By Kari Jobe, Integrity Music.
Kari Jobe’s voice is smooth and airy but there is no fluff to her music. The rich lyrics are enveloped by easy melodies that will replay in people’s heads and hearts long after the CD has stopped spinning. Jobe has known since she was 10 years old that she would be a worship leader, and her calling and gift are clearly evident on her debut CD. She kicks off the album with the upbeat “I’m Singing,” with the chorus: “I’m singing to the God who brings redemption to the nations / Kings and oceans bow to Him in praise / And I’m singing to the God who wrote the book on our salvation / To the One who covers me in grace / I’m singing / Praise, praise to the Savior / Praise to the Lamb of God / Praise in all of His splendor / Praise for saving my life.” With the ballad “Beautiful,” it’s as if we are sharing a devotional moment between Jobe and God as she surrenders “everything that’s of myself” and simply worships. “Everyone Needs a Little” is a lighthearted song that reminds us that in the midst of our needs He is there. This worshiper exudes joy—even in surrender and vulnerability. She offers a collection of upbeat praise songs and worship ballads that first and foremost honor the Lord, but also encourage and renew believers. Jobe is surely an example of what it means to worship in spirit and in truth. —Leigh DeVore
By Brian Courtney Wilson, Spirit Rising Music.
Gospel singer and worship leader Brian Courtney Wilson doesn’t have the roof-raising voice that some of his colleagues possess, but he does have a refreshing sincerity that comes through loud and clear on debut Just Love. Wilson gives listeners a collection of pop, R&B and jazz-infused gospel songs that never pull any punches. On “No Other”—an icy cool R&B song—Wilson admits: “I want to be cool / Sing a song in a video / Pretty girls by the pool,” and later, on “Simply Redeemed”—a gentle piano tune with pop influences—Wilson sings: “I am a Christian / Do you know what that means? / It means I’m far from perfect, simply redeemed.” But it’s not just Wilson’s transparency that’s admirable; he’s also a pretty strong performer. Take, for instance, “I Need More,” a catchy song with an urgent club beat that Wilson pulls off with aplomb, or the aforementioned “No Other,” on which his vocals are silky smooth. Although some of these songs lose their way—the title track has a wonderful vibe, but lyrically it’s all over the map—most gospel fans will appreciate this diverse, sincere album from a talented newcomer. —Cameron Conant
Light in the Darkness
By Freddy Rodriguez, Integrity Music.
This live album from Freddy Rodriguez was recorded at the Champions Center in Las Vegas where he is worship leader, and it begs the question, “Can really predictable worship music still be really good?” If this doesn’t sound like an Israel Houghton album, nothing does. But Rodriguez—who has a wonderful voice that at points sounds strikingly similar to Houghton’s—is very talented, and this album is remarkably clean-sounding, vaulting Rodriguez into the top tier of this subset of praise and worship. Light in the Darkness opens with a glitzy gospel tune and ends with one, and in between listeners are treated to a straightforward set of songs that range from brassy, upbeat praise to mid-tempo, pop-infused tunes to slower ballads. The album is most interesting when the songs offer, in a nod to Rodriguez’s heritage, Latino flourishes. It’s especially enjoyable, for instance, when he switches to Spanish halfway through “Lord You Are Amazing.” Rodriguez is pretty amazing here, too. —Cameron Conant
Chorus of the Saints
By Revive, Reunion Records.
Revive have been together for more than four years and released three albums in their native Australia. In 2007 Third Day heard them perform and the music veterans became mentors to this young band. Last year Dave Hanbury (lead vocals), Tyler Hall (guitar), Mike Tenkate (drums) and Rich Thompson (bass) brought their music and ministry stateside. Musically, Revive fit in the pop-rock genre, but their lyrics also put them in the worship category. The title song and opener remind listeners of God’s faithfulness. “The Truth Is” turns down the volume a bit but not the energy, as the group declares that “there is none like You.” “You Know” is a standout with Third Day’s Mac Powell joining in. Worship ballad “Power” sings of the awe we’ll feel in heaven as we can only cry, “Power, glory, honor to you our King.” At times it seems as if they are trying too hard (pushing vocals), but their talent and passion mixed with experience will have them ministering in music for years to come. —Leigh DeVore