Music Reviews  

WOW Hits 2005

What happens when you put Christian superstars ZOEGIRL, Jaci Velasquez, and Stacie Orrico on the same album? You get Wow Hits 2005. This newest installment in the Wow music series features some of the greatest names in Christian music on a 31 song, two-disc set. This is a must have for Christian music fans.


With its 15 No. 1 singles and an additional 11 top-10 charting cuts, WOW Hits 2005 delivers the best in Christian music. Here’s a list of just some of the artists featured on this CD set.




Scoop up a copy of WOW Hits 2005 when it hits shelves October 5. You’ll be glad you did.





Wecome To Diverse City

One of the more popular forms of music is rap/rock fusion. This style is epitomized by groups such as Kid Rock, Limp Bisket and POD. Its time to add a new name to this list: TobyMac. His lastest release entitled, Welcome To Diverse City, catapults him to the top of this musical genre.


Although a Christian release, the positive music on this album is sure to find fans in the mainstream music world as well. With straight-up rap songs like, Chatchafire, and rap/rock fusion hits such as The Slam, the music world will soon know that TobyMac is a force to be reckoned with in mainstream music.


However, this album is much more than a simple rap or even a rap/rock fusion album. True to its title, many other threads pervade this musical masterpiece. Songs such as Gone, reflect a contemporary alternative sound, while Diversity City has a definite funk sound. All in all, this album is a solid release that should inhabit the music collection of every serious music lover, Christian or not.





If you are a fan of great music, place a big red star on your calendar on August 24th. This is when the self-titled debut release by Everlife is set to hit stores. Driven by solid rock songs like “Take A Ride” and “Heaven Open Your Eyes” and ballads like “Evidence” and “Lead My Way”, sisters Amber, Sarah and Julia have produced a rich melodic masterpiece infused with beautiful harmonies and powerful lyrics.


Although comparisons will be made with groups such as Lillix, Liz Phair and even ZOEGirl, Everlife proves through the creativity and diversity found within this album that they defy such comparisons and firmly establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Christian, Pop and Rock genres.


Look out Switchfoot, POD and Stacie Orrico. There’s a new group of girls in town and they’re ready to rock! 



Absoulte Smash Hits

Fervent Records

From Fervent Records comes one of the best Christian music compilations of 2004. Entitled, Absolute Smash Hits, this two CD set is simply incredible!  The twenty-five track collection features multiple Grammy and Dove Award nominees such as Jennifer Knapp, Ginny Owens, Todd Agnew and Plumb. This project provides listeners with some of the greatest Christian music available from a variety of genres such as rap, alternative, hard rock and pop.

There is something for everyone on this double CD set. If you are a fan of great music, pick up a copy of this CD when it becomes available on July 13. You'll be glad that you did!


Bethany Dillon

Bethany Dillon

This album can easily be summed up with one word-Wow! You can’t help but be amazed by this album. Although only a young teen, Bethany Dillon has a talent that most musicians only dream of. As you listen to the depth of the lyrics and the vocal quality contained within all of her songs, it is difficult to believe that this Ohio native is only fifteen years old. Her strong acoustic-rock sound and her incredibly apt lyrics have drawn comparisons to other great women musicians such as Jennifer Knapp, Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan.


Bethany embraces her youth and draws from it to create powerful songs that deal with everything from peer pressure to self-esteem to the emptiness that material possessions can offer. It is her youth that makes her songs accessible and applicable to people her own age as well as the general public.


"The people who come up to me after shows are girls in college and high school,” Bethany relates in her bio.  “Every night I have a good conversation with girls my age.  They relate to the music because I'm not singing about being fifteen five years ago.  I am fifteen."


If you enjoy great music, whether you’re fifteen or one hundred and fifteen, pick up the new album by Bethany Dillon. I just hope that people outside the Christian music circle have the opportunity to hear and embrace this wonderful new talent!


 To hear music from her new album Click Here.





There aren’t too many young musicians who can be considered folk legends. However, with the popularity of the song Barlow Girls, by Christian artists Superchic(k), came notoriety and eventually a record contract with Fervent Records for the group known as BarlowGirl. Their self-titled debut shows the world that they are ready for prime time.


These three sisters from the small town of Elgin, Illinois belt out some amazing rock tunes such as Harder Than The First Time, Never Alone and Clothes. BarlowGirl has produced a fun, rock-centered record that you can to listen to from front to back countless times and never get tired of it. However, despite the enjoyable nature of the album, the album is not simply fluff. Through their lyrics, the members of BarlowGirl tackle difficult subjects such as trusting in God, dating and the need in all of us to feel like a superstar.


If you like great rock musicians such as Liz Phair, Lillix and Avril Lavigne, you’ll love this freshman release by BarlowGirl.


To listen to some samples from their album, log on to the Fervent Records website.


Click Here



The Other Side Of Something

Sara Groves

We all have the urge to ask the tough questions from time to time such as “why do bad things happen to good people”. In her new release entitled, The Other Side of Something, Sara teaches listeners that wrestling with the difficult issues and searching for answers is part of a healthy relationship with Christ.


Stylistically, this album is a bit of a departure for Sara Groves. Instead of strictly adhering to the concept of recording only what can be reproduced on stage, Sara expands her musical horizons by introducing more special effects and musical aids on this album.


“I’m utilizing things that I like to hear in music like special effects and things like that that I don’t always duplicate live. These things give the album a more full feeling. In the past I have been viewed as a more acoustic player, writer and storyteller. This is the next step. I want to keep moving and I just want to keep playing.”


Along with her stylistic growth, Sara Groves continues to grow thematically in her newest release. Although some critics have labeled The Other Side of Something as a dark, morose album dominated by questions, Sara Groves’ newest release is a musical account of her own personal journey. This album is a wonderful chronicle of Sara’s struggle with the darkness that permeates our world and the answers that she found in her conversations with Christ.


“I want to be faithful in my role. My place is to question and to say that it is okay to ask God the hard questions. This album documents a season of wrestling with a lot of different things and the answers that the Lord gave me. Songs such as Like A Skin and The Boxer start out with a feeling of defeat, but they end with a place where you are coming out of a corner and you’re swinging and you’re not done yet.  You are going to fight the good fight.”


After listening to The Other Side of Something, it is easy to see why this is the best album that Sara Groves has produced so far. It is exciting to see an artist take risks and grow musically. Look for this album to be featured when next year’s list of Dove Award Nominees are announced!!!


If you enjoy great music dominated by a strong acoustical sound, you will love The Other Side of Something. If acoustically dominated music is not your thing, pick up a copy of this album anyway. It will surprise you!


Sara draws from her own experiences and insights in an effort to help others grow in Christ. Through her music, Sara teaches listeners that wrestling with the difficult issues and searching for answers is part of a healthy relationship with Christ.


To Listen to clips from this album, log on to Sara's Official Site


Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern  


Fresh from the past, "Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern" is a celebration of the centuries old confessions of the Church, rich songs of faith and tradition that have anchored believers through the ages. Though almost all over 100 years old, these classic hymns pulse with new life as lead worshippers Charlie Hall, David Crowder Band, Nathan and Christy Nockels, Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman fuse old and new in their unique styles—artistry and history wed seamless expressions of praise to the God of the ages.


Recorded live, "Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern" is just that. The lyrics hail from generations past, some dating back to the early church in Jerusalem in the 4th Century AD. Yet the sound is what you’ve come to expect from Passion—inventive, textured, acoustic driven, powerfully energized, fresh.


The church is at its best telling the unrivaled story of God in language contemporary culture can relate to and absorb, while embracing the heritage of faith which has anchored believers through all generations. Fresh from the past, "Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern", seeks to do just that—celebrating 14 historic confessions of the Church—each wrapped in modern musical skin, yet echoing the anthem of centuries of worshippers gone before. Merging both old and new, the heartbeat of Passion lead worshippers Matt Redman, David Crowder Band, Charlie Hall, Chris Tomlin and Nathan and Christy Nockels is to steer both traditional and modern worshippers from the danger of discarding rich treasures that have guided the Church through ages past or being bound by tradition in a way that robs us of the privilege of passing our faith to the emerging generation.


Inspired by perhaps the oldest surviving Christian hymn, "The Phos Hilaron", "Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern" champions confessions that are centuries old, and in the case of this particular hymn, have their roots in the earliest days of the Christian church in Jerusalem. As early as the 4th century, "The Phos Hilaron (Hail Gladdening Light)" was already considered ancient, being a mainstay of evening prayers in a tradition known as the lighting of the lamps. At that time in Jerusalem a candle was kept perpetually burning in the empty tomb of Christ, its glow a symbol of the living light of Jesus. As Christians gathered to worship, the candle was brought forth from the tomb, its bright, solitary flame calling the church to celebrate the Risen Lord. In an attempt to recover our past, allowing it to inform our future, Passion has shared this tradition with tens of thousands of worshippers from coast to coast, reciting the recovered 4th century verse of "The Phos Hilaron" and offers a modern hymn adapted from the original text. Generations have come and gone, but the unfading Light of glory shines the same.




Anticipation builds as the disc retracts into the player. Everything fades away as the CD player loads and reads the album. Finally, the silence is shattered by the strength of powerful rock chords and crashing drums. Track 1.


Ten tracks later, it is easy to see why Skillet has racked up eight #1 hits and eleven Dove nominations. Collide, the newest offering from Skillet demonstrates why this band continues to be a huge force in Christian Rock. Their newest album is a melodic masterpiece filled with bone-crunching guitar rifts and heart-wrenching rock ballads.


Skillet’s newest offering is on par with Stabbing Westward, Puddle of Mudd, Nickelback and many other powerful rock groups.  However, true to their roots, there is much more to their music than great guitars and crashing symbols. John Cooper, the group’s front man, admits that Collide is also an album with a message.


“The only real focus that I wanted to have for the record was to write songs that deal with modern day issues,” Cooper admits. “We’re addressing recurring situations that God’s put in our heart to help young people deal with them. Collide fits into our overall focus, which has always been singing passionate songs about God that people can relate to and be inspired by. It’s always been our hope that those who hear about Christ for the first time on one of our records will find something of life changing dimensions revealed to them."


Whether a fan of mainstream or Christian rock, put this CD in your player and prepare to be blown away!








The guys and gals of Jump5 are back again with their newest release, Accelerate. Through remakes of old favorites such as Shining Star, We Are Family and Walking On Sunshine as well as some new material, Libby Hodges, Chris Fedun and the rest of the members of Jump5 provide listeners with a high-energy sound that showcases the continuing maturity of their sound.


“We’re more excited about this album than anything we’ve done before,” Libby Hodges, 16, says. “We’re accelerating to a new level—with our music, with our performances, and in our own individual lives. It may sound a bit clichéd to say, but we’re growing up, and our music has never been more real or more relevant than now.”


“Being real and not apologizing for who you are is a huge message on Accelerate,” Chris Fedun, 17, says. “Real friends don’t pressure you to be someone you’re not. They like you and accept you because of who you are.”


If you like ZOEGIRL, A*Teens and Stacie Orrico, pick up a copy of Accelerate. You won’t be disappointed!


 Here are some music clips courtesy of Sparrow Records- Click Here






Worship Live


It’s easy for any artist to create an incredible album in the studio. There are a plethora of techniques that engineers and producers employ to clean up the sound. Almost anyone can sound good when these guys get finished.


However, there is one avenue that separates the good artists from the great artists: the live performance. When an artist or band performs live, all the crutches are gone. They are left to stand on the power of their musical ability alone.


Worship Live is a powerful, energetic album/DVD that shouts to the world that the members of Salvador are a great group of musicians. “Stylistically, Salvador as a group has established a reputation for musicianship and pouring everything we have into each song,” observes Nic Gonzales, lead singer of Salvador. “Those songs really showcase our live energy and hopefully bring what we do on stage right into your ears and face via stereo system or TV.”

Salvador will keep your feet tapping with their wonderful brand of Latin flavored rock. From the first track to the last, Salvador is a musical feast for the senses. Even if you are not a fan of the Latin sound, Salvador will impress you with their version of old favorites such as “Here I Am To Worship” and “We All Fall Down” as well as a multitude of original songs.

Although typically not a fan of the live album, I would strongly recommend Worship Live. Purchase the CD or the DVD, put it in your player and prepare to be impressed!


To listen to samples of the album and learn more about Salvador, visit their website.







Different Kind Of Free


Once again, ZOEGirl delivers a masterpiece with their newest album, Different Kind Of Free. Although their current album moves from the dance beats of Mix Of Life to a mixture of alternative pop/rock, a bit of R&B and a dash of funk, their message remains consistent.


True to their mission, Different Kind Of Free continues to tackle important cultural issues such as self-esteem, eating disorders and suicide. Throughout the entire album, the women of ZOEGirl communicate a sense of freedom and empowerment for all people, but especially for women. “I think that it is important to do that, especially for females because a lot of times girls look at things differently than guys do” explained Alisa Girard of ZOEGirl.  “We can empower them to feel good about themselves and who they are in Christ and help them to make better decisions in every aspect of their life.”


This album is one that Girard is especially proud of because she believes it is a true reflection of who they are both as individuals and as a group. “Each album has been a great evolution from the one before it and I think every artist has to do that or else you get stuck in a rut and you keep on recording the same thing. What we tried to do this time is to keep evolving from where we ended up on Life. This album is the best representation of who we are as individuals and the group identity. It’s taken us about 4 years to define that identity and make it all gel together. I think that this album is the product of all those experiences.”


As ZOEGirl continues to entertain us through their music, they are committed to continuing to tackle tough social issue affecting women today. “We believe that our role is to be honest. It’s letting people know that we’re not perfect; it’s letting them know that we all have needs and desires to be stronger, and to follow God more.  That’s what our role is…being an example to follow.”


If you are a fan of ZOEGirl, Different Kind Of Free won’t disappoint you. If you are not a fan of ZOEGirl, this album will make you one!


 Here are some clips of the album courtesy of Sparrow Records.  


Ten Shekel Shirt





Ten Shekel Shirt bursts back on the scene with a solid follow-up to their 2001 debut album, Much. Their new album, Risk, is a great blend of strong lyrics, rich melodies and a wonderful acoustic rock sound.  As band member Lamont Heibert puts it, Risk is an album of exploration that has allowed Ten Shekel Shirt the opportunity to take a slightly different path of exploration while remaining true to what matters most.


“The band’s goal in making music has always been to create a place where people feel the safety and freedom to meet with God,” explains singer/songwriter Heibert. “So often meeting with God has to happen in worship, but it can happen while reflecting on a loved one, spending time with good friends or reaching out to those in need. That’s what this record is about.”


When listening to Risk, it is apparent that Ten Shekel Shirt has achieved their goal of both entertaining their audience and communicating the love of Christ to their listeners through this solid acoustic rock album. If you like folks like John Mayer and Vertical Horizon, pick up a copy of Ten Shekel Shirt. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Click here for some audio tracks from Risk courtesy of Inotof Records.



Jill Phillips


Writing On The Wall by Jill Phillips


Writing On The Wall



Powerful, Beautiful and Honest are only a few of the adjectives that can be used to describe this sophomore album by Jill Phillips. Writing On The Wall is both a musical and lyrical masterpiece that challenges listeners to reflect on themes such as tragedy, helplessness, and patience while enjoying Phillips’ wonderful Pop/Folk sound. Phillips is joined on this project by some of the greatest musicians in the Christian music genre such as Bebo Norman, Andrew Peterson and Stephen Mason of Jars of Clay, Matt Slocum of Sixpence None the Richer and the very talented producer and writer, Phil Madeira.


In 2002, CCM readers voted Jill Phillips as that year’s pick for best independent artist. As Jill joins the Fervent Records family and releases Writing On The Wall on August 5th, there is no doubt in my mind that we will see many more great things from this artist.


It’s a sure bet that if you like artists such as Sheryl Crow, Lisa Lobe and Jewel, you will be amazed at this awesome effort by Jill Phillips. Here are some clips to whet your appetite, courtesy of Fervent Records.

Wrecking Ball

Way of the Fire

Hanging On





Beautiful Letdown



The Beautiful Letdown


If you haven’t heard of the band, Switchfoot, then you must be living under a rock. Over 40 of their songs have been used on major television shows and TV movies. Along with their 2001 Grammy nomination for their album, Learning To Breath, Switchfoot has also been nominated for numerous Dove awards. However, all of this is ancient history.


Time for some current events and the group’ latest album, The Beautiful Letdown. This is an album that defies comparison. It is an incredible work of art, both lyrically and musically, that places Switchfoot on par with any of the top Alternative Rock bands of today. The Beautiful Letdown is an album that is just as at home within the Alternative Rock realm as it is in the Christian genre. It is no wonder that singles from this album are skyrocketing up both charts.


As the group’s press release puts it, “The Beautiful Letdown is about real life: the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s an honest attempt to reflect on the great and terrible aspects of being human, the tension of our existence. The Beautiful Letdown is where meaning and hope invade our greatest and worst moments. The Beautiful Letdown is where we live, who we are and where the future begins.”


The only bad thing about this album is that it’s not twice as long. When you listen to it, you’re always ready for more. Buy two copies because you will play this one until it melts! If this one doesn’t win a Dove Award and a Grammy, there is no justice in this world. Listen to a few clips courtesy of Sparrow Records


The Beautiful Letdown





Charles White

Out of Texas comes a wonderful, fresh sound from the band, Everman, and their debut, self-titled album. With a sound reminiscent of powerful acoustic groups such as Counting Crows, Dave Mathews Band, and Downhere, Everman delivers an effort on par with any of the aforementioned artists.


You can’t help but feel uplifted by the albums fun, upbeat tracks and moved by the powerful acoustic ballads peppered throughout their Grammy worthy debut effort. The group’s strong commitment to Christ and the Community of the Faithful is evident in every radio-ready track on this album.


Put this CD in your player and never take it out!



Beautiful Lumps of Coal


Charles White


A talented artist with a very unusual name, Plumb, aka Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, has released a wonderful new album entitled Beautiful Lumps of Coal. With powerful, haunting tracks like Sink N’ Swim and strong rock ballads like Free and Real, it is no wonder that Plumb’s latest album is skyrocketing up both the Christian and Pop charts.


More of a musical journey than a collection of songs, Beautiful Lumps of Coal invites the listener to travel a path of discovery and challenges each one of us to examine the Beautiful Lumps of Coal in our own lives. Through her music, Plumb encourages people to reflect on their hardships, which she refers to as “beautiful lumps of coal”, and realize that these hardships have made us who we are today.


If you like Jewel, Natalie Merchant and Susan Vega, you will love Beautiful Lumps of Coal.


So Much For Substitutes


Charles White


 The newest musical sensation to hit the American airwaves is a band simply named downhere. Named for their efforts to be much more down to earth than traditional rock stars, downhere’s sophomore release, So Much For Substitutes, delivers a powerful rock sound that is on par with groups such as Three Doors Down, U2 and Pearl Jam.


Their music combines a strong sound with powerful lyrics to tackle a diverse group of topics such as selfishness, loneliness, joy and faith. Jason Germain, the group’s singer and lead guitarist, describes their music as having something for everyone.


“It has an element everyone can understand. Just as Jesus spoke in parables, we try to have two layers to what we do: both the real, tangible, accessible element and the deeper spiritual implications.”


What downhere has produced in their sophomore album is a lyrical and musical masterpiece that will not be contained within the bounds of the Christian music genre, but will instead break forth and inspire listeners within mainstream rock as well. downhere’s sophomore release is a gem that every listener should add to there musical collection and hold close to their heart.


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