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Friday Review: Taylor Carson’s “With Innocence”

Local DC Musical Release

WithInnocenceTaylorCarson1

Album Debut Performance 

Saturday May 4th, 2013 IOTA CLUB AND CAFE Arlington, VA

Some Background

First time I heard Taylor Carson was in Purceville, VA at “The 9 Songwriters Series” concert.  Right away both my wife, Nora and myself were quite impressed.  The 9 series gives the concert goer an opportunity to experience the music of 9 different local artists in one show.  (See my review) Not too much but just enough of each artist to whet the musical appetite.

Taylor played three songs he had written (all of which are on the above album) and each one was very good. I especially liked the song “Steady Down” which has a really nice guitar part.  But all three were memorable. 

Taylor Carson has a natural charisma and stage presence and is an accomplished acoustic guitar player.  His voice stands out as both distinctive and pleasing.  A complete package as far as modern minstrel troubadours go.

We immediately bought a collection of his songs (though sadly none of the songs from that night were on the CD).  What struck me on first hearing was that his voice sounded gruffer than in concert and that the song quality both in performance and production were uneven. His backup band at times was brilliant but more than not they were only adequate to the task. 

So I was very happy to hear that he was releasing a new album and that he was thrilled to see it doing well on iTunes.  I snatched a fresh copy of the MP3’s for “With Innocence” from Amazon and off I was pumping out a collection of catchy balladeer grooves on my car stereo as I drove on down the highway!

“With Innocence”

I have very little history with Taylor Carson’s music.  In doing a little research I saw that this was his fifth compilation of original tunes.  His previous CD called Defending the Name”  had gained praise from various local reviewers.  Most notable was that Taylor had won the INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARD for Concept Album of the Year. 

I’m listening to the songs on it while I am writing this review.  Probably buy this album too.  I like what I’ve heard so far!  He’s handling this concept album idea quite nicely.

Back to “With Innocence”I have had it for a few days.  I don’t usually do a review until I’ve put a few more hours of listening into an album.  However I am encouraging you to

Go hear Taylor Carson on this Saturday, May 4th, 2013

at the IOTA CLUB AND CAFE in Arlington, VA.

You’ll hear some really nice original songs performed with energy and excellence.  Hearing Taylor in person is a really nice way to spend an evening.  I only regret I will be out-of-town and will not be able to catch the premiere.

What stands out on the album is the instrumentation on the very first song.  Quality musicianship and arrangement.  Immediately I am happy to listen.  The first song does not disappoint. 

Right now I am enjoying hearing the songs I heard in concert, “Steady Down” and the love song “As You See It” and “Waiting for Me”.  The new song that has me coming back is “Final Bow”.  Great lead guitar compliments the theme and Taylor’s vocals. The first verse of the song is a gem.  Love it! 

Throughout the album you’ll find some very tasty accompaniment.  Quality songs. There are spots where the keyboard work makes me want to stop and rewind to hear it again.  The various organ sections are played in the right places complimenting the other instrumentation. And recording of Taylor Carson’s voice captures for me what I so enjoyed when I heard him live.

If you like acoustic based folk pop country rock type music you should give Taylor Carson a listen, live or on recording. There are shades of Garth Brooks in his sound.  But without any twang.  Electric guitar fills and leads are tasty and for the most part country style riffs.

If anything Taylor’s vocals will hook you.  Easy to listen to the boy sing!

I’ll be listening to him on my trip south on Saturday… wishing I was at the IOTA CLUB.  So go support some great local talent and you can say you knew Taylor Carson when he wasn’t a national star.

Listen to the albums

Friday Review: “The I AM Statements of Jesus”

“Jesus in the Present TenseI_AM_StatementsofChrist

Here’s something for those who would like to go a little deeper into the Scriptures during the “I AM” Series at The Life Church on Sundays.  Or if my posts have stirred your interest in the topic this is a good resource to accompany you in your Bible study.

I love the title “Jesus in the Present Tense”.  It speaks to me of insight, immediacy and involvement.  I do not expect to be a passive observer while reading a book titled this way.

It tells me that the author will not limit himself to prodding theological expositions or exegetical drudgery.  Though Wiersbe does not disappoint if you are interested in Scripture references.  Wiersbe’s writing is a veritable cornucopia of supporting Bible references.

Wiersbe moves the reader through the initial Moses question of whom shall I tell them sent me and then into Apostle John’s usage of I AM.  He then follows in straightforward fashion a review of the seven I AM statements of Jesus.  He then adds a section one would not expect, one about the cross and the shame quoting from the OT.  He follows this up with “I AM Jesus” from the Book of ACTS and completes the book with a look at the responses we can have to the revelation of the Great I AM “Living and Serving in the Present Tense”.

As an accompanying work to a study on the I AM statements of Jesus it is quite good.  As I mentioned Wiersbe has loaded this book with scripture references and cross references.  How deep you go is up to the reader.  The book reads well and is instructive even without taking the many tangential explorations offered.

The book is an easy read.  Wiersbe truly hits his stride in The Door and The Shepherd sections where examples and application abound.   The earlier sections are instructive and, yes, full of scripture.  But I couldn’t help feeling that Wiersbe was just giving me surface thoughts (don’t get me wrong, Wiersbe’s been at this a long time and his surface thoughts beat many preachers deep reflections).  But if given a little bit more time to write he would have unlocked some secret revelation vault and would have knocked the reader’s socks off with additional insights and examples. 

The Door (or Gate) section impressed me the most.  How could anyone provide so much inspirational insights about “I AM the Door”.  But he does and then nicely weaves it into The Shepherd chapter.    

I recommend the book.  Easily accessible.  Full of insights.  Great title and focus on “Jesus in the Present Tense”.  Our relationship with Jesus is now and we have a relationship with source of the Seven I AM statements. Jesus is our Bread of Life, our Light, the gate and shepherd caring and protecting us. He is the resurrected one who brings us Life. Not only does he lead the way, he is the way!  Not only does he show us truth, he is the truth!  He not only brings us into life, he is the life!

The True Vine section that focuses on abiding is true food for the soul and rest to the weary.  Abiding epitomizes the Present Tense we are to live in.  I am reminded of books like Brother Lawrence’s “The Imitation of Christ”, Murray’s “Abiding in Christ” and Watchman Nee’s “The Release of the Spirit”. 

The study of the seven I AM statements of Christ will not be an end in itself.  It will spur you on to want to know Jesus more and more.  Wiersbe book is a great resource to have as you pursue the Great I AM! 

Amazon’s Audio-Digital Combination

To go through the book I used a combination of Audible (audio) and Kindle (digital, paperless). There is a wonderful app that Amazon has in place now that automatically synchronizes between your reading and your listening.  It’s called “Whispersync for Voice”.  If you read pages 12-25 on the morning and then use audio on the way to work, the audio will not start at the last place you listened it will ask you to choose… 1) last time you listened 2) furthest point via reading.  Your audio can “sync” up to page 25 right off and you continue in the book without skipping a beat!

There is an even newer addition to reading experience available from the folks at Amazon… it’s called “Immersion Reading”.  On your Kindle Fire HD you can listen and read at the same time while the Amazon app highlights the words being read!

Friday Review: What Is Marriage?

What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense

WhatisMarriage

I’ve been looking for a book that promotes man-woman marriage from a non-religious perspective.  I wondered if there was such a publication. 

Though I am totally supportive of heterosexual marriage on a religious basis I did not see how the government could not offer the rights and privileges of the marriage contract to homosexual couples.  In my mind the government had no basis for defining the word marriage.  The only basis they would have would have to come from history, culture or science. 

But since the government had forgotten why they began licensing marriages and why they began to encourage marriage with tax breaks and benefits I saw little hope of recovering an original societal view of marriage. So my thinking moved to removing marriage from the discussion and promoting “civil unions” so that the concept of marriage was outside government control.

But then I came upon this book by what seemed like happenstance, it was a nice serendipitous discovery.

On Amazon the book description reads:

Until yesterday, no society had seen marriage as anything other than a conjugal partnership: a male-female union. What Is Marriage? identifies and defends the reasons for this historic consensus and shows why redefining civil marriage is unnecessary, unreasonable, and contrary to the common good.

Originally published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, this book’s core argument quickly became the year’s most widely read essay on the most prominent scholarly network in the social sciences. Since then, it has been cited and debated by scholars and activists throughout the world as the most formidable defense of the tradition ever written. Now revamped, expanded, and vastly improved, What Is Marriage? stands poised to meet its moment as few books of this generation have.

Rhodes Scholar Sherif Girgis, Heritage Foundation Fellow Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George offer a devastating critique of the idea that equality requires redefining marriage. They show why both sides must first answer the question of what marriage really is. They defend the principle that marriage, as a comprehensive union of mind and body ordered to family life, unites a man and a woman as husband and wife, and they document the social value of applying this principle in law.

I encourage the interested reader to check out a very fascinating commentary by a former Princeton University student John G. Burford IV about Robert P George.  He took some courses that George taught and was profoundly affected.  He notes how George is not a pushy, petty, axe to grind conservative professor but that he seeks to respond clearly and honestly to disagreement without trying to villianize the opposition.

As for the book, it is a thoughtful and thought-provoking treatise. It repeatedly reminds the reader that this is not a focus on homosexual rights or denial thereof or on religious justifications. Rather it is a look at what marriage is and what it has been and what its purpose is.

Will gay rights advocates minds be changed?  The staunch hardcore activist would be considered a marriage revisionist by the authors.  The revisionist feels it is time to redefine marriage in terms of caring and committment.   The authors would say that marriage should not be revised and redefined and give a number of good reasons why not.

I doubt that anyone who is gung-ho to make sure gays get every right that has been previously denied them will change their minds but it’s possible.  Unfortunately for many the very definition of marriage presented by the book would be seen as the result of the oppression that has been put on homosexuals for eons.

I do recommend the book if you seek to better understand how marriage came to be, why it is viewed the way it has been prior to recent attempts to revise it. It’s worth the time and worth having some calm and civilized discussions afterward.

Friday Review: 4 More 4 Christmas Time!

angel_lute

I have four more songs to close out your Christmas season with.  Now you do know that the 12 days of Christmas represent the time between December 25 and January 6? Prior to Christmas is the season of Advent.

During Advent (if you care to celebrate it… the advent calendar is really fun to do with your kids!) it is customary NOT to sing songs about Jesus birth but to sing songs that anticipate his coming (and his coming again!).  O Come O Come Immanuel is a favorite during Advent. Both Godspell’s and Handel’s “Prepare Ye The Way” are used effectively.

So when Christmas finally arrives and you’ve been preparing for it for 4 weeks you are ready to sing carols for 12 days! (at least that’s the thinking… however the Shopping Malls continually pipe in Christmas carols ad nauseam from Thanksgiving and these songs seem ubiquitous on the radio so the intended effect is significantly undermined). 

Anyone leave their trees up till January 6, the last of the 12 days? Ah yes, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany… Magi from Persia and a magnificent star and Bethlehem and three precious gifts… a topic hopefully I’ll write about this coming weekend.  But for now… four more songs during Christmastide!  My daughter who like most of us is sick of the customary Christmas songs actually enjoyed hearing 2 of these in the car the other day.

1. Blessed is HeThe_Lord_Reigns_SNA_Praise_Band by Chris Lutyk

This is a song that I wrote in 1979 not too long after I was saved in 1978.  It was recorded as part of a worship album by The Praise Band which led worship for a ministry called “Saturday Night Alive”. I was privileged to play bass every Saturday night for 3+ years. 

My wife, Nora was also a part of the ministry and she sings one of the leads on “Blessed is He” and Lacey Roland sings the other.  Rick Lord, SNA worship leader (now an Episcopal priest in Northern Virginia) played the guitar parts. The song is slow with minimal instrumentation until the “big” chorus.  We threw everything into that chorus mix… guitar with distortion, Hammond B3 sound and lots of vocalists!  Hope you like it!

Here is the link to “Blessed is He” on youtube.

Messiah Born, in Bethlehem
Our Savior sent for God so loved the world
Our King has come (Alleluia) The Anointed One (Alleluia)
The Risen Lord who sits at the right hand of God

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
Blessed is He the Lamb of God
Blessed is He who comes the King of all
We will shout out His Name
We will sing to His Praise
Alleluia, Immanuel, Jesus Christ

2. Immanuel by Andy ParkVineyard_Christmas_Immanuel

My favorite up-tempo contemporary Christmas song of all time! Partially because of how well it works in a live worship setting at Christmas time.  The triplets are fun.  It’s a 90’s production but the song translates well into the 21st century.  The album it comes from is called “A Vineyard Christmas” and as far as I can tell is out of print and only available used.  The song was written by Andy Park and he has granted his permission for me to put it up on youtube.

Here is the link to “Immanuel” on youtube.

Immanuel, unto us a Son is given
Immanuel, is God with us
He is born for us Christ the long-awaited Messiah
Immanuel has come to dwell with us

Now a light has dawned
In the land of darkness
Now the chosen One has come to us
We have seen His light
We have seen His glory
Shining in the dark
Like the rising sun

Born in a manger
A baby poor and lowly
Born of a virgin in Christ the Lord
Glory to the Lord
All glory in the highest
Peace on earth to me
Will follow Him

© 1990 Mercy Publishing

3. Can You Imagine by Wendy FoyChristmasinourtime_

This light jazzy Christmas is not a worship song but it is one of the most creative and unique approaches for a song about the birth of Christ.  The wonderful vocals of Wendy Foy call us to imagine ourselves in the manger witnessing the birth, being with Mary and Joseph.  Imagining ourselves as one of the shepherds or one of the wise men.  I personally like to imagine how it would be like to see through the eyes of Biblical characters. The album this song came from is quite good.  All but two songs are contemporary originals.  One is a hymn called “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” sung by Bob Bennett who has a perfect voice for this contemporary arrangement.  The other is a Christmas carol “In The Bleak Midwinter” which has a simply lovely vocal arrangement in the middle verses. 

Here is the link to “Can You Imagine” on youtube

And here is the link to purchase the MP3 collection of “Christmas in our Time”

4. And On That Day by Phil KeaggyWelcome_Inn_Keaggy

I heard this song years ago on the radio years ago and loved it.  However it was off an old Phil Keaggy album and I never found it not knowing the exact name of the song.  One of my favorite Christmas topics is the relationship and encounter of Mary and Elizabeth.  This song covers both women’s heavenly intervention with the promise and fulfillment to two amazing gifts from God.   The youtube version will give you the gist of the song.  It is an “olde English” 3/4 time ballad.  What is missing from the live version is the female vocalist who exchanges verses with Phil and who sings harmony on the chorus.  Plus the instrument section is played on both guitar and flutes adding a wonderful beauty to the arrangement.  It’s found on the album “Welcome Inn”.

On youtube there is a live version “And On That Day”

On Amazon you can hear the female vocal during the sample clip – “And On That Day” – mp3 – I’m sure iTunes has it too.

I hope you find something you like and can add to your yearly Christmas experience.

Friday Review: 3 Songs 4 Christmas!

The-Nativity-Story

I have three great contemporary songs for Christmas to share with you.  I love them all and two of them are wonderful not only to listen to you but also to sing in a Christmas worship service.

Maybe you have heard of them.  They are “In The First Light”; “Breath of Heaven” and “Immanuel (From the Squalor Of A Borrowed Stable)”.

1. “IN THE FIRST LIGHT” by Bob Kauflin

bob_kauflinIn the First Light” was written by Bob Kauflin and originally recorded by Glad on the A cappella Project CD.  This song is awesome.  I encourage worship leaders to use this during the Christmas Season.  Not just about the birth of Jesus but communicates the gospel clearly. It covers the time from the Coming of Christ through his Triumphant Return.

In addition to Glad, Point of Grace, Adam Lambert and Todd Agnew have recorded it.  The YouTube link is to the Todd Agnew/Christy Nockels version.  They add a nice brief “Do You Hear What I Hear?” interlude at the end before the last line’s climax.  Here’s the first verse as a sample. For complete lyrics click this link In The First Light Lyrics

“In the first light of a new day
No one knew he had arrived
Things continued as they had been
While a newborn softly cried
But the heavens wrapped in wonder
Knew the meaning of his birth
In the weakness of a baby
They knew God had come to Earth”

Todd Agnew’s In The First Light 

2. “BREATH OF HEAVEN” by Amy Grant

“Breath of Heaven” was written by Amy Grant & Chris Eaton.  It’s often subtitled as “Mary’s Song”.  It’s a beautifully written slowamy-grant-09 song and Amy Grant’s voice on the original is brilliant.  Something about Amy and Christmas songs!

The song is sung from Mary’s point of view and portrays her as a person who is amazed at what has happened to her and battles anxious thoughts for being chosen for such a holy and profound purpose.  Yet she calls out to God using the phrase Breath of Heaven, aka the Holy Spirit.

The theme of holiness is strong in the song.  Being holy comes with the idea of being separated and set apart for a God-given purpose.

Outside of the words the arrangement, melody and Amy voice make this a special song.  The version I have linked is to a more recent live rendition.  Though Amy has lost a bit of her top range this live version does it justice.  This song is definitely worth buying or at least adding to your Christmas playlist on Spotify!

Verse 1
I have travelled – many moonless nights,
Cold and weary – with a babe inside.
And I wonder what I’ve done.
Holy Father, You have come
and chosen me now
To carry Your Son.

Verse 2
I am waiting – in a silent prayer,
I am frightened – by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this – path a-lone?
Be with me now,
Be with me now.

Chorus
Breath of Heaven, hold me together, be forever near me,
Breath of Heaven.
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness, pour over me Your holiness
For You are holy.
Breath of Heaven.

Here are the full Lyrics of Breath of Heaven

Here is the live version Audio of Breath of Heaven

3. “IMMANUEL (FROM THE SQUALOR OF A BORROWED STABLE)”  by Stuart Townend

Much like Bob Kauflin’s “In The First Light”  Stuart Townend’s “From the Squalor” tells the story of Jesus from birth to stuart-townendtriumphant return.  Both have a modern hymn-like quality in common.  Stuart is the author of the very popular “In Christ Alone” and “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” both fabulous worship songs.  Townend continues to bring us worship songs that are fresh, creative and scriptural that press us into the presence of God.  Most are slow but his writing is profound and the melodies beautiful.

At the church I was at a few years ago we did the song every Christmas adding a delightful original penny whistle instrumental section before each verse.  This song does not have the notoriety of the first two but it is no less highly recommended.

YouTube has a wonderful recording of Immanuel (From the Squalor)

Worship Together has a recording plus From the Squalor Lyrics  Here’s verse 1:

Verse 1
From the squalor of a borrowed stable
By the Spirit and a virgin’s faith
To the anguish and the shame of scandal
Came the Savior of the human race
But the skies were filled
With the praise of heav’n
Shepherds listen as the angels tell
Of the gift of God come down to man
At the dawning of Immanuel

1999 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Stuart Townend’s From The Squalor of a Borrowed Stable

Friday Review: “Mary Did You Know?” by Michael English

It’s Christmas Time and the perfect opportunity to do a review for… what else but a contemporary Christmas Song! An incredible one called, “Mary Did You Know”.

mary_did_you_know_part_1

I first heard the song as it was sung by Michael English back in 1993 and I fell in love with the song itself then, but over time Michael’s rendition has continued to be my favorite. After hearing it the first time I was so taken up with the arrangement and performance that I initiated that a custom video be made by our church.  We would use the video and the synchronized instrumental track as background for a Christmas vocal presentation.  

A friend, Chris Rogers owned and operated a multi-media company and with his help we video taped “our Mary”, Marilyn Lorence, all dressed up in period garb.  We did the filming at Great Falls Park one morning.  It turned out splendidly with added scenes from the Matthew Gospel video and some other random clips to complete the video edit.

I recently purchased Michael English version for my Kindle Fire.  Upon hearing it again I was reminded that the VHS tape of the recording can be transferred to DVD.  Looks like I have a new Christmas project!

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Here is the Youtube Link to the song Mary Did You Know

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A LOOK AT THE LYRICS

After the wonderful airy keyboard intro the song places us directly into Mary’s perspective and experience.  A question begins the interaction… “Did you know?” Mary is asked.  What are you thinking as you hold this child?

But the brilliance of the song is greater as the question indirectly extends beyond Mary to the listener… what do you, the listener, think Mary knew as she held the baby?  Does the listener think she has any inkling of who Jesus is and what his life will be like?  How does a God-man act?  How does one mother a Messiah? 

We know she understands that something miraculous has happened. She knows the God has brought the Messiah into the world through her womb.  But how the purposes of God will be played out… what can she know?

 The incarnation is an awesome cornerstone truth of the Christian tradition and experience.  God come in the flesh… and who was holding this miracle in her arms?  Mary.

There are three verses and each ends with a creative, clever and rather poignant poetic turn.

The first verse ends with “This child that you delivered will soon deliver you”.   The cute maternal manger scene is flipped on its head with a marvelous play on the word “deliver”.  Mary who is the source of human life for the babe is asked if she realizes that the role of life-giver will in the end be profoundly reversed.  Mary must be “delivered” from death and brought into eternal life.  Mary must be saved by the same Messiah who was birthed from her womb as we all must be.

The second verse reminds us that the incarnation is real.  Behind the vulnerability of a child is the God come in the flesh. But even more so the immediacy of God with us is seen in a face… the face of the child, the face of God.

The third verse is the coup-de-grace. Each line progressively expands on who Jesus is and how awesome He is… from “Lord of all creation” to “ruler of nations” to the “perfect Lamb” and redeemer of the human race to “Great I Am”.  This sleeping child is the one Eternal God with no beginning and no end.  The picture most have of the sweet baby Jesus in a manger, meek and mild, explodes now in majesty and awe before our very eyes!

THE SONG, PERFORMANCE AND ARRANGEMENT

The song has no real chorus other than the repeating “Mary Did You Know”.  The melody is beautiful and set in a minor key fitting the reflective mood it intends to create.  You will not forget those first four words and you will be singing them to yourself wanting to remember it all.

Many have performed this song, even Kenny Rogers!  A favorite of mine is the version by Kathy Mattea.  Nice acoustic guitars. But they all pale compared to Michael English.  His voice quality for the verses is perfect.  He does not try to “jazz it up” with many vocal turns and inflections, trying to “make the song his own”.  He trusts the song’s power and we are enthralled by singing as he gives us room to contemplate the lyrics.  If you have never heard the song before you will not be ready for the bridge.  Michael English is virtuoso here.  His voice soars and we listen in hushed amazement when at the end of the bridge he asks pleadingly… “Mary did you know’.   We are ready to encounter the third verse’s powerful theme.

The arrangement is the crown on this song for me.  Other songs have nice instrumental backing, good musicianship but usually the song is played straight forward.  Most church groups could perform the renditions.  This arrangement is special from the very first moment as the keyboard sets out an other worldly sound playing around the 4/4 beat.   The studio recording is hard to reproduce live.  The “open” space that is created by the keyboard drums and vocal is what captures a heaven has come to earth sensation.  Hard to reproduce that in a concert setting.

FINAL NOTE

Michael_English

One interesting note concerning this rendition involves Michael English’s fall from grace (as it were) in 1994.  Michael had just received four Dove Awards, including Artist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year when it was learned that Marabeth Jordan, with whom he had an affair, was pregnant with his child. Marabeth, who was a vocalist with the group “New Song” that Michael had toured with, would later have a miscarriage.  Michael’s wife of 11 years would divorce him. He would later sign a secular music contract, be taken in by Ashley and Wynonna Judd during his recovery period and finally re-emerge as a broken man healed by God. He would record the song “Healing” with Wynonna.  His testimony is featured in his autobiography “The Prodigal Comes Home”  He is currently the lead singer of the Gaither Vocal Group.  So this rendition might have fallen a bit under the radar for awhile after the revelation of the affair. 

But the song and the performance are priceless and are well-worth having in your Christmas collection. I’m glad to put it out there for those who have not heard Michael’s powerful vocals of “Mary Did You Know”.

Mary Did You Know link

Verse 1
Mary did you know
That your baby boy would one day walk on water
Mary did you know
That your baby boy would save our sons and daughters
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new
This Child that you delivered
Will soon deliver you

Verse 2
Mary did you know
That your baby boy would give sight to the blind man
Mary did you know
That your baby boy would calm a storm with His hand
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod
And when you kiss your little baby
You’ve kissed the face of God
Oh Mary did you know

Verse 3
Oh Mary did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation
Mary did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations
Did you know
That your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb
And the sleeping Child you’re holding
Is the great I Am
Oh Mary oh

Misc 1
(BRIDGE)
Ooh Mary did you know
Ooh ooh The blind will see
The deaf will hear
The dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

CCLI Song # 839225
Buddy Greene | Mark Lowry
© 1991, 1993 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)
Rufus Music (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management)

Friday Review: Eileen Graham “One of Those Girls”

This week I am happy to review a local artist, Eileen Graham, who this year released her EP “One Of Those Girls”.  Eileen performs in the Washington DC area previously with the band Noble Air but now has ventured out on her own. In fact she’ll be at Jammin Java on Saturday November 10.

“One of Those Girls” is her debut solo album containing four fresh new songs, all penned by Eileen and well worth a listen.

Eileen Graham Music

Eileen’s music web site describes her album as “an honest and simply done, piano-driven collection. Cozy like a cup of tea, fresh like a lemon. Produced by former My Favorite Highway lead singer, Dave Cook, each song is colored by delightful hooks and a wash of uncertainty, leaving listeners transfixed by Graham’s unforgettable blanket of a voice.”

What You’ll Notice

Unique Openings – What I noticed on first listen was that each song started with something new and fresh.  There were no standard pop arrangements or rock rhythms to start the songs.  I like that.  The first song starts with a Beatle-esque piano progression,  another with 6/8 acoustic, another with a piano chord progression underscored by a snare played with brushes and the last one starting with an urgent piano rhythm sounding like bells calling the listener to rush to see what has happened in 3/4 counterpoint time.

Well Crafted Lyrics – Each song is lyrically well-crafted to communicate clearly and effectively what the singer is feeling and wants to communicate.  The themes are not shallow and Eileen has a wonderful combination of down to earth lyrics and poetic pictures that draw the listener into wanting to understand what’s going on. When in the song “Glue” Eileen sings “everyone check your vitals” I sense my fingers reaching for my wrist to check my pulse.

Distinctly Wonderful Vocals –  One reviewer said, “Drawing comparisons to Feist, Imogen Heap, Ingrid Michealson, and Regina Spektor—as long as I’ve known her, her music has centered on her strong songwriting and distinct, powerful voice.  Ranging from breathy tenderness to full-volume, passionate melodies, Eileen’s music conveys a deep emotional and spiritual soulfulness that is an amazing thing to experience in person.”  The EP’s title cut “One of Those Girls” shows off Eileen’s range and use of falsetto which adds a sense of urgency to the question of what one really wants to be, what choices will a person make.

THE SONGS

One of Those Girls – This song is the EP’s theme song and Eileen’s most creatively ambitious.  She puts her vocal range to the test.  But it’s not for show but her wonderful voice drives the song’s challenge to lofty heights.  She leaves you no option of choice once she lays out the scenarios. What will you do?  Who and what do you want to be.  The song includes some nice background vocals for texture and guitar backup.  Since the song has no bridge I believe One of Those Girls is waiting for some creative orchestral arrangement to bring an added dimension so it can reach its full potential.

Trouble – One of my favorite songs on the EP, I love the acoustic intro that sounds like cut time but then evolves into 6/8.  Before you know it you’re hooked on the tune with ooo oh ooo’s and complimentary high register piano between the verses.  And soon your crooning along with the catchy chorus.  Eileen does a great job describing the classic bad boy attraction that girls can have playfully ending the chorus with  “But trouble I don’t mind if trouble is you!”

I Was Wrong – I don’t think I have ever heard this kind of theme handled so well.  The singer describes how she was deceived into thinking that everything was going well in a relationship.  But she realizes that things were not as they seemed, things were not “good”. When she sings “But I was wrong, I was wrong wasn’t I” I feel the confusion, the disappointment.  Musically the pre-chorus echoes the lament leading to a surprise falsetto… “Call me misguided” then returning back to the “I was wrong” lament… very effective and memorable. Every time I hear it I seem to want to gaze deeper into the singer thoughts.  She admits to being wrong but each time I wonder if she feels a bit hoodwinked.  Weren’t her intentions good?  Why must she take all the blame?  A very nicely crafted song.

Glue – Love the way this song starts with what I described earlier as bells urgently calling us like the distant sound of a fire alarm beckoning us to come and see what is happening. This is my daughter Sasha’s favorite song on the EP.  The song carries with it a strong lament, something is lost, something that held an important part of life together.   Eileen’s bio says that “spirited heartache drives this singer-songwriter’s soul-baring.”  Never more true than in this song.  Again her pre-chorus stirs our hearts in preparation for the refrain.  “We fear, we fear, I fear, I fear”  The author bares her soul and we are riveted.  “Was she our glue alone. out of this room and off of this mountain.”  Powerful stuff, not your normal pop song offering methinks. A beautifully composed guitar part leads us into the bridge where the question “why” though not spoken is asked.  I keep hearing overtones of slavic melodies in minor key washing over the song making the lament stronger and beautiful.  Yes this is a lament but the beauty in the midst of tragedy seems to shine forth.

Present & Future

Please support this emerging artist by purchasing her mp3’s at iTunes or on Amazon.  I bought the CD and have also downloaded the songs onto my Kindle Fire.  At under $4 you have little to lose and so much to gain.

Link to Amazon mp3 – Link to iTunes download

Just announced Eileen will be performing on Saturday November 10 at Jammin’ Java’s. I’ll be there! You should be there too!

INFO Link: Eileen’s FB Music

I really think she would be an excellent addition to one of the We are the 9 shows in the area.

Finally I would love to hear some complementary fun, footloose and free songs.  I’m sure she’s written some.  I’d love to see how they would come out.  She’s quite a talent so they would not be brainless pieces of fluff but songs of delight in genuine relationships and in God’s creation.  Also there are some covers that she would do fabulously on.  Looking forward to catching her live soon to see what she’s up to musically since the EP was released.

Some Links

http://chestermagazine.com/in-concert-eileen-graham-james-tompkins-at-winchester-book-gallery

http://vienna.patch.com/events/alexz-johnson-cd-release

http://www.reverbnation.com/eileengraham

Friday Review: Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

(You may skip my personal opinion piece PREFACE if you like and go straight to the review without skipping a beat! Though I believe I make an interesting point or two leading up to the REVIEW.)

PREFACE: Calvinism & The Mystery People

I have noticed over time that there seem to be two main categories of people (among many) in American Christendom. Not to over-simplify too much but one category would be those who are Calvinists and the other category contains those who are not but don’t care a dribble about delving deep into the theology, thinking it’s all a waste of time and just a striving after the wind. Who can know the mind of God in this?  The mystery of God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will is fine enough for them. For lack of a better name I’ll call them the “Mystery People”!

The majority of US non-Calvinists might be carelessly classified as strictly Arminian but that might not be a very accurate or satisfying description.  Some of them would actually be called Semi-Pelagian not knowing what that meant, though some might be fine with it once this category was described to them.

With 20% of the nation claiming NO religious affiliation many Christians are wanting to move to more solid scriptural high ground.  Whether it is too much vagueness, too much political correctness, too much seeker sensitivity, too-much post-modern deconstructionism or just plain too much fluff they’d like stronger Biblical teaching that is not just rehashed fundamentalism.

So some have chosen to look again to Jonathan Edwards and revisit the Puritans for safe harbor… they are called by various names, The New Calvinists, Piper-cubs (after Minneapolis Baptist Pastor, Author and Passion Conference speaker, John Piper) and the best of the lot, “The Young, Restless and Reformed”.   Not all Calvinists are in this camp.  Many quiet and content Calvinists exist but there’s a new breed, the New Calvinists and they evangelize their theology much as one would the gospel.

I came from a church which was wonderfully started in 1979 or so and had not declared its allegiance to any camp (at least not to my foreknowledge) but was nonetheless (after affiliating itself with a larger group to form an non-denominational denomination) transformed into being Reformed with a charismatic emphasis church.

I was never able to fit myself into that camp even though I drenched myself in John Owen’s thoroughly probing and provocative work, “Sin and Temptation”.  Jonathan Edwards wasn’t too bad as he allowed for the operation of the Spirit of God in his midst.

My dilemma was compounded by the fact that I don’t make a very good “Mystery Person”.  I am too inquisitive and yes, too contentious to settle for a vague premise.  And being a pastor doesn’t give you much wiggle room in the non-committal approach to theology!

So in my journey to define what I really am and to understand what a real classical Arminian believes I came across this wonderful book by Roger Olson.

REVIEW

Due to a possible lack of understanding or significant judgemental bias Calvinists have often lumped Arminianism in with Semi-Pelagiansim.  There has been more than a few times where Calvinist leaders have called Arminianism heresy. (not to be confused with being an “Armenian”… your born one of those!)

I am not sure how I discovered the  book “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities”.  But when I did it was a breath of fresh air. I was elated.  The book was both informative and easily understood.  A good introduction to Classical Arminianism.  As one review said,

Very well written description of classical Arminianism. Every christian interested in theology and soteriology in particular should read this book. Even if you don’t hold to same views as classical Arminianism you should read this book so that you actually know what being an Arminian means.

Olson divides the book into Myths instead of Chapters:  Myth 1, Myth 2, Myth 3 etc.  Ten Myths in all.  Myth 1 is titled “Arminian Theology is the Opposite of Calvinism/Reformed Theology”.   Other interesting titles are Myth 4: “The Heart of Arminianism is Belief in Free Will” and Myth 9 “Arminian Theology Denies Justification by Grace Alone Through Faith Alone”. 

For a full list of the 10 Myths you should check out this link:  10 Myths. It links you to Amazon so you are ready to purchase the book if you like.

A few other concepts that one might not know are part of Arminian Theology… Total Depravity is a concept integral to Arminianism… Prevenient Grace is integral.  A person cannot come to Christ with being drawn first by the Father… and finally God’s Divine Sovereignty is not subject to Man’s Free Will.  God is God and can intervene in any way he wishes.  Just because an Arminian does not subscribe to the notion of Irresistable Grace he can adhere to a God who as omnipotent and sovereign and able to direct the affairs of man as he desires.

In each Myth section, Olson gives the reader a brief overview into the perspectives of authors, teachers and proponents of Arminianism.  You will learn who has written concerning each topic and how they compare with the writings of Arminius himself.

Personally I really benefited from Olson’s defense of Classic Arminianism.  It clarified what I believed and gave me confidence in articulating Classic Arminian Theology.  It also increased my desire to learn more. While at my former church I was not encouraged to study and compare the two systems of thought.  Thank you, Roger Olson for bringing clarity and answers to the issues I struggled with before.

I recommend this book to anyone who has encountered Calvinism and wants to understand the biblical alternative of Classsical Arminianism, to the Calvinist who wants to understand true Arminian Theology and not the caricatures that are communicated in the general public and among Calvinists themselves.  It just not Free Will vs Sovereignty.

AUTHOR

Roger E. Olson (Ph.D., Rice University) is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is the author of The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity (both InterVarsity Press) and The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology (Westminster John Knox).

Friday Review: “Young Love” Mat Kearney

Dang!  Is this album good or what!

Excuse my exhilaration but I was taken by surprise one day when my daughter popped this CD into the car stereo and I was flooded with song after song of quality tunes arranged with the most amazingly tasteful and excellent production. As the songs floated by the track “Down” came on and I quickly blurted out… “I’ve heard this one on the radio!  So that’s who the singer is!”

This album came out in late summer 2011 and is his third offering.  It debuted at #1 on the Billboard Rock Album Top 100 chart and the Christian Album chart. The song “Down” currently sits at #21 having been on the Christian charts for 23 weeks. As you can see I am late to the party!

The music is straight pop rock with a little bit of smooth rapping (not pretentious, he knows he’s no Eminem!).  Every one of the 10 songs on the album are keepers. I just put the CD or set my MP3 player to “Young Love” and let loop through.  If you are iTunes addict you can get two extra songs “Runaway” and “Two Hearts” which give you 12 awesome tunes (too bad Amazon cannot match that extra offering)

A number of specifics to like:

  1. Mat’s voice – smooth and distinctive I could listen to him sing commercials.  Using a smooth rap style and falsetto in the right places effectively.
  2. Production – already mentioned that but I can’t emphasize it enough.  Mat’s songs are simple with a few tasty diversions but by and large just pop songs.  The producers, Robert Marvin and Jason Lehning have done a fabulous job.  I’m a musician and in particular a bass player so I usually get hooked by habit on focusing on the bass playing while enjoying the song.  But the mix of the bass and drums and the added instruments both subtle and pronounced leave me soaking in each song as a whole.  The piano at the end of “Chasing the Light” is a tasty example of their work.
  3. The Rhythm Section – this group creates all the right rhythmic interpretations for each song.  Being simple the songs need to stay away from trite interpretations and though the drums and bass and percussion are not complicated or overly innovative they were work very well to back up Mat’s nice lyric work and melodies and of course his singing style.
  4. Strong lyrically – nothing too profound but solid.  “Ships in the Night” stands out.  “Rochester” tells the story of his growing up.  His humor comes through wonderfully in “She Got the Honey” and “Young, Dumb and in Love”.  The latter could have been a corny throw away song but the arrangement keeps the song a solid contributor on the album. “Count on Me”  has the cute children’s refrain of 1-2-3, A-B-C that again sounds adult smooth and not too kiddy cute.
  5. Wide appeal – my entire family sans two married sons away from home love the album.  This includes Tessa whose main love is rap, Sasha 19 who turned me on to the CD, Tony 27 who is a Hillsong United and Mumford & Sons fan and me, old rocker and my wife Nora who likes Michael Jackson and Natalie Cole (and Chris Tomlin). 
  6. Strongest songs – “Ships in the Night” (subtle rap, strong emotion and great refrain) “Count on Me” (strong melody and nice chorus)  “Down” (single on the radio with a great beat and a wonderful and memorable chorus) “She Got the Honey” (like the touch of reggae)
  7. Enduring Longevity – Seems I don’t tire of this album like some others I have liked initially.  They are like cheap chewing gum, strong flavor initially but soon you feel like your chewing on your tongue or a piece of a carnival balloon!  But not this offering!

Well got to go… I need to excuse myself to queue up this recording it’s available in vinyl too!).  It’s like writing about food… pretty soon you’re in the kitchen rummaging around!  So treat yourself to a fine musical helping and by all means… Enjoy!

Friday Review: “The Deepest Waters”

2012 Carol Award Winner for Best Short Historical Fiction Novel

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Let me introduce you to author Dan Walsh.  He’s written 6 very good books (he’s got 3 awards to show for it and the awards cover only his first 3 books! The others will be up for awards later).  Dan is currently working with Garry Smalley on a forthcoming book series.  His forte is historical fiction and he does a lot of good research and makes each era he writes about come alive.  His characters are interesting and accessible and his story lines intriguing.  Often he will catch you off balance with a twist or turn in the story line.

I met Dan and his wife Cindi over 25 years ago when he was a Pastor from Daytona Beach visiting Fairfax, VA.  They had come to learn what they could from the leaders of a young up and coming church.  They were an excellent couple who had true sincere hearts for God and a great love for people.  And a hunger to learn and grow.

 My wife Nora and I had the privilege of connecting up with them a number of times since then.  It was great to get to know them over those years. Yet I was quite surprised when I heard he had retired from pastoring and took up a long desired career in writing historical fiction.  I never knew. How could this be?  How would a former Pastor do writing what would be considered what some called “romantic” novels?

CAROL AWARDS 2010 & 2012

I’m happy to say that Dan has found his 2nd career and has successfully carved out a niche for himself as a talented wordsmith.  He wrote his first book, “Unfinished Gift” in 2009 with Revell Books.  In 2010 Dan won two Carol Awards, one for the best new author and a second for the best short historical fiction novel for his debut work.

The Carol Awards are given out each year by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)  to recognize the best Christian fiction published in the previous calendar year.  Dan followed “Unfinished Gift”  with a very successful sequel called “Homecoming.”  This short historical novel was well received gaining a 4 star rating on Amazon with comments like this. 

“Dan Walsh knows how to write a story that grips you and holds on to you until the very end.”

In 2011 he published his 3rd historical novel called “The Deepest Waters.” This month ACFW announced this book as the winner of the ACFW Carol Award for Best Short Historical Fiction.  An amazing start to what appears to be long and prosperous career as an author.

2010 Winner – Debut Author
The Unfinished Gift – Dan Walsh (Revell, Andrea Doering – Editor)

2010 Winner – Short Historical
The Unfinished Gift – Dan Walsh (Revell, Andrea Doering)

2012 Winner – Short Historical
The Deepest Waters – Dan Walsh (Revell)

Dan has been quite prolific after his first three books.  He penned the following:  (stars = Amazon rating)

  • “Remembering Christmas” (Sept 2011, – 4.6 stars),
  • “The Discovery” (April 2012 – 4.7 stars)
  • “The Reunion” (Sept 2012 – 4.8 stars) 

 THE REVIEW OF “The Deepest Waters”

The Story Line – What began as a fairytale honeymoon in 1857 for John and Laura Foster aboard the steamship SS Vandervere becomes a nightmare when a hurricane causes their ship to sink into the murky depths of the Atlantic. Laura finds herself with the other women and children aboard a sailing ship while John and a hundred other men drift on the open sea on anything they could grab as the Vandervere went down. Suspecting her John is gone but still daring to hope for a miracle, Laura must face the possibility of life alone–and meeting her new in-laws without their son if she ever reaches New York”.   
  What you’ll like – Amazon says – Readers will be holding their breath as they sail through this emotional and honest story of hope, faith, and love in the face of uncertainty. Talented author Dan Walsh skillfully tells an epic story through an intimate focus on two lost lovers. Inspired by real events, this moving novel will capture the hearts of all who dive into its pages. 
 
Here’s some more things I found noteworthy
  • History – Dan does a wonderful job of bringing to life pre-Civil War America for the reader especially New York City and Norfolk.  I really enjoyed his handling of the time period including the side story of the slave, Micah.
  • Inspired by actual events the story is inspired by actual events. The ship of inspiration was the SS Central America (pictured above) which Dan did a lot of research on. This always adds credence and believabililty to a story.
  • The Ship Diagram – Just in case you’re a “Landlubber”, Dan includes the drawing of a ship of that era with descriptions of each section to help you to not feel lost at sea!
  • The Story – Who wouldn’t love to read “Titanic” with a happy ending!  Well done!  Also the note from John with the surprise revelation was a very nice touch adding tension to the story. The story is well paced.  Though it does focus on the romantic side of things, us guys will enjoy the shipwreck descriptions and by the time they are both salvaged we are hooked!  Can’t put the book down after that!!
  • The Characters – Dan does a splendid job of making his characters real, he gets you emotionally invested in them and you’re happy for that.  Writing Micah’s section in a different style reflecting the way he would speak and think was a nice touch.
  • Length – In our hustle and bustle 21st Century rat race we are sometimes looking for something that won’t take us forever to finish.”The Deepest Waters” is a quick read yet doesn’t lose any depth in the story or characters in shorter length of 287 pages in fairly large print.
  • Other Reviews – Doing a Google search of the book reveals more than 7 pages of sites reviewing this book… with nothing but praise for it. 

I am very pleased to introduce you to Dan Walsh and all his wonderful books especially his award winning book, “The Deepest Waters”.

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