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It seems that every time Bethel music announces a new project I find myself giddy with anticipation. (In the most manly bearded way of course) They have been churning out new music at a rate that rivals the machine we call Hillsong, but it has been refreshingly different as well as being worship that pierces the spirit.

When I heard about “We will not be shaken” and started seeing the promo images of a large crowd on a mountain I was expecting a melding of a “Loft sessions part Duex” with “Tides Live and uncensored”.  I sat on this album for a few weeks now trying to think of the best way to review it because I have, for the most part, walked away from each listen pretty unsatisfied. I am going to try to explain why.

I have said it many times on my blog before but the thing that I am always looking for in a worship album is that feeling of the groan of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that is based on tempo and it is not based on the perfect worship pattern/swell to manipulate the emotions. It is intangible, but you know it when you listen and are wrecked by God and every hair stands up on your body.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26

I know much of music is personal and so is this review because what I feel, you might not so please dig in for yourself. I remember when I put in the Jeremy riddle album “furious” and I was hit with songs that seemed to go into my ears and directly into my spirit. The same the first time I heard Steffany-Frizzel Gretzinger sing “closer”. I heard it before it came out because they led it at a service at Bethel and it was put on youtube. I had that video on repeat for what seemed to be 3 days. There was such a desperation, amazing awe, and praise that sprung from the deep.

I am not sure why, but I feel like this album is lacking in this area.

“We will not be Shaken” is sung beautifully, but the lyrics call for a sound that is a war cry. We WILL NOT!!!! I do like this song and It reminds me so much of brian and Jenn’s “we believe” album, but I feel the lyrical content doesn’t match the sound.

“Ever Be” Is a nice track that feels like two distinct songs somehow mashed together, but the chorus unites it nicely. This one I can see many churches doing and the hook gets stuck in your head.

The McClures have a nice track with “Jesus, We Love You”.

“Nearness” with Jenn Johnson has a nice feel and gets really awesome musically in the chorus. I love the unique driving section to it. The lyrics are great even though “Comforter You are to me” would sound really funny saying it to somebody.

There is, what can be best described as a modern hymn, in “Seas of Crimson” by Johnson and Bashta. At first it was hard to like this one even though I am a huge fan of hymns, but this one is growing on me quickly.

The HUGE standout is “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan Helser. As a matter of fact I started leading this one in my church a week ago. I think the Helsers are a brilliant addition to the Bethel family and this song oozes of authenticity and passion. This is what I wish the rest of the album felt like. Again I am not talking tempo. Steffany Gretzinger’s “undoing” was crazy slow, but still felt like this because it was raw and drew you in.

So here is the deal: Should you buy this album? Because I am a fanboy and also because I don’t buy singles I would have bought this one for sure, but there are only a few tracks on here I like and the rest I’m lukewarm to. When I look at the videos and see the photos of the large crowd on the mountain it makes me wonder why that wasn’t more prevalent in the audio. There are a few moments when you can hear the mass of people, but in most cases this feels like a studio album. What I think is interesting is the visuals seem to represent a declaration over their city and a breathing life into dry bones. The music however seems so much more introspective and personal. There is a disconnect for me there and it’s possibly because of my artistic side.

I think you need to listen to this with no preconceived notions. Walking into this with expectations that it would be a Loft Sessions meets Tides concoction of amazingness was most likely not the best plan.

My personal requests for the next two albums:
1. Record an album with Jenn Johnson, Jonathan Helser, and amanda cook. I think this mix would bring power, brilliant lyrical content, and a prophetic edge
2. Record a double CD of Jeremy Riddle and Steffany Gretzinger together. Maybe some new tracks and some old and the rest no plan other than letting those two take us to church!


I was exited when my friend Chris, from Brothers McClurg, told me they were working on some new material. When the album came to me I realized that him using the word “new” may have been a bit of false advertising.

If you have heard these guys speak or read anything about them you would have heard that…The band name pays homage to Anthony and Chris’ greatest influence: their maternal grandfather Pastor Bill McClurg, who led the southern gospel group The McClurg Family Singers.

Interestingly enough with the many ministry phases these guys have been on in the world of worship, it is THIS album that first pays homage to that family tradition in it’s sound and not just the name.

Folk rock, or should I say indie folk, is in these days with bands like civil wars, lumineers, mumford and sons and many others. In the worship world we have people like “All sons & Daughters” paving the way for a return to a more folk roots. However it seems that not too many have taken that a little deeper into a mix between southern family band and Simon and Garfunkel like Brothers McClurg does on “Home”. These guys are attempting to bring a few generations together sonically in a sandwich of acoustic nuance.

This album is a great tribute to their heritage, but it’s also not an attempt at trying to recreate that sound. Instead they chose to honor it and create something fresh.

I’m not sure if it is corporate worship friendly and quite honestly I’m not sure if I even care. It is worshipful art. Some art is meant to be hung on a wall to be admired, taken in and enjoyed. From a listeners perspective, that participation is enough for me.

If there is anything I would add or change it would be tracks like “move us on” and “i don’t want to worry” having an even more swampy feel to it. While I know it wasn’t the sound they were going for, I couldn’t help but hear old dirty blues played through pedals with dying batteries on a few tracks in my brain.

This album has a less is more feel instead of relying heavily on a “singer songwriter” vibe. I think Good music like good art has you hearing, feeling and seeing things that aren’t always there. This album captures that.

I believe this is a MUST BUY if you want to hear something different, fresh, fantastic and yet very familiar. – This for sure pushes my comfort zone for country music which is why I am glad it leans more towards simon and garfunkel meets the gaithers rather than Billy ray Cyrus “achy breaky heart”.

“HOME” releases digitally through Sprig Music on Tuesday March 31 st


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this CD free from Brothers McClurg to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I 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.”


I have this rule when it comes to “reviews” of friends Albums that I have stuck to since I started blogging in 2006. It is simple DO NOT REVIEW A FRIENDS ALBUM.

Here is the exception to the rule… THIS CHRISTMAS EP from my friends Ben AbuSaada and Chris Olson and other people I don’t know but I will call friends by default.

Let me go track by track:

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: Starts off with a dope slide guitar on a resonator. A nice acoustic comes in… Most likely a Breedlove because I know Ben and the holy spirit and God works best through a Breedlove. [UPDATE: the breedlove was Chris Olsons and I have been told it needed new strings which also concerns me because It seems that it may have been malicious and Chris was trying to give Ben tetanus. Possibly a conspiracy, but worth investigating.] All of a sudden out of nowhere comes this… well.. I’m not sure how best to say it… other than I am just baffled how God crammed such an amazing voice into a flannel wearing star wars geek!

The arrangement on this song is really great. It has a swamp blues feel in the middle is really cool. love the cajon on it.. if I can be honest though I would have loved to had heard the gtrs get nasty at the end with slide go all white stripes and DRUMS come in.. that would have put me over the edge..

2. No Other King: An original song… I may or may not have had this song ahead of time and then within about 40 seconds requested the chord chart. It is very hard to find a GOOD advent song and I love this track. We will be doing this at my church this year. Has a really cool St. Theresa/Joan Osborn Mando part in it that I just love! Lyrically for me the central theme of emanuel god with us and the juxtaposition of the cross is really nice… advent songs deal more with the coming of the king, longing, and are almost somber… This one achieves that and instead of focusing on “christmas theme” it takes advent and jumps to Atonement which I really love as a guy who loves liturgy. Fantastic lyrics From Chris Olson, Josh Canady, Ben York, Emily Sibala, and Taylor Sibala

3. The first Noel: A great version… the banjo is a great addition to the track. and I love the break into the chorus. I love the background vocals a TON at the last verse.. Its understated and has a folk feel, but the banjo is played like a bela fleck track which is super cool. I would love to hear what it would sound like with that banjo going like that, a stand up bass, no guitar and a violin.

Final Thoughts: It is clear the ben’s voice was born out of the fires of MORDOR. It is just so rich and has a perfect grit to it. It’s the kind of voice where I actually think “this guy believes what he is singing”. That is so refreshing! The musicality and arrangements of the band are top notch and the production is really professional. This is the Christmas EP to own. They are my friends, but you know I’m not blowing smoke because I broke a personal blog rule!


Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review financially or with any star wars figures. However if anybody does want to bribe me with either of those options I can be swayed.


Paul “THE MAN” Baloche has a new album which releases April 1st. If you are in the church or in ministry at all and don’t know who Paul is I will be praying for you. The reality is if you have heard ANY song in the church, most likely he either wrote it, co-wrote it, or the author was thinking about how awesome Paul is when they wrote it. So that being said, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Paul is one of the most prolific writers/worship leaders we have out there. What sets him a part is his humility. I have had the pleasure of working with Paul at a worship conference I co-created which was amazing. I saw Paul strip away the “fame” and walk in without pride and just show people how to seek the heart of God.

This same man, with 5 bazillion twitter followers, when he saw there were bad storms in my area sent me messages to see if my family was ok and let us know he was praying for us. Now… why am I prefacing this review with all that? Is it to name drop? Not even in the least… The truth is…I want everybody who reads this to know that Paul is a man who cares about people. He loves the “C”hurch and is a man after God’s heart. It is even more amazing that on top of all that he is a brilliant writer.

I have had no qualms in the past to say that, while I am a huge Baloche fan, I am not big on most of his studio albums. [edit] LET ME CLARIFY: I love everything Paul does, but every time a friend says to me they are not a fan my reply is “you should see him LIVE”. When they do they become a fan. There always seemed to be a disconnect there. – “The same love” was the exception and it was the studio album that that blew the doors off his other ones. IT was SO GOOD, But I craved a live album…I begged Integrity via email, twitter, my reviews and in my brain to make a Live Baloche album. This isn’t meant to sound hyper-spiritual, but somehow the studio stuff seems to sterilize the worship for me. Paul is amazing live because you can hear him leading worship and not just laying down a track. In essence, LIVE puts the “groan” of the holy spirit back into the track for me.

Then the email came to check out the pre-release of the Paul Baloche LIVE album and I was ecstatic. I never blow smoke on reviews, even if I know the person because I think it is important that the church puts out quality stuff. This album is not only amazing, but it is EXACTLY the album I have been waiting for Paul to make. There are new songs, familiar songs, and retakes on hymns. It offers singable corporate worship songs that are well crafted and not drivel. More importantly it offers a worship experience for the listener. This is not just a bunch of tracks mashed together. This is an experience where the listener can feel like they were at this event and be led into worship of the King by one of the best leaders we have in the church today.

I give this a full 5/5 stars and think this a must CD/DVD for every collection, home, and personal worship.

The full Paul Baloche – LIVE CD/DVD song list follows:
1.   Our God Saves
2.   God My Rock
3.   You Lift Us Up
4.   The Same Love
5.   Jesus Be My Savior
6.   Mighty Fortress
7.   My Hope
8.   Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)
9.   Today Is The Day
10. He Is Risen
11. Glorious / Holy Holy Holy

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this CD free from Integrity and Hoganson to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I 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.”


So I just want to start off with a confession. I have not been a huge fan of any of the albums that have come out of Elevation. Part of that is because I am in a different place in my own journey in worship. I have done the “huge band” and “is this a coldplay concert” thing before and after a while for me personally it gets old. I have read all of Pastor Furtick’s books. Years ago I had conversations with worship pastor Wade Joye and Prayed fervently for his children while in the hospital. Over the years I have been so excited to see God move in this church and the people in it. GOD grew this church to close to 12,000 people in 7 years and He is daily doing an amazing work through them.

With all of that said I just could not get into the albums. A friend of mine asked me if I would review this new “nothing is wasted” double disk and I accepted. Why not… Lets see how this goes.

I turned it on and not only was I pleasantly surprised but I feel like THIS is the album that I was waiting for. My guess is based on content and lyrics that as God spoke to pastor Furtick on “Greater”. That God is greater that this vision seeped into the hearts of the worship and mantra of the church and that is very evident in the lyrics.

I am a sucker for the Live disk because I feel like it is more RAW. The studio version just feels a little too buttoned up for me and “over-polished”. I don’t know what it is, but it always feels like the heart and passion behind the song is intact in a LIVE recording and sucked out in a studio track.

I have been through this CD 3-4 times since getting a pre-release a few weeks ago. The only track I am not a huge fan of is “Let Go”. Stylistically that song just doesn’t want to resonate with me. I am letting the rest of the album ruminate in my spirit. The Lyrics are filled with truth declaring the Character of God. I was the guy who did not like the song “give me faith”. I know feel free to send me hate mail. I don’t exactly know what the difference is here, but something about this “new” declaration from elevation rings out for me. I believe there is power in the word and our declaring of the GREATNESS of God and this album is chock full of that.

“Lay down my rights.
Lay down my life
I will abandon All of my pride
Focus my eyes Away from myself
You become greater I become less”

There is a “space” on the live album. It is something I will be teaching in a class im doing actually. It is the idea of waiting on the Lord. Not the kind of waiting where we wait for an answer, but instead of waiting where we rest in the presence of the King and let Him renew our strength. This “space” is here. There is an expression of victory here that has been born out of experience and encounter with Christ.

This is the first Elevation Album that has made it to my “must listen to” rotation on my iphone and I think you need to buy it as well!

“You have overcome the world
Took the keys from death and hell
Joining heaven we declare
You’re greater, greater”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this album free from Elevation Worship to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I 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.”