Steve Bell

Steve Bell celebrating 25 years

This year Steve Bell, whom I call Canada’s Eric Clapton, is celebrating 25 years of making music. The Winnipeg, Manitoba musician may not be well-known in America, but for those of you who appreciate earnest singer-songwriters who like to tell stories in their songs, Bell is your man.

Growing up with a dad who worked in a prison, Bell would often hang out with the inmates. That has informed his songwriting as well as his music career. He often tells funny and interesting stories about those days.

Now 53, Bell, who attends an Anglican church, is about to release his 18th album, which is a four-disc set called Pilgrimage. It promises to be a real treat for fans of faith-informed music, with new versions of old favorites, covers by fellow musicians, and instrumentals. Unlike the cookie cutter sound of Nashville, Bell makes “Christian music” that deals with loss, lament, discovery and a person’s spiritual journey.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Burning Ember: The Steve Bell Journey, a documentary film coming soon. –Mark Weber

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EarnestPughJustWorship

Earnest Pugh: Just Worship

Earnest’s Pugh’s new EP “Just Worship” is just that: worship. It literally captures Gospel’s Leading Man in a prophetic worship stance as he ministers five of his most popular songs in a live setting. The EP was produced by noted producers Michael Bereal (Beverly Crawford, Norman Hutchins, and Judith Christie McAllister) and Grammy Award winner Cedric Thompson (Donald Lawrence, Stephanie Mills, Karen Clark-Sheard) who combine both fresh and vintage outtakes from Pugh’s various live concert sessions to create an atmosphere that will usher listeners into a special place of spiritual enlightenment and encouragement. The album hits stores and online portals everywhere on Tuesday, Sept 2, 2014.

The soul-stirring collection’s first radio single is the heart-piercing ballad “Alpha & Omega” that was written by the noted Zimbabwean musician Erasmus Mutanbira and popularized in the USA by Israel & New Breed. Earnest Pugh and James Johnson arranged this breathtaking version that just began hitting gospel radio playlists this week. The EP opens with the powerful declaration “The Lord Is Here” (written by Darwin Hobbs) and ends with a medley of hymns. All throughout the set, Pugh spontaneously engages listeners as if conducting an actual church worship service.  As an added bonus, Pugh includes his recent Top 20 Billboard Gospel Airplay single “All Things Through Christ” that features Bishop Rance Allen.

Senior Pastor of the Lighthouse Church Keion Henderson will host a street day CD release at the church’s new facility located at 6650 Rankin Road, Houston, Texas. The service begins September 2nd @ 6:30 p.m. with special guest performers such as Deric Lewis & Church Choir of Austin, Texas; Keith Williams and the Radical Praise Choir of Lighthouse Church. Pugh currently serves as Pastor of Worship at the Lighthouse Church. “Sharing this moment with my Pastor and church family means the world to me because we’re family in every respect of the word,” Pugh says. “It’s my honor to be connected to great leadership that always pushes me to go beyond the four walls of the church and to be a beacon to the world.”

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From India, it’s Christina Paul

Christina Paul is back with the release of her sophomore English-language album, Lord of All, available now via Intercessor Records. While Christina may be a “new artist” to Christian music fans in North America, Christians in India have long admired her soul-stirring performances and inspiring testimony. After nine albums, numerous national television appearances and hundreds of concert dates around the world, the award-winning artist once again has American audiences in her sights.

Christina wrote every song on the album, which was produced in Nashville by Grammy-winning producer, Phil Naish (Steven Curtis Chapman, Point of Grace, Jaci Valesquez). Lord of All is a collection of heart-gripping songs that reflect her unshakeable faith, her undeniable heart for missions and oneness in the relationship with her Heavenly Father.

Lord of All represents diverse musical styles — from soaring ballads to praise and worship songs and even R&B. The album speaks to the hearts of listeners, motivating them to be one with God, to completely rely on Him, to have compassion toward others and to be His hands and feet and make a difference in the world.

The album’s first single, the title track “Lord of All,” is a soulful worship song, beautifully crafted with a magnificent string arrangement by Kristin Wilkinson. Christina pours out her heartfelt gratitude and praise to the Sovereign and Omnipotent God, yet still gentle with His strong love and overflowing grace and mercy surrounding and sustaining her life.

The second single, “I Can See Now,” reflects Christina’s heart for missions. “God has definitely made my heart grow in compassion,” she says. “I feel compelled in my spirit to pray for others and be there for people who are hurting, to cry with them and make a difference in their lives in any way I can.”

Christina has put her faith into action, co-founding the missions organization, Christ For All Ministries, with her husband Paul Jeyasingh. “God has filled my heart with compassion for hurting people, those who do not know Christ,” she says. “My mission is to support and to build an army for Jesus, working to win souls for His Kingdom. By God’s grace, we have the right people supporting us and we have sixteen full-time missionaries working in northern parts of India where it is still dark and the light of Jesus needs to be shown! The Harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!”

Born in India, Christina traveled throughout the country from a very young age with her parents who were Christian recording artists. It wasn’t long before Christina began joining them on stage. As is the custom in India, she met the love of her life through an arranged marriage, and later relocated to the U.S. with her husband and young daughter. These days, she balances her music and ministry endeavors with her greatest calling—as a wife, and mother of two kids, Joanne and Matthew. She also serves as one of the praise and worship leaders at her home church, Victory in Lakeland, Florida.

Christina will hit the road this fall, telling her story and sharing her faith throughout North America. In support of the new album, Christina will embark on a national promotional tour consisting of radio and retail visits, and appearances on numerous television programs nationwide. In the past, Christina has been featured on 100 Huntley Street, Daystar Television Network, The Harvest Show, Atlanta Live, Spirit of Arkansas, Deeper Living, The Good Life and many more, in addition to coverage from Women of Faith and Christianity Today.

alivetonight

Whitlee Casey’s bright new song now on iTunes

“Alive In You Tonight” by Whitlee Casey works in two ways. On the one hand, it can be used in church worship services where congregations sing it together, celebrating that they’re alive in Christ. On the other hand, the song could do well on the Country charts with its jangly guitar sound and impassioned lyrics by the very affable Whitlee Casey. When he sings “Alive In You Tonight,” Casey comes across as inherently genuine– you believe he believes what he’s singing!

Based in Texas, Casey counts fellow recording artists like Dave Barnes, Trent Monk, Chris August, and Chris Tomlin among his influences. I’d also say he reminds me of Phillip Phillips, and that’s a good thing. Get “Alive In You Tonight” on iTunes today and hear for yourself what a great song Whitlee Casey has made. –Mark Weber

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Casting Crowns Tour

Casting Crowns tour poster

Casting Crowns will do an additional 39 U.S. tour dates in support of their critically-acclaimed studio album, THRIVE.

The THRIVE Tour will feature GRAMMY® nominee Mandisa and Dove Award winners Sidewalk Prophets. The fall leg of the tour kicks off Sept. 18, in Las Cruces, N.M., and will continue throughout the fall visiting major markets including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Spokane, Oklahoma City, Nashville, San Antonio, Tulsa, Birmingham, Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, among others.

In the past year, Casting Crowns has garnered numerous accolades including three GRAMMY® nominations, an RIAA 2x multi-Platinum certification and multiple RIAA Gold certifications, with total album sales surpassing 8 million. Building on that momentum, The THRIVE Tour is sure to not disappoint, with a set list that includes Casting Crowns’ biggest hits – spanning more than a decade of ministry – in addition to selections from the group’s new release, THRIVE (Beach Street/Reunion Records), the band’s first full-length effort in two years.

The songs on THRIVE are an extension of what lead singer/songwriter Mark Hall has been teaching his students at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he serves as youth pastor. The heart behind the project is for these songs to encourage believers to dig down into the roots of who they are in Christ so that they are fully equipped to reach out and share their faith with others. Following this theme, half of the songs on the album are focused on “reaching out,” while the other half are dedicated to “digging deep.”

Ticket information for The Thrive Tour is available at www.CastingCrowns.com.

Rend Collective II

Rend Collective Tour

Look for Rend Collective’s “The Art Of Celebration Tour,” coming to  37 cities this September and October. For tour date info, click here.

While on tour, Rend Collective will play “My Lighthouse” and other new hits from their album The Art of Celebration, which went No. 1 worldwide on iTunes and debuted at No. 1 and No. 13 on the Current Contemporary Christian and Billboard Top 200 retail charts respectively after releasing globally from Integrity Music on St. Patrick’s Day this year. Rend Collective will also unleash in each tour venue “Build Your Kingdom Here” and other raucous favorites from its albums Organic Family Hymnal, Homemade Worship by Handmade People and Campfire.

Beginning as a group of friends collectively wondering how to make sense of the conundrum of life, God and community, Rend Collective is a nod to the places in Scripture where it says to “rend your hearts” and not your garments, a bold call to be genuine.

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News about Christian and Gospel music from Mark Weber

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