For five years, our team has sought out and promoted independent Christian artists from around the world who have answered the call of God on their lives to create—some even to the ends of the earth, living by faith on monthly support. In 1983 Ray Hughes prophesied a “musicianary movement that would sweep the nations with the sound of His heart,” and we believe that we are seeing that movement of Christian art emerge in the indie music scene.
Every Monday we have the privilege of promoting a different indie Christian artist with a mission, and the vision is two-fold: discover new artists who have answered the call of God on their life, and build a catalog of independent Christian art that reflects the heart of the Father.
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Traveling worship leader and secret place songwriter Ryan Hall is no foreigner to the courts of heaven—his songs drip heavy with heaven’s peace and preeminence. Together with his wife, Ryan and Karen are the minds behind the band: the halls. On their recent sophomore release “Filled with the Light” the two have managed to capture a sense of breathless wonder and heavenly anticipation in musical form.
Opening the album with a softly picked acoustic guitar, Ryan takes us back to his roots in the house of prayer—where many, if not all, of these songs were written. After serving many years as a worship director for the Pasadena International House of Prayer, Ryan has continued his career in Tennessee where he now serves as prayer room director at the Franklin Prayer House. Patient meditation and prayer certainly seem to be the creative starting point for this duo, and songs like “Gaze Upon the One” and “Draw Me Away” are the evidently destination; or as Ryan might put it “the treasures they found along the path.”
Reminiscent of an early Josh Garrels or John Mark McMillan record, Ryan’s vocals are supported by a symphony of guitars and mandolins that give away his Nashville address. “Psalm 100” features a drum line that drives the angelic post-chorus anthem, whereas “Give My Life” features strings and cymbals (as well as a hauntingly sweet vocal accompaniment by Karen). All in all the groups’ new EP is a beautiful blend of singer/songwriter and folk that will bring you back to only your best times in scripture.
the halls continue to travel the world teaching and leading worship, frequenting cities in both England and France. Their heart is to serve pastors and church leaders, encourage the local body, and ultimately to see intimacy with Christ increase within the church and even deeper within the cities they visit.
If there were one thing lacking in Christian music today, it would be brokenness before the Lord—something debut artist Suzanne Marc has not only embraced, but something she has managed to weave into her songwriting. In her brand new three-song EP, Levant, Marc explores questions of faith in the face of poverty and injustice, drawing from her years overseas in the Middle East.
Her opening track, Remember Me, is a ballad to the beloved: the orphan and the widow, the impoverished and the sick. A familiar finger-picked acoustic guitar sets the stage for Marc’s rich alto vocals, beckoning us not only into the suffering of others, but also the suffering of Christ. Eventually overtaken by a chorus of strings (thanks to the always provoking compositions from house of prayer veteran, David Brymer), this song is one for the charts: something you’d hear on a holiday season commercial or a Spotify rainy-day playlist.
“I wrote ‘Remember Me‘ after I visited a refugee camp full of families who had fled their home country” Marc shared with us, “As I went home that day, I couldn’t stop seeing their faces—the face of a man who had helped us with the food distribution that day, the little girl with her mom, the man with his bad leg, smoking his cigarette. When I got home I started to pray for them, and as I prayed I started weeping. I wept with a longing for them to be comforted that I knew wasn’t simply my own emotion. All I had to do was pick up my guitar and sing, and the chorus of this song came out.”
Having been raised overseas, Marc wears her international identity beautifully, singing fluently in both English (Remember Me, and O Syria) and Arabic (Malachi 1:11) “I grew up immersed in the sights, sounds and practices of another culture and religion, and I loved it. I couldn’t imagine life any other way.” Marc shares, “Music was always there too—the Middle East has such a rich musical history that resonated with me.”
Marc follows in the footsteps of her father who she tells us, “would set old hymns and Arabic scripture to new melodies that he composed on his autoharp.” Malachi 1:11, the final song on the EP, is a triumphant declaration of hope set in a traditional minor key in homage to legendary singers such as Sabah and Fairuz.
“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord will be great. In every place, at every time, the name of the Lord will be great.”
Levant, translated “to rise; or the place where the sun rises”, is also a common title given to a region in the Middle East that many of the songs were written in, and its Marc’s greatest hope that this region would discover the healing and redemption promised to those who revere God in Malachi 4:2. She also hopes that the EP would draw listeners into the mystery of God’s heart; that in the darkness of our own suffering and of those around us, we would experience the dawning of the light of the world. “It’s so easy to harden our hearts in order to survive as we see so much suffering,” Marc shares, “but I want my heart to grieve and mourn for the pain of the ones Jesus loves, and to be ready to respond in compassion.”
There is great strength in those words, and we couldn’t be more moved by this poet’s life. Keep an ear out for Levant on all music platforms today, and give it as a gift to someone close this holiday season!
You can find Suzanne Marc’s music on Spotify or on iTunes today, and expect it in stores for purchase by next Tuesday, the 27th.
LOS ANGELES, CA – July 24, 2018 – After a three month hiatus, Philadelphia-born gospel singer and worship leader James Jackson returns with his first full-length album, “Lord of All the Earth”. Making his artist debut in April earlier this year, James is taking strides in his career as a singer. “It’s crazy to think that even just a year ago I was still waiting for the right time to release my music,” James comments. “I mean…this has been a three year process of letting go and trusting God’s timing.”
In December of last year, James launched a Kickstarter to raise funds for his album. “Due to a family emergency, I had to return home and take care of my family…and in that season of being broken before the Lord I heard him say, ‘now it’s time.’” So James partnered up with producer Connor Caughlan, put out a promo video, and set out on a thirty day campaign to raise $8500. But twenty five days later, things weren’t looking so good. “We were five days away from finishing our campaign an not even 40% funded,” James recounts. “When out of no where someone drops $5300 on us and we reach our campaign goal.”
“I remember calling James at five in the morning when I got the notification,” Connor shared. “We were both cried as we celebrated the confirmation that this is what God had for us.”
The album proclaims God’s sovereignty from both the mountains and the valleys, taking us from triumphant choruses (Lord of All the Earth) to heart-wrenching ballads about trusting God (Job’s Song). Fusing together his background in gospel music with his years in the house of prayer, the album lands somewhere between an early Jesus Culture record and a Jaye Thomas CD. “[Having] James’ vision partnered with such a diverse group of musicians was explosive—I can’t wait to see how the heart of this record shifts atmospheres for the kingdom,” comments drummer, Arin Ilejay.
Friend and fellow musicianary, Lindy Conant says, “James Jackson is one of a kind. He carries the presence of Jesus with him wherever he goes. I have anticipated music from him for a long time, so I am so excited it’s finally happening! James has been an encouragement in my life musically and given me so much courage to take risks. I am praying that this music not only ministers to you, but gives you courage!”
Now only a week before his own wedding, James is ready to share his songs with his supporters and with the general public. Take a second today to listen to Lord of All the Earth on any music platform of your choice.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign this last December, international worship leader and singer James Jackson, makes his CCM debut with his new song “Latter Rain”.Part of the upcoming release of his full-length album later this summer, James says he didn’t originally plan on releasing a single.
“It kind of came out of no where,” producer and co-writer Connor Caughlan comments, “We were in my home trying to finish one song, and the next moment we ditched the idea and decided to write a new song.”
Earlier that week Lou Engle, founder of the TheCall, sent out an email exhortation that called the church to fast negativity for forty days leading up to April 9, 2018. “There is a ‘last [rain] song’ yet to be sung, a song of joy and expectancy, connected with the fast that will precipitate the latter rain outpourings of the Holy Spirit on California. We will feast, fast and bless…praying for the rain in the time of the latter rain.”
“The crazy thing is I remember it pouring rain outside,” Jackson recounts, “and from the moment we decided to write the song, it’s as if it was written for us—it was such a remarkably quick writing experience.”
The song lands on April 9, the anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival, and a significant day for James. “Three years ago I started writing my own music after I received a prophetic word about carrying the ‘sound of Azusa’, and when I prayed about the release date for my songs I felt April 9th. That year I had been asked to lead worship at AzusaNow, which landed on the same day, and I assumed that I would be releasing my album that year.”
“Now to see God coming through in His perfect timing is so amazing. The last three years of writing and waiting on the Lord have been tough, but seeing everything line up according to God’s plan is unbelievable; I’m so blessed.”
James’ new single hits online music stores this Monday. James hopes the song will strengthen the church and stir up faith in to believe that God is sending a new revival to America and to the nations.
With simple and tender lyrics, To Find You uncovers the secret prayers of Kelsie Plante, musicianary to the Middle East. The album is short, only 8 songs, but what it lacks in duration it makes up for in memorability. Plante’s songs are easy to sing along with; her modest melodies are accessible even to the most unskilled singers. These highly syllabic choruses are backed by the ear-candy of producer/musician extraordinaire Jeff Schneeweis, who characterizes each track with a different part of his musical imagining. Through the Walls features an ever-moving treble piano pattern floating high over an electronically simulated deep bass and delicately syncopated wooden percussive sounds. Nearness takes a shadowy turn, dusky and intimate, entreating God to come close to his beloved. Root Me features an upwards stepping melody, methodically forward moving and unfolding, mirroring the ascension of a soul in the presence of the Almighty. The title song takes a cinematic turn with low chordal piano accompaniment, pulsing crispy percussive snaps, and transcendent background vocals.
Though every song is a part of Plante’s journey finding God’s heart for the lost, To the Fatherless might just be the clearest picture of Kelsie’s vision for missions. Though the song was written years ago on her first trip to minister to child soldiers in war-torn Africa, it’s clear it’s still a burning prayer in her heart. The instrumentation is simple; her lyrics are the main focus. Though the song could be sung by just about anyone (it’s not over-involved at all) it’s her voice that sets this track apart. Kelsie’s voice is clear and smooth, brimming with a hungry energy. It’s contagious in every track, completely and undeniably her. It’s the strongest whisper you’ve ever heard, brave, intimate, magnetic. Saturated with authentic conviction, the musical experience effortlessly draws in listeners to ignite a special place in the soul, a place that desires communion with God.
From the band Seeker and Servant, Kody Gautier has taken years of harmonic musings, poems and melodic wonderings to form his own LP, The Prevailing. Formed as a means of expression rather than a tool to please the public, The Prevailing is composed of mostly instrumental tracks that showcase what’s going on inside of Gautier’s mind. Born with Grapheme-color Synesthesia (where an individual associates numerals and letters with colors) and Chromosthesia (where an individual associates sounds with colors), Gautier describes his experience with music as intense and passionate, a veritable sensory experience. But unlike most people with this special gift, he has invited the listener into his experience.
Of the 57 minutes of listening time, about 30 minutes are purely instrumental tracks. We as listeners are ushered into the soundscapes of the artist’s mind, which seems to favor epic swells and layers of strings. It’s clear in this album Gautier is flexing his compositional muscles, he’s seeing what he can do instrumentally. For most tracks, it starts like minimalist music, high on the repetitive and low on variety. But that’s the way he wants it. Throughout each instrumental track Gautier likes to unfold his experience methodically: it might start with an ever-moving piano melody, be joined with slow moving strings and finally supplemented by lower bass piano lines. His instrumental layering is like a road trip in a car- you look out the side window and see a mountain, slowly moving by. You look at the telephone lines swiftly gliding by and the grass moving so fast you can’t see each individual blade. But you’re moving at a constant speed so it all makes sense.
Instrumental compositions are not all we get. In tracks like Tower God and Swing Low Gautier exposes his Post-Rock and Metal influences with aggressive vocals, heavy guitars and minor cadences. His voice hits the target every time; there’s something so fantastic about it. It’s convicting and stabilizing, It pulls you in but makes you feel so incredibly free. Though his singing time on the album is very limited, it is extremely memorable.
Swing Low might be the track to listen to. A minimal and repetitive piano is the foundation of the song, ominous and foreboding. It is soon joined by a driving cymbal and otherworldly guitar feedback paired with Gautier’s stirring voice and pleading lyrics. Before You is sure to please as well; it centers around the singularity of God and the desperation of man to unite with him. The lyrics are simple, asking “What good can find us but the One/What good?”. It’s in this track we see the marriage of Gautier’s Post-Rock habits and his generous filmic traits, which could quite possibly be the niche that makes him stand out.
Overall, The Prevailing is not an album to score high on the charts. It’s not a measure of success for Kody Gautier. It’s more concept than crowd-pleasing. It’s more personal than trendy. It’s simply an artist beckoning those who pass by to come and see music from his point of view.
Andy Squyres isn’t looking to impress anyone. With a whispery voice, and a quiet energy he spills all his secrets in Cherry Blossoms.
Many young folk artists write songs with lofty ideals and profound insight, and we find similar material in this album. But what sets Squyres apart from these youngsters is the way he communicates the questions that haunt him in the night, questions he has no answers for. In an interview with Carlos Rodriguez of HappySonship.com he reveals the 8 song album was born out of personal tragedy. We see glimpses of this in What Nobody Should Know when the songwriter muses that the much talked about ‘amazing grace’ becomes real when he finds himself mourning on the floor, wondering how love could allow him to get to such a low place. In Unanswered Prayers, he navigates the tension of trusting a loving God in the midst of heartbreak. But it’s not depressing in the slightest- there’s a running theme of the victory of Jesus. Oh Love Supreme looks to the sacrifice of Christ; Squyres declares there’s not a weakness he has that can come against the triumph of the Cross. The Pestle and The Mortar acknowledges the promise of God standing true during difficulty. There’s such a present-ness that Squyres possesses; it’s an art truly to remain in the great divide of trial and truth.
Squyres’ musical layering is well-chosen. It seems that each track has something so subtly new that keeps the listener’s ears fresh. He uses low brass instruments in Unanswered Prayers to depart from guitar-picking folky styles we expect and take a more Gungor-esque (think: The Brilliance) approach. Featuring a sliding cello layered over deep plucking of the same instrument, Oh Love Supreme is woody and organic. Added to the musical bouquet is Labor in Vain, which blends bluegrass-gospel vocals with modern electronic effects. A loosely tuned piano paired with low brass form a perfect foundation for the un-airbrushed chorus of real-sounding vocals. Cherry Blossoms contains a more folk/slow gospel feel, with a simple piano ballad style under a crooning Squyres.
Tastefully arranged, each track feels complete yet unified to the album. You’re probably not going to be singing these songs around the house or in the car; he hasn’t created them to be catchy or poppy. He’s just let us in on his process. And that process is a series of musical stories you read with your ears, thoroughly engrossed, captivated, not because of the surprise of the ending but rather the craftsmanship it takes to tell it.
Brimming with energy, Lindy Conant leads the Circuit Riders in their new live album, Every Nation.
Lindy Conant is and has always been a powerhouse, the kind that keeps going and just doesn’t quit. It almost feels cliché to paint her as a fiery, passionate singer, but if anybody embodies the type, it’s her. There’s conviction in her lyrics, conviction that radiates hunger and vitality when sung. Track after track she’s fully there, hammering home the worthiness of Jesus and the desire for complete surrender to him. She’s not playing games or wasting time; there’s no parable to her words or veil to her song’s meanings. There’s just the unadulterated yearning for all of Jesus to be known in all of the earth.
The group’s style is a change in pace from the familiar “Christian live album” feel with driving synths and simple but heavy electronic drums; a noticeable contrast from their last live album. Their unique sound is a collection of the members’ individual taste.Spencer Brennt brings an electronic feel on drums (check out his EDM project US.on Soundcloud) that gives the album a heavier, more driving feel. Daniel Bryan is the other half of that potent one-two punch with his aggressive piano stylings. He’s not content to simply reinforce chords-he makes his keyboard presence known. It’s this type of individuality combined with unity of heart that makes this album fly.
Chloe Brennt (now Chloe Mack) serves as capable harmonic voice, cutting through with a strong soprano voice not often heard in today’s Christian music. In Isaiah 6 and Another Wave, her clarity and purity don’t go without notice, leading out in bold declarations of surrender and faith. Guitarist Kendall Fowler fills in the space with tasteful delays and single-note riffs that suspend the listener in the moment while bassist Gem Ceniza reinforces the lower register.
It takes a lot of energy to listen to the album; every song is filled with powerful lyrics that demand a response. Least to say, it’s not the group’s goal to create an easy-listening experience; their songs are purposed for activation. Their simple melodies and repetitive choruses are constructed for the masses—for anyone and everyone to join in on. Included in the live recording are the voices of hundreds of high schoolers impacted by One Voice Student Missions, who helped promote the event. With such a daring and straightforward message, it’s exhilarating to hear the crowds of young people belt out the anthems.
It’s hard to have this album playing in the background without becoming fully immersed in worship and the mission behind every song. Listen to become provoked, to be set on fire anew for the glory of God to sweep the earth. We are more than excited to follow Lindy and the Circuit Riders as they call the world into radical surrender.
Birthed back in 2010 as the brainchild of Jonathan Ogden, Rivers & Robots began in Manchester as a one man worship project. Six years, three albums and multiple shows later, the group (now three men strong) is still producing the upliftingly worshipful, uniquely crisp music we loved about them from the beginning. Keeping with the usual pattern of creativity and biblically rich lyrics is the fourth album, The Eternal Son– completely new, yet very familiar. The 58 minute record branches out from the indie-ambience of previous albums to discover a more syncopated, bouncy work.
Jonathan Ogden has a record (no pun intended) of musical prolificacy in his published works. Not only are his albums full- each one is about an hour- they are also filled with songs that are full. Jonathan doesn’t recycle music; he has too many ideas for that. He’s not afraid to experiment within tracks, particularly with electronic effects. A Love That Carries Me establishes itself as peppy, with mellow vocals and catchy guitar riffs. But after a couple minutes, we’re inundated with wispy, windy audio. High Priest has an easy listening groove, a super laidback feel supplemented with an 808 electronic drum kit. You Know My Name borrows from several genres as well; melodically simple melodies are layered over a soft hip-hop beat partnered with a West Coast beach guitar and arpeggiated marimba-like sample. Quite possibly the most fun is Who is Like Our God, a psychedelic, syncopated hymn of praise to the Creator. It’s strange how one album can be so chameleonic in style yet so effective in curation.
If you’re more partial to the feel of the last album, don’t worry; tracks like Jesus, Your Blood, To the Highest Place, and Home bring the indie-worship vibes with a swirly delayed electronic guitar, piano/cello duo, and ambient guitar picking, respectfully. But nothing is old or tired. Ogden allows each song to evolve by seamlessly layering appealing musical ideas under (and sometimes over) inspiring lyrics. The text in each song looks like it came from the Psalms; to the Bible-reading listener it is not surprising. But in the way Ogden generates sound, in the way he pairs lyrics to music, it is life-giving. The final offering, Jesus, Your Blood appears to be a generally good worship tune…for the first three and a half minutes. But approaching the four minute mark, something happens, something so magical. Guitar, keys and drums are removed, exposing a lone electric guitar and shifting the whole atmosphere of the song. Ogden solos: “I will ascend the hill of the Lord/ ‘Cause you have rescued me”. It’s then as if a grand curtain drops, revealing that we’re sonically surrounded by chorus of voices and a full band that have been there all along. It’s quite cinematic, the ending, soaring until a lone whisper of an acoustic guitar reminds us that this song, this musical offering is for One and One alone.