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Sallie, Nate

  • Ruined for Ordinary
    Nate Sallie used to be this hair-gelled pop/rock singer who made music for ordinary Christian radio. Just by glancing at the shaved head on his latest album cover, anyone can tell that Sallie is a changed man with a new sound. As though he was possessed with the influences of Gavin DeGraw and Maroon5, the former poster boy for CCM bangs on the piano keys with fury. Sallie sings his heart out on such sure-fire hits as “Let Go of Me”, and it’s hard not to loosen up to the Big Easy swagger of “Look At Me Now”. But most importantly, he stands strong for Christ on every track; you’ll be strengthened by lines like, “If there’s no practice in your preach / Then it’s true, your talk is cheap” from “Undercover Belief”. I love the new Nate, and he’s ruined us all for the ordinary. Album Highlights: “Look At Me Now” and “Let Go of Me”- jennifer e. jones


  • Aware
    Salvador is no new name in the Christian music world. Through a focused dedication to their Savior and to music, the jam band is back again with their sixth studio recording, Aware. With humble lyrics from frontman Nic Gonzales and a winning combination of musical experience and spontaneity, the album offers fans another strong CD. Though not for everyone, the Latin feel and the upbeat sound of Salvador is well captured and the lyrics provide listeners with a fresh perspective on God’s universal truths.  Fans will come away with a challenge to be more aware of God in their daily lives. Album Highlights: “Aware” and “You Rescue Me” – amy nickerson
  • Dismiss the Mystery
    This is the symphony of a band that is comfortable in their sound. Instead of changing their music, Salvador sticks with their signature Latin groove… and to that, we say, “Thank you.” Dismiss the Mystery is everything you love about Salvador: jam band riffs, catchy pop hooks, and lyrics that go for God’s heart. Fans will enjoy every song especially the vibrant Spanish “Te Enaltezco Dios.” There’s a great opening track in “Now That I Have You” that sets an almost Latin jazz tone. In a departure from praise and worship, “Trying to Be the Sun” goes behind the facades that people wear to offer them hope (“I know you’re at the end of the road / But you can’t let anybody know / ’Cause you’re too busy being everybody’s everything”). Uplifting and still dance-worthy. What’s not to love? Album Highlights: “Trying to Be the Sun” and “Now That I Have You” - jennifer e. jones

Sanctus Real

  • Face of Love
    Sanctus Real’s latest offering is a case study in contrasts. While the band shows a marked maturity in their songwriting, they seem to have lost many of the melodic hooks that fueled 2004’s Fight the Tide. Much of this polarity can likely be attributed to the many personal highs and lows they have experienced of late including marriage, birth, a 2005 GMA Award, the departure of bassist Steve Goodrum, and the death of a parent. Unlike the high energy of their first two releases, The Face of Love tends to plod along without a great deal of energy. The lyrics are definitely deeper, wiser, and stronger but they are not enough to drive this album beyond the status quo. Especially strong tracks include “I’m Not Alright”, a declaration of our need for grace, and the Romans tinged “We’re Trying”. Album Highlights: "I'm Not Alright" and "We're Trying" - chris carpenter

Schultz, Mark

  • Come Alive
    There's never a second chance to make a first impression, and Mark Schutlz capitalizes on the old adage in Come Alive, his first studio album in three years. The instrumental intros on almost every track draw you in like a firm handshake and a warm smile, but then the cliché-ridden conversation begins. The production, melodies, and vocals on each song ignite creative potential that is quickly drenched by lyrics sopping in "praise & worship"-isms. "What It Means to Be Loved" is the tingles- to-tears bright spot of the album. The rest of it suffers from an inability to honestly bleed. Album Highlights: "All Has Been Forgiven", "What it Means to be Loved" - rob vischer
  • Broken & Beautiful
    Nobody can tell a story through a song like Mark Schultz. It’s hard not to give him credit for that, even though musically, he’s purely formulaic. On Broken & Beautiful, he brings the same piano-driven epic tales of life, love, and worship that launched him as worthy competition for Michael W. Smith back in 2000. This album is full of tearjerkers such as the inspirational story of Schultz’s real-life adoption on “Everything to Me.” “He’s Walking Her Home” reminds me of his big hit, “Letters from War,” in that Schultz details the moments of love that pull life together. If you’re looking for something innovative, perhaps you should look on. However, true fans of Schultz’s storytelling will fall in love with this honest release. Album Highlights: “Everything to Me” and “He’s Walking Her Home” - jennifer e. jones

Scott, Kathryn

  • I Belong
    Kathryn Scott, Northern Ireland’s well-known singer and songwriter, returns with her second album. With a mix of both catchy, contemporary tracks and slower worship songs, I Belong is honest and from the heart. However, the writing is sometimes too repetitive and unoriginal, skimming the surface instead of diving deep. For example, the song “Thank You For the Cross” repeats “Thank You, thank You for Your love that saved us… Thank You for the cross” quite a few times, and the words could easily become meaningless to the listeners. Skipping to the middle or end of the CD would be a better choice than listening to all of it. Album Highlights: “Grace Has Called My Name” and “What a Friend” - amy nickerson


  • Rocks Into Rivers
    Seabird's sophomore effort, Rocks into Rivers, proves the piano pop/rock darlings of network television are hiding more than one album of hit-status songs up their sleeve. Aaron Morgan's vulnerable lead vocals could make the "X" section of the dictionary sound radio-worthy. His fluctuating melodies sizzle with the passion needed to brand each stanza on the consciousness of even the harshest critic. "Don't You Know You're Beautiful" sports a genius intro and is the disc-defining, catchy-as-flypaper single. Except for the pretentious Michael Jackson tribute, "Finally Done Right," Rocks into Rivers hails as the nearly flawless continuation of Seabird's rising career. Album Highlights: "Don't You Know You're Beautiful", "The Sound of You and I", and "This Road" - rob vischer


  • Greatest Hymns
    If you can separate this album from the dozens of hymns put out this year, then you may enjoy it. Many songs are piano-based with a purity that allows the listener to experience the hymn unadulterated. Nicol’s vocals are stronger than ever, and the infusion of gospel, blues, and African rhythms give it extra spice. Unfortunately, its downfall is being yet another hymns project at the tail end of a tiresome trend. Album Highlights: “Amazing Grace” and “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” - jennifer e. jones
  • Bless the Broken Road: The Duets Album
    Re-recording mainstream songs that are currently popular is an easy way to get attention so I was never impressed with Selah’s decision to do “Bless the Broken Road.” The vocal trio is already fighting an uphill battle without the powerful vocals of former member Nicol Spongberg. However, they got a little help from their friends. This duet album features chart-toppers like Nichole Nordeman, Tiffany Lee of Plumb, BarlowGirl and more. In spite of selecting a few singers who are known for making rock music, Bless the Broken Road is mostly adult contemporary and almost hymn-like. There are a few surprises though. They did a haunting folk take on “All My Tears” with Kim Hill and switched it up to bluegrass rock with Jason and Adam Crabb on “Ain’t No Grave.” Kudos on the collaborations. Album Highlights: “Glory” (feat. Nichole Nordeman) and “All My Tears” (feat. Kim Hill) - jennifer e. jones

Send, The

  • Cosmos
    Falling Up graduate Joe Kisselburgh is branching out on his own with his one-man band, The Send. As debuts go, Cosmos has many impressive points. The melodic keys and addiction to a higher pitch followed him from his previous band and are a welcomed mainstay on tracks like "An Ephiphany". It’s much lighter musically than his labelmates on Tooth & Nail – very Death Cab collides with Kutless. The Send isn’t overtly Christian but lyrics leave room for spiritual exploration (“I am over feeling like I am all alone / So meet me where I am” from “Begin”). This average Joe is in a league all his own. Album Highlights: “The Fall” and “The Science of the Sky” - jennifer e. jones

Seventh Day Slumber

  • Finally Awake
    Seventh Day Slumber’s mega hit “Caroline” from their previous album really established them as the kings of the monster ballad. Now on Finally Awake, they bring more sensitive rock than you can probably handle. The slow songs on this CD make you long for the moments when it bangs your head (i.e., the crunching “Burning Bridges”, “Last Regret” and the opening track, “Awake”, that rips into this project). Those songs aside, Finally Awake is mostly slow and occasionally drags. By the final track (yet another ballad), they sing of loss over acoustic guitars very sweetly (“I’m barely hanging on with all these empty feelings”). I appreciate the sentimentality but is this hard rock or rehashed Jeremy Camp? Here’s to hoping the next Seventh Day Slumber album puts "Caroline" to rest and returns to rock. Album Highlights: “Awake” and “Missing Papers” - jennifer e. jones

Shane & Shane

  • Everything is Different
    Shane & Shane's seventh studio album, Everything is Different, now stockpile CCM shelves everywhere. Thankfully, the album doesn't derive its name from a huge 180 in style or sound. The duo's impassioned harmonies still simmer over a raw acoustic set to create an organic "front row" experience. "Turn Down the Music" is the track that ironically deserves the most volume. "Everything is Different" and "My Hope is Built" also demand repetition. Shane & Shane grew as a college-circuit fave because their live performance consistently exceeds their studio performance. This album is worth it. The ticket will be too. - rob vischer

Album Highlights: "Turn Down the Music", "Everything is Different", and "My Hope is Built"

  • Pages
    Soulful and soothing, intimate and inspiring, Shane and Shane’s newest release, Pages, sends you running to Jesus with your whole heart.  Lyrics like, “May a vision of You be the death of me,” and “I beg You to break through,” inspire listeners to seek Christ with everything they have. And as "Burn Us Up" pays tribute to the story of the three Hebrew children who faced death rather than deny their God, we are reminded that undying devotion is a price worth paying for the prize of greater intimacy with our Lord. If you want to draw closer to Jesus, this new CD from Shane and Shane will be a welcomed addition to your music collection. Album Highlights: "Vision of You" and "Burn Us Up" - linda michaels
  • An Evening with Shane & Shane
    The extraordinary harmonies of Shane & Shane are captured once again in this collection of live performances of fan favorites and their brand new song, “Arise”. The 2-disc set features the group’s powerful folk-worship, acoustic guitar sound and special DVD footage, including a studio tour and guitar lessons from Shane Barnard. Album Highlights: “Arise,” “Yearn,” and “The Answer” - hannah goodwyn

Sheard, Karen Clark

  • It's Not Over 

    It’s definitely not over for this gospel diva. Karen Clark Sheard sings from her gut on this album! It’s Not Over is a powerful mix of signature vocal runs and riffs from guest artists like: The legendary Clark Sisters and Israel Houghton. And, if you’re an old-school Clark Sisters’ fan, you can probably appreciate the remake of “You Brought The Sunshine” on this album. Other songs that will transcend your worship experience include “Favor” and “Show Me Your Glory.” This album offers satisfaction and hope to anyone looking for an electrifying praise & worship, Holy Ghost experience. Get the album. Highlights include: “Hallelujah” and “Be Blessed.” - terri l. simmons

Sheard, Kierra 'KiKI'

  • This Is Me 

    In spite of her traditional gospel family roots, Kierra “KiKi” Sheard did her hip-hop soul homework. This Is Me not only picks up where I Owe You left off but takes it a step higher. Your speakers will thump with the bass-heavy beats on tracks like “You’re the Only One” and “Faith.” The message of the Gospel’s absolute truth makes “It Is What It Is” a solid hit. She makes a great anthem for women of virtue in “Wrong Things” where she sings, “To whom much is given / Much is required / That means everything I see / Might not be for me.” With energy that won’t quit, this sophomore effort has everything a good R&B album needs to succeed. Album Highlights: “It Is What It Is,” “Wrong Things” and “Have What You Want” - jennifer e. jones

Shust, Aaron

  • Take Over by Aaron Shust
    I listen to a lot of CCM, and am not often truly refreshed by an artist's message anymore. But Aaron Shust's latest album, Take Over, is a welcome surprise. Shust is still asking questions, not pretending that he has all the answers. Over and over, each song reinforces the fact that yes, life is a mess, and we may make it messier each and every day, BUT this is a journey, and we can acknowledge the dark sides of life, while moving toward hope. He does this beautifully in tracks such as "Still You Love Me", "Breathe in Me", and my favorite, "Carry Me Home". His singles are great too; a little edgier than say Chris Tomlin, but very radio-worthy. This is an album you'll want to play a few times, and get a little deeper each time. - rebekah wilson

Album Highlights: "Carry Me Home", "To God Alone", and "Live to Lose"

  • Whispered and Shouted
    It’s difficult to think of Aaron Shust writing a worship anthem that could succeed “My Savior, My God”. But as he chants “Long live the King” on the first track of Whispered and Shouted, I believe he’s got a winner. Ditching the clichés, Shust’s new album is everything that Christian radio needs injected into its pores. You can hear it pulsating through every track – especially on “Like I Never Felt Before” and “Create Again”. His vocals sweep low, and he beats on his guitar with a relaxed confidence like Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers... as if this is all old hat to the new artist. His lyrics have perfected the art of puncturing the soul as heard on “Give Me Words to Speak”. It all culminates in the Revelations-inspired “Worthy / Let All I Do” that falls like a curtain on a follow-up album that puts the first to shame. What’s more amazing is how easy Shust makes it all look. Album Highlights: “Long Live the King” and “Worthy / Let All I Do” - jennifer e. jones
  • Anything Worth Saying
    The trouble with the guitar-playing singer/songwriter is that there are about a million other guys just like him. I spent most of Aaron Shust's first album thinking I've heard this before. He tries earnestly with a sweet contemporary sound and lyrics that are constantly chasing after God. However, with the Chris Tomlins, John Mayers, and Chris Rices of the world who have already had their say on the pop charts, Aaron -- though very talented -- is just another face in the crowd. Album Highlights: "Stillness (Speak to Me)" - jennifer e. jones


  • Comatose
    A lot of hype surrounds the release of Skillet’s new album, Comatose, and I must say, it’s well deserved. Their larger-than-life dark rock gets a shot of reality and maturity. They kick it off with a killer track in "Rebirthing." The high-rising guitars and orchestra sound build anticipation for an album that won’t disappoint. I love that lead singer John Cooper’s wife, Korey, gets a more prominent singing part on songs like “The Last Night.” They have some very Skillet-esque monster ballads in “Say Goodbye.” “Better than Drugs” drives hard the fact that Jesus is the ultimate high. Without jumping on the emo train or getting into goth theatrics, Skillet creates a project authentically them but a step above the already powerful Collide. Album Highlights: “Rebirthing” and “The Last Night” - jennifer e. jones

Sligh, Chris

  • Running Back to You
    Chris Sligh captures the essence of a prodigal son returning home with raw, sweet lyrics which chronicle his own spiritual journey. His songs have a familiarity that will capture your attention and tug deeply on your heart. I found myself singing along after only one or two listens to "Vessel," as if I had always known the lyrics or even wrote them myself. Seriously, from start to finish this is a solid, brilliant worship album. It’s rare that I immediately and completely connect with a musician’s work, but Chris interjects his faith into original songs with profound simplicity and beautiful musical arrangements.  I absolutely love the use of strings in the Eleanor Rigby-like song "Loaded Gun." The album takes many creative risks that will rightfully launch this former American Idol contestant into a successful career as a contemporary Christian worship songwriter and performer. I foresee much love "raining down" for Chris Sligh. Album highlights: (All songs, really) "Empty Me," "Are You Pleased," "Loaded Gun," "Vessel" – andrea hedlund

Slaughter, Alvin

  • Overcomer
    Alvin Slaughter is no new name in the world of gospel music. As a former lead vocalist of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and an internationally renowned worship artist, he has now released Overcomer, his seventh album with Integrity Music. Though not a style for everyone, Slaughter’s music expresses hope and inspiration with an energy and passion that is evident. With 15 tracks, this CD offers listeners a variety of worship music, both slow and fast, and includes a strong message that with Christ we can overcome the world. Album Highlights: “O Give Thanks” and “Power In the Name of Jesus.”  - amy nickerson

Smith, Jake

  • Real
    It’s rare to find a male guitarist/singer/songwriter who has the goods to standout from the crowd. However, Rocketown's Jake Smith has what we've been searching for. Soulful, fun, electric, and eclectic, Smith embodies the thriving New Orleans spirit with his new album Real. If you can imagine Justin Timberlake unplugged with the heart of Shawn McDonald and the party side of Paul Wright, you’re faintly touching the pulse of this newcomer. Smith can make you dance with the hip-hop chords of “Can’t Save Your Soul”, then draw a tear with the tender “Real Love”. Real is full of surprises and inspiration at every turn, and nearly every track is gold. The best new artist of the year has arrived. Album Highlights: “Can’t Save Your Soul”, “Get Up”, and “Real Love” - jennifer e. jones

Smith, Michael W.

  • A New Hallelujah 
    Following the successful live worship albums, “Worship” and “Worship Again,” Smith introduces “A New Hallelujah.” This album begins with an expansive sound, showing off its 250 voice choir and special guest, The African Children’s Choir, and if you are a Smitty fan, you’ll love it. On one hand, he introduces some great songs that are vibrant and poignant, and tries to be accessible to all kinds of worshippers, worldwide. On the other hand, if he is truly looking for a ‘new’ hallelujah, he should consider staying away from some of the rehashed cover songs. Hillsong already did Mighty to Save really well, and his Chris Tomlin and Delirious tracks are just “ok.” However, he hits some great high points like the title track, which just feels majestic as the massive choir kicks in, the tribal drum intro to Prepare Ye the Way, and his continued celebration of the nouveau hymn movement with an updated I Surrender All. – rebekah wilson
  • Stand  
    Smitty tickles the ivories again for our listening pleasure on Stand. While there were moments that I was longing for the operatic thunder of “Healing Rain,” Michael W. Smith still knows how to make a mean contemporary Christian album. His lyrics remain centered on the strength and beauty trapped inside the everyday Christian and the God who inspires it all. Musically, even after 20 plus years, Smith manages to evolve further. I didn’t think it was possibly to improve upon Keith Green’s “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” but Smith has done it. He’s near soulful while channeling his inner Stevie Wonder on “Escape Your Love”. This project certainly stands as a worthy addition to Smith’s already voluminous collection of excellence. Album Highlights: “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful”, “Cover Me” and “Escape Your Love”- jennifer e. jones

Smith, Stephanie

  • Not Afraid 
    Being a new face in the music scene, 24 year old Stephanie Smith comes through with full force. Her newly released album, Not Afraid, has a rather vibrant and inspirational beginning. Starting from Smith’s first track, “Beauty”, listeners are awakened by the multifaceted pop/rock sound. The lyrics touch on self-esteem issues and the true essence of a man’s beauty. Throughout the entire album, Stephanie continues to inspire listeners. “Superstar”reiterates the message that everyone is a superstar, with an alternative twist. “You Alone” shifts gears from alternative to praise & worship, allowing listeners to bask in sweet melodies of transcendent praise. Listeners are able to engage in an aesthetic experience with the Holy Spirit. “Over It” takes it home with a more lively alternative sound. As I finished listening to the album, I felt as if I had a complete internal makeover. Stephanie Smith is truly an excellent moral example for young women.- Ashley Card

The Sonflowerz

  • All Over The World  
    Last summer, the Leander sisters, AKA the Sonflowerz, won Best Over-All Vocal Group at GMA Music in the Rockies. Now, with their latest release, we get to find out why. Featuring beautiful harmonies, similar to Point of Grace, the acoustic pop duo sings with an earnest longing for Christ that will grip the hearts of listeners. From the beginning, the album’s upbeat title track, “All Over The World,” the sisters sing of a passion for delivering God’s word to all nations. But true significance comes when they slow down for songs like “My Adoration,” which humbly celebrates the completion we find in Christ, and “Legacy,” a song dedicated to a friend who sacrificed everything and died as a missionary in Nepal. In their honest reflections, the Sonflowerz transcend simple thanks, demonstrating a yearning for God in every form. Their songs are an offering listeners will be glad to join in on. Highlights: “Edge Of My Seat,” “Legacy,” and “Cover Us.” – bethany duval


  • Glimpse  
    I was looking for a little more imagination on Sonicflood’s live CD, and I found it lacking. Sure, if you love standard, run-of-the-mill Sonicflood worship, then you’ve found your Christmas gift. The band serves up old favorites such as “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “I Want to Know You”. However, I found myself bored with even the more upbeat songs on the album. It’s a rather short concert CD, being only nine tracks of live music with two studio songs. At the very least, I liked the bass-heavy, chilled out version of “Resonate”. You really gotta love Sonicflood in order to eat up this new release.  In any other case, I say to wait for some new material. Album Highlights: “Resonate” - jennifer e. jones
  • This Generation  
    It's an improvement over their recent offerings, but it falls short of the other praise & worship albums out there. Read the full review...

Sparks, Jordin

  • Jordin Sparks
    Yet another graduate from American Idol throws her vocal hat into the music ring. Jordin Sparks used to tour with Michael W. Smith but her debut lacks the confidence to step out. The bright potential on this album is dulled by generic production and forgettable lyrics. There is a glimmer of hope in the icy “Freeze” where she sings in a chilling whirlwind of sound. True, Sparks’ voice is a beautiful thing, however it doesn’t have an all-consuming hook such as the powerful force of fellow alum Kelly Clarkson or the raw grit of Daughtry. Jordin Sparks is just another pop album, and seriously, do we need another one? Album Highlights: “Freeze” - jennifer e. jones


  • Sleepwalkers  
    There’s a certain charm to Spur58 that draws you into their national debut release. Sleepwalkers is like The Fray with a few jagged edges of rock. The piano keys pound almost as hard as the guitars. Lyrically, there’s a lot to inspire you here. “Wake up and breathe again” is the chorus of the title track and the theme of the album. You don’t have to worry about this new band glossing over the gospel. “Sustaining Me” and “I Am Yours” are modern vertical worship songs that you could sing in your car or in the sanctuary. Although Spur58 has its moments of lazy Christian-ese, you can really see that Sleepwalkers is striving for something more than the typical here. Album Highlights: “Sleepwalkers” and “Kyle’s Lament” - jennifer e. jones

Stacey, Phil

  • Into the Light 
    Into the Light is Phil Stacey's Christan music debut. With an inspirational vibe and a familiar Christian pop sound, this record is undoubtedly CCM. A longtime fan of the late great Rich Mullins', Stacey honors him with his version his never recorded song, "Hard to Get." This new album puts the former American Idol contestant on the right track to No. 1 hits and a loyal Christian music fan base. Album Highlights: "Inside Out", "Glorious", "Sanctuary"- hannah goodwyn


  • I Will Go 
    In their latest album since Beauty In the Broken (2006), Starfield presents a solid, heart-felt CD of modern worship songs. Although the anthems are somewhat different from the Christian pop tracks of past albums, the energy is the same in I Will Go. With a thorough look at God’s calling, Starfield encourages listeners to step outside of their comfort zones and live in a way that glorifies God. Including a remake of Hillsong United’s “Hosanna” and many new tracks that are compassionate and challenging, this album is worth the investment. Album Highlights: “Hosanna” and “I Will Go” – amy nickerson

Staton, Candi

  • I Will Sing Praise to You 
    Legendary song artist, Candi Staton, releases her first praise and worship album entitled, I Will Sing Praise to You. After a dozen gospel albums, almost 30 Billboard R &B chart singles, and Grammy nominations, Candi Staton takes listeners back to the basics of worship.  Her album consists of old school worship songs that have lasted throughout the many radical changes of the Christian music industry. “Alpha and Omega” is the prime example of a song that wrenches the heart of listeners. Though the lyrics are simple in reiterating who God is, pulling at an intimate place of one’s spirit, it rouses the listeners to yield to his presence. “Here I am to Worship” takes listeners to an even deeper level of praise. The song causes listeners to make a declaration of worship. Shifting the album in high gear, “I Will Rejoice” has a sound for the listeners to jam to. I found myself dancing in my seat; I couldn’t resist. “I Will Rejoice” is a mere reflection of God’s joy. - ashley card

St. James, Rebecca

  • aLIVE in Florida
    After more than 200 concert dates a year since '94, Rebecca St. James finally released her first Live concert CD/DVD package, aLIVE in Florida (March 20).... Read the full review.
  • If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something
    Rebecca St. James hops off the worship train and returns to her rock roots with 12 tracks that boast God-esque rhythms. It’s a good shot, and the pros and cons on this record balance each other out. Some melodies I’ve heard before (i.e., “Alive”) but the rock/techno-fused “God Help Me” is one of the best songs Rebecca’s done since “Reborn.” tobyMac spices up “Thank You” and saves it from a rather redundant chorus (“Thank you, thank you, thank you / I’ve got two words for you). Lyrically, Rebecca never reinvented the wheel, and this album is no different; however, it has a few bright spots (“I praise you in the center of the fire”). Overall, the message of love reigns supreme and makes this record a point of maturity for a CCM veteran. Album Highlights: “You Are Loved,” “God Help Me,” “Shadowlands” - jennifer e. jones

St. Louis Family Church

  • My Whole World
    St. Louis Family Church (SLFC), started in 1988 and now with over 6,500 members, has always had a passion for worship and evangelism. Now, as a collective effort, SLFC offers its debut album, My Whole World. With the talent of many skillful worship leaders and 13 live tracks including both music and prayer the CD gives listeners a full worship experience. Many churchgoers will find the album a familiar, natural sound. However, with repetitive lyrics, predictable tunes, and a chorus of voices people can easily find at their local church, this experience might be one to pass on.  Album Highlights: “My Whole World” and “Glory.”  - amy nickerson

Stapp, Scott

  • The Great Divide 

    With his signature baritone voice as strong as ever, Scott Stapp is ready to be heard in his first solo album, The Great Divide. All 10 original tracks are beautifully written songs that show the former Creed lead singer’s lyrical talent. New beginnings and freedom are its themes with Scott declaring he’s a “broken man” and a “simple man” who “learned to listen to that voice within [his] soul.” Fist-clenching questions about hard times and spiritual reflections are mixed in with the familiar post-grunge/hard rock sound Scott calls his own. This CD is for all the fans who fell in love with any of Creed’s three platinum-certified albums. Give it a try even if you didn’t appreciate his talent before because you’ll miss some great songs if you pass it up. Album highlights: “Surround Me,” “Sublime,” “The Great Divide,” and “Broken.” - hannah goodwyn


  • Beauty in the Broken 

    Just when you think worship rock has run its course on creativity, Starfield pulls Beauty in the Broken out of their hat. With the exception of a few tracks, their second album is exceptionally fascinating. You’re hooked from the first haunting piano riff of “My Generation.” “Great is the Lord” has an unrelenting beat, and those resonating guitars have a U2’s Edge tone to them. By the end, Starfield gets you with their lyrics that go the extra mile. They remind us that “nothing here’s as good as it should be / ‘cause this is the rehearsal... / I believe our secret longings / Tell us that we’re not at home” on “Love is the Reversal.” All I can say is wow. Album Highlights: “Unashamed” and “Love is a Reversal” - jennifer e. jones

Stellar Kart

  • Expect the Impossible
    This album features all the things we’ve come to expect from Stellar Kart including power pop melodies and catchy choruses. I would have liked a little more depth lyrically, but the band is right on target for their intended audience – youth. Feel-good tracks like “Sunshine” and “Shine Like the Stars,” encourage listeners to live out their faith, while “Pray” digs a little deeper into spiritual issues. Though “Eyes” is reminiscent of pop from the 1980s, it has a strong message: "All this world can offer I'll leave behind / I've had enough of being blind / open my eyes / I want to see what you see beyond these beautiful lies."  The group returns to their punk rock roots with the song “I Give Up,” which is perhaps the best track on the album. I’d love to see more songs like this from the band in the future. Album Highlights: "Innocent," "Jesus Loves You," "I Give Up" - belinda elliott
  • We Can't Stand Sitting Down
    Stellar Kart elbows their way through a sea of pop/punk bands to produce the unlikely likable We Can’t Stand Sitting Down. Rarely does a band’s sophomore album supercede their debut but the 2006 New Artist of the Year (Dove Award) did it with punked-out style. We Can’t Stand hits the ground running with a fast song about taking your time, titled “Procrastinating.” They tackle deeper topics on this album. An impressive track, lyrically, is “Only Wanted” where lead singer Adam Agee takes the role of a father hoping the best for his child (“I pray for the day you see / I tried to raise you the best I know /… I hope you don’t end up just like me”). They offer supportive friendship on “Me and Jesus” and give it all up to God on “Lose Control.” Stellar Kart matures both spiritually and musically while still maintaining their boyish charm. Album Highlights: “Me and Jesus,” “Only Wanted,” and “Angels in Chorus” -jennifer e. jones

Story, Laura

  • Great God Who Saves
    Laura Story’s chart-topping “Indescribable” became a famed anthem when Chris Tomlin sang it on his 2004 release, Arriving. In her label debut with INO records, Story uses her own voice to revolutionize the world of musical worship. Great God Who Saves is a strong collection of acoustic contemporary worship that is sung with both beauty and a unique sincerity. The upbeat “Bless The Lord” and more gentle “Grace” recognize God’s faithfulness and patience in His dealings with His followers. “There Is Nothing” expresses a simple, but earnest desire to know God with a deep and steady passion. Fans of “Indescribable” will be happy to see not only its inclusion on the album, but also “Immortal, Invisible,” which expresses similar lyrical sentiments. This is an album for which every worship leader should be on the look-out. Album Highlights: “There Is Nothing,” “Indescribable,” and “Mighty To Save.” – bethany duval


  • Everything and More
    Gotee showcases hard rock with melody in their latest debut artist StorySide:B. Everything and More reminds me of a mix between the Pillar of late and the Creed of old – strong vocals on rock hard songs that breathe with a sense of desperation for the divine. It’s good but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. I wonder if StorySide:B has found their own voice when I hear acoustic ballads like “More to This Life.” While it’s not their strong suit, their lyrics reach for a certain depth (“Don’t try to judge / Just try to forgive / Because we all have mistakes / We live with” from “You’re Not Alone”). My hope is that they stand out more in concert because on CD, this band blends into the crowd. Album Highlights: “Everything and More” - jennifer e. jones


  • Murder by Pride by Stryper
    Sometimes the more things change the more they sound the same. Featuring the same heavy metal harmonies and blistering guitar work that made them a secular crossover hit in the 1980s, Stryper has returned to the music scene with their first recording of new material since 2005’s Reborn. Older, wiser, and with slightly less hair, the Yellow and Black Attack has seemingly not missed a beat with Murder by Pride. Frightening album cover aside, Murder by Pride is chock full of full-throttle music that will satisfy older fans while winning over scores of new ones. Album Highlights: “I Believe”, “Run in You”, and the ballad “Alive” (a song that will have people reminiscing about “Honestly”) - chris carpenter


  • Rock What You Got
    Superchick explores new ground with their latest album, Rock What You Got, and once again they deliver a fantastic collection of inspiring tunes. The project features powerful anthems similar to those found on their last albums, but composed with even more energy to form a sound that the band is calling “rock-o-tronic.” In the lively rock tunes “Rock What You Got” and “Alive” the band encourages listeners to embrace the talents and gifts that God has given them and live life to the fullest. In softer ballads like “Hold,” “Breathe” and “Crawl” the band urges Christians to be confident that God will see them through even when times are tough. For Superchick fans, this is a CD you don’t want to be without! Album Highlights: “Rock What You Got,” “Alive,” “Hold”  - belinda elliott
  • Beauty from Pain
    An anthem-filled, non-stop coaster with the clear message for anyone going through tough times: "There will be a dawn." Read the full review...

Swift, The

  • Singing Back to You
    It’s difficult to get around the CCM box that The Swift has painted itself in. Much like their earlier contemporary worship songs, Singing Back to You runs in the same vein with near repetitive consistency. While they sing with all their might, there’s not enough originality in Singing to be arresting or even mildly entertaining. That’s not to say that this album doesn’t have its moments. I love how the guitars echo as if in a hallow hall on “Make Known.” Your heart will be lifted up as Britt Edwards sings, “When hope is lost / I’ll call you Savior / When silence falls / You’ll be the song in my heart” (“When the Tears Fall”). Their heart’s in the right place; I’m just waiting for their music to get there too. Album Highlights: “Make Known” and “When the Tears Fall” - jennifer e. jones


  • Oh! Gravity.
    Every blue moon, a band deserves the hype surrounding a new release. Simply put, these guys can deliver every time. Switchfoot is one of those bands. Oh! Gravity., the oddly punctuated yet poignant CD, is a road trip through the mind of frontman Jon Foreman. It’s a spiritual journey that will take you from faithless doubt in humanity to finding faith in God alone. They haven’t written a better title track since “Beautiful Letdown”, and it’s among the best opening tracks ever heard. From the descriptive dreamscape of “Faust, Midas, and Myself” to the dirt road religion of “Dirty Second Hands”, every track on this CD is solid gold. If certain oddities in life get better with age, Switchfoot is the fine wine of both CCM and mainstream music. Album Highlights: “Circles”, “Dirty Second Hands”, “Awakening” (oh, just go buy the CD) - jennifer e. jones
  • Nothing Is Sound
    This highly anticipated follow-up by Switchfoot is far from a letdown. Written and recorded on the road, it is a spiritual journey for the band members. Switchfoot reveals the vulnerability and fears which exist in all of us. Playing off the album’s title, Nothing is Sound, the lyrics reveal a deep desire to understand what it means to be sound or free from moral defect and worthy of confidence. Powerful lyrics such as “I have been thinking about the meaning of resistance, of a hope beyond my own” have spiritual undertones that take us beyond our own understanding. Switchfoot compels us to accept our brokenness and use it for God’s glory as they remind us, “Blessed is the man who’s lost it all.” Album Highlights: "Stars," "Happy is a Yuppie Word," "The Shadows Prove the Sunshine," "The Blues," and "We Are One Tonight" - andrea d. hicks

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