To say that DisClaimer is woefully behind in reviewing CCM recordings would be the understatement of the year.
For fans of the genre, some music in this column might be old news. For the rest of you, welcome aboard my voyage of discovery as we survey current Contemporary Christian Music CDs, plus a few traditional gospel offerings.
The column is dominated by such CCM veterans as Michael W. Smith, MercyMe, Steve Taylor, Ginny Owens and the Newsboys, not to mention such Southern gospel old-timers as Gold City and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. But you’ll also find three current Grammy Award nominees here, and two of them are this week’s DisClaimer award winners. The Disc of the Day goes to Royal Tailor, and the DisCovery Award belongs to For King & Country.
STEVE TAYLOR & THE PERFECT FOIL/A Life Preserved
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Splint (track)
-Steve Taylor has come the closest of anyone in his field to being the embodiment of a rock star. At least he has always looked and sounded like one, to me (remember Chagall Guevera?). His new incarnation and Kickstarter-funded comeback CD with “The Perfect Foil” is titled Goliath. That’s where you’ll find this psychedelic gem, complete with space-cadet vocals, spare guitar stinging and throbbing rhythm. Despite 30 years in the biz, he retains his satiric wit and his alternative cred.
MICHAEL W. SMITH/The Old Rugged Cross
Writers: George Bernard; Producer: Kyle Lee; Publishers: public domain; Cracker
-It is mildly jarring to realize that one of the founders of the CCM genre is now an eminence. Smitty’s current project for Cracker Barrel is a collection of hymn standards like “Just as I Am,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Softly and Tenderly.” It leads off with a straightforward reading of this 1913 chestnut. The production is tastefully restrained, just piano, strings, dobro and light vocal harmonies.
ROYAL TAILOR/Ready Set Go
Writers: Tauren Wells/Cole Walowac/Jeff Pardo; Producer: Cole Walowac; Publishers: Sony-ATV Tree/Songs of Third Base/Brentwood Benson/Meaux Jeaux/Da Bears Da Bears Da Bears/Capitol CMG, BMI/SESAC; Provident/Sony
-This melodic rock group’s current CD is nominated as CCM Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. It has already yielded such hits as “Remain” and “Original.” The current single/video is a frothing, propulsive collaboration with the rapping Capital Kings, whose Cole Walowac produces. Unlike many of these things, the combination of the soaring tenor vocals and urgent speaking lines is perfectly balanced. The whole Royal Tailor CD totally rocks. Buy it.
DOYLE LAWSON & QUICKSILVER/Will You Go
Writers: Steve Watts/Doyle Lawson; Producer: Doyle Lawson; Publishers: Red Bud/Top O Holston, ASCAP/BMI; Mountain Home
-Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Lawson has released 40 albums, half of which have been gospel projects. His Quicksilver has seven IBMA Vocal Group of the Year awards and multiple Dove and Grammy nominations. This thrilling call-and-response, raise-the-rafters toe tapper is just one highlight from the group’s Open Carefully, Message Inside collection. These men can flat-out SING. I remain an enormous fan.
NEWSBOYS/Hallelujah for the Cross
Writers: Ross King/Todd Wright; Producer: Seth Mosley; Publishers: Simple Tense/Todd Wright, ASCAP/BMI; First
-The repertoire of this durable pop-rock foursome takes a turn toward the traditional on its latest album. They give a kick, a push and a U2 vibe to oldies such as “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” and “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” as well as to this rousing title tune. Exciting and ear opening.
GINNY OWENS/No Borders
Writers: Ginny Owens/Wordspring/Josh Bronleewe/Benji Cowart; Producer: Josh Bronleewe; Publishers: ChickPower/Wordspring/Word/Howie Cowie, SESAC/ASCAP; ChickPower/Word
-I have always thought that this CCM singer-songwriter deserves mainstream pop stardom. Others have sometimes agreed, since she has been featured on a Lilith Fair tour and at the Sundance Film Festival. Her songs have been heard on the soundtracks of the TV series Roswell, Charmed, Get Real and Felicity. To date, she has sold nearly a million records, largely to the Christian community, despite the fact that her lyrics are seldom church-y. Her latest CD is called I Know a Secret, and it ripples with electronic washes over her gorgeous piano work and glistening vocal performances. Start with this hopeful, uplifting track, then dive into the rest of one of the year’s best female listening experiences.
FOR KING & COUNTRY/Run Wild
Writers: none listed; Producers: Seth Mosley/For King & Country; Publishers: none listed; Fervent/Curb
-The Smallbone family has faced its share of tribulations since migrating to Music City from Australia. But now everything is coming up roses for brothers Luke and Joel. Their group, For King & Country, is up for a CCM Album of the Year Grammy Award with its CD Run Wild, Live Free, Love Strong. It kicks off with this stately rock stomper featuring guest Andy Mineo. If you know these guys at all, it’s probably for the anthemic, sing-along hit “Fix My Eyes.” This shows that there’s a lot more where that came from.
LARRY STEPHENSON BAND/Pull Your Savior In
Writers: Larry Stephenson; Producers: Ben Surratt/Larry Stephenson; Publishers: Lee-Dawn, BMI; Whysper Dream
-Stephenson is celebrating his 25th anniversary in bluegrass with a gospel collection. His workmanlike lead tenor singing and mandolin work anchor a band that never misses a note, as you’ll hear on this self-composed CD title tune. The rest of the repertoire is drawn largely from familiar bluegrass songwriters such as Randall Hylton, Donna Ulisse, The Louvin Brothers, Lester Flatt and Albert E. Brumley. The whole thing sounds heartfelt.
Writers: MercyMe/Soil Olds/David Garcia/Ben Glover; Producers: David Garcia/Ben Glover; Publishers: MercyMe/Wet as a Fish/Soul Glow Activator/D Soul/Universal/Brentwood Benson/9t One/Arlose, ASCAP/BMI; Fairtrade/Provident (track)
-This big rollicking hit from MercyMe’s Welcome to the New collection is nominated for a Grammy as CCM Song of the Year. The five-man group attacks it with shouted gusto and plenty of oomphy rhythm. The band’s current single, “Greater,” is also on this CD, and it is even more dance happy. I believe this is MercyMe’s 10th nationally distributed album, and something tells me this is their year for Grammy glory.
GOLD CITY/Nothing But The Blood
Writers: traditional; Producer: Gordon Mote; Publishers: public domain; New
-For good old-fashioned, four-square gospel harmonizing, you can’t beat these Alabama boys. Their current Hymn Revival collection will send you straight back to church. It kicks off with this steadily building altar call and keeps right on going.
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