On the subject of album recommendations….

Okay, so this morning I posted an album on Facebook that has been on my playlist lately that there was a decent chance most people weren’t listening to, and it kind of reminded me of my “This music is not mainstream” posts, which ironically featured some blog posts about artists that are now mainstream like Gungor and Rend Collective. Anyway, here’s the music that’s sitting on my playlist right now. I’ll try to include a place to listen like Spotify or Bandcamp, but as usual, if you like their music, support the artist by purchasing their album!

Robbie Seay Band – Psalms LP

In both Colossians and Ephesians, Paul tells us to sing “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.” If we’re all being honest with ourselves, we tend to neglect the first of those three. Sure, we read Psalms, but we don’t sing them a lot. Once upon a time, there were Psalters that had settings of all of the Psalms to music. The use of the Psalter has fallen by the wayside, and so has the singing of Psalms. There are a couple of projects and artists that have recorded Psalms, but the Robbie Seay Band has focused their latest album to be devoted entirely to setting Psalms to music. And what a wonderful album is the result! You can listen to the whole thing on Spotify or buy on Amazon.

Sojourn Church – New Again


Always a favorite group of mine, Sojourn just released their latest album, New Again. Another solid album from Sojourn. Highlights from the album include Let Justice Roll and their version of the Bifrost Arts setting of Psalm 126. You can listen to and buy the album on Bandcamp.

Rend Collective – The Art of Celebration

I have enjoyed all of the Rend Collective albums, and this is no exception. Plus Isaac and I love to play and sing Simplicity at the piano together, so Daddy/Son bonding time happens as a result of this album. You can listen on Spotify or buy on Amazon.

Songbird at Midnight – Amanda Noel

When we had a son, the name we agreed on was Isaac. It wasn’t the whole reason, but a part of his name is after Isaac Watts. When we found out we were having a girl, I lobbied hard for Fanny, but for some unknown reason, Jodie just wouldn’t go for it….

I just added this to my playlist recently, so I haven’t listened a ton, but what I have, I really like. She’s got a bit of a bluegrass sound (which I like). Jodie perked right up and loved her version of All the Way My Savior Leads Me. You can listen on Spotify or buy from Amazon.

The Great God and His Great Story – Brooks Hills Music

I’ve posted this lots of times before on Facebook, but I’ll just put it up again because it’s just that good. Let’s be honest, children’s music drives me batty. This album is a children’s album that doesn’t drive me batty. The kids love it and sing along with all of the songs on it. I really can’t recommend it to parents highly enough. That said, there is no way to listen to this album without purchasing it, so trust me and buy it on Amazon, or drop by the office sometime for a listen!

Swallowed Up Death – Coram Deo Church

I’ve been listening to David Potter for a couple of years now, and since he moved to Coram Deo Church, they have released two albums. This is the second album that was released recently. For some odd reason, Jodie’s brain shuts off when she hears the start of this album, so I guess it’s not for everyone, but with this album, you get a great sound and great lyrics. Highlights of the album for me are Swallowed Up Death and When He Comes. You can listen to and buy the album on Bandcamp.

Open Your Doors – Jenny & Tyler

Are you all listening to Jenny & Tyler? Why not? Go listen to Jenny & Tyler. This isn’t their latest album (there is an all covers album that is newer), but this is their latest album of all original music. There’s a nice setting of Psalm 86 on here also. Go listen on Spotify or buy the album.

Yours Alone – CityAlight

I’ve just started listening to this album, but it’s a really good album. They sound a little like Hillsong or Jesus Culture, but without all of the prosperity gospel baggage and CityAlight builds songs on the strength of the words rather than musically building with repetition. That said, there are a lot of really good songs on here. Don’t be shocked if you find yourself singing some of these songs on Sunday mornings…. One gripe, you can’t stream the album anywhere, so you pretty much just have to buy it. You can hear some of the tracks on their YouTube page though, so you might start there!

Bonus Album | He Will Not Cry Out – Bifrost Arts

This one is hit and miss for me. There are tracks I really, really love on here, and there are tracks that I really, really don’t love on here. That said, watch for their version of Psalm 46 sometime in the future, along with their setting of Psalm 126 that Sojourn covered on the album mentioned above. You can listen and buy on Bandcamp.


“15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret” Expounded Upon

Last week, I put a link to an article detailing what the author thought were 15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret. Several folks asked if I would expound a bit  on the article, so I thought I would give it a shot. Of course, this may not actually be what the author was thinking on each of these points, but rather what I read them to be. Honestly, he could have stopped with point 10 and the article would have still be fine.

1.     Dividing congregations along age and affinity lines.

I have a whole sermon devoted to this topic that you can listen to here (It’s the sermon titled “Tell to the Coming Generations”). I moved on this subject over the years that I’ve been at Grace. When I took the job, I really loved the idea of divided services, so that everybody got to worship how they wanted, but as the years rolled on, I began to see the divided congregation that resulted from this decision. By making this decision, we were telling people that their individual preferences held priority. On Sunday mornings, all generations gather together under one roof to worship together. Worship on Sunday morning is about us, not me.

2.     Eliminating choral expressions in worship.

Have you all been a part of a choir? There is something about choir that is kind of like training for being a part of a singing congregation. That said, I’m not entirely sure what the author was trying to say in this point. Perhaps he will expound on it further another time.

3.     Worship leader ageism.

This article is a comment on the wider church culture, and one of the things that the modern worship culture seems to worship is youth. I’ve read well done posts on worship pastors afraid of getting old. Even groups like Hillsong work hard to appeal more and more to the young in the culture. There was the original Hillsong, and then 7 or 8 years ago, the band Hillsong United was the next big thing. Hillsong, but with young leaders and cooler music. Right now, there is Hillsong Young and Free. I kind of wonder what the new Hillsong group will be called in 10 years when Young and Free is old… One of the things I love most about GBC is that we are a multi-generational church valuing both the young, the old and everyone in between. I love that on a given Sunday, our worship team is comprised of people representing the whole spectrum of generations.

4.     Elevating music above Scripture, Prayer and the Lord’s Supper

Have you been to a church where the majority of the worship service is music with a short time of preaching? How much time in the service is spent in corporate prayer? How much time is spent on the reading of God’s Word? How often does the church share the Lord’s Supper? What does scripture say about the importance of each of those things in our corporate worship?

5.     Making worship and music exclusively synonymous.

Believe it or not, but the word worship is a broad word that encompasses all sorts of activities. Music is certainly a part of worship, but by making the terms synonymous, we tend to promote a misunderstanding about what worship is. This is why in our orders of worship, we list Worship in Song, Worship in the Word, Worship at the Table, Worship in Giving, etc..

6.     Trying to recreate worship with each new generation.

There is a temptation in our quest to do the next big thing, to try to reinvent the wheel each generation, often throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Change is a central fact of our lives, but we need to be careful not to in arrogance fail to learn from the generations that have come before.

7.     Ignoring the Christian Calendar and adopting the Hallmark Calendar.

Those of you that know me well know that I have a whole soapbox on the discussion of the Hallmark Calendar. I however won’t get on said soapbox now. Let me just say that there is a well thought out yearly calendar that helps the church think through the Gospel and implications. For more about these kinds of thoughts, I would recommend Mike Cosper’s book Rhythms of Grace.

8.     Worshiping like inspiration stopped with the hymnal.

Every hymn was new at some point. God did not close the canon of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1980 (or whatever date you’d like to pick out). There are wonderful hymns being written in every generation, and there are clunky hymns written in every generation. The beauty of time is that the many of the best hymns of previous generations have risen to the top to be passed down.

9.     Worshiping like inspiration started with modern worship songs

True worship didn’t start in 1980 (or whatever date you’d like to pick out). Congregations were pouring their hearts out to God before the Jesus Movement, Passion and Hillsong.

10.   Not providing a venue for creatives to express their art as worship.

Guilty. I’m not actually even sure where to start. I bought this book, probably start with reading it?

11.   Allowing songs about God to supersede the Word of God.

I think here he’s talking about the tendency in the modern worship movement to focus on the music (usually very shallow music…) to the detriment of the preaching of God’s word. In the service, the “experience” of God in music seems to be more important than that God has to say in His Word.

12.   Elevating gathered worship above dispersed worship.

Actually, I think the modern culture tends the opposite way, devaluing the local Body of Christ in favor of the universal Body of Christ. It’s the whole, “I can worship just fine on a golf course attitude.” I could be wrong, but too many people shun gathered worship in favor of “Just me and God.” Balance , as usual, is the key.

13.   Setting aside traditionalism around the world but not across the aisle.

Not sure what he’s talking about here.

14.   Worshiping out of Nostalgia or Novelty.

He kind of hit this point with 8 and 9…

15.   Worship services at the expense of worship service.

Our focus on worship gatherings, but not on serving the community around us. A warning sign for any church is when the ministries become inwardly focused to the exclusion of outwardly focused ministry.

This music is not mainstream! — More Than Rubies

More Than Rubies

Okay, so it’s been a really long time.  Most of you have forgotten I ever had a blog…  So, when I write a new album review, you should all sit up and say, “What wondrous music must this be to cause Alan to write another blog post?”  This wondrous music is a newish group called More than Rubies.  A collaboration of two seasoned song writers Christa Wells and Nicole Witt, More than Rubies is their first full length album together.

More than Rubies is an interesting mix of styles.  Christa has been in the pop world for years and Nicole in the country world.  The resulting album fits into neither category neatly.  A blend of piano ballads and bluegrass tunes make this a truly sonically diverse album.  Both women have beautiful voices that mix well.

Where this album shines is in the lyrics.  Each song has been crafted and packed full of Gospel truth.  The album opens with the wonderful “Image of God,” and just keeps going straight through.  I always hang out on track 4, “Lay Us Low.”  What a wonderful declaration of repentance that often is sorely missing in the repertoire of churches.  The 6th track, “Visible Invisible,” illustrates well how the church is the “invisible” Body of Christ made “visible” to the surrounding world.  The album ends with the foot stomping, hand clapping bluegrass “Coming to the Light,” talking about no sin being hidden because the day is coming when Christ will judge all.

So, what are you waiting for, go and listen!  Listen through the album on Spotify, and then to support the artists, drop by Amazon or iTunes and buy this album!

Head in “the Cloud” – Music

I was sitting, listing to my hymns playlist tonight and was reminded how much my music listening has changed in the last 5 years.  5 years ago, I lugged around my CD collection in my car.  Lest you think I use the word “lug” unfairly, at one time I had anywhere from 500-600 CDs when my collection was stolen.  I worked back up to probably about 400 CDs when I stopped buying cds.

So, what happened to wean me off of the massive case?  Simple, 5 years ago, I drove 30 minutes to work each day and 30 minutes back, and 30 minutes to church and back, and 20 minutes to get fast food, or go to ShopKo, or get Hardees.  That’s a lot of driving so my CD player in the car was busy.  What changed?  It now takes me 5 minutes to drive to work depending on the lights.  It might actually be quicker to walk to Target than it is to strap the kids into the van, drive to the parking lot, unstrap the kids, and walk into the store.  Also, storage space has increased rather dramatically.  iTunes currently says that I have 85.48 GB of music.  That’s a decent amount of space on my computer!  So, as my ability to store MP3s increased, my willingness to migrate my library increased.  The second piece of the puzzle to get me to start buying all of my music on Amazon was the introduction of cloud music services.

I should back up at this point and point out that I always have used a streaming music solution at home/work since college.  After feeling convicted about downloading MP3s from AudioGalaxy, I signed up for Rhapsody, the first viable streaming solution.  Since then, Spotify has come out, and I’ve moved over.  Spotify is where I listen to all things new in the worship world.  If I love an album enough, I go ahead and buy the album.  When I buy the album, I do so on Amazon, because that’s where it makes the most sense!

A few years ago, Amazon beat Apple to the cloud music punch and released their  Cloud Player.  I jumped on the opportunity and uploaded all of my music!  Now, when I buy a track on Amazon, it automatically shows up in my Cloud Player, then I download it to iTunes where it automatically uploads the track to Google Music.  Google Music came out after Cloud Player, and initially I switched to Google Music, but I have found the playback to be a wee bit glitchy, and there is a 1000 track limit to playlists.  My worship playlist has 2248 tracks in it!  So, I’m back to Amazon Cloud Player.  They since have added the feature to “match” and upconvert the tracks they recognize, much like iTunes Match.  So, after the tracks are uploaded, I delete them from my computer, so total music on my computer, zero tracks.  Hence, thanks to Dropbox, Google Docs, and a couple of other services, my computer could go up in flames and I really wouldn’t lose a thing.  The downside is that I need to be online to listen to tracks, but I think the last time I was offline was a power outage, and I simply switched to using my phone as a hotspot.  I can even redownload the tracks if I really want to burn a CD for the car….

Head in “the Cloud” — Intro and Gmail

Warning: This post is heavy on the Geek side of the Worship Geek title!

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about writing about life in “the cloud.”  Now, I just lost some of you.  Thankfully, Apple has been promoting their new iCloud product, or I probably would have lost more of you.  Let me explain… no, there is too much, let me sum up.  Essentially, when tech people talk about “the cloud,” they are talking about using network or online resources to accomplish tasks you would typically use desktop computer software for.  So, for example, many of us were “in the cloud” a long time ago when we started using webmail services like Hotmail and Yahoo.

I sat down to write this post last night, and about 4 or 5 pages later, I realized that perhaps this needed to be a series since no one would ever get through the whole thing in one sitting.  Plus this way, I can spend some more time on each app.    My goal is to show you some of the applications that I use that make my life easier.  If you decide to try any of these (or solutions that are similar), I would really recommend you do what I do, which is use the app exclusively (as the solution it’s designed for) for at least a week to get acclimated before you judge it positively or negatively.  First impressions are often off.  We get used to doing things a certain way, and often changing software will take you more time before it starts saving you time.  Since I mentioned Hotmail and Yahoo, I might as well start with my favorite webmail client and all around communication solution, Gmail.


About 2 years ago, my computer crashed again.  I don’t remember why the crash happened that particular time, only the frustration a week later when I went to find an email that I needed, only to remember that my computer had crashed, and I had lost all of the emails between the time I backed up my computer last and when the computer crashed.  This is the problem with manual back-ups, you only get the data from when you last backed up!  Anyway, once upon a time, I had an Excite email account (actually, I think I probably still have it…. yep, still there, unchanged from whenever Excite got bought by whoever…. wow, I’m still getting starwars.com e-newsletters amongst all of the spam) and I still have a Hotmail account, and I think I remember even signing up for a Gmail account once upon a time (I remember being lured by the promise of crazy amounts of space, but lost interest because I didn’t want to do the email address change thing).

After looking at all various webmail (cloud) solutions, Gmail seemed to be the obvious choice, so I signed up and started customizing.  The first wonderful thing I find about Gmail is the way it integrates all of my POP mail into my Gmail.  Specifically, all 4 or 5 of my email addresses all get checked within my Gmail account, neatly organized into separate folders.  I can send from any of the POP addresses, or from my Gmail account.  My contacts are all together in one place, conveniently synced with my phone and my iPad.  These days, my Sprint phone number connects in with my Google account, so when someone calls my cell, a notification pops up in a chat window and I can even answer the call on my computer (actually, the notification pops up about 5 seconds before my phone even rings).

In terms of email, I haven’t lost an email since I switched.  If I get emails from people (read companies) that I don’t want, I can mark them as Spam, and Google remembers to file all messages like that in my Spam folder so that I don’t see them.  Email conversations are put together into conversation threads, so I can always view the whole conversation without going on a hunt for that last email from so and so.  It is Google, so all of my emails are easily searchable (I didn’t know I needed that until I started using it more and more).

In short, Gmail has become my communication hub.  All emails route through Gmail, my phone calls route through Gmail, etc.. I almost have my Gmail open in a tab, which is why I am so quick to answer emails.  There are certainly other cloud solutions for email.  Lots of corporate people use Microsoft Exchange accounts.  Apple fanbois use MobileMe (now iCloud) for email, which does much that Gmail does.  I would certainly recommend that you move to a cloud solution for your email.  I know there are people paranoid about security that would have a panic attack using cloud services, but let’s be honest, there really is no completely secure solution.  Be smart with password management, not visiting risky websites, not opening fishy websites, in other words, use some sense in your online activities.  There has to be a balance between security and ease of use.  Well, off the soapbox and off to sleep!  Next time, Google Docs.

This music is not mainstream! – Rend Collective Experiment

One of the things that I hear often from people is, “I don’t listen to Christian music, because it all sounds the same.”  My followup question is whether or not they are talking about K-Love.  Not to say that K-Love is a bad music station.  For the most part, they play music that is fairly solid lyrically (with some major exceptions that certainly sound nice and Christian, but have really bad or incomplete theology).  Now, I’m not saying that everything you listen to or sing must contain super deep, theological lyrics, but let’s at least not listen to misleading or outright wrong theology.  The conclusion that a lot of those people come to is that they either a) just deal with K-Love, b) listen to secular music, because sure there’s some bad stuff in there, but not all of it’s bad, and it’s certainly more musically interesting than hearing the same thing over and over again (come on K-Love, expand your playlist past the same 15 songs over and over again) or c) not listen to music at all.

I would like to submit to you an option d.  There’s a lot of really great, theologically rich, musically interesting Christian music out there.  A lot of people have asked me for suggestions, and to be honest, I’m so musically eclectic that often I’m not sure where to begin.  I listen to a lot of music, and a lot of it is music that you have probably never heard.  The only way for you decide if you like a lot of this music is to listen to it!  You might find that a lot of it kind of grows on you.  What I’d like to do is to share with you the artists that I’m listening to.  I’ll give you some representative YouTube links perhaps, a link to purchase an album or two on Amazon, and who knows, maybe you’ll find some new music that you love to listen to that helps you in your quest to keep your mind on things above and not on earthly things.

Up first in the series of, “This music is not mainstream!” is a group that is about as not mainstream as you get, Rend Collective Experiment.  Here is how they explain what Rend Collective Experiment is on their website (which by the way has a really cool design… www.rendcollectiveexperiment.com):

The Rend Collective Experiment started in 2004 as a group of confused 20 somethings started trying to figure out life, God and community. Then in 2007 it grew into a collective of musicians and artists trying to share with the world what they were learning. All our music is grown out of an organic environment and we hope you can appreciate our bond through our music. We try to make journey music that talks from the heart and trys to follow God’s heart yet its music for all not just the religious!

The first thing that you notice about this Irish group, Rend Collective Experiment is that they are not your typical band, with a lead singer, drummer, electric guitar player, bass player, maybe a keyboard player, an acoustic guy and a singer or two.  The lead singer on one song isn’t the lead singer on the next song.  One song may have drums, the next may not.  In other words, if you are an eclectic listener like me, you get to be eclectic without having to change CDs!  I can still remember the first time I heard their album, “Organic Hymnal,” and listening to the song, You Bled and exclaiming out loud, “Brass!”  Listening to this album, I heard the song, “Love Divine” and said to Jodie, “Wow, these lyrics are great!  This sounds like a hymn.”  That’s because the song is the lyrics to Love Divine, All Loves Excelling set to new music.  Listening to this song helped me to rediscover a hymn that we sing maybe once or twice a year.  Oh, and did I mention there’s brass….

You can listen to several Rend Collective Experiment songs by visiting their YouTube page, http://www.youtube.com/user/RendCollective.  That being said, their album that’s out, “Organic Hymnal” really needs to be experienced as a complete album.  You can purchase the album on Amazon or iTunes (along with I’m sure a host of other services).  I shall leave you with a couple of YouTube videos.  The first is of their song, “Movements.”  This video shows off their quirky humor side (the album really has both serious and quirky music on it).  The second video, I saw long before I ever heard of Rend Collective Experiment, because I’m a geek, and saw it on a blog.  It wasn’t until later that I made the connection that this was the band I was listening to so much.