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Album Review – Resound Worship: “Let Praise Resound”

The Context

Resound Worship is a collective of British worship leaders founded in 2006. Those familiar with the development in contemporary praise and worship may remember the late 90s influence of British worship leaders like Deliriou5, Matt Redman, and Tim Hughes. Resound Worship emerges from a different root than those folks, finding its foundation in Jubilate Hymns which began in the 1960s. Resound is the arm of Jubilate that supports the local church songwriter through providing training and publishing songs that are “true, real, accessible, and finished.” Of particular note is that final core value: Resound publishes songs that have been allowed “time to grow” and have been through “trial, critique, and revision.” This may be a not-so-subtle critique of many of the songs published for congregational singing that are musically and lyrically mediocre. In addition to producing this album, Resound Worship also produces a podcast that reflects on current and past congregational songs and issues related to congregational singing.

 

The Content

Musically, this album is built around the currently typical “praise band” arrangement of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, bass, drums, and some pads to fill in the other spaces. Most songs tend to be led from guitar, but a couple standout tracks that draw from more diverse musical influences (gospel, jazz) are piano-driven. The production of this live recording is top-notch, with a strong focus on the melody vocal but a robust mix of the band underneath. Vocals are not flashy and thus melodies are easy to follow, and the subtle presence of the congregation’s voice in the mix is an invitation for the listener’s participation. Lyrically, the songs are overtly biblical and implicitly shaped by the language of the Book of Common Prayer, with its doctrinal and liturgical poetry providing a model for the lyrical shape.

Notable songs include “Lord You Hear the Cry (Lord Have Mercy),” “What Kind of King (This is Jesus)” and “O Faithful Lord.” “Lord You Hear” feels shaped by the prayers that pervade the Anglican context of worship but with an added intimacy in lyrics that reflect current sufferings. The latter two are both songs penned to meter that evokes the traditions of English hymnody, with memorable melodies and anthemic refrains.

The Conclusion

Although there may be other British worship leaders who get attention from popular “worship” media, the team at Resound Worship should not be overlooked. The songs from Let Praise Resound are lyrically robust and musically resonant with current popular forms without feeling like just more of the same. This album would be a helpful resource for a church who desires to sing songs with biblically-articulated Christology, or for churches who desire to have newly-written songs with pop sensibilities that aren’t beholden to the mainstream “contemporary worship” market here in the States. This album is contemporary praise and worship with more texture and nuance than standard fare.

 

To listen to the album, go to: Apple Music Album Link

 

Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Context

The Many is a Chicago-based indie/folk gospel band with a desire to equip people to sing praise and lament to God. They self-describe their music as “feet-on-the-ground, heart-in-hands, scars-revealed, wild and holy, liturgically-seasoned music of resistance, reconciliation and restoration.” The Many finds its home among The Plural Guild, a collective who craft and curate music, poems, prayer, visual art, liturgy and experiences for worship. Gary and Lenora Rand, founders of The Plural Guild and producer/lyricist for The Many are connected to progressive and ecumenical movements such as the Wild Goose Festival. This particular album, “Love > Fear” represents their goal of singing songs that confess fear, give space for lament, and look for hope.

 

The Content

Musically, this album is clearly built on the power of the lead vocalists and their respective strengths (Darren Calhoun, Leslie Michele, and Hannah Rand). Their harmonies are rich and plentiful on the tracks, providing a supple bed of voices for the listener to rest in. In the title track, “Love > Fear,” the three distinct yet blending vocals are a vivid illustration of reconciled musical/vocal styles. These vocal arrangements are generally easy to hear and follow, and thankfully the charts are available via Convergence Music Project (but unfortunately not on SongSelect). With the lead sheet, a congregation or gathering of folks could reproduce many of these songs. As opposed to much of the popular/indie music being written for congregations currently, this album is largely built on piano (and a nice assortment of Rhodes and/or other electric piano tones). The songs are not the “arena rock” of Hillsong but rather fit in a room that can support a piano, a bass guitar, and drums. Occasionally a cello, violin, or strings pad support the arrangements as well. Lyrically, this album is theologically and culturally aware of the struggles of the oppressed and the “other.” Notable songs include the Advent track “Waiting for You” and the song of response to the Lord’s Table, “The Broken Body of Christ.” The aforementioned title track and the concluding track, “Beyond Belief” are gospel-influenced songs with powerful dynamics to support the important lyrical anthem of God’s sure, strong love for us. Songs like “Tear Down the Walls” and “Remember When” point to The Many’s interest in crafting songs that purposefully include the excluded, and this multi-ethnic band has demonstrated their goal of pursuing justice and mercy in song.

The Conclusion

Churches who desire to have more songs that give voice to lament and questions will find many possible resources on this album. The production of the album puts the strong lead vocals front and center and the harmonies are intended to draw the listener into singing along. Though a congregation may need to simplify some of the melodies and may not have musicians capable of some of the more gospel-influenced songs, the strong melodies and valuable lyrical perspective set this album apart.

 

To listen to the album, go to: Apple Music Album Link

 

Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Context

Singer/Songwriter Paul Zach has released 1 EP in 2018 and has contributed to several of the albums already reviewed here on the blog, including The Porter’s Gate albums. Accordingly, he is no stranger to crafting songs for congregational singing. His newest release, Hymns, is simply that—fresh arrangements of time-tested melodies and lyrics. Zach has also cultivated the art of cowriting, as evidenced in the aforementioned Porter’s Gate albums, and Hymns includes many featured guest vocalists with whom Zach has written in the past. Familiar guests include Liz Vice, Leslie Jordan, and Page CXVI, with Taylor Leonhardt and The Sing Team rounding out the list.

 

The Content

Appropriate for the COVID season, this album sounds like it was recorded in an aged, empty church with wooden pews, with a few friends spaced out in the room playing and singing these hymns together. Rather than feeling empty or isolated, however, these songs immediately draw the listener into the intimacy of the recording, and even on my first listen I was drawn to sing along with the comforting melodies of the chosen hymns. Musically, Zach leans on acoustic instruments as the foundation for each song: acoustic guitar, piano, organ, and upright bass. This folk/americana style lends itself well to each hymn, and Zach harmonizes beautifully with each of his various guests. Although some of the starting keys that fit Zach’s tenor/baritone voice may be a bit high for general congregational use, these arrangements could easily be re-keyed without losing their intimacy and dynamics. Lyrically, Zach makes no changes to the original hymn texts and chooses not to add any new choruses or refrains to the arrangements. Rather, he uses verses of the hymns that often are omitted when such new elements are added to hymnody. The hymn choices span several generations, including the African-American spiritual “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.” Other notable songs include: “Take My Life and Let it Be” (with its ebb and flow and soothing harmony), “Come Thou Fount” (including the swelling organ in the final verses), and “No Not One” (with its blues vibe and catchy bassline).

 

The Conclusion

This hymns album is a precious listening experience, and may remind some music directors and worship leaders of “old” songs that need a re-introduction in local churches. As Paul Zach makes clear, these songs have endured in part because it doesn’t take a full production team to sing them—an acoustic guitar and an earnest heart (and some talented friends to help) are all it takes to capture a fresh yet familiar take on rich and important hymns. This album comes highly recommended for those who need to rest in gospel truth or be reminded of songs that may be important to re-introduce during the reset that COVID quarantine has provided the local (and global) singing church.

 

To listen to the album, go to: Spotify Album – Hymns by Paul Zach

 

Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Note – this is the first time the Album Review blog has reviewed a “single” release. As music releases continue to shift from albums to singles and EPs, more reviews of shorter formats may follow.

 

 

The Context

“Never Shakes Never Will” is the first single by The Wood Drake Sessions, an artist collaboration born out of the creative potential that COVID quarantine provided in 2020 (and continuing). Paul Ranheim and Kirk Sauers, separated by several states even without social distancing, paired their songwriting to help the church sing hope into this season with the first of many songs to come. Their artist name is developed from Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things,” in which peace is found where the wood drake rests.

 

The Content

The lyrics of ‘Never Shakes Never Will’ are a rootsy blend of several Psalms (46, 121, and 125 specifically) and a colloquial tone which makes it immediately graspable by a congregation of any age. When seeking to lament and praise in the same breath, the Psalms are certainly the best resource. Musically, the song fuses elements of folk rock, gospel, blues, and americana. To their credit, the song sounds like a live take with a band all in the same room; the realities of COVID, however, mean that they tracked in separate locations at separate times and yet captured a consistent energy. Notably, Latifah Alattas of Page CXVI provided BGVs. The melody is clear and pitched well for a congregation, and even though there is a key change and some blues/gospel textures that would require skilled musicians, the song is reproduceable in many congregations.

 

The Conclusion

The blend of musical styles in this song are a key strength – with slight tweaks, this song could be sung in a variety of contexts and congregations. Alternatively, one could play up the gospel, blues, or folk strengths of the song and help it fit one of those respective contexts. The Wood Drake Sessions demonstrate that they aim to fulfill their vision of providing songs of hope amidst the frustrations and depression of COVID.

The single is currently available on all streaming outlets, or through their website: thewooddrakesessions.com

 

Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

The Context

Theologian and composer/songwriter Tony Alonso has released 23 albums to date, and Caminemos con Jesús is the latest release in this long line of resources for the church. In 2015, Alonso was invited to compose the responsorial psalm for the first Mass Pope Francis celebrated in the United States—a fitting recognition of his work. Notably, this album has been nominated for a 2020 Latin Grammy, and after just the first few bars you will know you’re in for a treat. Alonso, a Cuban-American Roman Catholic, has crafted a joyful, somber, lyrically- and musically-rich album of songs helping Christians walk with Jesus.

 

The Content

Lyrically, the catechetical potential of Cuban music is fully realized here as most of the songs include call-and-response. This method of teaching the lyrics and the melody makes it easy for the listener to sing along, as each part is introduced and then repeated. Alonso also alternates between Spanish and English in several songs, helping to connect worshipers in either linguistic context. The English is sometimes a translation of the Spanish, other times a complementary section of call or response. As a novice Spanish-speaker, it was meaningful to me that the Spanish was sung clearly enough and phrased such that I did not have any difficulty understanding the lyrics. Most of the songs could function well in either a Protestant or Catholic liturgical context, with the exceptions of Gloria Estefan’s “Caridad” (a song to the patroness of Cuba) and “Letanía de la Madre de las Américas” (a song to enrich Marian feasts).

Musically, Alonso has brought together a top-notch group of Cuban-American musicians. Although this may seem daunting to a smaller church or a church with volunteers of lesser capabilities, the strength of these songs is still found in the core of the melodies. Simplified arrangements of these songs could be crafted around the melodies without sacrificing much of the energy. The harmonies are textured tastefully to curate the call-and-response experience, with room for the listener to sing along and feel part of the song.

Grammy winner Juan Delgado produced the album with exceptional skill. Each of the various instruments has its own space in the mix and the songs never feel crowded. Frankly, it’s a very enjoyable listening experience for any music lover. Notable songs include the title track “Caminemos con Jesús” and the first track based on Psalm 122, “Qué Alegría Cuando Me Dijeron.”

The Conclusion

If you have any Spanish speakers in your congregation, or Spanish speakers in your church’s area of influence, this album is a tremendous resource. The joy that permeates Cuban music is tangible on this album, and these songs could be simplified for churches who lack the musicians to pull off the percussion or flute parts while maintaining their melody and energy. The global church is edified by albums like this that are simultaneously specific in their expression and broad in their potential reach. May this album, and many like it, continue to knit together Spanish- and English-speaking congregations and neighborhoods.

 

Click here to watch a short documentary about the making of the album

To buy the album, go to: https://www.giamusic.com/store/resource/caminemos-con-jesus-cd1064

 

Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

THE CONTEXT

Daughter Zion’s Woe is a joint release by Cardiphonia and The Liturgy Fellowship, with Rachel Wilhelm as producer. There are several remarkable albums of lament that have been released during this remarkable year of sorrow and suffering (see previous review from David Bjorlin and Adam Perez), but this album stands apart as a collection of songs written, arranged, and performed by women. The story behind this album is a beautiful illustration of the body of Christ working together to give these songs a voice – many men and women in positions of influence or with access to studio equipment donated time and resources to empower the voices of the women gathered here.

 

THE CONTENT

Thirteen various female artists wrote and/or performed the songs on this album. Among them are Advent Birmingham and Urban Doxology —no strangers to this album review blog, and frequent collaborators with Cardiphonia. The contributing artists are from various ethnic backgrounds, which appropriately expands the scope of lament to reflect voices from around the world.

Because all 13 tracks are attributed to different writers/teams, it is difficult to briefly summarize the content. There are some strong lyrical and musical themes that are consistent across the songs, however. Lyrically, this album contextualizes biblical lament in our contemporary experience with the particular power that only women’s voices can produce. Many of the songs draw from the Psalms explicitly, and all of the songs echo the plaintive cry of the psalms of lament. For a church seeking to enrich their canon of congregational songs with lament, this album creatively combines biblical and contemporary contextual language. There is an undercurrent of fervent hope that carries these songs along and lyrically connects them despite their various genres of music.

Musically, instrumentation ranges from folk to spiritual to pop, all in minor keys, with strings playing an important sonic role on many songs. Although the songs may include more instruments than a local church may have available, the melodies are strong and clear. Songs are also pitched very well for congregational participation. Voices are layered in rich harmonies as appropriate, and songs with swelling dynamics are balanced with songs that use sparing instrumental support.

Notable songs for congregational singing include Shelly Moore’s reimagining of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” which keeps the chorus as remembered while adding a triplet feel to refresh the verses, and “The Glory Shall be Thine,” with its shape-note sensibility and hymn meter that invite the listener to sing.

THE CONCLUSION

This album is released at a time when it is necessary to equip the Church to express biblical lament. Although some of these songs may be more intricate than what a smaller church could accomplish, a church may be served by simply reflecting on the song as a soloist gives voice on behalf of the congregation. Every song on this album draws from the Scripture and enables the listener/singer to participate in lament, even if they are not personally experiencing the sufferings of their neighbor. Accordingly, one of this album’s strengths is as an aid to personal worship and private lament, even as it connects us to one another.

 

The album is currently available only via Bandcamp: https://cardiphonia.bandcamp.com/album/daughter-zions-woe

 

Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

The Context

Matt Boswell and Matt Papa have been cowriting hymns for over a decade, and this album represents the fruit of their co-labor. Boswell is a lead pastor at a church in Texas while Papa serves as artist-in-residence at a Nashville church. Papa has described their regular practice of connecting using video chat or phone call every Wednesday over the years, sharing the melodies, tunes, and lyrics that they were working on independently. Some of these hymns were birthed in just a session or two while others gestated for years in various forms before the writers would agree that they were finished. Boswell and Papa are part of the network of hymnwriters that Keith Getty (host of the annual Sing! Conference in Nashville) has gathered over the years, providing new hymnody for evangelical churches.

 

The Content

Musically, these hymns are built upon piano and acoustic guitar and are thus replicable in many local church contexts. Adorning the basic acoustic instruments are the typical ‘praise band’ arrangement of electric guitar, bass, and drums. There is occasional use of a pad or synth wash, but the focus of these songs is on the melody and lyric. Many of the hymns are also metrical, connecting them to hymn tradition in a meaningful way. Songs are pitched well, with a group vocal (congregation) in the background of the recordings illustrating how these songs might sound in the local church. These songs do not contain the necessary octave jumps or melodic inconsistencies of other, more popular, albums marketed in the “

Lyrically, these songs are robust theological reflections on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Some hymns chart the life, death, resurrection, and soon return of Christ, especially “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” which features Kristyn Getty as a guest vocalist. There are two songs that are properly Advent hymns, focusing on the birth of Jesus and the implications of His incarnation. Even with the focus on theological language, the songs are singable and resonant with issues that Christians endure.

Notable songs include “Lord, From Sorrows Deep I Call” which is based on Psalm 42 and captures the struggle of doubt and faith in the midst of suffering; “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor” which draws deeply on the nautical metaphor for the assurance of Christ’s faithfulness; and “Come Adore the Humble King” which closes the album and would be a solid addition to any church’s Advent hymnody.

 

The Conclusion

For churches led by acoustic guitar or keyboard/piano, these songs are a valuable addition to available hymnody. Most songs are already pitched well for congregational singing, and the strong melodies and theologically-rich lyrics will make the songs attractive to folks of many generations. Though the hymnwriters are firmly within the evangelical sub-culture, many of these hymns could (and arguably should) be used by Christians of any denominational background for the joy of their congregations.

 

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Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

The Context

Over his two-decade career, singer/songwriter Christopher Williams has played with the likes of Jars of Clay, Phil Keaggy, and David Wilcox. Williams is located in Nashville, and this most recent record is his 12th full-length album. “We Will Remember: Songs Inspired by the Book of Joel” is a different project for him, however, in that it was written in community (with several co-writers) with a very specific focus. This album is the musical accompaniment to The Millennial Narrative by Jaco Hamman and is a deep dive into the themes of the book of Joel. Williams’ goal is to contextualize the themes of both books, giving resonance to grief, lament, and celebration in and of community.

 

The Content

In addition to the albums two specific anchors: The Millennial Narrative and the book of Joel, Williams has accompanying notes that give explanatory context for each of the songs on this album. The lyrical themes of remembrance, mourning, hope, and community are very prominent, and the phrasing is consistent with Williams’ singer/songwriter roots. This album contains several songs that would set the table for the Lord’s Supper in their focus on the blessings of community. Musically, the piano and acoustic guitar are the foundation for the clear and memorable melodies, so these songs could be adapted without much difficulty for a local church context with one of those instruments able to lead. Songs are already pitched relatively well for an average congregation to sing, and the harmonies layered in tastefully would be adaptable. There are several moments of ensemble vocal parts or choral backing vocals that certainly lend toward congregational singing.

Notable songs include: “I Cannot Know You,” which reminds the church that we need each other in order to know God; “Remember and Proclaim,” which references Hamman who claims, “we awaken hope when we remember and proclaim”; and the very sing-able title track, “We Will Remember.”

 

The Conclusion

Although the specificity of this album serving as soundtrack to a book and adapting a specific biblical text might lean toward limited application, there are broad themes that expand the usefulness of this album in a local church context. The core ideas of community, confession, and hope would be resonant in any church. Definitely consider this album if your church is walking through Joel or any prophetic text, but consider as well how this album might serve a church reflecting on the formative power of authentic community.

 

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Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

The Context

Hallowell is the name for Jospeh Pensak’s first project since participating in Bifrost Arts’ “Come, O Spirit!” From 2007. Pensak is a Presbyterian pastor in Burlington, Vermont, and the Hallowell album features a plethora of Vermont-based musicians. Pensak worked with composers and vocalists, including a chamber music collective and a chamber folk band, to bring this album to fruition for its early 2019 release.

 

The Content

If you’re familiar with Bifrost Arts and the spectrum of musical flavors encompassed by the related musicians, then you will recognize both the production values and instrumentation of Hallowell. For those uninitiated, the soundscape that Hallowell evokes is a combination of somber folk tones (guitars, pianos) with a wash of string arrangements that provide the foundation for simple melodies with raw harmonies. Vocals are softly sung, and instruments are softly played, inviting the listener (or participant) to rest and reflect on the lyrics and storytelling that occurs in each song. Several hymns are re-tuned and given new life by the rich instrumentation. The songs are pitched in safe spaces for congregational participation, and the melodies are certainly sing-able in their simplicity. Musically, there are a few sounds that a local church may not be able to replicate, from the larger string ensemble to some of the ambient tones that swirl in the background. The chordal structure and melodic range are replicable in various contexts, illustrating the strength of the songwriting.

Notable songs include the hymn rearrangements of “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness” and Fanny Crosby’s “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior.” Since these songs have recognizable lyrics, they may be most accessible for smaller churches seeking to adapt these songs for use, even if simpler instrumental choices must be made. Also notable is a particularly haunting re-tuning of the John Newton (author of “Amazing Grace”) hymn “I Will Trust and Not Be Afraid,” here re-titled as well, “Tho Dark Be My Way.”

 

The Conclusion

Although this album may best be experienced on vinyl, worship leaders may find inspiration for personal worship through these songs and may find a gem that could work in a local context. The energy of this album is more relaxed and contemplative than much of the music marketed as “worship” music, and thus Hallowell may also fill a musical space neglected in one’s collection.

 

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Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Context

You have probably heard Pat Barrett’s songs, if you have any exposure to Christian radio. This self-titled album is his first solo release, however. Barrett is a frequent cowriter, with previous songs appearing on the Housefires albums. He is also the author of the popular song covered by Chris Tomlin, “Good Good Father.” After that song’s success in 2017, Tomlin signed Barrett to a new Tomlin-produced imprint on Capital Records. This album is the first release on that imprint. Barrett’s songs work well in charismatic worship contexts, with a focus on the Holy Spirit, extended extemporaneous sections in songs, and personal/colloquial lyrics. He frequently collaborates with the Bethel songwriters, who operate from a charismatic theological context.

 

The Content

Barrett’s smooth tenor voice and acoustic guitar-driven songs are very much at home in the “worship” genre of popular music. There are a few moments in this album when guest musicians or guest vocalists add layers of complexity, but otherwise this album is firmly resting on the simplicity of Barrett’s voice and guitar. Cowriters on this album include Daniel Bashta, Aaron Keyes, Ed Cash, and Matt Redman, with guest vocals by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook (from Bethel). There is not much chordal complexity, so songs should be adaptable to many contexts, whether a church has a full band or simply a piano or guitar to undergird singing. Melodic rhythms are a bit more complex, as they reflect more conversational language, but can be learned with the repetition that is characteristic of these songs. Lyrically, the themes vary between a focus on individual worship and God as the object of worship. This reflects another element that is resonant with charismatic congregational singing. Notable songs include “God is So Good,” “Build My Life,” and “Sing to the Lord (Banner).” The first brings the 20th century chorus into a new arrangement, the second is a strong melody coupled with a chorus that moves outward, and the third includes both lyrics from the Psalms and the Doxology.

 

The Conclusion

Barrett has a significant stake in the “worship industry” with several hit singles already to his credit. One or two of the songs from this album will make their way onto the radio, so worship leaders should be familiar with Barrett’s ability to craft a singable hook. His theological convictions, which manifest in the lyrical content and lyrical focus of the songs, should be weighed for a local context. This album seems more appropriate for private/personal worship based on the lyrics, yet is written for groups or congregations to sing.

 

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Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.