Christian Roundup, Early Summer
This most recent crop of new Christian releases is particularly tasty. First up is the newly retooled Crowder (formerly known as David Crowder Band), whose new lineup may leave fans feeling unsettled, but after hearing Neon Steeple, they'll calm right down. It's a rugged, homey album that melds sacred sounds from the past with present-day praise, and proves David has plenty left to say, no matter who shares the stage with him.
There are also new releases by big names such as Michael W. Smith, Passion and The Choir. After a break from the format, Smith is back to his worshipful ways with Sovereign, while Passion have never been about anything but praise. Their latest live disc, Take It All, is from their annual conference and features all the usual suspects — Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels, Matt Redman and Crowder — which is what keeps us tuning in. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Choir have always been the underdogs, and we suspect that's the way these rebellious California rockers want it. Shadow Weaver finds them getting even better as they continue to age gracefully in Tennessee.
Tedashii's Below Paradise comes on the heels of the loss of his young son, a tragedy that impacted the music. The songs read like a journal, with some entries so honest and transparent that the pain is palpable, but the album is not a somber, solemn experience. There is triumph and hope, too. Meanwhile, critical fave Audrey Assad went indie for her third studio project and raised nearly 200 percent of her Kickstarter goal, enabling her to follow up the album with two EPs. The latest, Death, Be Not Proud, finds her approaching impending motherhood with her usual thoughtfulness. She tackles the topics of life, rebirth and resurrection in her own unique way.
Worship band Leeland are also back, delivering a live disc that showcases their noteworthy stage show and gives a glimpse into what the fuss is all about. Meanwhile, All Sons & Daughters, a Tennessee-based worship duo, are making a big splash with their self-titled debut, which features songwriters Francesca Battistelli, Derek Webb, Leeland, Jason Ingram and Sandra McCracken. Even without the big-name help, this new act has talent to spare. Then there's Beckah Shae, who delves into the world of electronic dance on her eighth album, Champion, featuring everyone from Israel Houghton and Crystal Lewis to Eric Dawkins, Canon and T-Bone.
Guy Penrod, the tall, lanky baritone best known for his time in the Gaither Vocal Band, stands alone on Worship, his third release since going solo. It includes 13 popular praise and worship classics that Penrod has sprinkled with some west Texas dirt for a more country sound. Let's just say you've never heard "Revelation Song" like this!
Seventh Day Slumber and Carman round out our list, and you couldn't get two more different acts. We Are the Broken is Seventh Day Slumber's 10th studio project, and finds them as high-energy as ever. Brent Milligan did production duties on this stellar Christian rock release. As for Carman, well, what can we say? No Plan B is the platinum-selling artist's first disc in 10 years. The album is the result of the second most-funded Kickstarter music campaign ever, which makes it even more amazing that No Plan B manages to sound like it's trapped back in 1989. Fortunately, his fans don't seem to mind.