T H E R E V I E W Z O N E
With grateful acknowledgement to: 7CORE MUSIC, AUTHENTIC, CAPITOL CMG, ESSENTIAL CHRISTIAN, INTEGRITY, McCAIN, PLANKTON, PROVIDENT & VERITY MEDIA ORGANISATIONS.
RECORD OF THE MONTH
WE THE KINGDOM : Holy Water. (Capitol CMG)
We the Kingdom are another new band to me. The first song, ‘Cages’ has the most strange start, but it does get your attention. “Where is this going?” I asked myself. Once, the song does get going, my first thought was where are they playing! Syle-wsie they sound a little bit like Rend Collective, but more rocky and less drums. I can’t believe how much I like this band! Made from multiple generations of relatives, Andrew Bergthold, Ed Cash, Franni Rae Cash, Martin Cash, Scott Cash produce a really good balance of guitars, keyboards and drums. Looking at Ed Cash, there is a long list of people that he has produced and written songs with so no surprised at the quality on the album. The vocals are very clear, with a message and personal challenges. Musically, the songs contain subtle string arrangements, with an anthemic quality. ‘Dancing on Waves’ is particularly good with, again great vocals, lyric presentation, and arrangement. I hope that my enthusiasm is coming over through this review. This album is so good.! The title track is excellent, and I love the breaks and drums. ‘ SOS’ is a personal plea as one crying out to be saved, questioning why people do the things they don’t want to do. Many songs could easily be included in services, including ‘If All I Had was Christ.’ This is a quieter worship song with wonderful backing vocals. Ending with the rocky, upbeat ‘You Are Heaven,” 10/10 is minimum I could give this. Noel Donaldson.
MISSION HOUSE : I Heard a Song I Can’t Ignore. (Integrity Music)
This is the first time I have heard of Jess Ray and Talyor Leonhardt who are the creative force behind this Mission House Album “I Heard a Song I Can’t Ignore”. Their harmonies blending beautifully together and are a vocal marriage made in heaven. Within the first 19 seconds of the first track, even before the vocals kicked in, I knew I was going to love that track “Your Eyes See Me”. I was immediately reminded of the sounds and songs of Jill Phillips, then when the harmonies began, they create such a pure mesmerizing sound. Both artists have beautiful vocals. Jess Ray is from North Carolina and is a producer and singer-songwriter. She is also a multi-talented musician. On a previous album of hers “Sentimental Creatures”, she features on many instruments ranging from trumpet to guitar. The music that Jess produces sits comfortably in two places, it is clearly spiritual and deeply real. Her songs are inspirational and uplifting full of hope and joy alongside our human reality. Taylor Leonhardt was born and raised in Texas before moving to North Carolina. Throughout her childhood, Taylor had a great love for Country Music. Her roots in country music have enabled her to establish and craft a sound uniquely her own. Her songwriting is soul-stirring, her lyrics accompanied by beautiful vocals will remind you of some of your favourite country artists, yet unique to Taylor. This whole album “I Heard a Song I Can’t Ignore” is a delight musically, vocally, and lyrically. I’m listening to the final track of this album now on Spotify, Psalm 116 being the final track on this soothing album. While writing this review and listening to this album it is a lovely way to start this (UK) bank holiday weekend. All the tracks are beautifully produced, and the vocals are so easy and pleasant to listen to. Some of the lines are repeated over and over again which seems to be a signature, but due to the melody changes, these repeats are so beautiful, powerful and relay such important truths. “When I called to you Lord You ran to me You ran to me”, the lyrics throughout this album are saturated with the truths of God, His love and care for us through all issues and circumstances of life. I love this album, give it a listen. Vivienne Neville 10/10.
NADINE VALENTINE : Your Love. ()
Here’s a bright, reggae number from Nadine Valentine. Born in Jamaica, but now living in Florida, Nadine is a pastor, along with her husband. She writes her own songs, usually after times of worship. She says; “Whatever the Spirit of the Lord is saying to me during those times, I write.” This song has a great feel to it, and I liked it straight away. “I don’t wanna live without your love; I don’t wanna walk without you by my side; Or stray away from your love.” Basically, the song is asking God to shelter you from the storms of life. Nadine’s vocals are super smooth, and the backing singers are spot on, too. I can’t say anymore, except, I was soon singing along! 9/10.
CAROLINA BLUE : Take Me Back. (Billy Blue Records)
With this follow-up to their highly successful 2018 project, I Hear Bluegrass Calling Me, the North Carolina based band is already having huge success with the first single from the new album, "Grown Cold." The song kicks off the album in great style, with banjo and fiddles, driving it along. The speed slows for “Take Me to the Mountains,” while “Country Lovin’ Son of a Gun” gets the adrenalin going once more. The fiddles and banjos sound great, and are backed by some, equally as good, bass notes. This is a blue grass album with all sorts of stories making up the content of each song. Imagine two lovers, with the male having to go to war. He writes letters, containing promises for when he returns. It all sounds good until, one day, he gets news that his beloved has died. You get the drift? That’s the “Ballad of Mary Ann.” The only songs that are unashamedly praise orientated are “I’m Gonna Wait on Jesus” and the closing “March Around Jericho.” Once again, the music is first class, and can’t help but enjoy each song. Although not a big bluegrass fan myself, I can highly recommend this release as both bright and refreshing. 8/10.
SEU WORSHIP : A Thousand Generations. (Essential Worship)
SEU Worship is a group born out of the worship movement on the campus of South-eastern University in Lakeland. Florida. Their sound reflects pop melodic influences with lyrics inspired by prophetic and timeless themes coming together to create a prophetic-pop identity. This 17 track album begins very brightly with the electro-pop sound of “Freedom All Around.” The uptempo “Yeshua” starts well, but suffers from a manic, closing, 40 seconds, which I was glad to see the end of. “Glory Come Down” and the title track, are each given two outings, including “spontaneous” versions, which just didn’t work for me. As mid-album approached, I couldn’t throw the feeling that the early electro sounds, had been replaced by the usual myriad of instruments, as used by the mega-church outfits. Certainly, “Fully Surrender” falls into that category, but it is a good song. Vocally, I thought this was the best performance, and I especially liked the sparseness of backing mid-song. The worshipful “Where I Belong” gives thanks to God for all He has done in your life, and I was quite touched by this one. In fact, the album’s content improved, the longer it ran on. The choppy “In Rhythm” and the RnB feel of “Never Giving Up” are real highlights. SEU Worship show real promise with this release. And, hopefully, there’s more to come in the future. 8/10.
HAYLEY ADESINA : Where Would I Be Without You? (@Hayleys Worldwide Music Ministry)
Hayley is a gospel artist from UK who has passion and inspiration to share the gospel. She has previously released an EP with 5 songs, and says that she has 2 new releases coming soon. This song acclaims God, and asks if YOU know that there is no-one like Him. Musically, it begins with light percussion and simple piano chords. Hayley’s vocals are clear, but occasionally strays off-key. After quite a credible bridge, the track suffers from some awful, machine-gun drum beats, as she tries to build the song into a powerful close. Somehow, it doesn’t quite work. On a positive note, the basic song has plenty of merit. And, for he most part, Hayley’s vocals are good. Unfortunately, the production lets it down. Hopefully, the next release will see an improvement in this area. 5/10.
AMANDA COCKERILL : All That We Want.
It always amazes me, the number of different songs and genre’s that can pay worship to the Lord. Just when you think that you’ve heard it all, an artist like Amanda comes along and shakes your tree. She’s a little like Ariana Grande in style. It’s contemporary pop, but with a dance feel to it. “We’re coming alive as we stand in your love; you’re all that we want.” The downside of this recording, is that the artist hasn’t responded with a bio. So, I can tell you nothing about her, except that she has released a very listenable single. 8/10.
JODIE ESSEX : Irreverent. ()
Described as a "California native-turned Chicago transplant", newcomer to the Christian music scene Jodi Essex brings us her first album. Firmly positioning herself within the 'heavy rock' genre with stated influences including Pat Benatar and Jimi Hendrix, Jodi clearly sees herself slightly outside the mainstream of current ccm. If guitar shredding is your bag, Jodie sets out to be on your playlist. This ten tracker gets off to a rousing start with 'Stand up' - don't make my mistake of turning up your volume control based on the opening distorted guitar sounds, because what comes next may blow your speakers! Much of the next 43 minutes continues in the same vein, interspersed with more laid back tracks that give some variety. There is much to enjoy here, with Jodi clearly bringing a load of talent to this project - but in my view best displayed in the less heavy numbers. 'Symphony' is probably my standout musically, beginning as a gentle ballad featuring an acoustic guitar riff that reappears as the track continues, with Jodie's voice being allowed to shine against a great arrangement that builds halfway through, drops back, builds to a climax again then drops back to a close. 'Weightless' deserves similar special mention, as does the closer 'Rearview Mirror'. There is something about Jodie's songs being delivered as 'heavy rock' however, that doesn't quite sit right with me. Her voice and delivery often seem to sound at odds with, and separate from, the backing tracks - and better suited to the more laid back numbers. The drumming can sound laboured and mechanical, and it is frequently difficult to hear Jodie's words - which is why, somewhat unusually for me, I haven't commented on the lyrics. There is obvious talent here, but perhaps it still needs to find its direction? I certainly wish Jodie every success however in her desire "to reach the lost with the Gospel through her music" - I am sure she will. 7/10. Dave Deeks
REND COLLECTIVE : Socially Distant Worship Club Part 1. (Capitol CMG)
Rend Collective’s Socially Distant Worship Club has been a little crack of light in the darkness of the pandemic. Their Socially Distant Worship Club (Part 1) EP is a reminder that worship is always possible and that the church is truly unstoppable. I must admit to liking quite a lot of Rend Collective music. It’s celtic/folk feel appeals to my ears, and on this EP, the opening “Glorious Day” was certainly an instant hit for me. The second song is “I Choose to Worship.” It’s a mid-paced song that tells of all the goodness and love that God give us. And because of this, we choose to worship Him despite all trials in our lives. Lastly, comes “Our Prayer.” The theme of the song is revival, and our prayer is the weapon here in the fight. A short but, nevertheless, powerful release that gives hope to all in our current times. 7/10.
KIM WALKER-SMITH : Wild Heart. (Jesus Culture Music)
Wild Heart was recorded live in one night at the Cascade Theater in Redding, California. In her fifth solo album, Kim Walker-Smith returns to the place she recorded Still Believe, Consumed (with Jesus Culture), and got married. Wild Heart explores themes of life, beginning again, and returning to our First Love. A couple of singles have already been released from the album, and one of those is “Stones.” It’s a song of praise and, immediately, Kim’s voice is full of feeling. “Come Through” is a bit of an epic, and needs staying power to keep with it. At just over ten minutes, I found it rather too long in length. The title track expresses the jubilant love of the Father, running to meet the prodigal child. It’s fairly predictable in the style of Jesus Culture, but still a worthy listen. In fact, as the album went along, I found myself almost forecasting how each song would pan out! “Simple Days” tells of Jesus being her first love, and that He will be with her ‘till the end of time. Lyrically, the song is fine, and Kim’s voice really soars through it. But, despite all this, too many songs sound alike. “You’ll Always Be” and “Only You” are prime examples. With over 80 minutes of music, listeners certainly get their monies worth. Kim has a terrific voice, but I’d like to hear more variation in her delivery. Fans will lap up this release. 7/10.
KAT MILLS : Church Arise. ()
The new single from Kat is a call for the church to take action and bring the love and hands of Jesus to the world as it is slowly released from lockdown. With an opening consisting of gentle piano backing, Kat caresses each word with this call. As the second verse begins, the music gently increases in sound. During the bridge, these words come over strongly. “Send us out through the power of the Spirit; We must go church; Time to arise church.” Then it’s back to the chorus which tells us where and who we should take God’s love to - The hurting, the broken, the hungry, the lonely, and more. The song is quite slow in tempo, but gives you chance to really think about Kat’s lyrics. With both this release and her previous single coming from her forthcoming album, things are looking bright for Kat Mills. 8/10.
CASEY ADAM : Back to My Roots. ()
Despite being the latest in a run of singles from award winning Hull-based events singer Casey Adam, 'Back to my roots' represents my personal introduction to this obviously gifted singer-songwriter. Also being the title track of an upcoming EP, this is a well-written 'pop ccm' song with a strong message, melody and arrangement with effective restrained use of backing vocals that builds well before dropping back towards the end. Its words are based upon a prophecy Casey was given around 13 yrs old that said he was like an oak tree whose "roots would grow down deep into God's word". Overall production and sound are excellent. Casey's strong and attractive soulful voice often moves down to a deep baritone 'edge' which makes him sound distinctive in today's crowd of samey-sounding male pop vocalists. Having ’Tidal streamed' Casey's other singles I can confidently say he is a man to keep an eye on. Downsides? Just a small point, but I feel that he has a tendency to over-earnest 'cracked vocals' that I find a bit irritating - although to be fair, less evident on this current song. Overall then, I would like to think an album might follow the EP - I for one would be glad to give it a listen. 9/10. Dave Deeks
FRANK MYERS : God’s Got This. (FJM Productions)
Grammy award winning, country music songwriter and producer, Frank Myers has released his new original song, "God's Got This." Frank co-wrote the song with Richie McDonald (Lonestar). "I was going through some personal things in my life and I realized I was powerless in the situation. I just sat back, closed my eyes, and the words 'God's Got This' came to me," said Myers. "...and now, in listening to the media, reading posts with frantic reactions to current events, my heart felt burdened. I wanted to share this message of faith.” As well as writing for himself, Frank has written for some big country music stars, including Lonestar, and John Michael Montgomery. This song, is very much in the mould of the former. It’s a lovely ballad, and Frank’s delivery suits it well. With a piano and orchestral sounds making most of the music, there’s also a bright guitar adding simple notes. A really nice song, and fine production. 8/10..
TINA BOONSTRA : City Of Doubt. (www.7coremusic.co.uk)
This 6-track EP showcases both Tina’s song writing and her voice. Her vocal is clear, strong and conveys emotional depth. Her songs are well crafted, nicely varied and tackle themes that tell the story of friends navigating dark days together. Musically it’s incredibly tight with some quirky rhythms that become infectious (the opening “Out Of My Depth” being a good case in point). Production is spot-on, everything being there for a reason and rather than being a vocal over music (I’ve heard too many albums that are) this meshes together as one unit. Tina and her band have been compared favourably to many people and while I’d agree with the likes of Wolf Alice and Sam Fender, I’d add Mabel to the list. I preferred the more up-tempo songs but would recommend lying back with headphones on for “I Love You Like Sunshine In Bangor” (also my favourite title on the EP). It has an almost cinematic feel to it, counterpointing the beats and rhythms around it – it makes the bass line on the following “Talk It Over” better for the comparison. This latter track, the EP closer, is the most poppy of the songs on offer and drives beautifully. I had the EP as a solid 7/10 but this track lifted it up a notch. Should I add Taylor Swift to the list as well? On this evidence, why not? Best track: Talk It Over. 8 /10. Paul Ganney.
JONATAHN TRAYLOR : The Unknown. (Capitol CMG)
Jonathan Taylor is an emerging triple-threat singer/songwriter, producer/musician, and dancer who represents the next generation of faith-music makers. Traylor has quickly become known for his passionate lyrics, catchy hooks, and dynamic stage performances that infuse the culture with the message of the Gospel. I guess, the style of his music is RnB, with a little hip-hop thrown in for good measure. I liked the rhythms of the first song, ‘Lifted.” On the title track, Jonathan tells you to keep your eyes on God, for He knows what’s best for you. Percussion is at the forefront of this track, while Traylor’s voice carry the lyrics. In fact, the messages are easy to follow in the make-up of each song, and that’s a real positive. “Bigger Dreams” shows Jonathan in a mellow mood, with simple guitars providing the main backdrop. The singer does have an engaging voice, and I think that it’s at its best on “Keep On Coming Through.” It’s quite a slow song, but so well produced. “As I sing your praise, let worry fade, and all my hope restored. Let my memories remind me of what you did before. Because that is what YOU do.” Other highlights include the soulful “You Get The Glory,” and the joyful “I Trust You.” For a first major album release, Jonathan Traylor has made a really good piece of work. 8/10.
DAVID LEONARD : Open House Sessions. (Integrity Music)
Former member of Grammy nominated duo All Sons & Daughters, David Leonard re interprets popular worship songs on 'Open House Sessions', new and old, to bring a new representation of them to the church, covid style. There are four tracks on this EP and it begins with the piano led ‘Heart of Worship.’ I’m afraid this song immediately felt like a dirge to me. The song seemed to have all its beauty taken away, with this version. Sadly, my spirits weren’t lifted by any of the remaining songs. ‘Build My Life’ was very similar to the first song, while ‘Stand in Your Love’ and ‘Way Maker’ were both painful to listen to. This release is totally different to his 2019 release, ‘The Wait’ – which gained a 10/10 review from NFN. If you were hoping for more of the same, I’m afraid you’ll be sadly disappointed. Sorry David, these songs just didn’t work for me. 3/10.
THE BROWNS : Brave. (Stow Town Records)
The Browns are Adam, Andrew, Michaela, and Shelley. The album title and opening song says that “We gotta be brave.” Just like the disciples, we Christians need the reminder to carry the Gospel message despite the obstacles and difficulties. And that tie track is such a strong, foot tappin’ number, in true, southern gospel style. Both “Passing It On” and “Little fires” are good songs, but “Better Off There” is lovely! Great orchestrations are match by excellent vocals, on a song celebrating the life of loved one in Heaven. “Not Even for a Moment” is a big production ballad that shows one of the female singers giving an outstanding performance. In fact, the only song that I wasn’t keen on was the closing “Shelter of the Rock.” Nothing wrong with the lyrics, I just didn’t like the style of this one. Sadly, there’s only 7 songs on this release. A bit on the short side, but the quality is very good. 8/10.
OLLY KNIGHT : You Hold the World/Lockdown LP. (www.facebook.com/ollyknightmusic/)
Olly Knight leads the worship team at The City Church Canterbury & serves across Relational Mission Churches. He says; “I've got a real passion to write gospel centred songs for the church that excite the mind and stir the heart.” A short, opening number called ‘Maranartha’ is a worship piece based around the Lord’s second coming. After rather a lethargic “All Things New,” Olly mixes his sound into an Ian Yates type of electro sound, with the bouncy “We Sing Because He’s Won.” The style changes once more with “Father of Mercies,” which reminded me of many Stuart Townend songs. It swings along, and is one of those songs that immediately brought visions of large crowds singing loudly together. Great song! Olly hasn’t the strongest of voices, but he certainly uses it well. On “Simple Devotion” he puts across immense feeling as he sings along to a stripped back production. He returns to the earlier electro sound with the impressive “Like a Waterfall,” which once again praises God with words like “You are all I ever need.” The album also contains two instrumental pieces; “Peace in the Storm” and “Miracles.” Musically, there’s nothing wrong with them but, for me, they really didn’t sit right with the rest of the songs. Olly shows that he’s got lots of ideas for songwriting and production. On this recording, I must admit that I prefer more uptempo songs. I wish him well for the future. 7/10.
GARETH HIDES : I’m Gonna Miss You. ()
A simple guitar and a lovely cello, courtesy of Anna Ryland-Jones, provide the perfect backdrop to this heartfelt song of remembrance. Looking back on the life of a good friend or a loved one is always hard, but memories can provide some comfort. And, of course, in this case, there’s the knowledge that the person had found faith in Jesus, during their life. Gareth’s voice is strong and clear throughout, and it makes for an engaging listen. I, especially, liked the lyrics; “I’m gonna miss the times we bowed our heads to pray, and lifted each other to the Lord.” A poignant and beautiful tribute. 8/10.