Album Reviews - CD and Digital

CD Reviews

Alicia Hernon: Beloved
Alma Mater: Music From the Vatican
Andrew Everson with the St. Joachim Music Ministry: I'll Follow
Annette Hills: Annette Hills Sings
Annie Karto: Refuge
Anuna: Sanctus
Bill Tonnis: Live To Love
Billie Tarascio: Send Me
Brian J. Nelson: Responsorial Psalms for Advent and Christmas
Ceili Rain: I Made Lemonde
Choir Monks from the Monastery of Simonos Petra: Hymns of Mount Athos
Christopher Dayett: Coming Home
Critical Mass: Body Language
Cyprian Consiglio: Awake at Last
Dan Schutte: Table of Plenty Anthology, 1985-2000
Danielle Rose: Pursue Me
David Patrick Bryan: Hope
Deacon Chuck Stevens: Harvest of Love
eXaudio: Time to Come Alive
eXaudio: Universal
FaithWorks: Awake, Awake
Father David Hemann: Psalms of David
Father Pablo Straub: Praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary with St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori
Ike Ndolo: We Are the Beggars
Isidore Bard: Roadsongs and Parables
Jackie Francois: Your Kingdom is Glorious
Janelle: What I Gotta Say
***NEW!*** Katholicus: The Calling
Kevin John Smith: We All Bow Down
John Angotti: Extraordinary Love
Kitty Cleveland: Sublime Chant
L'Angelus: Sacred Hymns
Lion of the Tribe: Lion of the Tribe
Lynne Clarke: Later On
Mark Forrest: Celtic Tales
Mary Selano and Company: Mercy Is
Matt Di Filippo: Without Words
Matthew Baute: Harmony and Balance
Matthew Baute: River of Grace
Michael James Mette: Always What I Need
Michael Joncas: God God of Past and Present
Nancy Krebs: Moved By God
***NEW!*** Noelle Garcia: Set the World on Fire
Paradox: Called to Mind
Patrice Egging: Cross His Heart
Peter Beirer: All Creation Groans
Phil and Sue Fortin: From The Heart
Priests, The: Harmony
The Richard Family: Calling You
Rocking Romans: Best of 2009
Rose Augustine: Special Songs For Special Times
Russ Rentler: Way To Emmaus
Sal Solo: We Cry Justice
Sarah Hart: Saint Song
Sean Clive: What I've Settled For
Sean Forrest: Haiti (I Want to Know What You Know)
Seasons: Which Way to Dublin Town
Sharmane: Leap of Faith
SpiritN3D: These Three Nails
Sister Penny Roker: Gladly Into The Night: A Way of the Cross
Stephen DeCesare with Christiana Rodi: Songs for the Journey
Steve Angrisano: Inescapable Love
Sue Peters: Beautiful Brokenness
Susan Bailey: Mary, Queen of Peace Meditation Guide and Sung Rosary
Timothy R Smith: Today is the Day
Tom Booth: Captured
Trish Foti Genco: Inspired Classics



Noelle Garcia: Set the World on Fire

June 30, 2010

Noelle Garcia: Set the World on Fire

Reviewed by Sally Bolderson

I’ve seen Noelle Garcia’s name in prominent places winning awards for her music and writing, however, I had never actually heard her music...until now. As I sat down to listen to her newest CD entitled "Set the World on Fire" I came to realize that this artist has the capability to do just that!

Noelle (who recently became Noelle Garcia McHugh) resides in Michigan where she and her husband are immersed in youth ministry. It is with this focus that she writes and shares her music to teens and adolescents regarding depression, self-image, cutting, and peer pressure. She has found that these are some of the biggest challenges to faith, family life, and personal development that they are facing day to day.

There is a great variety in styles throughout this CD ranging from meditative prayer in to jazzy, upbeat songs that make you just have to move in their rhythms in joy of our Lord and His goodness.

There were a few songs in particular that drew my attention. I felt as though Noelle was speaking for me in "Stay by My Side" where she is calling for God’s guidance and love in her weakness. The delivery is very powerful.

Another song "Song for Our Soldiers" is a song of dedication to our men and women who put their lives on the line every day for our safety and freedom. I, too applaud all of those persons who have dedicated their lives in these efforts. Having a nephew in Afghanistan, it hits close to home.

The visual of a small child in Noelle's "Like a Child" drew me into this song. It depicts a child leaving their crayons aside as their father comes home, the center of their life, and they run to him. In our fast paced world, we forget about the humble simplicity of a child and seeing the world through pure eyes.

Lastly, as I eluded to at the beginning, is the title track "Set the World on Fire." Noelle challenges us all to follow our Lord and put ourselves out there to make a difference in this world for love of Him. Noelle has the gifts to be a key player on this front. I highly recommend this CD to all ages, but know that it will be a draw for the teens that she works with on a regular basis.

This CD is available through World Library Publications at WLPMusic.com to get your copy today!

Visit Noelle Garcia's website at NoelleGarciaMusic.com.

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Katholicus: The Calling

June 10, 2010

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

By far, this is Katholicus' best album to date. If you love that classic rock sound, this is the CD for you. They mix their love of classic rock, progressive rock, with a touch of 80's metal to make them the Petra of Catholic music. One noticeable thing with this album--you can hear the words. Sometimes with rock, the music overpowers the lyrics, even with some Christian bands. But the words are important, and Katholicus wants to share their message, and they do so very powerfully.

"The Narrow Road" - Katholicus kicks off their newest album with this song about taking the narrow road to Heaven, rather than the "easy" road to hell. Adam Miller is by far one of the best guitarists in Catholic music, and his talents are quite evident here. This one will liven up that Altar & Rosary Society meeting!

"There's a Home" - In this world where we can think we have no place to go, we have a home--The Church is our home on earth. A lighter-tempo song with great melody and harmony. And I think I hear a Peter Frampton-like guitar solo towards the end. Love it!

"Where Have the Angels Gone" - "Where have the angels gone? Where are the miracles? How can we carry on? There's alot that can go wrong." We need faith in order to do God's Will, and sometimes it's frightening. But we are called to help others, so we need to trust in God. Great melody, great lyrics.

"Do You Hear Me" - Do we hear God calling us, or do we shut Him out? That's the message of this song--listening to God calling us. I can imagine this being sung live in concert.

"Pull Me Through" - A fast-tempo song, driving beat, great guitar and vocal harmonies. "We need Your grace to carry on, to pull me through". We need God's grace to do anything. Otherwise, we're lost.

"Carry on My Friend" - "Carry on in love, carry on in charity, that's the way it's meant to be." A song reminding us to live our lives faithfully to God and to each other, to carry on faithfully to the end, until we meet God face to face.

"Follow the Light" - I love the orchestral opening to this, then it expands to a powerful rock anthem. This song reminds of St. Paul saying that he ran the race, running towards the prize. Keep your eyes on the goal - follow the Light.

"Fire Life" - Great acoustic guitar solo starting off this song, a slower-tempo song. Fire means several things to us - the Fire of God's mercy, the fire that cleanses us in Purgatory, and the Fire of God's love that will never end. That's the fire we want to experience--His love for us.

"Reconciled" - ballad dealing with reconciliation and confession. This was Jesus' message throughout His ministry on earth--the Kingdom of God is at hand, and we need to repent and turn back to God. As with the other songs, the harmonies are tight, and the instrumentation is excellent. There's a little Spanish touch to the acoustic guitar on this song.

"The Crusader-Pilgrimage" - an instrumental track that highlights the excellent musicianship of Katholicus. This band can go from quiet ballads to all out rock anthems. Indeed, this song does that. A great example of people using their talents to serve God and His people.

"Heaven Forever" - start off with a quiet electric guitar solo with acoustic guitars guiding it. Then the vocals come in, singing about Heaven. Seek the Lord and His Kingdom, and you will live forever. That's what we're all aiming for! Katholicus brings this album to a close with a powerful song that will remind us that we need to keep our eyes focused on Heaven, our eventual Home.

Visit their website at Katholicus.com to get your copy today!

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Annie Karto: Refuge

June 10, 2010

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Annie Karto's third full CD project is called "Refuge". On this project, she gets help from some very talented musicians. Donna Cori Gibson, Kati Mac, and Victoria Faiella help with the background vocals. John Two-Hawks provides some Native American flute on the title track, "Refuge for You". Annie's producer, Barry Hartglass, also lends help with a number of different instruments. Violinist Abe Appleman and Cellist Dave Eggar also lend their talents several tracks.

There are several dedications on this album. "Song for Immaculee" is dedicated to Immaculee Illibagiza, who has drawn world-wide attention as a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. "Into the Air" is dedicated to Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN. "Pilgrimage of Love" was written for Father Peter Mary Rookey, OSM. "Refuge for You" is dedicated to Annie's sons, Pete and Ben. Annie also recorded Christine McVie's "Songbird" in honor of her husband, David Karto. The CD also includes three instrumental tracks of "Song for Immaculee", "Hail Mary, Gentle Woman", and "Into the Air".

I am deeply impressed with the quality of the music and the faith of the lyrics, whether they are songs written by Annie herself (Give Thanks, Christ is Passing By, Refuge for You, Song for Immaculee, Pilgrimage of Love, Eyes of Mercy, and Into the Air), or other artists' songs she recorded (Hail Mary Gentle Woman, Songbird, Let it Be, Prayer of St. Augustine). This is an album of faith - faith in God and the faith of us who are trying to be the best people God wants us to be. If you're looking for some time to spend in meditation with God, this CD is an excellent resource.

Track Listing

Give Thanks
Christ is Passing By
Refuge for You
Song for Immaculee
Songbird
Prayer of St. Augustine
Hail Mary, Gentle Women
Pilgrimage of Love
Let it Be
Eyes of Mercy
Into the Air
Song for Immaculee (instrumental)
Hail Mary, Gentle Woman (instrumental)
Into the Air (instrumental)

Annie Karto: "Refuge" - is available on Annie Karto's website at www.anniekarto.com.

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The Richard Family: Calling You

May 25, 2010

Reviewed by Sally Bolderson

The Richard family is not only blessed with the graces of a devout Catholic faith, but also of amazing musical gifts. They have taken this faith even further as a family who not only prays together, they also sing together. Mary and Louis Richard, with their children Nicole, 21, Cecile, 18, Catherine, 15, Daniel, 13, and Anna, 10, have found that this common love of music has brought them together in ways they never imagined to be possible. All members are vocalists as well as masters in various instruments. This culmination of familial love, musical love and the love of their Catholic faith has cemented a unique bond as a family.

The songs on this CD titled "Calling You" were written over 25 years of ministry by Mary and Louis. They were immersed in liturgical music during Charismatic Renewals of the late 70's and 80's. They live in Canada and share these gifts in many venues throughout Canada. One of their goals of this album is to raise money for a project spearheaded by a Catholic nun in Uganda. Their eldest daughter, Nicole, who accompanied an American Catholic lay evangelist on a mission trip to Uganda in 2007, met Sr. Mary Bernard Tumusiime, who runs an orphanage for children whose parents have died of AIDS or are too sick to care for them. Wanting to take the burden off overseas donors and the diocese of Torolo, Tumusiime was looking for funds to help build a rooming house that could provide ongoing income for the orphanage. Portions of the CD profits have been earmarked for this need. It gives a higher purpose in God's work by doing this.

As you listen to the CD you find the beauty in the voices from youngest to eldest. The blending of their voices in beautiful, pure clarity brings out a contemplative sound. If I had to pick my 2 highlight songs (although this is very difficult in this wonderful collection) I would say "Let the Children Come" which displays the joys of youth and Jesus' love as he invited them to come to him. My second favorite is a wonderful rendition of the "Hail Mary" prayer. I also must compliment the excellent instrumentation throughout. Although most of this album will bring you to a prayerful place, there are a couple tunes which will have you tapping your feet to their upbeat rhythms.

I look forward to more from this gifted family!

Find out more at their website, FamilyRichard.ca.

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Annette Hills: Annette Hills Sings

May 25, 2010

Reviewed by Sally Bolderson

This album, "Annette Hills Sings" is a collection of original songs with a few familiar songs, such as "Mary Did You Know", "How Beautiful", "Ave Maria" and "Holy, Holy, Holy". The theme throughout is that of hope, love, praise and encouragement. I was drawn to the original pieces in their messages of our need of ongoing centeredness in our faith. I felt a calm throughout with a minimal amount of instrumentation including amazing piano work that compliments her voice very well.

Ms. Hills has used her musical gifts for most of her life having her first solo at the age of 8 with "O Holy Night." In 1997 she pursued vocal lessons only to have these interrupted by a severe injury which required major surgery and rehabilitation. This experience led her to a ministry to residents of convalescent homes.

Highlights of this particular CD include "My Dear Child" which draws from the messages of our Blessed Virgin Mother at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina telling of the need for conversion of hearts to our savior, Jesus Christ. My personal favorite was an upbeat number titled "Moment of the Day." Gentle percussion background is a wonderful addition in this song that tells of living for today, having faith and trusting in our Lord to lead our way. I feel that this CD would appeal to all ages.

Visit Annette Hills' website at AnnetteHills.com.

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Lori Malvey: A Mother's Song

May 25, 2010

Reviewed by Sally Bolderson

"A Mother’s Song" is an offering by Lori Malvey telling the tale of a mother talking to her son as he prepares to start school for the first time. She contemplates the ups and downs of being a child and a mother’s role in this growth process.

Ms. Malvey’s music style is a very unique blend of country and folk music. And in the nature of these styles, it tells the story including the emotions and feelings attributed to the details of the song whether it be joy of childhood or pains of disappointment. And in that it includes the mother’s viewpoint as one who cares for the total well being of her child.

This song was recorded as a single available on iTunes with all profits going to support St. Joseph School.

Visit Lori Malvey's website for more details at LoriMalvey.com.

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John Angotti: Extraordinary Love

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Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

John Angotti's latest WLP project is a wonderful collection of songs written or co-written by John for a variety of purposes. Songs like "I'm Just Sayin'" was written for the LA Religious Education Youth Day 2010; "Fear is Not an Option" was composed for the Diocese of New York's Youth Conference 2009; "Hold On" was recorded for graduation at All Saints Academy in Naperville, Illinois.

The songs speak of issues of our faith in Jesus and how much we depend on Him in all things. The songs speak of standing up for our faith in tough times (Fear is Not an Option), trusting that Jesus is there for us when the going gets tough (My Door Is Open, In the Arms of Jesus), and answering God's call (Go Out in the World).

The music is top quality and something you definitly want on your mp3 player, CD player, or if you have an old car like mine, your cassette player. If you have an 8-track player in your car, well, sorry!

John Angotti music and his ministry are testimony to the faith he has and that he shares with those who choose to listen.

Track Listing:

1. Enter
2. I'm Just Sayin'
3. Deeper
4. In the Arms of Jesus
5. Fear is Not an Option
6. Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
7. My Redeemer
8. Extraordinary Love
9. My Door is Open
10. Seek and You Will Find
11. Hold On
12. I Survive
13. Go Out in the World

This album is being released through World Library Publications. Visit their site at WLP.JSPaluch.com.

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Andrew Everson and the St. Joachim Music Ministry: I'll Follow

May 4, 2010

Andrew Everson and the St. Joachim Music Ministry: I'll Follow

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Andrew Everson follows up his "Psalms and Canticles" CD with a new project, "I'll Follow".

My first reaction when I heard this CD was surprise at how good it is. Having worked with Catholic radio for several years now, I have found that sometimes when I get a CD from a church choral group, it lacks a certain energy. That is not the case with this CD. The various musicians and vocalist from St. Joachim's Catholic Church of Costa Mesa, California, shine on this CD of music, most of which was written by Andrew Everson, who lends his guitar and vocals to this project. The only non-everson songs are Omer Westendorf's "Where Charity and Love Prevail" and Steven Ottomanyi's "When Angels Sound The Trumpet Call".

Andrew's music is well-crafted, and he gives us a variety of songs here. Songs about following God's call (I'll Follow), Faith (Good and Faithful Servant, The Mystery of Faith), Easter (He is Risen), and others. I also like the unique arrangment of "Where Charity and Love Prevail". This is definitely a must-hear CD!

1. Give Jesus a Dwelling Place
2. Messiah!
3. I'll Follow
4. Good and Faithful Servant
5. Jesus!
6. From the Wood of a Manger
7. He Is Risen!
8. The Mystery of Faith
9. Come Holy Ghost
10. Glory Be
11. That We May Be One
12. Where Charity and Love Prevail
13. When Angels Sound the Trumpet's Call

Visit Andrew Everson's website at AndrewEverson.com

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Ike Ndolo: We Are the Beggars

May 4, 2010

Ike Ndolo: We Are the Beggars

Reviewed by Rob Ayoub

Ike Ndolo’s debut album We Are the Beggars features 11 powerful original tracks, alongside three refreshing and inventive covers. It is evident that Ike was mentored by the likes of Tom Booth and Matt Maher and this album jumps out and grabs you with both its intensity and its strong lyrical content that continually challenge us with a call to action. Songs like "We Are the Beggars" and "Awake, O Sleeper" pull at the conscience of the listener, nagging each of us to listen to the call of Jesus.

This album is also full of praise and hope--songs like "How Can I Keep from Singing" will have you singing along. “"Wade in the Water" is my favorite song on this CD – it is a new version of a classic spiritual that shows the full depth of Ike's musical background and abilities. This album is not a single style but mixes a background of ethnic and contemporary sounds to create a complete album.

In addition to traveling the country to lead others to Christ, Ike has a great zeal for missionary work, stretching from Mexico to as far as China. Ike has taken up the call to be a servant to those around him—through his art, through his music, through his life. The entire album is a prompting to answer the call of Christ and a reminder of the hope that is promised to all who follow that call.

Fans of The David Crowder Band, Hillsong United, Matt Maher, and Jackie François will want to carve out room in their playlists for this exciting new artist.

You can learn more at Spirit And Song's website for Ike Ndolo at SpiritAndSong.com/Artists/65022.

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Penny Roker RSM: Gladly Into The Night: A Way of the Cross

March 24, 2010

Penny Roker RSM: Gladly Into the Night--A Way of the Cross

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Sister Penny Roker, RSM, presents this special Way of the Cross that includes reflections, Scriptures ready by Mike Nolan, and music by Val Goldsack. Gladly Into the Night is especially for those who suffer from terminal illness or who are involved with end-of-life care.

From the website: "The journey from death to Life is one we must all travel. For anyone with terminal illness or involved with end-of-life care, re-tracing the stages of Jesus' walk to Calvary has particular poignancy."

If you or someone you know is dealing with terminal or severe illness or injury, this Way of the Cross is a deeply personal and spiritual look at the Stations of the Cross. The reflections from Sister Penny are especially helpful in dealing with the emotions of those who suffer.

You can learn more at Val Goldsack's website at ValGoldsack.co.uk.

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Brian J. Nelson: Responsorial Psalms for Advent and Christmas

March 24, 2010

Brian J Nelson: Responsorial Psalms for Advent and Christmas

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

As a parish organist, I am always looking for quality music to use at Mass. Brian J. Nelson has composed this series of responsorial psalms for use at Mass during Advent and Christmas. This recording features tenor David Adams and soprano Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins, organist Sunny J. Son, and the Liturgical Choir of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas.

These psalms are beautifully composed and recorded. While the music is composed for liturgical use, the CD sounds good enough to play other times as well. The interchange of the solo voice and the choir is something that I have always enjoyed hearing, and is cathedral-quality here.

Here is the track listing:

Let Us Go Rejoicing
May God Bless Us in His Mercy
Lord, Make Us Turn to You
Lord, Come and Save Us
Sing to the Lord a New Song
My Soul Rejoices in My God
Forever I Will Sing the Goodness of the Lord
Let the Lord Enter
Today is Born Our Savior
A Light Will Shine on Us This Day
Cry Out With Joy and Gladness
The Lord Has Done Great Things for Us
Blessed Are Those Who Fear the Lord
Lord, Every Nation on Earth Will Adore You
Blessed are They Who Dwell in Your House

Brian J. Nelson has composed other selections as well. Visit his website at NelsonMusic.com.

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Alma Mater: Music From the Vatican

March 24, 2010

Alma Mater: Music from the Vatican

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

"I am convinced that music really is the universal language of beauty which can bring together all people of good will on earth" - Pope Benedict XVI

This CD is a wonderful collection of eight original modern classical compositions that feature the Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome, conducted by Monsignor Pablo Colino, Maestro Emeritus of St. Peter’s Basilica and recorded in St Peter’s Basilica. The world famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays on all of the specially commissioned contemporary tracks, and was recorded at the iconic Abbey Road studios in London.

The recording also features the voice of Pope Benedict XVI reciting and singing prayers in Latin, Italian, Portuguese, French and German.

Simon Boswell, Stefano Mainetti and Nour Eddine are the three contemporary composers who have contributed the eight specially commissioned pieces of music for Alma Mater.

Most of the above is from Decca Records' website. This CD is a beautiful listening experience. These new compositions are beautiful and take you on a peaceful journey into the heavens.

Here is the track listing:

Sancta Dei Genitrix
Mater Ecclesiae
Advocata Nostra
Benedicta Tu
Causa Nostrae Laetitiae
Auxilium Christianorum
Regina Coeli
Magistra Nostra

Visit Decca Records' website at DeccaRecords-us.com.

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eXaudio: Universal

March 24, 2010

Alma Mater: Music from the Vatican

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Exaudio is a Latin verb, it means "to hear plainly; to hear favorably, listen to".

eXaudio's mission statement reads as follows: "We are a Christian rock band whose love of music and talent given from God has inspired us to write and perform songs. Our mission is to have our music inspire all ages to grow in faith, hope and love for God. We present you with the unique opportunity to invite us to perform for your faith community, assisting all to strengthen their love of Jesus...…and have fun, too!"

This mission statement explains how eXaudio takes their music seriously, yet still has fun with it. This CD, Universal is their debut CD. The lyrics of the songs reflect the faith of the band's members who devote a lot of time to their craft.

This CD contains 8 songs that cover a variety of topics like vocations, dealing with materialism, the Holy Spirit, and Mother Teresa.

Here is the track listing:

You're the One
Which Way is Up
Even If
The Call
Mother Teresa
Fortune & Fame
Come Now, Holy Spirit
The Greatest Thing

Find out more at eXaudio's website at eXaudioMusic.com.

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eXaudio: Time to Come Alive

March 24, 2010

Alma Mater: Music from the Vatican

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

eXaudio's sophomore released is entitled Time to Come Alive. This CD, released in 2009, features 12 songs that echo the band's desire to share their faith and to influence others to share their faith, and to have fun while doing it. Songs like "Time To Come Alive" and "Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength" will awaken the listener. Others like "Show Me the Way" and "Choose Love" help in pondering the deeper issues that we all tend to pray about.

Musically, as most artists' second projects do, this album shows the band members' improvements in the instruments and in singing and working together.

Here is this CD's track listing:

Time to Come Alive
Angels
Choose Love
Dancing With the Lord
Comfort Zone
Into the Light
Rory's Song
God is Good
Show Me The Way
Upon This Rock
Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength
Afraid

Find out more at eXaudio's website at eXaudioMusic.com.

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Matthew Baute: Harmony and Balance

March 24, 2010

Matthew Baute:  Harmony & Balance

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Matthew Baute takes a different approach on his fourth CD. This is an instrumental album, featuring nine original songs and one cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water. In a recent interview, Matthew told me the purpose of this CD is to provide the listener with a peaceful soundtrack to which one can meditate, pray, or just enjoy some quiet time.

Musically, this album definitely shows Matthew's talents as a musician and a composer. The songs are very well done and are truly inspirational. This project is self-produced, although Matthew did call on the talents of Warren Kahn of Banquet Studios in Sebastpol, California, for the final mastering.

This is definitely a good CD.

Track Listing:

1. Seeds of Renewal
2. Quiet Rain
3. Emerging Light
4. Bridge Over Troubled Water
5. Road to Clarity
6. Harmony and Balance
7. Unfolding Grandeur
8. New Life Whispers
9. Freedom Flight
10. Beyond the Horizon

Visit Matthew Baute's website at SongsForPrayer.com.

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Lion of the Tribe: Lion of the Tribe

March 24, 2010

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Lion of the Tribe, as they describe it, is a group of musicians dedicated to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through music, personal stories and thoughts.

They currently have six songs available, all of which can be downloaded it for free from their website.

All the songs are very well-written and well-produced. The music is uplifting and grabs your attention. I'm looking forward to more music by this group!

Here are the songs:

Forever
What I Live For
Surrendering
Teach Me
Walkin' In The Love
Glory Be

Visit their website at LionOfTheTribe.net.

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Fr. David Hemann: Psalms of David

March 24, 2010

Fr. David Hemann - Psalms of David

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Father David Hemann knew he wanted to be a priest at an early age. He also has been involved in music just as long, playing drums and the guitar. In 1992 he recorded his first CD, Let Nothing Trouble You.

His newest and sixth album project is entitled Psalms of David, and features 10 original compositions - it starts with the song Holy Presence. Fr. David takes the advice of St. Francis De Sales who tells us we need to come into God's presence before we begin prayer. Then we hear eight psalms put to music by Fr. David, and the Canticle of Mary finishes the CD.

The music on this album is a step up for Fr. David, bringing in musicians like Sean Conway on the Irish whistle, Kate E. Jones on cello, and Barbara Lepke-Sims on harp.

This is a wonderful project of psalms, and is definitely worth listening to.

Track Listing:

Holy Presence (Prelude)
Psalm 51 - Have Mercy on Me Oh God
Psalm 63 - God, My God, I Long For You
Psalm 139 You Search Me And You Know Me
Psalm 116 - I Love You Lord
Psalm 34 - Oh Lord My God, I Cry To You
Psalm 27 - One Thing I Ask
Psalm 131 - Lord, My Heart Is Not Proud
Psalm 23 - The Lord is My Shepherd
Canticle of Mary - Magnificat

Visit Fr. David's website at FatherDavid.net.

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Rose Augustine: Special Songs For Special Times

March 22, 2010

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Rose Augustine is a songwriting dymano. She has been writing music since 1982, when she was recovering from a serious automobile accident. Already a writer of poetry, she began to have ideas for songs for use at her church. And the songs keep on coming. To date, Rose has composed more than 300 songs on all kinds of subjects.

Over the years, she has put her music into various themed albums. This CD features songs for a variety of holidays and events, such as Advent/Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Patriotic, and Thanksgiving. The songs are well-crafted and performed by The Good Shepherd Singers who have sung on most of her projects. One thing that might enhance Rose's music would be the availability of sheet music for the songs she has written. I'm not sure if she has considered it, but that could be a possibility.

Here is the song track listing:

Come Emmanuel
Ring Those Bells
Celebrate
Across the Miles
Memories of Auld Lang Syne
Give Praise to the Risen Lord
Alleluia, He is Risen
Hosanna, Hosanna, Jesus Is Risen
With This Ring, I Thee Wed
This Sacrament of Love
Parents Wedding Prayer
Before God
Lord, Please Hold Them Close While They Cry
My Land of Liberty
I Thank Thee, Lord

Visit Rose Augustine's website at RoseAugustine.com. Rose's music is available on CDBaby.com.

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Michael James Mette: Always What I Need

February 27, 2010

Michael James Mette: Always What I Need

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

This is one of the most powerful debut albums I have come across in Catholic music. We talk about the desire to "raise the bar" in Catholic music. Michael told me in an interview I did with him for the Catholic Music Express that he wanted to do a very high-quality album, so he turned to producer David Smith of Icon Music Studios. The result is a project that is definitely worth listening to.

Michael wrote six of the ten songs on Always What I Need, and the music is designed to reach out and get your attention.

Song listing:

Know Love Serve
Always What I Need
Open the Eyes of My Heart
This is Our Lamb
Grace Like Rain
Where the Streets Have no Name
Consume My Heart
Prepare Me
Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
I've Got the Joy

I do strongly recommmend you listen to Michael and his music. You won't be disappointed.

Learn more about Michael James Mette and his music at his website, MichaelJamesMette.com.

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Steve Angrisano: Inescapable Love

February 27, 2010

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Spirit And Song artist and worship leader Steve Angrisano is back with a new CD that features 12 songs, 11 of which were penned by Steve, some he co-wrote with other artists. The music features the words of a man who is deeply and irreversibly and inescapably in love with God. That kind of faith is a great inspiration for others, and Steve shares that faith in his music and in his ministry as a worship leader.

The music on Inescapable Love is well-crafted and is filled with an energy that makes you want to put this in your car's CD player or mp3 player and crank it up!

The songs are based on the theme of God's inescapable love--no matter where we go, no matter what happens, His love is always there. Songs like "Pour out Your Love", "Come and See", "Falling Into You" show us that God's love is everywhere. "Plow Your Row" encourages us to share our faith as God gave it to us. We all have different gifts, different callings, and we need to deal with what God has given us, not worrying about what our neighbor has.

Learn more about Steve Angrisano at SpiritAndSong.com.

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Matt Di Filippo: Without Words

February 27, 2010

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Matt DiFilippo shows his remarkable talent on the guitar with this, his second CD of music. Matt uses the guitar as a means of expressing his love of God and his desire to serve Him. The strings are his voice as Matt offers prayer and worship to God through the instrument. That's how Matt recorded this CD; he sat down and prayed, using the guitar and his music as prayer, hence the title of this CD.

Without Words features ten songs composed by Matt, plus bonus tracks of two of his songs that were remastered with additional instruments.

I had the chance to speak with Matt during an interview he did with me on the Catholic Music Express, and I was impressed with his desire to share his faith with people wherever possible. He has shared the stage with other Catholic artists like Dan Duet and Fr. Kent O'Connor. Several videos are available on YouTube featuring Matt and some of these other artists.

You can learn more about Matt Di Filippo and his music on his page on MySpace.com/MattdiFilippo.

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Danielle Rose: Pursue Me

February 27, 2010

Danielle Rose: Pursue Me

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

This is Danielle Rose's last album, which she recorded prior to her entering religious life at a convent. Danielle has an Allison Krause-like quality to her voice, which is particularly evident in one or two of the songs that have a bluegrass sound. The songs on this project show the depth of Danielle's love for God, which shines through, giving the album a warmth and a deep sense of faith in God.

"In the Silence of the Heart" - guitar, violin, finding God in the silence, in the desert. Reflects Danielle's pursuit of God in her own heart.

"Pursue Me" - guitar, light percussion. A song asking God to "pursue me", to come into my life. "You stretched Your loving arms across the world into my heart." Sometimes we keep running away from God, trying to go after our own selfish prizes. God comes to pursue us, to bring us back to Himself.

"Nothing Compares to You" - light waltz. Unlike other songs with a similar name, this one is not about "you" going away and me being sad. Nothing in this world can separate us from the Love of God, as in the passage from Romans.

"Hail, Mary" - In honor of our Blessed Mother. The beautiful prayer to Mary expanded, a devotion to the Mother of God, mixed with the Doxology.

"Abraham's Offering" - a song written about the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. A song about true faith, obedience, and trust in God.

"Anointing at Bethany" - midtempo 6/8 song about Jesus' annointing with the expensive oil by the woman, as told from the perspective of the woman.

"Follow Me" - "If you lose your life for the sake of my name...", this is a song about God calling us to follow Him. "I call you by name, I call you my friend. From now on I call you a fisher of men." Beautiful choir arrangment on this one.

"Walk on Water" - song about Jesus' walking on water, the apostles' fear when they saw him, "Come to me and walk up on the water; Come in faith my grace will be enough. If you believe you come to know love's power, come to me and I will hold you up." The harmonies give the right touch.

"Psalm 139 (Wonderfully Made)" - "Lord, You search me and you know me." A beautiful setting of the psalm. A haunting piano accompaniment accentuates this song.

"Sing a New Song" - A definite Bluegrass tempo, "I will sing a new song, to a new song. I will sing a new song to the Lord. He has turned my mourning, turned it into dancing, silence ends in melody." Turning everything over to Jesus. This is the song that gives her that Alison-Krause-like quality.

"See You In the Eucharist" - a light ballad, a song about Jesus' True Presence in the Eucharist. Something that even Catholics need to be reminded about, that the Eucharist is not just a symbol of Jesus, it IS Jesus!

"Gates of Heaven" - A light bluegrass/folk song, duet with her father, Dr. Daniel Skorich. "...and if I never see you face again, we will meet at the gates of Heaven." Reminds me a little of some of the Irish ballads I've heard. Danielle said she cried for two hours after first hearing this song.

While we will definitely miss Danielle's music, she is being called to a different life. We offer our prayers for Danielle in her vocation in the convent. 100% of the royalties of this project will go towards vocations.

The CD can be purchased at the WLP Website: WLP.JSPaluch.com.

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Pardox: Called to Mind

January 6, 2010

Reviewed by Fr. Kent O'Connor

I think it would be safe to say that Paradox' CD, "Called to Mind," is not typical musical fare for Grapevine readers. This CD is neither gentle nor meditative, nor is it a rocking praise album. "Called to Mind" is a rap/hip-hop album with a positive message, sometimes with explicitly Christian/Catholic imagery. The artist known as Paradox doubles as a high school theology teacher, so his lyrics and music come from both real world experience and a professional knowledge of Catholic theology.

I must admit that I know nothing about the rap/hip-hop world and who are the "movers and shakers" in the industry. However reading other reviews of Paradox (which can be accessed from the Paradox website, ParadoxHipHop.com), it is apparent that Paradox has brought in some "heavyweights" for this album.

Probably most readers of Grapevine would not be interested in an entire rap album, but I would recommend that "Called to Mind" might be an opportunity to stretch one's musical tastes. Several of the tracks I found to be more "approachable," such as "Put 'em Together" (I find the hook to be quite catchy), and the sampling for "Let Your Life Speak" and "On Second Thought" to be really great. Lyrically, my favorite tracks are "Help Wanted," which is very playful with its rhyming and imagery (with a good message to boot), and "Ruined for Life," which is the most explicitly Christian track. Both could find a happy place in some high school/college retreats.

Please check out Paradox' "Called to Mind" on iTunes, CDbaby, or Amazon.

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Timothy R Smith: Today Is the Day

December 29, 2009

Reviewed by Rob Ayoub

Timothy R Smith's CD, Today is the Day, clearly illustates Timothy's passion to help parishes and organizations respond to the Church's Apostolic call to evangelization.

Tim has over 90 musical compositions published by OCP. His songs combine traditional and contemporary musical idioms that are easily accessible to both listeners and worshiping assemblies. Some of Tim's well-known liturgical compositions include: Voice Of Christ, Give Me Ears To Listen, O Mother Of Jesus, and In Every Age.

Today is the Day is a great liturgical CD, combining some very contemporary sounds with congregation-friendly melodies. It is an Easter CD, there are songs of mission, of conversion and of our baptismal call to make disciples. There are a number of responsorial psalms (which are my personal favorite inspirations for Catholic music). Songs like Top of Your Voice are not only liturgically appropriate but are very accessible musically.

I like the mix of music on this album. It's a fresh approach to liturgical music, and I feel like we need more music like this; so, music ministers, pay attention! There are numerous new Psalm recordings that I find fresh and upbeat. Just one example of this is the psalm Lord You Have the Words, Psalm 16. This is a common psalm that is appropriate for many Sunday liturgies but one that I've always felt was lacking in the variety of settings available to ministers.

I don't want it to sound like music ministers are the only ones who should listen to this CD--I recommend it especially to music ministers because it is challenging to find the kind of contemporary Catholic music that is contained on this album. This album is solid album for listeners who are looking for liturgical music that conveys a strong Easter message.

To purchase this CD, visit OCP.org.
Visit TimothyRSmith.com for more information.

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Choir Monks from the Monastery of Simonos Petra: Hymns of Mount Athos

December 1, 2009

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Mount Athos is a peninsula located in Greece - it's approximately 350 square kilometers, and the entire area is dedicated to God. There are twenty monasteries in this area. One of those is the Holy Monastery of Simon Petras, which was built in the 13th century and is dedicated to Simon Peter, the Apostle. There are approximately 60 monks here who came together to record this CD of hymns in the Orthodox tradition, all acappella.

You can learn more by visiting the website dedicated to Mount Athos HERE. They also offer a 6-CD-ROM tour of Mount Athos complete with the beautiful natural sound.

For additional information about Jade Music and to see a list of our albums and artists, please visit: MilanRecords.com.

If you are a lover of chant, or you know someone who is, you might consider Liturgica.com's gift idea. They offer a gift basket of foods made by monks of the Northwest that also include a CD of chant. Find out more at Liturgica.com.

Track Listing:

1/ O Virgin Pure (Agnie Parthene)
2/ O Give Thanks to the Lord
3/ Praise the Lord from the Heavens
4/ Terirem
5/ Doxastikon and Theotokion of the Polyeleos
6/ The Great Doxology
7/ I will Bless the Lord at all Times
8/ O Sing unto the Lord a New Song
9/ I will Praise the Lord with my whole Heart
10/ I will Exalt Thee, my God
11/ Megalynarion of Saint Simon the Athonite

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The Priests: Harmony

November 30, 2009

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

The Priests are back! Fathers Martin and Eugene O'Hagan and Father David Delargy have teamed up again to release their second album entitled Harmony, from RCA Victor/Sony Music Entertainment.

Last year's self-titled album broke the Guiness world record for fastest selling debut classical album. That project sold over 1 million copies in the first seven weeks, and is still in the Billboard Classical Album Chart. I expect to see this project on the charts very soon.

Some of this new album was recorded in the legendary Abbey Road Studios and features the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Oratory School Schola, Coro, and The Irish Film Choir. They have chosen a selection of classical favorites like Haydn's "Te Deum", Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus", plus hymns like "How Great Thou Art", "Amazing Grace", and more. The Priests have also composed their own piece, called "King of Kings", and have included it on this album as well.

In my interview with Fr. Martin O'Hagan, I found that these three priests are very blessed, not only in talent, but also in doing their best to keep grounded amidst all the fanfare they have been receiving. All three work as parish priests when they are not singing, and that work, plus prayer keeps their feet on the ground. Fr. O'Hagan

The track listing is as follows:

How Great Thou Art
Te Deum
A Gaelic Blessing
Amazing Grace
Bist Du Bei Mir (When Thou Art Near)
Benedictus
Stabat Mater
Laudamus Te
Ave Verum Corpus
King Of Kings
Lift Thine Eyes (From Elijah)
Silent Night
The Lord's Prayer
Bi Iosa Im Chroise
You'll Never Walk Alone

Harmony is available at Amazon.com as well as on iTunes.

Visit the official website of The Priests.

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David Patrick Bryan: Hope

November 8, 2009

Reviewed by Rob Ayoub

Our CD review this weeks is of David Patrick Bryans latest CD entitled HOPE. David hails from Englewood, FL and draws on a wide variety of musical experience and background, having played local venues all the way to Las Vegas. In 1991, David was blessed by a life-changing event and decided to show his appreciation to God and dedicated his music to the Lord. Davids 4th album is entiteled HOPE and it is aptly named as that theme flows throughout the album and is evident on numerous tracks throughout.

David is a truly international artist and has performed all over the world. One of the most interesting aspects of this album for me is the wide variety of styles portrayed throughout. Most albums Ive reviewed on the show tend to lean towards a single genre Celtic, folk, or rock pop but Davids album is the first where I hear a lot of elements of Latin music in addition to jazz, pop, and Celtic. Lyrically, this album has a straightforward message and his call to action is very evident. The album leaves you with no question as what were called to do as Christians.

Overall the album is upbeat. There are some slower tracks on the album such as Its love and The promise. Theres a lot of orchestration on the album soaring strings, horns, chimes, and more and my only criticism of the album is that sometimes its a little too much orchestration I think I would have liked to have heard at least a couple of tracks that were more acoustic and stripped down.

Overall, its a very uplifting album with a message we all need today and I commend David Patrick Bryan on his fourth album. If you are interested in checking out Davids music go to DavidPatrickBryan.com.

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Patrice Egging: Cross His Heart

November 8, 2009

Reviewed by Rob Ayoub

Cross his Heart is the debut album from Patrice Egging, and as strange as this may sound, Id have to say that Patrice is one of the most inspired artists that Ive run across. Thats not to say that any other artist featured on the show is any less inspired, but Patrices story and especially her music are recorded and inspired in a very unique way. When I heard the album for the first time, the sound and images were very contemplative and the music flowed beautifully and the title track from the album Cross his Heart is a representative example of Patrices style.

As I read more about Patrice and her music, thats when I realized just how inspired she was. Patrice sits at the piano and plays. The music you hear on the CD is improvised. Patrice admits that some of the songs do stick and she can come back to some of the songs. Others are simply spoken through her and are never heard again. This improvisational style is the key thing that sets this album apart for me. Many of the tracks on this album are very melodic and its amazing when you realize that many of these songs were played in a one hour sitting.

I have tremendous respect for Patrices fresh approach to music ministry. She does play for services and out in public, in fact I know she was at a conference in Dallas recently. I am personally of fan of improvisation and to hear this album to know the story behind it reminds me that all music is a gift. I feel like sometimes music ministers get so caught up in the recording process that they sometimes lose the energy and the spirit that brought them into music in the first place. Patrices music is a reminder to me as to what it means to be filled by the Spirit.

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Sue Peters: Beautiful Brokenness

November 1, 2009

Reviewed by Rob Ayoub

Our latest CME review is of Sue Peters debut album Beautiful Brokenness. Sue is a California born singer, songwriter, and worship leader. Sue makes her presence known in the industry with a unique blend of rock and pop, upbeat tunes and ballads. This inspirational collection of songs, which speak of human frailty, healing, forgiveness, and thanksgiving, were all written or co-written by the artist.

This album was produced and recorded both in Nashville and California by Andy Allen and Ron Robinson. The quality of this project far exceeds what one might expect from a debut album. There is a common myth about Catholic music many listeners claim that it doesnt sound professional enough - but albums like Beautiful Brokenness go a long way towards dispelling that myth. There is talent on this album, lots of great instrumental work guitars, bass and drums lay a solid foundation for Sues warm vocals.

Theres plenty of emotional and lyrical variety on this CD. Songs like Parce Domine, Sanctify Us, and Full of Grace all speak of mercy, grace, and forgiveness but they approach the topics in a heartfelt and personal way. The CD doesnt ever feel stale, each track being additional insight into Sues life.

If you are looking for a contemporary Catholic artist with a rock/pop sound that will keep you involved in the CD for start to finish then check out Sue Peters. Sue is in tune with contemporary music and has a very real story to share that can touch you deeply and still remind of the many blessings God gives us. Sues new CD and music can be found at SuePetersMusic.com (online store) and MySpace.com/SuePetersMusic.

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FaithWorks: Awake, Awake

November 1, 2009

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Featuring DEW, Lyrics by Stanley Jamieson
Music by Paul Griffin
Produced by Vision UK 2009 - www.vision-music.biz

The music for this EP was composed based on poems by 81-year-old Stanley Jamieson, who lives in the UK, and who has been writing spiritual poetry for many years. Paul Griffin encouraged him to set some of his poetry to music. Paul then took the music and created the instrumentation for the project.

Singing the lead vocals is Dew, a young lady originally from Tinidad, who now resides in the UK. She sings annually at the New Dawn Conference, a UK Catholic Festival, as well as other functions.

The songs reflect a variety of themes - "Awake Awake" is a praise song in honor of God, praising His Holy Name. The song "From Far And Wide" was composed for our Blessed Mother, Mary. There are two verions--the original and an acoustic version. The song "Temple" is a Eucharistic song, encouraging people to "Come into My Temple". "Come Into My World" speaks of our desire for God to come into our lives. "Angel" is a beautiful instrumental piece, with a guitar solo by Paul Griffin.

This 6-song EP is very well-crafted, and Dew's ethereal voice makes this a beautiful tribute to God.

Track Listing:

1. Awake Awake
2. From Far & Wide
3. Come Into My World
4. Temple
5. Angel
6. From Far & Wide (Acoustic version)

Visit Vision-Music.biz to learn more.

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Critical Mass: Body Language

October 25, 2009

Reviewed by Nick Alexander

How's this for counter-cultural? Critical Mass, a Catholic rock group based out of Toronto, has crafted their latest CD, Body Language using rock music--a musical genre notorious for reveling in salacious and lewd imagery--to demonstrate and instruct about the Theology of the Body.

For those unfamiliar with the Theology of the Body, it was a series of lectures given by Pope John Paul II, upon arrival to his pontificate, about understanding sex--in all its fullness--in light of the Catholic Gospel. George Weigel, the biographer of Pope John Paul II, called this series a "theological time-bomb" which would soon "reshap[e] the way Catholics think about our embodiedness as male and female, our sexuality, our relationships with each other, our relationships with God--even God himself." (Forward, Theology of the Body Explained, Christopher West).

Disseminating such knowledge to the level that a non-theologian can grasp its truths is hard enough for an author or a public speaker... but a rock group? Music has a language all its own, and popular music disseminates thoughts with a series of sentence fragmentsoftentimes speaking to the lowest-common denominator, building to a repetitive and hook-y chorus, with the option to incorporate a bridgean alternate melodic and lyrical detourif need be. Popular music today can be used as an effective teaching tool, especially when the music gives the lyrics a voicing that provides emotional depth to the cut-and-dry images contained in the lyrics.

Musically, Critical Mass is up to the challenge. After following this band for many years, I believe this is the best they've ever sounded. There is clarity and musicality in its guitar riffs, accompanied by solid production chops that are equal to what I hear on secular radio. The style veers from hard-rock ("Body is a Language," "No Consequence"), to joyous pop-rock ("Alone," "Walk You Home") to rock balladry ("Devotion") to praise and worship ("Body and Blood (Adoremus version)"). Regarding this last song, a reworking of an earlier song, it stands head and shoulders above the praise and worship musical landscape, improving upon the original with a wonderfully ethereal tone, and incorporating traditional Latin lyrics to the final product. I really appreciate it when Critical Mass lets it all out, taking musical chances and coming up golden.

Lyrically, David Wang and company have stretched their craft and raised the bar; there are stories here that speak to teenagers about the sexual permissiveness in society ("No Consequence"), the Steve Taylor-esque slam on artificial contraception ("Contraception Interception"), and the joys of committed celibacy ("Alone"). You may be hard-pressed to find a musical project that works this hard to shine the light of God's grace with this much minute detail in the darkened corners of our sexually saturated society.

Taking into account that this is Critical Mass's finest musical testament to date, with deep, detailed lyrics that are this faithful to a pertinent and applicable aspect of Catholic teaching today, I am hesitant to say that, to my ears, the marriage between lyrics and music do not entirely work.

One of the problems is that the melodies sometimes project an anger, a roughness, that runs contrary to the tone of some songs. Granted, this isn't a problem when singing about the corruption of today's media, or the problems within artificial contraception, but hearing the angry guitar riffs for "Friend" (a plea for compassion) and "Body is a Language", which lays the foundation for the glorious teaching of the Theology of the Body, is disconcerting. Not to mention that most of the lyrics are barely audible underneath the band's wall of sound (admittedly not a problem for those who have the liner notes on hand).

But even reading the lyrics and the liner notes, you read words that are more likely associated with PhD dissertations than in popular rock songs. Phenomenology. Phylogeny. Manichaeism. Pyres. There is a certain novelty in hearing such words used in a popular song format (in which the first of these words was vocally truncated into four syllables). In fairness, the band tries very hard to explain these concepts to the average listener in the liner notes; but it's still got a ways to go.

Even though I have reservations about the final product, I wish all bands choose to not play it safe, and take the educated risks that Critical Mass has done. They ought to be commended for helping advance Catholic music and raise the listener up with knowledge and wisdom of our faith. This is most especially true for the sonic blast that accompanied this theological time bomb of the Theology of the Body.

You can purchase Body Language at the Critical Mass website, CatholicRock.com.

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Sarah Hart: Saint Song

October 25, 2009

Reviewed by Fr. Kent O'Connor

Excellent production value, great songwriting, and lyrics based on spiritualities that are uniquely appreciated by Catholics, Sarah Hart's new CD, SaintSong from the spiritandsong.com label, is contemporary Catholic music at some of its best. SaintSong, is what it says it is; the words of the saints put into song. Even though these songs are best appreciated by those who have a devotion to the saints, I think that this CD would also have a much broader appeal. As most of the songs are based on prayers of the saints, the lyrics (especially the choruses) don't fall too far outside the "praise and worship" category. It could be a wonderful opportunity for Christians everywhere to discover the beauty of the saints.

The music of Sarah Hart is generally classified as folk/rock or folk/pop. I would simply call it delightful. The slick Nashville production, which I find sometimes drains the heart right out of a project, serves the album well. The instrumentations are rich and authentic.

I also personally love it when a CD has a concept and it is carried through the entire album, and SaintSong, for the most part, does just that. In the age when more and more music is purchased digitally one track at a time, it is nice to hear a CD that is really best heard in its entirely. With the enhanced CD including printable devotions to complement the songs, there is all the more reason to own a physical copy. The only misfire of this great concept is the inclusion of "Our Blessing Cup (Psalm 116)". Although King David's words might be well considered as words of a saint, this well-known "Mass psalm" seems out of place on this album.

SaintSong by Sarah Hart is available from SpiritAndSong.com as well as iTunes.

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Ceili Rain: I Made Lemonade

October 25, 2009

Reviewed by Rob Ayoub

Ceili Rain's album – I made Lemonade is the newest release from the Celtic Rock fusion group with the tricky name – Ceili Rain, meaning Music and Party Raining from God. This album is explosive and may just need to be added to the wake up list of albums that go hand in hand with that Venti Latte.

The first track on the album is representative of the rest of the album and is the title track.

Most of the tracks on the album carry the same high energy as I Made Lemonade; in fact, if there's any criticism of the album its simply that its so high energy and has so much going on that I really have to be paying attention and focused to listen through to the whole album. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I think many people will find that it's hard to listen to this album passively--then again, that may be a good thing as Ceili Rain's lyrics have a lot of messages about faith built in--songs like "Me-est me I can be", "God in there", and "Good Ol' God".

Don't let me give you the wrong impression--even though there is a definite Celtic Feel to the album in general a number of tracks have rock vibes to them. Songs like "Right on the Money" and "The King of Everything" are great examples of classic rock sounding songs. "Right on the Money" sounds very Lenny Kravitz inspired and these tracks round out the sound of the album.

Overall, this is a fun album. There's a lot of analogies in the lyrics and sometimes I found myself laughing at the visual images that come out from the songs. I could just see myself making a glass of lemonade after a tough day, and talking to some other artists and listeners I have found a mixed response, usually a "but Rob, its kinda silly"; but that simplicity and pure energy is what makes this album. To me this is an album about outgoing faith and simplicity; and, yes, sometimes that simplicity may come off a little corny, which maybe is why your host likes it. All I ask is for people to take a listen with an open mind.

You can find Ceili Rain at CeiliRain.com.

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Russ Rentler: Way to Emmaus

October 25, 2009

Reviewed by Rob Ayoub

Russ Rentler is a multi-talented musician, physician, and luthier - playing inspired pieces in a Celtic-folk style. Russ is passionate about acoustic music and plays a variety of instruments including: hammer and mountain dulcimer, fiddle, dobro, autoharp and bouzouki. He also started building his own hammer dulcimers and uses his own instruments on stage. Russ' latest CD is entitled Way to Emmaus and the title track is a beautiful retelling of what that meeting with Jesus must have been like.

The instrumentation is very rich on this CD. Being such a talented acoustic performer, the wide variety of instruments shines through on all the tracks. The title track shows some of Russ' tremendous arranging skills, but I think its especially obvious on the track "Sing of Mary".

Russ' music is phenomenally peaceful - but the depth of his lyrics is not to be overlooked either. Russ is a true storyteller through his music - he cites artists such as Bob Dylan, John McCutcheon and Walt Michaels as major influences in his style. I think his storytelling ability is highlighted in the song Jewel of the Caribbean telling of the hopelessness and faith that wells up in a man during a missionary trip to the Caribbean.

Russ is such a tremendously talented person and humble as well. If you like folk or Celtic inspired music, if you like lots of acoustic music and if you like music that weaves a tale, you will like Russ Rentler. Check him out at RussRentler.com.

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Phil and Sue Fortin: From The Heart

October 25, 2009

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

This is the sophomore release from the husband and wife team from Masachusettes. This album is focused a lot on the Liturgy, with many of the songs being new arrangements of the Psalms. Also covers some popular songs of the Church. The instrumentation on this CD is very well done, a very professional job.

Songs include:

"Open My Eyes Lord" - We are often blind to God coming into our lives. We need God to open our eyes, that we can see Him in our every lives.

"I Turn To You (Psalm 32)" - a nice version of this psalm of prayer.

"Only This I Want" - composed by Daniel Schutte, focusing our eyes on God and God alone.

"Refiner's Fire" - as a refiner burns away the dross to find the precious gold within, God burns away the sin to cleanse our hearts for Him.

"The Lord Is My Shepherd" which has a beautiful cello intro.

"Prayer of St. Francis" - An instrumental version of the Sebastian Temple classic. Piano and guitar take turns as the solo instruments.

John Michael Talbot's "Only in God (Psalm 62)", beautiful meditative song.

"The Lord Is My Light (Psalm 27)"

"Be Thou My Vision" - Starts out with a haunting acappella 1st verse - goes into instrumental from there. Song got its start in 433 AD Ireland, when St. Patrick defied the king's order and lit a fire on the night before Easter. The song was later turned from a folk song into the hymn we know now.

"Eye of the Storm" - contemporary song, trusting in God during difficult times.

"Taste and See (Psalm 34)" - Given a choir treatment.

"Hail Mary: Gentle Woman" - We hear many of the titles of our Blessed Mother, Mary, with the Carey Landry classic.

"How Can I Keep from Singing"

"The Path of Life (Psalm 16)"

Available on CDBaby.com.

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Alicia Hernon: Beloved

October 25, 2009

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Alicia Hernon comes from a very musical family. Her father led music at her home parish, her brother is Catholic artist Martin Doman. Alicia began singing at Mass, and later, at Franciscan University, she had the opportunity to develop her musical gifts, and began a career of teaching music at schools and in private lessons. Over the years, people asked her if she would ever record a CD. She finally decided that now is the time. The result: "Beloved", a collection of ten inspirational songs done with acoustic instruments like guitar, violin, piano, and flute.

"Cry of the Beloved" - An uptempo song based on the Song of Solomon, describing God as the King as we, His people, the beloved.

"Conquer Me" - a song praying for God to conquer us with His love, His mercy, His truth. Turning ourselves over to God completely.

"The Ring" - a beautiful song for weddings, this is a beautiful duet between Alicia and Martin Doman. Talks of the lifelong committment of love that marriage is. "The ring is the symbol of my love for you."

"You're the One" - this song is of a woman singing of the love she has for her husband. "You're the one for me".

"Talitha Cumi" - song of a mother, whose child has died. "Little girl, arise", what Jesus said to the little girl who died. Another verse is from the perspective of the child, who recognizes Jesus as the one who calls to her, "Talitha cumi".

"Up to the Moon" - I love you up to the moon, as big as the sky. The song is a mother singing of her love for a child, watching a child grow "like a beautiful tree"..."You'll always be my little child".

"As I Kneel" - A song for Mary, with a little girl singing on this with Alicia. This song appears in the "Canticle" hymnal at Franciscan University.

"Give Thanks to the Lord" - more uptempo, with choir, "Give Thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever". Great contemporary arrangment of the psalm.

"Maria" - I first heard of this song in the Canticle hymnal (used by Franciscan University). Alison wrote the songs several years ago during a visit to the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. On her blog, she writes: "I remember perfectly the moment that the idea for this song came to me. I was at the annual March for Life in January of 1992 with other students from Franciscan University and we were visiting the National Shrine in Washington DC. I was walking around the catherdal praying and looking at all the beutiful architecture that drew one's mind to spiritual realities. I noticed around the top of one of the arches there were written the titles of Mary. "Star of the Sea", "Tower of Ivory", "Vessel of Divinity".... and I just started thinking and singing to myself right there in the church."

"Scripture Medley" - Alison gets the kids involved in this one, with a song to help kids in learning Scriptures. A great way to help the young ones to learn about the Word of God.

A very well-produced project, the musical background is very professional, a great debut CD!

The CD is available from her website at AliciaHernon.com.

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Anuna: Sanctus

October 25, 2009

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

World-renowned Irish choral group Anuna is back with their new CD project, "Sanctus". Four of the songs are composed by Michael McGlynn, founder of Anuna. Some tracks were previously released, but the newer recordings were done at St. Peter's Church in Drogheda and features Anuna's exquisite performances.

Anuna had a brief bit of fame providing choir work for the original Riverdance video. They have since returned to their unique style of music, performing many early works; not just from the Church, but secular songs as well. This CD, however, showcases some of their best spiritual works.

Tracks:

"Crucifixus" - composed by Antonio Lotti. From the Nicene Creed, in Latin "Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato: passus et sepultus est." Translated, "(He was) crucified even for us, under Pontius Pilate: (he) suffered and was buried."

"Nobilis Humilis" - composed by Michael McGlynn.

"Agnus Dei" - [From "...and on Earth, Peace - a Chanticleer Mass"] - composed by Michael McGlynn.

"Mariam Matrem Virginem" - Translation, "Praise Mary, the Virgin Mother" from the "Llibre Vermell de Montserrat", the "Red Book of Montserrat", a manuscript collection of late medieval songs from the 14th century. No composer is identified for this and the other songs from that manuscript.

"Victimae" - composed by Michael McGlynn.

"Miserere Mei Deus" by Gregorio Allegri. Miserere, also called "Miserere mei, Deus" (Latin: "Have mercy on me, O God") by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, is a setting of Psalm 51 (50) composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during matins, as part of the exclusive Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week. It was the last of twelve falsobordone Miserere settings composed and chanted at the service since 1514 and the most popular: at some point, it became forbidden to transcribe the music and it was only allowed to be performed at those particular services, adding to the mystery surrounding it. Writing it down or performing it elsewhere was punishable by excommunication. The setting that escaped from the Vatican is actually a conflation of verses set by Gregorio Allegri around 1638 and Tommaso Bai in 1714.

"O Maria" - composed by Michael McGlynn.

Anuna's website is at Anuna.ie. CD's can be purchased from their website or at Amazon.com.

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Kevin John Smith: We All Bow Down

October 25, 2009

Reviewed by Jim Logue, Jr.

Kevin John Smith has been involved in music for more than 25 years, through years of work with the Minnesota Opera, Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens, and has recorded jingles and voiceovers for broadcast. He is also one of the founding members of internatinally-acclaimed group Voice Trek.

Now Kevin has recorded a solo CD: We All Bow Down. This CD features ten songs that showcase his strong vocal talents. The album is produced by Darren Rust and includes musicians Tommy Barbarella and Sonny Thompson, who have worked in the past with Prince and Janet Jackson.

The purpose of this CD, the songs and the styles, is to lead the listener through life's journey. Songs include Michael W Smith's All I Want, thanking God for everything we have; Lenny LeBlanc's We All Bow Down, offering praise to God; Michael Card's El Shaddai and The Nazarene; Josh Groban's Remember When It Rained; DeGarmo & Key's In His Love; Twila Paris' How Beautiful; Julie Hoy's Wait For the Moment; and Brenda Russell's The Last Day.

The songs all offer praise to God, express our trust in His care, and the hope of one day sharing eternal life with Him. Kevin gives a truly inspired performance with a solid musical background to his voice.

You can learn more about Kevin John Smith at his website KevinSings.com.

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Bill Tonnis: Live to Love

September 24, 2009

Reviewed by Fr. Kent O'Connor

There is a lot to love in Bill Tonnis' second album, Live to Love. A real highlight of the CD is listening to the exceptional guitar work of Bobby Fisher (who also produced the CD). His great hooks and solos (along with all the other instruments he plays on the album) bring an added dimension to Tonnis original compositions. The arrangements and backing vocals are excellent and the production value of the CD is good. I found Tonniss unique voice, while perhaps lacking universal appeal, to be very engaging, and it served the music well. My favorite track, hands down, is How Wonderful to Me (track 9). It is one of the loveliest songs I have heard in quite some time.

The biggest weakness of the album is the lyrics. Too often it felt as if Mr. Tonnis wrote to the rhyme. Sometimes he sacrifices faithfulness to Scripture and good sentence structure for the sake of the rhyme. I would have liked to hear Mr. Tonnis either dig deeper to find better rhymes (some of his rhymes dont even rhyme), or write songs that have no rhyming pattern at all. This might have also eliminated the singsong quality that occasionally appears in his melodies.

Many people have been touched by the ministry and music of Bill Tonnis, and I am confident that Live to Love will serve his ministry well. The songs Come to Jesus (track 2) and Heal Me (track 4) can be used for those needing healing of body and spirit, Take Me Now, Forever (track 10) is a lovely song for a wedding, and God is the Goal (track 7) is great for those who need a little pick-me-up sometime during the day.

For more information on Bill Tonnis and to purchase Live to Love, go to BillTonnisMusic.com.

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Trish Foti Genco: Inspired Classics

Sepember 11, 2009

Reviewed by Sally Bolderson

Inspired Classics is Trish Foti-Gencos fifth CD offering. As I prepared to listen to the classics, all familiar titles, I did not know what was in store. Although, Ive heard of Trisha through the Catholic music networks, I hadnt actually heard any of her music. I was very impressed with every track of this beautiful work. Trishs powerful, classically trained voice and depth of emotion brought each song to life. And not to be understated are the professional musicians (Dreux Montegut piano, Anne Chabreck flute and Vince Woolf trumpet) she surrounds her beautiful vocals with, that add their own special dimension to these songs, thereby enhancing them even further.

This is a mixed collection of traditional Latin classics such as Laudate Dominum by Mozart and Panis Angelicus by Franck along with new contemporary favorites like How Beautiful by Twila Paris, Wherever You Go by David Haas and a particular favorite of mine, How Great Thou Art by Hine.

Trish spent her life growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana with a supportive, faith filled family and extended family who nurtured her growth in her gifts and her faith so that when she suffered a stroke in her 20s it did not deter her from Gods call for her. She has made her name known throughout the south as well as across the country. She was featured on EWTN in October, 2008 and shared her musical gifts at the UCMVA (United Catholic Music and Video Association) Unity Awards ceremony.

This wasnt the plan I had for my life, she said. It was important for me to teach music at a Catholic school and be a mom. The part where things (a music career and raising a family) work so well together is his (Gods) design. This is his plan.

When asked why she chose the Catholic music genre to share her undeniable talent, she states, To me there was no other way. Everything I have learned prepared me for this. Catholic music is just who I am. Its my callingits what Ive done all my life.

This is a great CD with so much to offer. I am anxious to hear her previous recordings, Inspired, In the Stillness, After the Rain and In His Presence (the Gift of Christmas) to see what other graces can be found there.

You can purchase Inspired Classics as well as all of Trishs CDs at TFotiGenco.com.

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Mary Selano and Company : Mercy Is

September 11, 2009

Reviewed by Sally Bolderson

Mercy Is . . . is a compilation CD of various new artists from the Atlanta area encompassing an original setting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet written by Mary Selano as well as well known and original pieces by the various new artists featured in this CD. The intention for the CD is to help spread the good news of Gods immeasurable mercy for us. 100% of the proceeds of the sales of this CD are earmarked for Mother Antonia and her sisters, Eudists Servants of the 11th Hour, to assist in the continuance of Gods works of mercy.

The vocals throughout the CD are pleasantly humble. The clear, sincere voices draw the listener into the depth of the songs. The melody of the Divine Mercy Chaplet is soothing and I believe it would be well suited to congregational prayer. I was also pleased to have the pre and postlude prayers of the Chaplet included in this recording.

The overall selection ranges anywhere from old hymns such as an acoustic arrangement of The Old Rugged Cross sung by 16 year old, Jenna Kate Hall to a more contemporary sound of Jon Hazelwood of an original song, Tear Me Down to Schuberts Ave Maria. As with any compilation project where there is a diverse selection of types and voices, you will find some to be stronger than others and that is the case with this CD.

What tugged at my heart strings the most was the song We Want to See the World written by David Burke. This song is a dialogue between an Angel of God (sung by Camille Selano) and unborn children (sung by a family of children that regularly go to a local abortion clinic for prayer vigils who are known to break out in song while praying for the innocent lives of the unborn). This is probably the most powerful Pro-Life song Ive encountered. The tender voices of the children brought to life the innocence of the unborn children whose lives are never able to reach their full potential.

The CD ends with a beautiful song entitled Healer of my Soul in remembrance of Catholic Musician, Bob Murphy who sang Gods praises in the San Diego area for many years.

In conclusion, I found Mercy Is . . . to be a very pleasant listening experience of many gifted musicians singing their praises for our merciful God.

You can purchase Mercy Is . . . at MercyIs.com.

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Rocking Romans: Best of 2009

August 31, 2009

Reviewed by Dave Wang

This is the second in the series of the Rocking Romans compilation CDs. Last year's debut disc was quite an eclectic mix of different styles and production values, but this year's edition has a much more youth-oriented and consistent flavor which makes this CD a much more satisfying listen. This is despite being recorded in different studios from over 6 countries.

Canadians are admirably represented with solid cuts by Tuesday Bloom ("My Everything") and Chris Bray ("Finally Let Go"). American artist, Milo, contributes a great song, "Rekindled" and SALT, from Malta, has another winner with "Jars of Clay".

There are also some artists who are new to North American listeners. "Sapientia" by Vox Nova is a real winner, mixing a chant feel with ambient techno.

Popple contributes a song that has a great sense of humor, similar to that of the Bare Naked Ladies. Billie Tarascio, who contributed to the first CD, shows how much of a difference a producer can make with her song "Send Me", produced by David Smith. Smith also was responsible for the production of this CD which has very good production values on average.

This is definitely one of the stronger compilation CDs out there and is well deserving of a listen. Check out RockingRomans.com to check out the other resources and artists that are on this great new resource for Catholic music. Well done.

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Alexandra Celano: I'm Overcome

August 31, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

A new face in Catholic and Christian Country music, Alexandra Celano brings a pleasing mix through her debut recording, Im Overcome.

While the project is not groundbreaking, it is organic and very easy to listen to. Its what I love best about Country music a few simple instruments played well, great vocals and sweet harmonies, making for a wonderful listening experience.

The songwriting is tight, with catchy refrains and upbeat melodies. Inspiring songs with a personal praise and worship theme include Im Overcome and gospel-tinged Let the River Flow. In This Place is a lovely invitation to worship in the House of God.

I particularly liked Youre Good for Me, a love song with a unique refrain: Youre good for me. / Every time I look into your eyes I see / My other half, the one that fits me perfectly, / So naturally, its you. / Youre good for me.

Touching tributes to a beloved grandfather (Grandpa) and a dearly loved child who passed away (Dancing Angel Normita) bring just the right personal touch.

A Christmas-related bonus track is included entitled A Child is Born.

Im Overcome is the perfect companion to your work day or drive or chores around the house. Itll keep you inspired.

Purchase your copy of Im Overcome through Celanos website, AlexendraCelano.com.

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Peter Beirer: All Creation Groans

August 31, 2009

Reviewed by Billie Tarascio

Peter Beirers debut album All Creation Groans comes from the long time music minister/singer/songwriter and performer. The album was written over a period of eight years and its musical diversity reflects the different spiritual seasons in Beirers life.

Beirer combines horns and jazzy beats reminiscent of Skaa music with gritty vocals and honest lyrics. The result is an authentic, live feel. Even the album art consisting of drawings of skeletons underground, a lamb in a womb, and the Virgin Mary with angel wings contributes to the mood of unabashed honesty within the music. Highlights on the album include the upbeat catchy opening tune "Creation," "Alone," and "Long Time."

Beirers website reveals he is currently working full time as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Mankato, MN, leading liturgical choirs, coordinating Young Neighbors in Action, operating as adjunct staff to the Center for Ministry Development. To find out more, and to purchase All Creation Groans, visit Bierers website at www.peterbierer.com.

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Sharmane: Leap of Faith

August 31, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

Leap of Faith is a big leap forward for Sharmane. Emerging as a premier artist in Catholic music, Sharmanes third project to date demonstrates the artistic growth and commitment to excellence that easily makes her able to compete with anyone in Contemporary Christian Music.

Sharmane is known for her energetic performances and the songs showcased on Leap of Faith bear that out. I can just imagine audiences standing and dancing to Life is More and Stand Up. Voices from the crowd would sing along with the on the infectious No Matter What, a hit single if I ever heard one.

Sharmane throws in a couple of older top ten cover tunes and puts a fresh new perspective on them, most especially Johnny Nashs I Can See Clearly Now.

Production values are top notch as are Sharmanes vocals. She shows a new confidence in her singing that really sets this project apart from her other CDs.

While the majority of songs are of the nature of Life is More and Stand Up, Sharmane also included a lovely and thoughtful song about grandmothers, mothers and daughters in Generations. This is a song she co-wrote with Alyson Bleistine. Out of the ten songs on the CD, she co-wrote six.

Anyone who still maintains that the quality of Catholic music cannot compete with CCM or the secular market needs to hear Leap of Faith. It and many of the releases from 2009 clearly demonstrate that Catholic artists are catching up and keeping pace.

You can purchase Leap of Faith from Sharmanes website, Sharmane.com.

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L'Angelus: Sacred Hymns

June 11, 2009

Reviewed by James Rutherford, Tiberriver.com

A stunning new vision for traditional hymns.

I had the privilege of hearing an advance copy of Sacred Hymns and I was blown away when I heard it. The first album by L'Angelus was a mixture of Cajun-country-bluegrass and is a pleasure to listen to. What they have been able to do with this latest album is to fuse their unique sound with an unmistakably Catholic repertoire. But don't think these are hymns with a twang.

I recognized many of the tracks on the cover and was surprised when I started listening that some of them had different melodies than I was familiar with. The a capella Salve Regina is particularly nice because the melody is the chant form that most people are familiar with, but the astounding harmony transforms this into version you will listen to time and again. These new arrangements and the incredible musical talent these young adults possess make every song on the album a gem. They treat the listener with English, Latin, French and Spanish hymns and despite the wide array of inspiration, the album has a very unified feel.

If you haven't had the opportunity to see L'Angelus in concert or live on EWTN you should listen to some of the sample tracks and purchase this CD. They have always had an interest in Catholic music and had written a waltz in honor of St. Cecilia long before they considered recording Sacred Hymns. The Catholic market is a new venture for them and these young people have received a warm welcome in this community.

New Catholic music has the stigma of being inferior to Christian and popular music because of the schmaltzy nature and low production value it so often brings with it. Sacred Hymns smashes that stereotype and puts Catholic music on equal footing with the more popular genres. This is a great album for people of all ages.

You can purchase Sacred Hymns through Igantius Press.

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Michael Joncas: O God of Past and Present

June 3, 2009

Reviewed by Matthew Baute

Michael Joncas is probably best known for one song, and I have a sneaking suspicion that you know it well: everyone’s favorite funeral hymn,“On Eagle’s Wings”. This notoriety belies the depth of scholarship and volume of quality liturgical composition that Joncas has contributed to the Catholic Church over the past 30 years, and we are richer for it. In addition to being a composer, Joncas is also a noted author, speaker, and professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Joncas’ latest release of liturgical music, O God of Past and Present (published by OCP), is a good example of the depth of theological and musical thought that goes into his work. There is much to be pondered in this collection—plenty of food for thought that will help those singing this music and those listening to the CD know and experience their Catholic faith on a deeper level. I happily received a packet of choral octavos in addition to the CD, and the tracks are made richer by the composer’s notes at the end of the octavos. There are frequent references to the writings of Pope Benedict and to other official documents of the Church, along with suggestions of how these hymns might best be used at Mass.

This CD is refreshing because Joncas himself does not appear on the recording at all—the compositions themselves are what are important here. Nevertheless, they are executed beautifully by a skilled choir and instrumental ensemble. It’s a given that choir directors far and wide will appreciate this CD. However, the casual listener will also be uplifted by this sacred music. This collection goes a long way towards building a bridge of continuity between the musical treasures of our Church and new compositions, as called for by Vatican II. Joncas reaches back in creative ways, using a few Latin texts and creating new choral settings based on Gregorian chant, at times intermixed with English words. In addition to his own texts, Joncas employs a variety of sources, including two poems by Sr. Genevieve Glen, OSB, a talented hymn-writer from the Abbey of St. Walburga in Virginia Dale, CO.

All of the tracks on O God of Past and Present are sublime, pointing to the mystery and beauty of the One we come to worship at Mass. This is lasting music that will stand the test of time. May Michael Joncas’ latest work inspire composers to reach higher in their art. May it inspire listeners to connect with the God of love who has come to set us free.

You can purchase O God of Past and Present at OCP.org.

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Deacon Chuck Stevens: Harvest of Love

May 27, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

Since the release of Bethlehem Morn in 2005, Canadian musician Chuck Stevens has been ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. Deacon Chuck has felt compelled for several years to share what he has learned in his studies through his music. Harvest of Love is a wonderful expression of that knowledge.

The beauty of Harvest of Love is the truly sacramental nature of the songs. It is obvious by the lyrics that Deacon Chuck has done a lot of prayerful reading in preparation for his vocation. Each song teaches the core beliefs of the Catholic Church in a prayerful way that is very accessible through the lovely melodies.

The title cut, "Harvest of Love," was written originally as a way of thanking all the people that had supported Deacon Chuck in his journey. The lyrics, however, apply to all of us who have realized that everything we have is a gift from God, meant to be given back generously to God's people: “Here is a harvest of love from all of the bounty You've granted, we give back to You; here is a harvest of love, we offer to You with our neighbor, the fruits of our labor, the works of our hearts and our hands.”

I especially appreciated the way Deacon Chuck weaved the sacraments so effortlessly into the songs without actually naming them. A perfect example of this is “We Come to Return” which demonstrates the immense love and grace of God lavished to us through the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Church teaches us to live our lives sacramentally and songs such as this reinforce this core idea.

Songs such as “Elohim” and “How We Adore You” teach truths about the Lord God from scripture while inspiring the heart to pray and offer praise. Neither song especially exhorts to the listener to offer praise but rather, inspires because of content of the lyrics.

For example, “How We Adore You” proclaims truths about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, allowing the listener to meditate upon the Trinity, and then offers this wonderful refrain which prepares the heart to praise: “All power and glory, all worship and praise, adoration and honor, till the end of our days belongs to You . . .”

The fifth song in the Harvest of Love collection is a nearly 10 minute sung version of the Jesus Prayer. The song is very easy to learn and once given the chance, will lead you on what Deacon Chuck calls a “mini retreat,” meditating on the great mercy of God. I have personally prayed this song many times and have been greatly edified by it.

Deacon Chuck has a strong sense of service to the poor which is beautifully expressed in “Could You Give Me Some Water.” Drawn from the gospel story of the great day of Judgment, when the sheep will be separated from the goats, Deacon Chuck begins the song by gently touching the conscience of the listener but becomes stronger in his exhortation in final verse. He recounts the number of hungry children in the world and calls on those of us who have been richly blessed with materials means to share with those who have very little. This song makes a very powerful social justice statement which is authentic, heartfelt and convincing.

Harvest of Love does have a drawback which will hopefully not prevent the listener from enjoying all the blessings and teaching this album offers: the production sounds home grown. There are some flat notes, mixing that isn't perfect, timing that is occasionally a little off, and sparse instrumental arrangements. Yet, I've seen a lot of musical growth since Deacon Chuck's last album which made it a joy for me to listen to, despite these problems.

Harvest of Love has quickly become a favorite of mine to listen to and pray along with. It can be purchased through CD Baby at CD Baby and is also available through iTunes. It can also be downloaded in its entirety for free at SmallTalentMusic.com.

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Nancy Krebs: Moved By God

May 27, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

Nancy Krebs is a seasoned performer, having recorded 6 beautiful albums of meditation-style music marked by deeply thoughtful lyrics and fine storytelling. Her 7th CD, Moved by God, continues in this tradition but takes a major leap forward musically.

For the first time, I feel the musical arranging matches up to the quality of the songwriting. Soft contemporary instrumentation and whispered background vocals beautifully complement Nancy’s pure, effortless vocals, framing her lyrics.

Thematically, Moved by God is about movement. “These songs all contain some kind of ‘movement’: turning outward, inward, upward or downward in the direction that God would have us go,” Nancy writes in her liner notes. The artwork on the cover also beautifully conveys this theme.

Each of the 12 songs is top notch. Among my favorites is “The Quiet,” a gentle invitation to retreat to a place of silence to regain your center. The music sets the perfect tone and mood to achieve quiet in the midst of chaos.

I also love “Welcome Me Home,” a song loosely based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. It has a bossa nova feel to it, supporting the lyrics in painting the picture of a gentle and merciful Father.

“Mary Knew” is one of the most touching story songs Nancy has ever written. Her vocals perfectly punctuated the lyrics and took me deep into the story of the mother and Son and the special love they shared. I was truly moved and wanted to revisit that story again and again.

“We Adore You” and “Road to Emmaus” are two of the most upbeat songs on the album. “We Adore You” builds gloriously through the clever use of background vocals, while “Road to Emmaus” builds through the lyrics and the dramatic lead vocal.

All the songs achieve their goal – transporting the listener to the heart of God. I keep listening to Moved by God over and over to get back to that place.

You will too. You can purchase Moved by God through Nancy's website at NancyKrebs.com.

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Christopher Dayett: Coming Home

May 27, 2009

Reviewed by Angelo Natalie

Coming Home is the sophomore CD release by worship-leader Christopher Dayett. While Dayett's first CD Here I AM covered several well-known praise & worship songs, his new collection features eleven originals from the Delaware native who is now based in North Carolina. His original call-to-hope "Anything’s Possible" appears in both releases.

One is first struck by the fine quality of Christopher’s voice. The easy delivery in his upper register and strong vibrato is reminiscent of pop icon Neil Sedaka. (If you're coming up blank on Sedaka, Search iTunes Store and give a listen to "Bad Blood" and "Laughter In The Rain".) The similarity of Dayett and Sedaka in vocal timbre is uncanny. It is not surprising that the cum laude theatre graduate of the University of North Carolina also minored in vocal music. In spite of the excessive reverb his voice truly sparkles.

Like his debut, Dayett once more opts for minimal production. This is all Christopher: solo voice accompanied simply but ably enough on piano. Some subtle synthesizer string pads provide a little sonic atmosphere far back in the mix. A violinist is credited as playing on the closing song "Go In Peace" but I had to listen a second time as it is barely audible. Nobody could fault Dayett with relying on production value to prop up this piano-voice demo of his songs of praise.

The songwriting on this project bears the mark of Dayett's long-time work in musical theater and the influence of modern Catholic composers such as David Haas, Marty Haugen and the St. Louis Jesuits. The content is unapologetically Catholic with a clear Eucharistic bent. While Dayett gratefully acknowledges the inspiration of his bishop and former pastor, his lyrics suffer somewhat from the scarcity of rhyme and read more like prose with diminished returns on memorability.

I hope to hear more from this promising talent in the way of collaboration with other singers, musicians, songwriters and recording engineers who shine as bright in their crafts as Christopher does as a vocalist. The Church's vault of metered prayers is crying out for fresh and well-crafted new musical settings. Maybe Christopher Dayett will find his way to treat us to his spin on them. One can hope.

You can purchase Coming Home at Christopher's website, ChristopherDayett.com.

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Fr. Pablo Straub: Praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary with St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori

May 4, 2009

Reviewed by Annie Karto

Little Lamb Music has produced another winning CD with Praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary with St. Alphonsas Maria Liguori, led by Father Pablo Straub, C.S.S.R. Those who have ever heard the voice of this widely popular Redemptorist priest know the story. Fr. Straub., a favorite on EWTN, is a storyteller, "par excellence," and he brings his great talent to this CD.

However, the major point of interest of Praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary with St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori is that all the music, lyrics, meditations and text are by St. Alphonsus, taken from several of his written works. Fr. Straub's deep, passionate voice brings rich emotion to the words of the saint. A perfect backdrop of strings and melodic voices accompany the narration.

Praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary with St. Alphonsas Maria Liguori starts with the song, "Aspirations to Maria." The instruments and voices create a holy, reverential atmosphere, perfect for contemplating the Seven Sorrows of Mary. Fr. Straub then offers unique "short stories" on each of these Seven Sorrows, and the listener is led through the prayers that accompany each sorrow.

Fr. Straub interjects the phrase, "Oh my Mother, enable my heart to share your sorrow for the death of your Son." This beautiful CD will enable the listener to do just that - allowing one's own heart to "accompany" Blessed Mother Mary through Her Seven Sorrows.

You can purchase "Praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary with St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori” through Little Lamb Music at LittleLambMusic.com.

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Seasons: Which Way to Dublin Town

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Reviewed by Nancy Krebs

I’ve always been a fan of Irish music—Celtic music in general. The catchy tunes, the fiddle (which I play), the rhythms, the haunting lyrics and melodies all conspire to transport me back to my ancestral roots. Coming from an Irish-German family, music was always in the air—and I am a sucker for a reel and a jig. The new CD by Seasons, Which Way to Dublin Town hits the spot for the flavor and the feel of true Irish music. This is a trio of young sibling musicians: Mary-Kate Summer Lee on harp and hammered dulcimer, Mary-Teresa Summer Lee on harp, mandolin and percussion, and Peter Winter Lee on hammered dulcimer. They also have several great guest musicians to round out the ensemble. This second CD of theirs features mostly traditional Irish songs arranged in unique ways with non-traditional instrumentation—mixed in with a few American tunes done with an Irish flair, a Scottish tune, and two original songs written by Mary-Kate. This collection of songs is a good combination of evocative heart-wrenchingly tender songs and rollicking Irish favorites. There are seventeen tracks on this album, more than enough to keep you thinking, singing along and toe-tapping. It’s obvious these young artists have a love for God and the saints, and their faith spills over into their choice of songs for this unique collection.

Their arrangements include merging two tunes together, as in their Drowsy Maggie/Johnny’s Gone to France and Red Is the Rose/Down by the Salley Gardens, as well as Foxhunter’s Jig/Morrison’s Jig, are unique for Irish music. Since many traditional tunes have repetitive melodies, this concept of creating a medley adds variety, length and spice to those tracks. Just when you think you’ve learned the tune—it goes off in a different direction as the medley shifts from one tune to the next. It’s lots of fun to listen to, and keeps your ears on alert.

If I singled out every track, this review would be much longer than the space provided, but I did want to mention a few: the first track—78 Eatonwood Green is a Rich Mullins song that the trio is proud to present, since the reason they became interested in the hammer dulcimer was because of Rich. Ashokan Farewell is done beautifully on the hammer dulcimer—one of my favorite songs in the world, and their arrangement does it justice. The dulcimer work throughout this CD is just gorgeous, as is all the musicianship. I enjoyed the vocals as well. All the voices have captured that pure Irish quality with the slight ornamentation that Celtic singers possess—even though the singers on this CD are American. Mary-Kate’s two original songs are quite effective, Dalriada and The Helmsman both show a strong songwriting ability that I hope continues. The guest musicians included the very talented Martin Doman on guitar and Irish whistle, equally talented Tess Smith and Rebekah Callaghan on fiddle, Jim Dunbar on Irish whistle, Ezra March on mandolin.

If I missed one aspect of Irish music while listening, it would be for the bodhran, the Irish drum. I found after a while, I longed for some bass response, since most of the arrangements were comprised of higher pitched instruments, and some of the songs could have had more gravitas with the anchoring of a bass or low pitched drum. But this is a small concern, and perhaps my personal taste for this kind of music. The CD gives you such a feeling of peace, joy and wonder at their energy and musicianship—you’ll be humming Seasons’ tunes long after you’ve turned off your player. Their website is: SeasonsMusic.com. However, when I visited, I didn’t get much information. I hope they begin to expand their site to give visitors some background on the group and updates.

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Lynne Clarke: Later On

April 21, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

Lynne Clark is a new and refreshing face on the Catholic music scene and her debut CD, Later On, presents 11 songs rooted in scripture, telling stories showing the Gospel in action.

The style is straightforward pop and the voice is strong and passionate. Songs such as "A Better Cup of Wine" and the catchy "Later On" relate the gospel stories in a fresh new way.

There is more to this CD than stories using scripture. Lynne also tells stories of life. The stories are not always easy to hear but she injects the hope of the Gospel in each of them. For example, "Little Flower" describes the anguish of an abused, neglected child, yet the refrain cries out, "Come on, come on little flower; let the Lamb dry your eyes."

In "Innocent Man," she relates the feelings of someone falsely accused who places his burden and trust on Another who experienced the same and died for it.

I was intrigued too by "In the Middle of The Trek" which is a strong affirmation of faith on the part of this songwriter about the road she's chosen to travel in service to the Lord.

I look forward to hearing more from Lynne Clark. You can purchase Later On from CD Baby at CDBaby.com/cd/lynneclarke.

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Sean Clive: What I've Settled For

April 21, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

Sean Clive has teamed up with David Smith of Icon Music Studios for his fourth album, What I've Settled For. Equally as good musically as his previous album, Amazed, What I've Settled For covers new ground lyrically with songs affirming family life.

Sean has a unique gift for storytelling that immediately touches the heart. This album is full of stories about his wife and children. When you're done listening to the 13 tracks, you feel like you've met the whole family!

While the songs employing scripture and exploring the faith life are very good ("The Everlasting" most especially – a great take on Psalm 90), it’s the songs about his wife and children that especially touched me.

Beginning with his wife, I don’t think I've ever heard a more touching love song of a husband to a wife than "Ordinary Way." Consider this line as an example: "Dirty dishes, messy rooms and toys all over the floor – your knight in shining armor wishes that he could give you more . . ." Throughout the song you hear, "Sometimes it's hard to find the words to say I love you in a not so very Ordinary Way."

"The First Day" and "Go to Sleep" are beautiful songs sung to his children. I especially loved the bonus track on the album though, "Kids are Great" (dedicated to his 'high-spirited' daughter). Sung with a touch of loving humor and sarcasm, Sean relates stories that every parent will relate to.

What I’ve Settled For affirms family life in such a wonderful and genuine way. Sean doesn’t preach – he simply shares his life.

There are so many other wonderful songs on this album but you'll have to purchase it yourself to find out. You can purchase What I've Settled For through Sean's website at SeanClive.com.

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Matthew Baute: River of Grace

April 6, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

Matthew Baute has always produced prayerful music that leads one to a sacred place. His other two albums, Love Wins All and Hold Me, Lord, contain such meditative music. His latest, River of Grace, rises to a new level of excellence, with 12 exquisite songs perfect for prayerful meditation.

Baute has a lovely, textured tenor that can remind you of Martin Doman or Michael John Poirier. His songs, though, have their own signature.

There are so many songs to mention. "Through All Generations" is a song of hope and comfort inspired by Psalm 90: "You have been a refuge through all generations." The beautiful acoustic guitar work which graces this song and many others on the album are all skillfully played by Baute.

Other wonderful songs on this album include "It Is Mercy," (a wonderful reflection for Lent); "Purest Virgin Mary" (where I felt that unique touch of peace from the Blessed Mother while listening); "Humility" (2 simple lines for powerful meditation: "Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours,"); and finally, "One" (a song describing an intimate relationship with God, but which could also be used to describe a marriage relationship (see video at SongForPrayer.com/Video.asp).

Being a lyric person, I normally judge music by the lyrics as they feed my faith and encourage me. River of Grace, however, transcends the lyrics with its music. It is one of the few Catholic albums I've listened to where the instruments speak to me as much as the voices.

The cover artwork is simple and exquisite; it so beautifully illustrates the prayerful and soothing music of River of Grace.

You can purchase River of Grace through WLP Music at WLPMusic.com.

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Kitty Cleveland: Sublime Chant: The Scotland Project

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Reviewed by Susan Bailey

Kitty Cleveland has one of the most beautiful voices in Catholic music today. She is a versatile vocalist, having performed both classical and popular music very capably. Her technical ability is only surpassed by the warmth and prayerfulness that she injects into every single song.

So it seems quite fitting that for her latest project, Sublime Chant: The Scotland Project, Kitty has tackled traditional Gregorian Chant, covering such classics as "O Salutaris Hostia," "Ave Maria," "Attende Domine," "Pange Lingua Gloriosi," "Ave Verum Corpus" and "Salve Regina."

Kitty traveled to Dunblane, Scotland to record these chants in the setting of a glorious cathedral. The result is exactly what the title suggests--sublime chant. A single glorious voice, sometimes accompanied by a quiet pipe organ, produces soothing and prayerful renditions of these timeless Gregorian chants.

Having come to appreciate Gregorian chant in just the last few years, I was thrilled to get my hands on this project and it has a permanent place on my mp3 player.

You can purchase Sublime Chant: The Scotland Project at Kitty's website, KittyCleveland.com.

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Sal Solo: We Cry Justice

March 25, 2009

Sal Solo's newest release is a brave and hugely successful experiment. It is a concept album focusing on social justice issues from a Catholic perspective. Appropriately, Sal Solo uses the genre of world music with contemporary rhythms and rap thrown in. Together with arrangements and instruments indigenous to roots music from Australia, Africa and other exotic locations, the lyrics tell of Catholic social teaching, from our treatment of the poor in the brilliant "50 cents a day" to the pro-life message of the Church. One can't hear these songs without feeling convicted and being inspired to do more for the less fortunate of our world. A highlight is a brilliant reworking of "Money" by Pink Floyd. I predict that this CD, which was entirely recorded direct to a Mac laptop, will be one of the best albums of the year. Get this CD from SalSolo.com.

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Janelle: What I Gotta Say

March 25, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

This new release from Canadian Janelle from Alberta is a terrific rock/pop recording. With great melodic hooks and lyrics celebrating the true beauty within every individual's soul, Janelle's third recording is her best. "Overall, I feel like this CD really is the best of me and what God has so generously done in my heart throughout this season in my life", explains Janelle, who is now a mother of three children. For the first time, Janelle shares significant songwriting credits and this is a good thing. "This album shows the beauty of my mission as wife and mother, but also of learning and growing to be a virtuous woman of God." What a great recording and what a great role model. Highly recommended. Go to Janelle.cc to grab this CD.

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Billie Tarascio: Send Me

March 25, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

It is always exciting to see new artists in the Catholic scene. Featuring great songs and superbly produced by Dave Smith, this release from Billie Tarascio, a female lawyer from Oregon, is a terrific pop recording and establishes this artist as one of the best new female vocalists to appear on the Catholic music scene this past year. The more upbeat numbers, like the title track, are solid but the slower numbers are where the album excels. There is a haunting "Our Father" and a beautiful "Hail Mary" and a wonderful ballad in "Lay It Down". Go to BillieTarascio.com to support this new artist.

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Isidore Bard: Roadsongs and Parables

March 25, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

Mediatrix Records from Michigan has another winner here! This is great pop/folk recording which features the unique voice of Isidore Bard. Picture contemporary sounding vocals that sound like James Taylor but with much more vibrato. Bard's vocals and unique lyrics distinguish this album from all the other recordings from Catholic music scene. The highlight for me is "Sweet Death", which is an example of the great storytelling abilities of this new artist. This infectious new recording is definitely worth a listen. Check out MediatrixRecords.com for this release.

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Susan Bailey: Mary, Queen of Peace Meditation Guide and Sung Rosary

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Reviewed by David Wang

Rosary CDs have always been big sellers among the Catholic audience. This is simply one of the best rosary projects I have seen. Besides featuring very pleasant music that acts as a soundtrack to the rosary, there is a terrific booklet that goes along with the CD that has great readings and reflections for the prayers. If you know anyone who regularly prays the rosary or if you want to inspire someone to start praying the rosary, go to SusanBailey.net to grab this project.

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Tom Booth: Captured

February 24, 2009

Reviewed by Matthew Baute

Tom Booth has long been one of the leading composers and recording artists active in contemporary Catholic music today. Listening to his latest CD Captured, it's easy to understand why. This recording is a finely crafted work of art, filled with songs that will inspire and challenge the listener to a deeper faith and a more authentic walk with Christ.

Right away the opening track "Can We Love?" asks if our faith means more than simply attending Mass on Sunday or listening to P&W music in our car: "Can we lay down our lives? Can we wear his crown of thorns? Can we drink the cup that he drinks?" These thought-provoking questions are an important reminder of what our faith must ultimately be about – Christ transforming our hearts with a love that inspires us to reach out to serve others.

"You Stand Knocking" is a standout track, with an anthem-like refrain that will surely find wide use at Masses and at XLT Eucharistic Adoration prayer services. This song could easily find its way onto mainstream CCM radio, as that industry continues to discover the wealth of contemporary Catholic music and musicians like Matt Maher, whom Tom Booth mentored for many years.

Another favorite track is the finale, "O Salutaris Hostia, O Saving Lamb", which adds a new refrain to the traditional Eucharistic exposition hymn composed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. It's a wonderful trend that contemporary Catholic composers like Maher and Booth have been following, introducing the musical treasures of the Church to a new generation of listeners. Indeed, there is much for all of us to gain from revisiting lyrics and melodies that have stood the test of seven centuries.

My favorite track from Captured is a song that I first heard on the Steubenville Youth Conference 2007 CD. "Come Holy Spirit", driven by the artist’s fine nylon-string guitar playing, a lush string arrangement, and stunning vocal harmonies, is reminiscent of the prayerfulness of John Michael Talbot's music. On first hearing this song I was brought to a place of deep reflection and peace. This contemplative piece is juxtaposed with several upbeat and rocking songs on the disc, making it an interesting listen from start to finish.

The songs on Captured add to an already-impressive repertoire of music that Tom Booth has gifted to the Church, a body of work that has nourished the faith lives of many across the country and around the world. Thanks for the gifts, Tom, both old and new.

You can purchase Captured at SpiritAndSong.com.

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Jackie Francois: Your Kingdom is Glorious

February 24, 2009

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

I first heard of Jackie Francois on the SpiritandSong Commons compilation CD singing "My Soul Rejoices," a lovely song based on the Magnificat from the Gospel of Luke. The refrain was unusual and memorable and her voice was very pleasing. I found myself wanting to hear more.

I was very glad to receive a copy of Jackie's debut CD, Your Kingdom is Glorious, and I was not disappointed.

Let me first say that I am a big fan of Jackie Francois' voice. It is clear yet full, strong and expressive – a voice, frankly, I wish I had. But Francois is not just a singer – she is a very capable songwriter as well.

The aforementioned "My Soul Rejoices" is a fine example of her songwriting and appears on Your Kingdom is Glorious. Francois has written a fine variety of songs ranging from upbeat pop songs such as "Holy Are You, Lord" and "Joy" to the softer sounds of "God My Father" and "Be Forgiven."

Her treatment of chastity in “For So Long” was very noteworthy, avoiding the usual clichés for lyrics based solidly on scripture.

Your Kingdom is Glorious is an album I will listen to again and again. You can purchase your copy through the SpiritandSong website at SpiritAndSong.com.

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Stephen DeCesare with Christiana Rodi: Songs for the Journey

February 24, 2009

Reviewed by Sally Bolderson

If you are attracted to the strong sounds of well trained classical voices, you will enjoy this offering entitled “Songs for the Journey” from St. Martha's Church of East Providence, Rhode Island. It's an interesting mix of standard classical songs such as Schubert's "Ave Maria", Franck's "Panis Angelicus" and Mozart's "Exultate Jubilate" along with songs that lean to this side of contemporary such as "How Beautiful" and "Prayer of St. Francis". There are also several original compositions by Stephen DeCesare.

Stephen DeCesare along with Christiana Rodi are the two soloists on this CD who are obviously trained vocalists. They are able to bring across the depth of the classical pieces as well as the sincerity of the more contemporary songs.

The original songs written by Stephen DeCesare have solid messages of our faith and draw very closely from actual scripture. One song in particular "Magdalene" is a song which intersperses narration of the scriptures of Mary Magdalen washing the feet of Jesus with musical dialogue alternating where Jesus rebukes the Pharisee’s comments in her defense. The song "Choose Life" has a very strong message of contemplation where the pregnant woman has a conversation with Jesus about what to do and in response of her question, he states that she should “choose life.” The alternating voices of male and female in these songs although logical in the text, made me feel as though I was listening to a musical. There wasn’t enough information on the CD inserts to indicate if this might in fact have been the case of music to go along with a skit or play setting.

All in all, Songs for the Journey is a solid CD although the classical pieces were pretty predictable in the Catholic music repertoire almost to a fault as they are encountered on many CDs. I felt at times the strong voices and the background music weren't always in synch in regards to volume compatibility. The original songs were thought-provoking and blended in well with the known classical pieces. The strong vocal power carries this CD and will provide the listener with good listening on the whole.

To purchase a copy, contact St. Martha's Parish in East Providence RI:
St. Martha
Address: 2595 Pawtucket Avenue, East Providence, R.I. 02914-3292
parish email address: [email protected]
Phone: (401) 434-4060
Fax: (401) 434-4849

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Sean Forrest: Haiti (I Want to Know What You Know)

February 24, 2009

Reviewed by George Lower

Sean Forrest really rocks the house with his new release Haiti (I Want to Know What You Know). However, beneath the surface of the music lies a heart that is truly open to serving the Lord. Sean’s project was conceived as a fund raiser for his ministry Movin' With The Spirit Mission Haiti (mwts.org) to benefit the villages of Duverger and Dandann. MWTS is planning a four phase building project that will include a school, orphanage and clinic.

Nevertheless, the good work being done by MWTS is not the only reason you should want this CD. Sean's songwriting and production skills are superior. His acoustic driven folk-rock style will have you singing along with nearly every track. I was particularly impressed with track #6 "Only So Many Days." I think Sean’s version of the "Hail Mary" (track #3) comes in a close second in my book.

Sandwiched between the opening and closing songs recorded live in Haiti with local villagers, I found a humble soul who has the heart of Mother Teresa and the musical chops of John Cougar Mellencamp. For more information you can visit the MWTS website: mwts.org.

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SpiritN3D: These Three Nails

February 24, 2009

Reviewed by George Lower

SpiritN3D describes their music as a blend of Christian Contemporary and Rock music. Their new release These Three Nails aims high and at certain points achieves some measure of craftsmanship in the rock genre. The recording is certainly clean and full of high energy guitar licks.

The biggest disappointment with These Three Nails lies in the songwriting itself. Both melodically and lyrically the songs seem to lack focus. While the messages were positive, I found myself looking for a melodic or lyrical hook that never seemed to be present. Additionally, many of the songs ran for over six minutes; typically songs this length need to be well developed in order to engage the listener.

That is not to say that SpiritN3D lacks heart or talent. In fact, I could see a band of their level doing a great job of covering some Contemporary Christian hits. I would humbly suggest this approach for their next project.

You can pick up These Three Nails at their website, NiteImage.com/clubs/Spiritn3d.

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Cyprian Consiglio: Awake At Last (OCP)

February 12, 2009

Reviewed by Matthew Baute

Cyprian Consiglio’s newest release Awake At Last captured me immediately on first listen. A Camaldolese Benedictine monk, Consiglio has a keen interest in meditation and prayer. Following in the footsteps of Thomas Merton, he has traveled extensively to dialogue with monks of other religious traditions. His journey of contemplation and outreach is reflected on this CD, with a wide musical palette being used to present several psalm settings, Gospel acclamations, a nearly eight minute Litany of the Holy Cross, and other hymns.

Awake At Last opens with an enchanting contemporary rendering of the Gregorian chant “Attende Domine”, using lush vocal harmonies that build slowly, drawing the listener into prayer. Consiglio has added new English text that supplements the traditional Latin, continuing a trend in recent Catholic music to introduce the musical treasures of the Church to a new generation. I was wanting much more of this piece, but it soon transitions into another beautiful track, a Lenten hymn that offers wisdom for all of us: “Leave the past in ashes / and turn to God / return to God / with tears and fasting.”

As producer of Awake At Last, Consiglio chose to employ several other vocalists and choirs to assist him in delivering the material, so it’s easy to envision the majority of these pieces being sung by choirs at Sunday Mass, as well as being used for personal prayer. Several upbeat hymns express the joy of the Easter season, completing the presentation of a seasonal journey, and complementing the more meditative songs. I found the arrangement of one piece (with saxophone and Gospel-style singing) towards the end of the CD to be out of place, but this is a minor complaint to an otherwise wonderful recording.

I recently had the privilege of attending an evening prayer service that Consiglio led on acoustic guitar, and it was deeply moving. He is a talented musician, yet his guitar playing on this recording is humbly understated as he allows other instruments (cello, flute, oboe, horn, eastern percussion) to tastefully enhance the beauty of the melodies he has composed, several of which are now engrained in my memory.

You can purchase Awake At Last through OCP at OCP.org.

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Mark Forrest: Celtic Tales

February 3, 2009

Reviewed by George Lower

The Emerald Isle certainly has much to be proud of in her native son, Mark Forrest. Mark’s release Celtic Tales is definitely a sonic treat of traditional Irish tunes set to tasteful orchestrations. Mark’s clear and smooth voice carries the listener on an inspiring journey that stirs both the heart and the mind.

As I listened to Celtic Tales, I was especially impressed with Mark’s use of the sonic space. Each song had exactly the right amount of orchestration without any song feeling overproduced. Of course, being a guitar player myself, I was partial to the classical guitar on track 3, “Ride On,” the intro really sets the tone for the whole song.

It is to be expected on any album of Irish music one will encounter the topics of patriotism, love and heartache. Sometimes, the subject matter may be a little dark; but, the hope that someday things will be better clearly shines through in this masterful collection.

Celtic Tales may be purchased directly from Mark’s website: www.markforrest.com.

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Dan Schutte: Table of Plenty Anthology, 1985-2000 Published by OCP

February 9, 2009

Reviewed by George Lower

It was pleasure to review the latest release by Dan Schutte, Table of Plenty Anthology, 1985-2000. Dan has long been one of the seminal voices of the liturgical renewal. His roots extend back to the work of the St. Louis Jesuits in the 1970’s. Dan’s songs have been consistently been in the forefront of the new music written since Vatican II. His music has also drawn a lot of criticism over the years as well. Many of his early works, including such popular titles as “Glory and Praise to Our God,” “City of God,” and the ever popular “Here I Am, Lord,” fuel heated debates among self-proclaimed liturgists in the blogosphere.

Nevertheless, it appears to this author that much of what has been alleged is simply untrue. the Table of Plenty Anthology, 1985-2000 captures a very prolific Dan Schutte who has tremendous depth when it comes to composing. It is amazing how well his compositions are able to bridge the distance from traditional organ and choir to folk type ballads with jangly 12-string guitar. Dan effortlessly seems to compose music for any type of liturgical music ensemble and across an amazing range of musical genres.

Since this collection is an anthology there is no new material to review, but one cannot help but be impressed by the depth of a composer who shifts seamlessly from Roger McGuinn inspired guitar work on the opening track “Table of Plenty” to the full-bodied pipe organ with SATB choir on track seven, “Sing, O Sing.” In short the Table of Plenty Anthology, 1985-2000 is a CD that should be in the private library of every serious pastoral musician in the Catholic Church.

Table of Plenty Anthology, 1985-2000 is available from Oregon Catholic Press. More information can be found online at: www.ocp.org.

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