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Happy 2015

6 Jan

Awesome Easter Songs

13 Apr

Every year around Christmas, there’s a bunch of songs we don’t normally hear that start hitting the radio. Silent Night, What Child Is This, & Away in a Manger for example. These songs tell parts of the Christmas story. They remind us of the events that occurred around Jesus’ birth.

Unfortunately, there’s not too many songs that are about the Easter season. Yes, there’s lots of awesome songs thanking Jesus for what He did, but unlike the Christmas songs, there’s really not many that are actually songs about the season, the Passion week.

So partly inspired by this post, and wishing the Easter season was something we got more into as it approached, the following are some fantastic “Easter season” songs that tell parts of the story. Enjoy them this week, and if you want, do like I do and add them to an Easter playlist for every April.

Glorious Day – Casting Crowns

Big picture overview of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Secret Ambition – Michael W. Smith

Great lyrics that overview the life and miracles of Christ, and his “secret ambition” to die for our sins. I love this version by David Crowder Band.

Good Friday – Josh Garrels

About someone telling the story of Jesus’ sacrifice to another person who is struggling and looking for God. Ends with the quote that Jesus said on the cross from Psalm 22. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Via Dolorosa – Sandi Patti

The story of Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary.  Hard not to cry to these lyrics. Check out this version by Tatiana as well.

New Again – Brad Paisley & Sara Evans

Another tear jerker that tells of the pain and suffering that Jesus went through. It is told as if a conversation between Mary and Jesus.

Thief – Third Day

The story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus. (I like their live version better.)

Answered – Josh Garrels

A rendition of much of Psalm 22, specifically the portions which foretell of the crucifixion.

 

The following songs tell little, if any, of the narrative story, but they are other favorite Easter songs of mine because they speak of the sacrifice of Jesus. Mercy Tree and Jesus Paid it All are probably my two favorite Easter songs overall.

Mercy Tree – Lacey Sturm (original singer of Flyleaf) The CD version is way more powerful than the video version.

In Christ Alone – Owl City version is great, but he left out a key stanza which weakens the song. The version by Kristian Stanfill is great too. (original by Stewart Townend)

By His Wounds – Mac Powell & others

Jesus Paid it All – Kristian Stanfill

All Because of Jesus – Casting Crowns

He Rose – Deluge

How Deep the Father’s Love – Kendall Payne (original by Stewart Townend & Keith Getty)

 

I hope you enjoy these songs this Easter season.

He is Risen!

Psalms by Modern Artists

28 Sep

When I was younger, I was never really drawn to the Psalms, but over the last few years, they have come so much more alive for me. Beautiful hymns to God.  My favorite translations to read devotionally are The Message and the NCV, and they are great for the Psalms. (For study, I still prefer the NASB or ESV.) The audio Bible Word of Promise is also awesome for listening to the Psalms, especially in the quite of night with my eyes closed and headphones on.

psalmsI do wish there were more contemporary artists that made the Psalms into music. Not just a reinterpretation of the Psalm, but an actual rendition of the Psalm. Changing the words a bit to fit a song better is not a big deal, but when its just about the same theme, it isn’t really the Psalm any more. There are a fair amount of gospel versions, and choir versions, but I wish there were more alternative artists, folk artists, rock artists, etc. that did versions of the Psalms.

So for a while, I’ve been on a quest to find my favorite Psalms by modern artists and I’ve developed a top 10. To make the list the song has to (a) have lyrics directly from the Psalm (not necessarily word for word from a certain translation, but true to the original words) and (b) be at least a couple of stanzas from the Psalm. A one line quote doesn’t cut it.

While you may not share my musical tastes, some of these are absolutely worthy of your playlist.

First, some honorable mentions:

White as Snow (Psalm 51) by Jon Foreman
Psalm 145 by Shane & Shane
Psalm 121 by the Insyderz
Psalm 139 by the Insyderz
Psalm 150 by Daniel Markoya
Psalm 3 by Salvador
Answered (Psalm 23) by Josh Garrels

Now the Top 10:

10. Psalm 4 (When I Call) by The Psalms Project (feat. Melissa Breems)

9. Psalm 86 by Jenny & Tyler

8. My Hope is You (Psalm 25) by Third Day

7. I Shall Not Be Afraid (Psalm 56:3-4; Psalm 121) by Sherri Youngward

6. Psalm 46 by Jenny & Tyler

5. “40” (the first lines of Psalm 40, with chorus based on Psalm 6:3b) by U2
[Note: I think this edgier (pun intended) cover by Starfield is just as good]

4. Your Love Oh Lord (Psalm 36) by Third Day

3. Revive Me (Psalm 119, the latter part of it) by Jeremy Camp

2. 107 by Josh Garrels

1. The House of God Forever (Psalm 23) by Jon Foreman and Sarah Masen

Hands in the Air – The Waiting

10 May

In 1981, Tom Petty with his characteristic whine sang “The waa-a-ting is the hardest part.” 10 years later when brothers Brad and Todd Olsen were discussing what name would best suit their band, Todd was thumbing through some old records and came across the Tom Petty classic. Todd would later recall that he liked the name because it described for him how impatient we can be with God.

Their brilliantly crafted song “Hands in the Air” is anything but impatient as it slowly builds to a powerful crescendo of passionate worship. The song is one of my all time favorite tunes and sends me emotionally to my knees nearly every time I hear it.

An Atlanta based band, The Waiting released 3 albums from 1995 from 1998, which was the band’s most successful years. They received a couple of Dove award nominations and had a few hits on Christian radio. Mixing introspective lyrics with simple, yet spiffy guitar riffs (with an occasional southern flare), they crafted a distinctive sound that was appealing to a growing audience seeking Christian alternative rock. The edgier tunes played well with Brad’s unique voice and style. Yet, each of these albums also featured a few pop oriented songs, sometimes with goofy vocals – the “coo coo coo” band as they refer to themselves on their blog. This showed the lighter, fun side of the band, but at the same time made the albums seem to be more of a collage of music from different artists rather than the diverse work of a single artist. When they transitioned more to a Newsboys-like pop rock sound with their 2002 release, the band lost much of its national following. While they have continued to sporadically record music and perform shows, The Waiting have not regained the status they once held in Christian music.

Hands in the AirThe Waiting’s early albums contain several really good tunes, including “Number 9”, “Speak” and “Staring at a Bird”. But with “Hands in the Air” they reached an entirely different level. It wouldn’t be too much even to call it The Stairway to Heaven of Christian worship music.

The song begins with a sweet guitar melody which sets a quiet atmosphere of being alone with the presence of God. A smooth English horn enters and fills the tune the way smelling the ocean breeze completes the moment of staring out over the sea.

The lyrics open with questions. Questions many explorers on the verge of surrender ask of the Creator. God are you there? Will you still hear me though I have run so hard from you? With all the fighting against you I have done, do you still care? Even though I have tried to be the one in control of you?  Will you still help me?

The music builds and the chorus cries “Okay…I raise my hands in surrender today…have Thine own way.” I can’t do it on my own. I now realize that you are the Sovereign Lord and I want you in control of my life.

An interlude in the story and the musical flow (aided by perfectly executed guitar feedback and distorted vocals) creates a tension where the singer fights, but moves toward the Lord. He buries his resistance and surrenders, raising one hand up, and then the other in complete submission. God, you are in control. And I praise you for it!

The song returns to the simple guitar and English horn that created the opening peace, but this time there is true peace and union with God.

OceanPrayer1

Hear the whole song on youtube.

Get it on iTunes: Hands in the Air – The Waiting

The band had a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, so look for a new album in the near future.

My favorite albums of 2011 – top 5

17 Feb

I wanted to wait a bit before posting my top albums of 2011 because there were a couple I got late in the year and I wanted to be sure to give myself time to listen to them. So here they are:

5. Jamie Grace – One Song at a Time
David Crowder Band – Oh for Joy would have probably been my fifth choice if it wasn’t for how much fun I saw my daughter having listening to this album. If you’ve got a little girl, this is a must. Fun, upbeat, enjoyable music. I even found myself singing “I’m a God girl” on one occasion!

4. Kassidy – Hope St.
Great album. A couple songs I don’t care for, mainly because of the lyrics, but overall I’m a fan of this new folk band out of Scotland. Favorite songs: That Old Song, I Don’t Know, Waking Up Sideways and Hope St.

3. Switchfoot – Vice Verses
I’ve always liked Switchfoot, but never enough to just listen to one of their albums, more to just buy a few songs for mixes. But Wow, this album blew me away. IMO, they reached new levels vocally and musically with this release. Favorite songs: The War Inside, Dark Horses and Thrive.

2. Burlap to Cashmere – Burlap to Cashmere
This CD is one of the best pieces of music writing in years. Anyone who’s ever studied music will be impressed with their ability to change timing in songs, and in fact to have some songs which don’t even have timing. Awesome music writers.

1. Josh Garrels – Love & War & the Sea in Between
The B2C album is fantastic, but unfortunately for them Josh Garrels put out another album in 2011. This guy is just a modern day Psalmist! While musically it may not reach the level of some other artists, it’s still very good. But his lyrics and emotion singing them put his work so far over anything else I’ve heard, not just for 2011, but ever. Again, just my opinion, but you should definitely check him out if you haven’t heard him. And by the way, this album is available as a free download from his website (at least for now).