Archives For Review

shaken_bethel

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!

BRO_home

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.”

Framing Faith
From Camera to Pen, An Award-Winning Photojournalist Captures God in a Hurried World
By Matthew Knisely

I have the privilege of following Matt on the social media platforms and being his “friend” on facebook. This was actually how I first heard about this book. It has been interesting looking through that lens (no pun intended) as I read through these pages.

Matt is a photojournalist and a storyteller. The main reason why I grabbed this book to review is because of my fascination with photography, the arts, speaking and storytelling as well. I loved the clarity that was in this book in regards to intentionality of capturing “worthwhile” moments and encountering God in the midst of the chaos of life.

Over the years I have also had these epiphanies around “carpe diem” or the recognition that each moment matters. I really liked this book and his phrasing. I would have loved to have seen more of his “art” in the book because I think it FRAMES clearly as a visual example his text.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this BOOK free from booklookbloggers 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.”

Foundations in Comic Book Art: SCAD Creative Essentials (Fundamental Tools and Techniques for Sequential Artists)
by John Paul Lowe

I have the privilege of reviewing this from a semi-professional view in that I used to work in the comic book business. Recently I have craved to get back into comics and illustration so when I saw this book come up in a list of books for me to review, I grabbed it.

Lowe is really good at communicating and visually the book is of higher grade than most books of it’s kind that are out there. Materials and techniques are covered and what is nice is that while it has an emphasis on comics it also covers the gamut of visual art.

It covers so many topics and techniques and is rich with content. It is not a how to draw book which is also nice. So while it is basic to intermediate in nature it also has value for people who have been drawing for years.

Being a guy who went from classic pen and ink to pretty much all digital, I was glad the topics covered software and techniques that could be used traditionally or with a computer.

I would recommend this book for anybody interested in visual art but especially for those who love sequential art. This is one of the better books on this topic that I have read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this BOOK free from bloggingforbooks 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.”

stripper

How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness: Serving People Just as They Are
By Todd Stevens and Erin Stevens

I was looking through the available books to review and came across the genius marketing title of this book. I know about strip church and organizations like “hookers for jesus” so I decided to dig in a bit more. It was then that the covers’ small print came into view. “and Other Acts of Kindness: Serving People Just as They Are”.

It was that line that compelled me to grab this book and quite frankly I was not prepared for the roller coaster it had me on. As a PK I have been doing ministry my whole life. The last 18 years have been spent doing ministry alongside my wife. Not even a year ago I co-founded Ember Church and have spent many hours praying with my co-pastors about the unique vision God has given our church. We have done a few “outreach/missional” events that were just for the sake of loving our community and were floored at the difference in response compared to a “need based” event. We knew we were onto something about what God wanted us to do. It was just difficult to really flesh out what this all meant.

I started reading this book and God just hit me. This is it! These guys figured it out. It is so simple, but such a challenging and lofty God sized vision. Friendship Community Church calls it “servant evangelism”. It doesn’t sound revolutionary and honestly it is more ancient than it is modern. It is Jesus’ way. It is all about love.

Here is why I love this book. It doesn’t just give the biblical way of loving and serving. We preach that every week. They went practical too. The Steven’s lay out what worked, what didn’t, success and failure in a way that truly challenged my view of outreach. They lay out one section on intentionally loving your enemy and going a step further than praying for them.

I am still wrapping my head around this book because I think I have stumbled onto the voice of God in regards to a mindset we want to cultivate in our church. Love others and be ready at all times. It is much more than that and I know that sounds like just a simple and basic statement, but it’s often the simple things that we forget. It is the simple things that we stop because we have been paralyzed with apathy and self.

This book took me to a place I haven’t been to in a long time. I ordered 4 more copies for our staff and I am looking forward to reviewing and praying through the implications of their journey on our church.

This is a 5 star book and a must read for any church leader.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this BOOK free from booklook bloggers 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.”