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Double Book Review

December 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

The Carols of Christmas
By Andrew Gant

I was very excited to get this book because I think these days there is a disconnect with the songs we sing and understanding why they even exist in the first place. It showed up at my door at a time when I was doing a sermon series at my church on the correlation of christmas carols to the gospel and this was very helpful. This book has a nice feel and has a good number of songs. Of course it can’t cover all of them but I did feel there were a few obvious ones like “i heard the bells on christmas day” that were missing. However that could just be my hang up.
The author is a professor and church musician and sadly this comes across as more of a text book in some ways. With that said it is chock full of interesting facts and connections. I think for those who are not passionate about history and music and maybe looking for a light story read, it may be a bit of a bore. For people like me it was quite enjoyable and I am glad I got this.
3 of 5 stars

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The Miracle in the Middle
Finding God’s Voice in the Void
By Charlotte Gambill

In the middle…
When you are tired and stuck in the valley.
Sounded like the book to me. I had been through times of burnout in life and ministry and spent a lot of time researching and studying this topic. I loved Charlotte’s creative example of being on a trip with kids and them asking constantly “are we there yet”. Being a dad with 4 kids, this hit home for me.
I think this is fantastic book and what I loved most about it is that it doesn’t give you all the answers. It leaves room for not only the mystery of God but for the reader to have to use their brain and pray through the content.
This is not a quick read. Not because it’s a long book but instead because each chapter really needs to digest inside.
Seems to be a trend, but this book spurred on a sermon that I preached about being stuck in the middle between a promise and the promised land. I applaud any author who has the guts to write about the realities of real life’s frustrations and teaches biblically how to deal with such feelings.
4 of 5 stars

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. 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.”

PED

A few months ago Airturn shipped me the new PED bluetooth pedal to review. I wrote them in return thanking them and saying “good luck convincing me to put away my pageflip Cicada” which I love so much.

The package arrived and I opened it with heated expectation. The box was deceptively big because what came out was this really thin packaging. I pulled the pedal out and was immediately impressed with it’s slim size. It is less than .7” (18mm) tall. My Cicada was thin as well, but the buttons are on it feel flimsy and easily breakable. This felt firm, substantial and because it is an all enclosed unit I found myself less afraid to stomp on it. The foot switches have no sound and they are very sensitive.

Reading through the manual I found that there was a lithium ion coin cell battery in it that lasts 6+months. My cicada seemed to go through batteries all the time so this was a relief. On top of the fact that the PED has a great battery, they even give you an extra one!

So.. how easy it is to pair and use. I haven’t used with my MBP or iMac yet, but website says it works with iPad 3 and newer, Galaxy 4 and newer. I used on my Ipad 4. There are no dip switches or weird code combinations to enter in when pairing like the Cicada. All you have to do is push a button and count how many times the light blinks in accordance with the different modes and then let go. That’s it! From box to stage I had it running in less than 2 min.

My verdict: This sucker gets 5 out of 5 stars. My Pageflip Cicada is now in a drawer. It just works and everything I need it to do it does. I am no afraid of breaking it and it fits right in my ipad bag. This is now my go to pedal when using Onsong while I lead worship. Airturn.. you have a convert. Great work!

wanna know more about it or even buy it? of course you do!!! go HERE

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this pedal free from airturn for books 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.”

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.”

bensbutter

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!

GO GRAB IT NOW!!! ITS FREE, BUT LEAVE THEM A “YOU ARE AWESOME TIP” 

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.