Thursday, January 16, 2014

Country Faith: 56 Reflections from Today’s Leading Country Music Stars



A coffee table book for the country music fan

Country Faith: 56 Reflections from Today’s Leading Country Music Stars
Compiler: Deborah Evans Price
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 128

Early in the twentieth century, F. W. Boreham, an extraordinary communicator, commenced a unique sermon series on alternating Sunday nights titled “Texts That Made History.” These carefully crafted messages extended over the course of 125 Sundays, eventually filling five books. In each one, Boreham expertly traced the impact of Bible verses on historical figures, including famous fictional characters. He identified a verse in each life that animated and enriched their existence.

Now flash forward to today. Country Faith in a remote way could be likened to a relative of that historical series. This book documents the profound influence of Bible verses in the lives of country music stars. From the lesser known to well known artists, including Carrie Underwood, Josh Turner (who also writes the foreword), Wynonna, Charlie Daniels, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Sara Evans, each person provides an abbreviated testimony of the ongoing impact of a particular passage.

Anywhere from one to four paragraphs are framed by a beautiful portrait of the artist and exquisite graphic design. It only takes a minute or two for each reading. Together they function like an evangelistic tract. Give this to a country music fan that may have only a casual interest in the gospel. Leave it out in your home for someone sitting down to relax. The attractive cover invites inquiry.

Sharing the gospel is more than afterthought. The book ends with the complete text of the Gospel of Mark, including a brief introduction.

Due in part to this being a gift book, the writing lacks the depth of a devotional. Those wanting something more than the superficial will need to look elsewhere. Even so, this works well as an evangelistic and/or inspirational tool for those without faith or those looking for some quick refreshment.  

Perhaps this could become a series of its own, with the next volume surveying the testimony of the Bible’s impact on rock stars. With greater detail, such might be a welcome addition.


Michael Dalton

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

So We Would Know - Treva Blomquist



Treva Blomquist adapts ancient verse to make them sound like folk anthems.

So We Would Know
Artist: Treva Blomquist (www.trevamusic.com)
Label: Independent
Length: 11 tracks/36 minutes

The words in hymns often register a responsive chord. They communicate in language that is not as common. Though this makes them less intelligible to some, for me it’s like finding the pearl of great price. It is worth any sacrifice in initial comprehension to discover the treasure hidden in the field. Their sublime truths are like majestic mountains, often elevating the character of God and the work of Christ.

On So We Would Know Treva Blomquist adapts ancient verse to make them sound like folk anthems. Grace and grit make them more than a little accessible. There are a minimum of players, production and percussion, which is fine by me. It’s little more than Blomquist’s crystalline voice and mostly stringed instruments, giving this a decidedly Americana feel.

Just when I feel like she more than finds her niche on the rousing “Ain’t No Grave” and “Run to Meet My Lord,” both strongly bluegrass, she follows with a beautifully subdued ballad, singing ever so gently. This is the grace following the grit.

“Pass Me Not” is a stunning revelation along the lines of the former. It’s like hearing it for the first time. It’s not just a new arrangement, which she makes use of at times. The serene setting highlights eloquent singing.

These songs are rich in theology that comforts. They provide glimpses of God’s attributes. They give voice to those now dead, who speak again across the divide of years of “Thou Who was Rich” but for our sake became poor that we might experience His riches. The affirmation of who God is reassures that “My Anchor Holds”; it is not tenuous. Christ is “All that I Need.” Oh, “Take Me Savior” to the place “Where Freedom Speaks.”

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Live at the Gospel Coalition - Keith & Kristyn Getty


Worship enriched by theology

Live at the Gospel Coalition
Artist: Keith & Kristyn Getty
Label: Getty Music (www.gettymusic.com)
Length: 16 tracks/1 hour 6 minutes

If you appreciate modern worship, but have an affinity for hymns, Live at the Gospel Coalition combines the best of both worlds. The Gettys are among the few that write new songs that can be compared with classic hymnody. “In Christ Alone,” already a modern staple in churches everywhere, is their best known example. It’s included here and is a highpoint.

This and the others are rich in lyrical content that highlight diverse theological themes, some not as common in modern worship. Topics include mission, evangelism, compassion for the afflicted, rejoicing, confession, spiritual warfare, and more.

A smattering of classics: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” are here, but this is mostly new material written by the Gettys in partnership with others, among them Stuart Townend.

If you enjoy Celtic music, this CD will appeal even more. One of the highlights is a short instrumental jig at the end of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” Another track has a similar brief interlude. More of the same would have been welcome, but they fit in such a way as not to detract. Uillean pipes, penny whistles, mandolin and banjo take their place alongside the standard musical accompaniment. 

The tone is celebratory throughout, being far from somber. The opening “Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed” is triumphant in the best sense, focusing on the believer’s relationship to the risen Christ.

Another highlight is “Life High the Name of Jesus.” Here modern folk and traditional Irish music meet together. The music fuels the spirited delivery. 

The production brings Kristyn Getty’s lovely voice slightly forward to lead a congregation that sings loudly, only occasionally slowing down for quieter moments. 

Produced by worship veteran Ed Cash, this is decidedly contemporary. Even so, some of the classics are sung a cappella, which makes them sound traditional.

This release is part of what is known as The Gospel Coalition, a network of evangelical churches in North America, all committed to reforming faith and ministry practices along the lines of Scripture. The CD booklet includes inspirational thoughts from the likes of Tim Keller, John Piper, Alistair Begg and others. The mature, sound theology they espouse is illustrated in these songs. 

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