surprised but rest assure that Shawn still keeps it acoustically mellow (The heartfelt-almost-made-me-cry ballad “Lovely” is very reminiscent of classic McDonald), and his yearning to grow closer to God has not wavered. Very much an experience album, Ripen flows and takes you on a journey from track to track. Album Highlights: “Reason,” “The Rider on the White Horse,” and ”Take Hold” - jennifer e. jones

McClurkin, Donnie

  • We All Are One
    One of gospel music’s top male vocalists, Donnie McClurkin, releases another gospel hit album. We All Are One features Mary Mary, Ce Ce Winans, and Yolanda Adams. Listening to this album was refreshing, as it took my mind back to the gospel music world and its roots. Donnie McClurkin continues to prevail in drawing listeners to the simplicity of his lyrics, the unfathomed meaning behind the lyrics, and the anointing that flows out of the music. Album Highlights: Trusting in You,” “We All Are One,” and “The Great I Am.” - ashley card

McLaughlin, Jon

  • OK Now
    Jon’s sophomore effort is already seeing some mainstream success with “Beating My Heart” making Billboard’s Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks at #21, just behind Colbie Calliat. Laced with modern backbeats and synthesizers reminiscent of Coldplay’s signature sound, it's one of the album’s best. Jon shows off his admirable talent as he rocks the piano keys in a Billy Joel like manner. He’ll charm you with his soulful voice and honest lyrics about his faith, life, and love; still he's not the Piano Man.  Album highlights:  “Beating My Heart,” “You Are the One I Love,” “We All Need Saving.” - hannah goodwyn
  • Indiana
    Indiana, singer-songwriter and pianist Jon McLaughlin’s first Island Records release, is a stellar album. Waxing soulfully with his rich, scratchy, smokey vocals, Jon soothes and inspires with his jazzy selections. With hints of Billy Joel, Elton John, Maroon 5, Switchfoot (especially on “Anthem for American Teenagers”), and Train, his piano-driving, high-hat-hitting, guitar-riffing tunes and deep-thinking lyrics will resonate with a Christian market interested in a bit more edgy and emotionally raw material. Something familiar, and something a bit different, Jon manages to incorporate a sound all his own. And because of that, we will likely see this up-and-coming artist stick around for a while. Album Highlights: “Beautiful Disaster” and “Anthem for American Teenagers” - laura j. bagby

McNease, Heath

  • The Heath McNease Fan Club Meets Tonight
    Heath McNease is certainly not the first rapper to throw his guitar licks on to a turntable. Listening to his debut album, it’s difficult not to think of John Reuben and Paul Wright. Since he’s going to ride the acoustic hip-hop train, at least he rides it well… if not better than his predecessors. McNease is a former college theater major, and it shows because he’s not afraid to throw himself into his songs. His rhymes are oddly edgy, clever and quick especially on “Rumors”, (i.e., “He’s obnoxious and obstinate / Let's hope we don’t see him topless on COPS again”). In spite of promoting all the loose screws in his head, McNease boasts mostly in the Lord. Sprinkled throughout this hip-hop odyssey is genuine faith. Listen to McNease’s blend of rap, soul, rock and reggae with an open mind but be careful. You may wind up a member in his fan club without even realizing it. Album Highlights: “Rumors” and “Love Me” [Featuring Pigeon John]  - jennifer e. jones


  • Coming Up to Breathe  
    “This is MercyMe?” That’s what you might ask yourself when the title track of Coming Up to Breathe hits your ears. The boys who once called themselves the poster children for adult contemporary rock out a bit on their fifth studio release. The circus feel of “So Long Self” speaks to the light-hearted nature that weaves in and out of every song, while “Hold Fast” shows the strength of God’s grip on us in hard times. I’m appreciating the slight shift in their musical focus. It reflects a band whose tragedies have given them faith that’s both rock-solid and child-like. Album Highlights: “Hold Fast,” “3:42 a.m. (Writer’s Block)” and “Coming Up to Breathe - jennifer e. jones
  • Live [DVD]  
    Musically, even the casual MercyMe fan will get their money’s worth. Read the full review...
  • The Christmas Sessions  
    Bart Millard and the boys fused together a variety of musical styles with diverse arrangements that encompass a wide spectrum of musical influences. From the U2 styled guitar on "It Came upon a Midnight Clear" to the Mannheim Steamroller influenced "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" to the country swing of "Silent Night," the band leaves virtually no musical stone unturned. The Christmas Sessions effectively bounces back and forth between religious themed carols and rollicking renditions of time tested commercial classics. There is no real downside to this album; it is strong throughout. Album Highlights: "It Came upon a Midnight Clear," "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," and "Joseph's Lullaby" - chris carpenter

Metallo, Alyce

  • Alyce Metallo 
    A high school Spanish teacher, singing professionally and making a difference in teenage lives has always been a balancing act for Alyce Metallo. With the release of her self-titled debut album, however, she has put her focus on singing and isn’t looking back. Similar to the R&B-gospel style of Yolanda Adams, Metallo is full of energy. From the opening song, “Stay,” strong vocals and a good beat encourage listeners to get on their feet, and though Metallo slows down at points, her enthusiasm never dies. Whether it’s original tracks of celebration of God and Christian fellowship or her jazzed up rendition of “Blessed Assurance,” Metallo shares a sincere excitement unique in the musical world. Though Metallo caters to a niche gospel audience, her talent and passion is such that every other niche can at least appreciate. Highlights: “Stay,” and “I’ll Fly Away.” – bethany duVal

Meyers, Krystal

  • Make Some Noise 
    Make Some Noise offers some new musical styles and a new lyrical depth for Krystal Meyers’ fans. With a songwriting ability that seems well developed for a 20-year-old, she tackles topics that go deeper than typical feel-good pop lyrics. She is at her best on rock tracks like “My Freedom,” asking God to set us free, and “S.O.S.” which calls out to God for rescue. She also mixes it up stylistically with upbeat dance tracks like “Love It Away,” “Shine,” and “You’ll Never Know,” a song that feels like something straight out of the 1980s. Of course the album wouldn’t be complete without a couple songs aimed primarily at her teen girl fan base. These include “Up to You,” a classic teen break-up song, and “Beautiful Tonight,” about our identity in Christ. Overall, this is a solid album from an artist who is proving herself to be quite versatile. Album Highlights: “Shine,” “My Freedom,” and “S.O.S.” - belinda elliott
  • Dying for a Heart  
    The issues I had with Krystal Meyers’ first self-titled album still linger with her follow-up, Dying For a Heart. We already have an Avril Lavigne; we don’t need another one. Nevertheless, if you’re into that kind of music, Meyers’ MTV-tween market pop/rock sound is admirable. She offers up 10 songs (all under four minutes for those with short attention spans) to move your inner “sk8er grl.” To her credit, she takes on more serious problems than just teenage angst. On “The Situation” Meyers sings/screams about the various situations teens find themselves in and how “Jesus can be your escape.” Maybe you need to wear a chain attached to your belt to get into Meyers’ brand of tomboy rock’n’roll, but if you’re that girl, this one’s for you. Album Highlights: “The Situation” and “Together” - jennifer e. jones

Michael Gungor Band, The

  • Ancient Skies 
    At a time when hymns are making their exit, and churches desperately need praise songs with spiritual depth, the Michael Gungor Band gives us … more milk. A collection of songs originally written for Gungor’s church, Ancient Skies is a rock-praise album full of repetitive and uninspiring lyrics. Choruses are simple repetitions of one or two lines, and Gungor’s themes hardly go beyond the fact that, well, God is pretty awesome. Whereas some people can pull this off, Gungor’s lack of scriptural roots cause his words simply to sound like a recitation of Christianese. Even when he broaches more challenging topics (“White Man,” “Song For My Family”), his words ring hollow because other people have already written on those songs—and they’ve written them better. For teen retreats who need a few songs to jump around to, this album will be great; but for those of us looking for something original, Gungor just doesn’t make the cut. – bethany duval
  • All I Need Is Here 
    After years as a solo artist and worship leader, Michael Gungor has assembled a few of his musical friends (including his wife and brother) to create The Michael Gungor Band. Their first offering is All I Need Is Here, a collection of corporate worship songs with a hint of David Crowder Band mixed into easy-to-sing Matt Redman. Before you think it's standard worship-fare, Gungor spices it up with his own twist. “Ancient Skies” is full of bright lights, and every hand should raise at the praise-worthy “Prodigal”. The jump from folk to cascading electric rock on “Fly” is surprisingly brilliant. The ballads on this album showcase Gungor’s sensitivity to the Spirit yet the uptempo tunes show his band’s musical depth. Fantastic! Album Highlights: “Fly” and “Prodigal” - jennifer e. jones

Millard, Bart

  • Hymned Again 
    MercyMe’s frontman Bart Millard follows up his 2005 collection of hymns with Hymned Again, a new assortment of old favorites. These may be the hymns you grew up singing, but probably not like this. Millard mixes the familiar songs with styles ranging from New Orleans jazz to down-home southern bluegrass. While his first album paid tribute to his grandmother and the hymns she used to sing, this one was inspired by his kids. Several of the hymns are well-known favorites including toe-tapping versions of “I Saw the Light,” “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” and “Victory in Jesus.” Other tracks are lesser known, but soon to become favorites. These include “Brethren We Have Met to Worship” and the only original on the album, “Jesus Cares for Me,” which features Millard singing with country artist Vince Gill. This album has quickly become one of my favorites. Album highlights: “Victory in Jesus,” “I Saw the Light,” and “Brethren We Have Met to Worship” – belinda elliott


  • Superhero 
    The five small town boys of MissionSix may not seem like rock stars at first glance. They are young (between the ages of 12-14), inexperienced, and somewhat lacking height at the moment. However, given a chance, this group proves to be both talented and mature. With energetic tunes that primarily target preteens, their debut album, Superhero, offers clean fun and a clear message of hope, life, and Christ. As the young band members all play instruments, produce a unique sound, and have even helped write their songs, they show our culture and specifically their generation that with God on your side anything is possible. People will be bobbing their heads to MissionSix for years to come. Album Highlights: “Monday Morning,” “We Got The Beat” and “Walk A Mile” – amy nickerson

Monk & Neagle

  • The Twenty-First Time
    The Twenty-First Time is an album of highs and lows. It’s not as soulful as Monk and Neagle’s debut. You don’t get a good groove going until you hear “Into Orbit”. Most of the songs are standard adult contemporary pop, which is good, just not as interesting as before. Lyrically, M&N couldn’t get better. “What Soldiers Do” is valiant, and “Beautiful You” is a happy-go-lucky, acoustic lover’s dream. I expected a bit more from the worshipful “Hallelujah, Jesus”, but it’s okay as ballads go. The debut album's “Stars Would Fall” makes a reappearance on this album without much explanation; however, it’s still a great song. It would have been nice to see them test the limits a bit more. They certainly have the talent to go further. Album Highlights: “Into Orbit” and “What Soldiers Do” - jennifer e. jones

Moore, Geoff

  • Speak to Me 

    Geoff Moore’s Speak to Me plays like an old dusty guitar that comforts you with every strum. The CCM veteran has those signature scratchy vocals that only sound better with age. He sings along with Watermark’s Christy Nockels on “When I Get Where I’m Going”, a song previously made famous by country star Brad Paisley. Moore co-wrote several tracks and added his bits of wisdom (i.e., “In a world away from luxury / Is where I found prosperity” from “Every Single One”). He even offers an acoustic ballad of “This Is My Father’s World”. Most of the album is mellow, but he’s not afraid to let the cymbals clash on tracks like “So Long, Farewell (The Blessing)”. On Speak to Me, Moore proves he can still go the distance. Album Highlights: “When I Get Where I’m Going” and “Your Day" - jennifer e. jones

Morant, Jason

  • Open 

    For a 24-year-old, Jason Morant has an old soul, and he lets it shine on Open. This follow-up to the popular Abandon is thoughtful worship that runs deep lyrically and musically. He takes listeners on a 16-track journey – from a plea for love (“Open”) to intimacy with the divine (“Veil”). Tied together with instrumental piano and violin interludes, Open is downright captivating. Morant has the lyrical depth of Derek Webb with the musical ingenuity of David Crowder. It’s a killer combination all wrapped in his own personal style of soothing, experimental rhythms. Worship singer/songwriters, take note. This is how it’s done. Album Highlights: “Holy Is the Lord” and “All of Me” - jennifer e. jones

Moss, J

  • V2... 

    They don’t call him “the voice” for nothing. J. Moss is a wonder on the mic. V2 is like an electric shock to gospel music, and Moss does it with a little help from his friends. Cousin Kiki Sheard lends her vocals to the opening track “Jump, Jump”. Kirk Franklin talks his way through the digitized “Dance”. There’s so much production on the first two tracks that “Know Him” (featuring Karen Clark Sheard) and “Abundantly” are welcomed, calmer songs that truly showcase Moss’ signature vocals. You get a touch of his live show with the sing-able “We Love You”, and his vulnerability on "Nobody" could bring a tear to your eye. Well balanced and full of hits (including the current radio single “Operator”), V2 is the next generation of gospel R&B. Album Highlights: “Praise on the Inside” and “Operator” - jennifer e. jones

Mullen, Nicole C.

  • Sharecropper's Seed, Vol. 1 

    Nichole C. Mullen digs into her roots on her latest album. Inspired by her ancestors, she offers her hip brand of Top 40/Christian pop with hints of African rhythms. Sharecropper's Seed, Vol. 1 isn’t terribly different than her previous works, which is a little disappointing for anyone looking for Mullen to reinvent herself. The title track starts it off a little slow, but a radio hit can be heard in the upbeat “So in Love”. There’s tenderness to “When I Grow Up” when Mullen sings with wishful children. Sharecropper’s Seed will be a nice addition to collectors of Mullen’s catalog of music. Otherwise, I’m waiting for volume two. Album Highlights: “So in Love” and “Under the Shadow” - jennifer e. jones

Munizzi, Martha

  • No Limits Live 

    It’s music and ministry, preaching and praising… It’s Martha Munizzi live. With a voice that few can hold a candle to, Munizzi shows her fans that there is No Limit to God’s power. Two discs worth of music supply plenty of songs that could be the next “Because of Who You Are,” the song that made Munizzi a household name amongst gospel lovers. Your heart will be lifted on “He’s Already Provided,” and you will cheer with triumph on “Till the Walls Fall.” She mixes plenty of worship (“Name Above All Names”) and praise (“What He’s Done”) and calls the saints to higher ground ( “Chosen Generation”). Gospel fans will adore this release. Album Highlights: “He’s Already Provided” and “Jesus Is The Best Thing” - jennifer e. jones


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