Category Archives: Music

CD Review: Open Hands by Laura Story

Laura Story’s Latest: An Outstanding Album about the Beauty of Letting Go

Laura Story - Open Hands - posting sizeOpen Hands

by Laura Story


Release Date: March 3, 2017

Label: Fair Trade Services

Artist Links:

Laura Story’s Website

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Tracks

1. Death Was Arrested

2. Open Hands

3. You Came Running

4. Give You Faith

5. For the Love of My King

6. Awake My Soul (A 1000 Tongues)

7. Whisper

8. Every Word You Breathe

9. Majesty

10. Extraordinary

11. Grace Abounds


My Review

The first thing to catch my attention about Laura Story’s newest project, Open Hands — an album filled with songs she’s written or co-written —  is that she chose to lead off with the one song she didn’t write. I’d like to know the story behind her discovery and adoption of “Death Was Arrested”. Thematically, the focus is on Jesus’ victory over death in His resurrection that followed the crucifixion. His sacrifice as Messiah and Savior gave new meaning to life and death and brings us the freedom to live fully. 

When asked about Open Hands,  songwriter and worship leader Story attests that “worship begins with surrender”. So immediately after establishing our reason for hope with “Death Was Arrested,” she sings of surrender with “Open Hands”. Together with Third Day’s Mac Powell, Story entreats God to “take it all, every  weight, all the shame…take it all, ’til all I have is open hands”. Powell’s voice blends well with Story’s and lends extra depth and interest, taking what starts as an introspective moment and bursting it wide open into mega worship. Together, these two opening songs form a solid base upon which the rest of the album builds.

The only real downside to Open Hands is its brevity — the eleven track album clocks in at just under 43 minutes. On the upside, the album is beautifully produced, thematically tight, and nearly flawlessly sequenced. Quieter instances alternate with big corporate worship singalongs. Even when things get more amplified, Story’s gentle, thoughtful spirit remains. This is particularly evidenced on tracks 5 and 6 where Story refashions classic hymns. On “For the Love of My King,” she revisits “My Jesus, I Love Thee” adding her own chorus. Next, “Awake My Soul (A 1000 Tongues)”, written with Matt Maher, Matt Redman, and Jonas Myrin, borrows the first verse of the Wesley hymn “O’ For a Thousand Tongues,” using Wesley’s words as a launching pad into their own words of praise. The blending of classic and modern is successful in each case, and I’d dare to say that even Charles Wesley himself would approve!

I love the lush yet measured production of “Whisper” where Story’s poignant piano-base is given just enough accompanying bells and whistles to lend the necessary mystery and majesty as her waiting heart listens for the Holy Spirit’s whispered voice. Strong album sequencing continues,  with “Every Word You Breathe” carrying on the message of waiting and trusting. Meanwhile, on “Majesty”, Story has crafted a stunning melody around which to sing of God’s grace.

Just as Open Hands began with two big songs, it closes in similar fashion. “Extraordinary” is a gem of a pop-worship song, and though I usually try to avoid comparisons, here I can’t help but recall Amy Grant at the height of her success. Giving pause to contemplate the pain and suffering with which we are surrounded, the quietly gorgeous “Grace Abounds” will strike a welcome chord with listeners who loved Story’s hit song “Blessings”. As Open Hands comes to a close, the message Story leaves her listener with is this: “When it feels like hope cannot be found, grace abounds.” Now that’s a reason for hope!

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4.5 Hearts - CD - DVD

4.5 of 5 Hearts. Laura Story’s Latest: An Outstanding Album about the Beauty of Letting Go.

On Open Hands, Laura Story has written about surrender, faith, and trust, while leaving plenty of space for worship. After all, when we stop holding onto our worries, burdens, and struggles, and approach the Lord with empty hands, He rewards us by filling those open hands with blessings.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing me with a copy of Open Hands in exchange for this review and post.”

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The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning March 7, 2016

 

Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday:

Music Video: “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin ft. Pat Barrett

“We all have a picture of who we think God is. When we get down to the foundation of what we believe, the truth is that God is exactly who He says He is – a good, good Father.”

[Read the full post]








Tuesday:

Christian Chapters: An Unbroken Heart by Kathleen Fuller

5 of 5 Hearts. Kathleen Fuller Affirms That God Can Heal the Most Broken of Hearts.

Thematically, alongside its message of courage in adversity, Kathleen Fuller’s An Unbroken Heart is a moving and instructive story of love and forgiveness, pain and healing, endings and new beginnings.

[Read the full review]

 

 

 

Thursday:

Fiction Shelves: The Newsmakers By Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart

4.5 of 5 Hearts. Forget ‘Page-Turner’ – This Thriller is a Chapter-Turner!

Lis Wiehl’s latest novel is the first in a new series. She’s done an excellent job of establishing her heroine and filling her world with likable characters. More thriller than mystery, the real pleasure of The Newsmakers is in tagging along with smart, savvy, and strong Erica Sparks on her investigations, rooting for her to figure out what we already suspect and hoping that she can save the day!

[Read the full review]

 

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That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

Music Video: “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin ft. Pat Barrett


“We all have a picture of who we think God is. When we get down to the foundation of what we believe, the truth is that God is exactly who He says He is – a good, good Father.”


 

Click thru below to download at iTunes.

“Good Good Father”

(Written by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown)

iTunes


 

Win a trip to see Chris Tomlin at Worship Night in America!

Click on the photo below for details!

Win a Flyaway to see Chris Tomlin at Worship Night In America


See Chris and Pat share the story behind the song.


More about Chris Tomlin

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More about Pat Barrett

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CD Review: Winter In Hope Valley by WordHarmonic

Music That Brings the Peace of the Valley Home

Winter In Hope Valley
by WordHarmonic


Release Date: October 13, 2015
Label: Word Entertainment; Hallmark
Length: 45:45

Related Links:

When Calls the Heart at Hallmark

Word Entertainment Website

DVD Review: WCTH: Complete Season 2 (Collector’s Edition)

 


Track Listing

1. Until the Bluebirds     (4:10)
2. Hope Valley Sunday     (3:04)
3. Icicle Prisms     (1:10)
4. A Wintry Dream     (3:56)
5. Abigail Spins Memories by the Fire     (4:14)
6. Canadian Noel     (:46)
7. Fireside Lullaby     (2:39)
8. Ms. Thatcher     (2:56)
9. Entering Hamilton Harbor     (2:21)
10. Eventides at Lake Ontario     (1:35)
11. Country Inns     (2:47)
12. Rosemary Left in Winter     (4:30)
13. Dancing Snow Flurries     (1:00)
14. Julie’s Auburn Tresses     (4:29)
15. Evening Watch (Suite)     (6:01)


My Review

Along with many other enjoyable extras, the When Calls the Heart: Complete Season 2 box set includes a CD entitled Winter In Hope Valley. This instrumental album is attributed to WordHarmonic, a (revolving, one suspects) group of house musicians for Word Entertainment. Over the years, Word has released dozens of records under the WordHarmonic name in a number of musical forms, including instrumental, acoustic, and a capella, in genres like jazz, Celtic, Christmas, salsa, hymns, and so on. Befitting the generally gentle quality of the TV show, and especially the lovely scenery surrounding the town of Hope Valley, this CD features soothing melodies, by turns wistful, contemplative, cheering, or simply serene. As you can see by the track listing, the songs are mostly full-length tunes, and though this is not a soundtrack as such, it conjures up images of the people, the town, and the winter season — with help from an imagination inspired by the titles!

A variety of instruments are in play on the disc — piano, violin, cello, pipes, whistle, keyboards, among others. The quality of the recording is excellent and the production is just right; nothing is overblown or indistinct, and the ambience of the CD as a whole is consistent. Several of the songs have a pleasant Celtic feel to them, but you’ll not find pounding drums or pulsating rhythms that make you want to dance. Instead, the music is an ideal backdrop to reading, writing, daydreaming, or simply watching the snow fall or the winter moon rise.

— Jennifer Michelle

Verdict

4 Hearts - CD - DVD

4 of 5 Hearts. Music That Brings the Peace of the Valley Home.

Winter In Hope Valley may not transport you physically to the Canadian west of the early 1900s, but it will bring the peace of that wonderful little wilderness town to you.

(Unfortunately, as of this writing the CD is only available in the 10 DVD When Calls the Heart: Complete Season 2 (Collector’s Edition) box set. [There are actually 9 DVDs and this CD.] One hopes that Word and Hallmark will eventually decide to release it separately, as well as other music related to the series.)

*Disclosure of Material Connection: ReadLove received the above CD, as part of the DVD box set, for free from Edify Media in the hope that we would give it an impartial review on our blog. We am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

CD Review and Giveaway: Salvation’s Tide Is Rising by Passion

Passion’s Newest Recording is Studio Worship Gold

Passion CD coverSalvation’s Tide Is Rising
by Passion


Release Date: January 29, 2016
Label: sixstepsrecords
Length: 50 minutes, 46 seconds

Links:

iTunes
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Passion Website
sixstepsrecords Website

 


Tracks

1. Salvation’s Tide  (feat. Kristian Stanfill)
2. My Victory  (feat. Crowder)
3. Remember  (feat. Brett Younker & Melodie Malone)
4. God & God Alone  (feat. Chris Tomlin)
5. Simple Pursuit  (feat. Melodie Malone)
6. I Turn to Christ  (feat. Matt Redman)
7. Your Grace Amazes Me  (feat. Christy Nockels)
8. All We Sinners  (feat. Crowder)
9. Surrender  (feat. Jimi Cravity)
10. Good Good Father  (feat. Kristian Stanfill)


About Passion albums:
Since the first release in 1998, Passion albums have sold over 1.3 million units while introducing the church to worship songs like “Our God”, “Holy Is The Lord”, “How Great Is Our God”, and “God Of This City”. Passion is coming off its best charting radio success in 5 years with the single “Even So Come”, which went Top 5.

About The Passion Movement:
The Passion Movement and the messages of founder Louis Giglio have marked the lives of millions of people around the globe, calling people everywhere to live for the glory of God. From its inception, the movement of Passion has birthed new anthems of worship, influencing countless churches and helping to define the current worship climate and establish artists Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill and others. Louie Giglio is the pastor and founder of Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA.

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My Review

Recently, Passion’s song “Even So Come” was their biggest success at radio in 5 years. If early digital sales of their new studio project Salvation’s Tide Is Rising are any indication, they’ve got another smash hit record on their hands.

Kristian Stanfill sets the tone with his anthemic “Salvation’s Tide”, a song about revival which likens the growing church to salvation’s rising tide. Singing about Jesus’ successful rescue mission, Crowder is up next with “My Victory”, proclaiming “a cross meant to kill is my victory”. The voices of Brett Younker and Melodie Malone mesh well on “Remember” whose chorus delivers an oath: “I’ll remember the empty grave.”

Next up are two songs that focus on God’s supreme authority as the only one worthy of our praise. First approaching the throne is Chris Tomlin with “God and God Alone”. This signature Tomlin melody will have you feeling you’ve heard the song before. Not that that’s a bad thing! When Melodie Malone delivers “Simple Pursuit”, you’ll be absolutely astonished at the beauty, simplicity, and purity of her voice. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be wondering where and how you can hear it some more. Malone’s performance is hands down the most remarkable and moving moment on the album. You’ll freely pour out your heart to our Savior alongside Melodie as she sings, “Nothing and no one comes close to You / Nothing could ever come close.”

Matt Redman finds the ideal balance between earnestness and energy as he continues the thoughtful worship with “I Turn to Christ”, professing, “I turn, I turn to Christ alone / I surrender all, I surrender.” On”Your Grace Amazes Me” we return to glorifying God and celebrating His grace with Christy Nockels. Like Malone, Nockels has a striking voice that communicates tenderness, vulnerability, and utter sincerity. She’ll help you remain centered on worship — and likely move you to tears — as you contemplate the profundity of Jesus’ grace.

Not allowing the women to steal the stage, Crowder returns to burst forth with a timeless Americana roots-inspired “All We Sinners.” With its percussive accompaniment, the earthy track bears resemblance to a Civil War era battle hymn. Next to Malone’s solo turn at the mic, this is my favorite moment on the record.

“Surrender”, featuring Jimi Cravity, who sounds eerily like Aaron Shust, may be the album’s only hiccup. Of course, that’s likely in large part due to the fact that Crowder’s gem is a tough act to follow.

Kristian Stanfill returns to close out the project with “Good Good Father”, a comforting number which reminds that God is a good, loving Father and we are His beloved children. Like “Surrender”, this is a heartfelt, pleasing song. Following Crowder, however, both songs feel anticlimactic. “All We Sinners” would have been the better closer. Still, it makes sense to end with a reminder of who He is and who we are. And that’s really what this newest Passion project is all about.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4.5 Hearts - CD - DVD

4.5 of 5 Hearts. Passion’s Newest Recording is Studio Worship Gold.

Passion Worship Band’s 2016 offering, Salvation’s Tide Is Rising is a solid set of ten songs centered on the cross and Jesus as Savior and Risen King. As a whole, these tracks will encourage you to stand tall, committed to your faith while you bow down in worship. As such, it’s a perfect January release and a wonderful kick-off to the new year.

Top Tracks (in order of appearance): “Salvation’s Tide”, “Simple Pursuit”, “I Turn To Christ”, “Your Grace Amazes Me”, “All We Sinners”

** ENTER THE GIVEAWAY **

CLICK ON THE ALBUM COVER BELOW

FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN THE CD!!

Passion CD cover

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing a CD for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a digital review copy in exchange for this review and post.

Giveaway Rules: Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

CD Single Review: Whenever Not Ever by Scott Moffatt

Scott Moffatt Shares His Creative Energy

Whenever Not Ever
by Scott Moffatt


Release Date: May 31, 2015
Label: Independent Release

Scott Moffatt on the Web:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

Support Scott’s IndieGogo Campaign


My Review

You might know Scott Moffatt as one quarter of the Canadian pop-rock brother band The Moffatts. They were big in Canada, even bigger in Europe (particularly Germany), and HUGE in South East Asia.  And before they were teen popstars, the fellas had a career singing country music.

A performer from the age of four, Scott has lived, toured, and worked all over of the world. When The Moffatts split in 2001, he first spent time as part of Canadian indie-rock outfit The Boston Post before moving to Los Angeles. There he single-handedly wrote, recorded, and produced his own solo project, Allegory of the City, which he released in 2006. That record led to Scott making his mark as an in-house producer in Thailand — first for SONY-BMG Thailand, and later for GMM Grammy. Scott’s production work earned him Producer of the Year at both the 2007 Seed Awards and the Thai Headbanger Awards in 2008.

In recent years, Scott has split his time between Calgary and Nashville, working as an independent producer, studio musician, and songwriter. He has experience in many genres and styles, with other artists and with the songs he’s written for his own solo shows. For a while, it looked as though Scott, like his brothers Clint and Bob (now working in Nashville as country duo Like Strangers), had come full circle and returned to country music.

I’ve been a fan of Scott Moffatt and his brothers since the late 90s. So when Scott reached out to folks on Facebook for help promoting his new single, “Whenever Not Ever”, from his upcoming independent EP (which he’s crowd-funding at IndieGogo), I jumped at the chance. And I’m so glad I did!

Much of the music I’ve heard from Scott over the last few years has been acoustic, leaning more towards country or folk rather than rock or pop. With “Whenever Not Ever”, it’s safe to say that he’s landed on the sound he wants to focus on right now, and it’s decidedly pop! It’s also thoroughly modern, current, creative, and completely engaging, and that, in a nutshell, also describes Scott Moffatt!

On “Whenever Not Ever,” it feels as if Scott has drawn from many of his pop-rock influences and found his own sound. The beat is influenced by 80s new-wave, but comes across as contemporary. The tune is melodic and bouncy with a frenetic energy that makes it impossible to listen to without jumping up and dancing madly. Lyrics have always been a strong suit for Scott, and with lines like “I don’t know why we fight so much, maybe it’s cause you’re nuts”, he shows he’s not lost his touch.

When it releases on May 31st, I wholeheartedly recommend that you RUN, not walk, to Amazon or iTunes to download “Whenever Not Ever”. Don’t worry — I’ll be back to provide links later!

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

b53f0-5hearts-cd-dvd

5 of 5 Hearts.  Scott Moffatt Shares His Creative Energy On “Whenever Not Ever”.

Whether you enjoy electronic pop music from world-class superstars like Kylie Minogue, or you’re listening to stuff like Zedd’s “I Want You To Know” featuring Selena Gomez, or Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” with lyrically clever melodies worthy of Taylor Swift, Scott Moffatt’s new single is guaranteed to make you put on your dancing shoes and party!

Scott Moffatt

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Scott Moffatt for providing me with a link to listen to Whenever Not Ever in exchange for this review and post.”

CD Review: Let It Be Jesus by Christy Nockels

With Her Latest Solo Worship Project, Christy Nockels Firmly Plants Her Feet

Let It Be Jesus
by Christy Nockels


Release Date: April 28, 2015
Label: sixstepsrecords

Artist Links:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

iTunes


Tracks

1. Freedom Song
2. My Anchor
3. Everything Is Mine In You
4. The Wondrous Cross
5. Let It Be Jesus
6. Who Can Compare
7. Jesus, Rock Of Ages
8. If You Never
9. Leaning On You, Jesus
10. Find Me At The Feet Of Jesus
11. Wonderful Name


My Review

Worship listeners know and love Christy Nockels from her years working at Passion conferences. Still others have followed her since her days recording as part of the duo Watermark with husband Nathan Nockels. Since 2008, she’s been an integral part of the worship team at Passion City Church in Atlanta. Now six years out from her 2009 solo debut Life Light Up, she is releasing a live project entitled Let It Be Jesus.

“Freedom Song” is the perfect opener. Upbeat and undeniably energetic, it sounds and feels sufficiently giddy – like freedom! With strong rock elements as well as softer moments, dynamic “My Anchor” seizes upon the momentum established by the lead-off track and propels the record forward while drawing us inward as we consider our Savior.

As Nockels reaches “Everything Is Mine In You” things take a more thoughtful turn, until she’s deeply in worship territory. With the song stretching over 7 minutes in length, Nockels has left plenty of open space in which her listener can create a personal worship experience. The next several songs continue the trend of contemplation and reflective adoration. I particularly enjoy the strong melody and singable refrain of “The Wondrous Cross.” By the song’s midpoint, Nockels breaks the tight tune wide open into hallelujahs before finally returning to the piano melody for the finish.

The next couple of tracks, “Let It Be Jesus” and “Who Can Compare”, similarly extend and stretch beyond what their transcribed boundaries may have been — the latter is a seven-and-a-half minute experience. These are undoubtedly moments that resonate more powerfully in a live group setting when surrounded by fellow worshipers than they might if you are listening alone in your car or your living room. But given sufficient personal investment and attention, you may forget you are listening to a record. And that’s ultimately where Nockel’s passionate performances have their pay-off.

The next two songs are favorites of mine. “Jesus, Rock of Ages”, in its tightly knit four minutes, has more impact than its much lengthier predecessors. The slightly countrified toe-tapper “If You Never” arrives at the right time, injecting infectious energy and kicking up the joy quotient a good notch or two before Nockels switches gears and returns to quieter moments. Indeed, the melodious “Leaning on You Jesus” leads us into a place of thanks and trust, setting up one of the recording’s most powerful moments, “Find Me At The Feet of Jesus”. Spare with a tenderly sung vocal, the tune so gently ushers in the spirit that you’ll lose yourself in an attitude of reverent surrender. Finally, “Wonderful Name” leaves us with the comforting assurance of the power Jesus has to transform, restore, and heal.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 Hearts - CD - DVD

4 of 5 Hearts. With Her Latest Solo Worship Project, Christy Nockels Firmly Plants Her Feet.

With her warm, inviting, and passionate vocals, Christy Nockels makes it clear on Let It Be Jesus that she can lead worship as effectively and charismatically as her better known male counterparts. One would be remiss to not give this record a spin, and even more foolish to doubt Nockels’ sincerity. That being said, like any live recording, the only drawback is the occasionally overly long performance.

My one caveat is this: Let It Be Jesus is not a Christian Pop Worship record that you can turn on to re-energize at the end of a long day. To get the most out of this recording, you need to make an effort. If you come to it without bringing something to the table, you may walk away hungry. However, if you listen with not only open ears but also an open heart, you’ll be rewarded with a deeply prayerful experience.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing me with a digital copy of Let It Be Jesus in exchange for this review and post.”

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