Contemporary Christian Music

Natasha Owens – We Will Rise

Natasha Owens We Will Rise Maharlow Records (release date: July 7, 2017) http://natashaowensmusic.com By Bob Marovich Sometimes new beginnings flower from the most terrible tragedies. That was the case for Natasha Owens. Seven years ago, her father was cleaning a gun when it misfired, killing him at age 58. In the midst of her grieving, Owens was invited to serve as her church’s worship minister. She wrote songs for her church to sing. Through music ministry, she found that the more she poured into the congregation, the more she got back.  A trip to the recording studio to memorialize her songs produced ...

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Sandra McCracken – God’s Highway

Sandra McCracken God’s Highway Independent release (release date: September 9, 2016) www.sandramccracken.com By Bob Marovich Modern day hymnist Sandra McCracken’s latest CD, God’s Highway (also available on vinyl), continues where her 2015 Psalms left off: new songs based on Biblical texts and that sound as if they came from the Primitive Baptist Church hymnbook. McCracken’s beguiling voice combines the cry of Beth Nielsen Chapman and the world-weariness of Emmylou Harris. Her lonesome singing combined with an understated combo and songs with heavy chords but bright melodies give listeners a sense of eavesdropping on the prayers of someone emerging, victorious but ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: March 6, 2017

“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” Out of the Dust Discovery House Music (release date: March 7, 2017) www.outofthedustmusic.com I’m inclined to think that English songwriter Stuart Townend is a nineteenth-century hymnist reincarnated. His 1995 composition, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” as covered by the husband-and-wife duo Out of the Dust on their self-titled debut album, sounds like it comes straight outta the Southern Harmony, a shaped-note hymnal, or a Shaker hymnbook. Its beautiful simplicity, honored by Chris and Stephanie Teague’s delicate reading, makes it a keeper, suitable for singing in all types of worship services and ...

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Out of the Dust – (self titled)

Out of the Dust (s/t) Discovery House Music (release date: March 7, 2017) www.outofthedustmusic.com By Bob Marovich Some of the best songs are birthed out of suffering. For Out of the Dust’s Chris and Stephanie Teague, the circumstances of their separation, divorce, and remarriage, and their reliance on Jesus for healing, provided the raw material for the eleven songs on their self-titled debut LP. Despite the pain behind the Teague’s story, the album’s music buzzes with the gratitude of having made it through.  It offers pleasant pop melodies, bright production, and duet singing that evokes the informality of coffee house ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: January 2, 2017

“I Will Be Waiting” Guro Elverhoi (released October 20, 2016) www.guromusic.com “I Will Be Waiting” is a new single from Guro Elverhoi, a talented singer with a delicate and beautiful voice that evokes a young Joni Mitchell. Led by an acoustic guitar, the song is a wispy Christian folk ballad brimming with similes about seeking God’s guidance patiently. From Roeyken, Norway, where she directed a local youth choir and received a Cultural Scholarship for her many contributions to the area’s arts scene, Guro graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2015. She is now based in Los Angeles, where she ...

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withLove (self-titled)

withLove withLove (released October 15, 2016) https://withlovemusic.bandcamp.com/album/withlove-deluxe-edition By Bob Marovich It is appropriate to begin 2017 with a post about a group that has love in its name and sings about love. A love of God, a love for God, and a love for all of God’s creation frame the self-titled debut by Baltimore’s multicultural ensemble withLove. In addition to music, withLove, formed by David Warren in 2013, holds “Love Projects” around the Baltimore area, where they serve the sick and shut-in and feed the homeless. withLove, the album and group, offer an eclectic mix of symphonic CCM, rock (progressive ...

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Rick Stephenson – My Everything

Rick Stephenson My Everything N-Siteful Music (release date: August 1, 2016) www.rickstephensonmusic.com By Bob Marovich Christian singer-songwriter Rick Stephenson is no stranger to the recording studio. My Everything represents his latest album in at least four full-length CDs in his career. The new album contains ten radio-sized and pleasantly rendered pieces by Stephenson, a Johnson Creek, Wisconsin-based artist whose songwriting technique suggests he is an astute student of the pop song. Indeed, as a youth, Stephenson spent a great deal of time listening to Top 40 radio, and it shows.  The self-professed “Pop Gospel Musician-ary” links lyrics of faith and gratitude ...

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Joel Houston and Director Michael John Warren Discuss Hillsong Film “Let Hope Rise”

By Bob Marovich Hillsong – Let Hope Rise, the music documentary about the history and phenomenon that is Sydney, Australia’s Hillsong, “the biggest band you’ve never heard of,” hits U.S. theaters September 16. JGM spoke by telephone recently with Joel Houston of Hillsong UNITED and the film’s director, Michael John Warren, whose prior projects include documentaries on Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj and the large-scale event film Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway. JGM: How did the idea of the film come about? MJW: To be candid, the idea came from some producers who brought it to me. I’ve made a lot ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: September 5, 2016

“Faith Can” Debbie Cochran From the album Faith Can (single released September 2, 2016) www.cdbaby.com/cd/debbiecochran5 There’s nothing like country music to evoke the angst of heartbreak. When combined with spirituality and faith, country music can turn heartbreak into inspiration. That’s what you get with “Faith Can,” a country ballad composed and sung by country singer-songwriter Debbie Cochran to celebrate the courage of fourteen-year-old competitive gymnast Kate Foster. Foster’s acute myeloid leukemia indirectly caused her to lose half of her left leg but none of her passion or conviction for life. Now wearing a prosthetic leg, Foster is back in training. Her ...

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Gretchen Keskeys – Walking in the Spirit

Gretchen Keskeys Walking in the Spirit Creative Soul Records (released June 27, 2016) www.gretchenkeskeys.com By Bob Marovich For singer-songwriter Gretchen Keskeys, her debut album Walking in the Spirit is not only a vehicle for sharing her religious commitment, it is also a vehicle for personal catharsis. As a teen, Keskeys, the daughter of a famous psychiatrist, was suffering from anxiety, fear, and depression. A rededication to Christ was the way she relieved her insecurities. Seeking to share her good fortune with others, Keskeys began serving as a worship leader in Northern California churches. Her reputation for singing and songwriting spread outward ...

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