INTEGRITY MUSIC announces the signing of Belfast, Northern Ireland’s BLUETREE and the forthcoming international release of the band’s new album, Worship & Justice. Led by founder Aaron Boyd, Bluetree is an organic band, drawing from members of local Belfast churches and from friends in local church communities around the world. They are perhaps best known for their passionate pursuit of social justice, working hand-in-hand with local and international ministries to end human trafficking. In fact it was while leading worship on a church missions trip to Pattaya, Thailand, that they penned their most popular song, “God Of This City,” which has been recorded by a variety of artists, most notably Chris Tomlin and the Passion movement. Boyd recalls that as they were playing in Pattaya, he began to spontaneously sing the lyrics of the song, calling out God’s sovereignty in one of the world’s most notorious locations for human trafficking and the sex trade. The father of two young daughters, Boyd says that much of the Bluetree team’s focus has been on human trafficking and sexual abuse, “exposing the evil, rescuing the victims, and bringing them life as God intends for all of us.” The band works to raise money and support for ministries such as Ratanak International, World Orphans and Christian Freedom International and also provides on-the-ground support, often traveling the globe for mission support in Cambodia, Thailand, Haiti and Burma (Myanmar).Not surprisingly, many of the band’s songs are inspired by their journey, including “God of This City,” as well as “Jesus Healer,” a song born out of a sermon series and Boyd’s experience as the father of a child with Cystic Fibrosis. The song “Jesus Healer” along with a cadre of new songs will be featured on the Worship & Justice album set to release August 26. Additional information on the music and ministry of Bluetree can be found at www.Bluetreeworship.com.
LIVING FIRE : Jesus Rules. (http://thumperpunkrecords.bandcamp.com/)
This was my third attempt to review this CD – the first was blank and the second the dog put her teeth through. It was worth the wait, though. This CD is a “take no prisoners” powerpunk explosion. Leaping out of the case with a great 9-note riff and a repeated “Jesus Is Not Dead” (the title of the opening track) you know what you’re in for. This is not a sit-back-and-listen CD, it’s a leap-around-the-room-not-caring-who’s-watching CD. It is a wall of sound, solid Ramones-style rhythm, no-nonsense drumming, driving bass and uncompromising vocals (Sham 69 being my closest comparison). The CD is Buzzcocks with a better guitar sound and Ramones with more to say (see “Adore The Lord” for a good example). Damned with faint praise? No way – Damned with serious praise: powerpunk isn’t a cerebral lyrics style, it’s a get-the-message-over-quickly genre and this delivers in (ace of) spades. Covering classics was a hallmark of 70s punk and Living Fire do it with “Old Rugged Cross” (yes, the old hymn) – I can’t see many churches singing this arrangement, but I liked it. They even have a go at Napalm Death-ism with the 22 second 120mph “He Will Come Again” and Undertones with “Redemption Of His Love” (vocally bearing probably a bit too much resemblance to “Needles And Pins” by the Searchers). There’s only one guitar solo on the entire CD and that’s at the end of the final track. Classic. Best track: “One Way”. 8/10. Paul Ganney.
A Nashville-based singer/songwriter who in past decades received considerable acclaim under the name Byron Keith, has returned to the scene. Now known as BYRON RICE, he has released a new independent album ‘Lost In The Woods’.
Light Records have released the gospel team RICKY DILLARD & NEW G’s 10th album. ‘Amazing’ is produced by Rick Robinson and Michael Taylor and was recorded live in Chicago with guest appearances from Le’Andria Johnson and Byron Cage.
CHRIS STEWART : Square One. (www.chrisstewartworship.com)
I always love it when an new artist’s CD pops through my letterbox, as you never know quite what to expect. Here are five tracks from London based worship leader, Chris Stewart – fur penned by the man himself. Using keyboards as the main source of instrument, the opening ‘We Are Free’ has a triumphant message that just oozes out of your speakers. “We are free to live, and free to stand eternally”. What a message, and what a great song. It motors along and is one of those songs that brings instant joy. The second song, ‘God You Save’ is just as good. “Death Has Been Defeated”. Another simple statement, but given superb power through a chorus of voices, just before the middle 8. Chris’ vocals are quality, and he’s obviously spent a lot of time getting the sound just right. For a shoestring budget recording, the production is A1. ‘Your Grace’ and ‘My King’ both work well, with the former being a celebration of God’s grace in our lives. Finally, Chris keeps the original melody but gives an almost ethereal backing to ‘Be Thou My Vision’. Pounding drums add to the overall effect, and end the EP as it began, with real feeling. I hope that we’ve not heard the last of Chris Stewart because I think that this is a first class debut effort. Maybe one or two of the smaller record labels should take note? 9/10.
This album has a strong Folk / Country feel about it. From the opening track “Promise of the ages” which reminded me a lot of Don Francisco, probably because it has the same tune as one of his songs. (Presumably unintentionally) we go into a more Celtic feel for the next couple of songs, a similar style to Robin Mark. All of the songs are quite pleasant and easy to listen to, with several styles of music on offer, which keeps the interest up. The version of The Lord’s Prayer is quite an interesting arrangement, with some more traditional sounding folk instruments, like the flute, and possibly a Bodrahn. The album is based on Isaiah 11, when the Kingdom is established, and the Messiah has established His rule, and everyone is living in harmony, which does come across quite well when you listen to the words. If you are looking for some music with a lighter feel than a lot of the other worship CD’s out there, then this one may well be a good choice. 8/10 Andy Sayner.
Northern Ireland’s GOSPEL FEST takes place from 14th-17th August, at the Old Bann Road, between Banbridge and Waringstown. Artists already confirmed to be taking part include Live Issue, Andi Oakes, Scarlet Wool, Pathway, The Belfast Community Choir, Simple Faith, Kathryn Mitchell, Stonewall, and Laura Dowey. This year Gospel Fest will include the Northern Ireland Gospel Music Awards which will be a special ceremony recognising the work of Gospel artists from throughout Northern Ireland. http://www.liveissuemusic.com/gospel-fest
AMY GRANT is set to bring new life to some of her biggest hits with her first career remix album ‘In Motion: The Remixes’, will be released on 19th August 2014. The album will feature a collection of Amy’s biggest songs, remixed by well known remix engineers and DJs. With hits like ‘Baby Baby’, ‘Every Heartbeat’, and ‘That’s What Love Is For’, Amy’s first career remix album brings a new sound to the songs that have defined her three-decade career. Amy says; “I never could have anticipated that these songs from an earlier chapter in my life could be filled with such renewed energy and fresh production. I am humbled and honored that these amazingly talented producers have lent their gifts to my songs. They have given me reason to want to get up and dance again!”