Music reviews

By Jeremy Dale Henderson

Phil Wickham

Living Hope
Provident, 2018

Phil Wickham is the complete package. Nine albums into a career that shows no signs of slowing down — and after his 2014 vocal cord surgery thankfully went off without a hitch — the California native has perfected the craft of soulful, hook-heavy worship ballads that manage to move congregations on a weekly basis. The title track from “Living Hope” is the latest, greatest example. The song has already been streamed more than 4 million times on Spotify and been covered by Bethel’s Bethany Wohrle, Shane and Shane and others. But it’s hard to go wrong with any of the other 12 offerings on “Living Hope,” such as the fantastic “Wild River,” and its moving, grace-celebrating chorus: “Your mercy flows like a wild, wild river / Your love is strong like the raging sea / God all Your goodness goes beyond all measure / Your grace like a flood pouring out of me.”


Mac Powell and the Family Reunion
Mac Powell and the Family Reunion
Independent, 2018

After more than two decades, a handful of Grammys and more Dove Awards than you can count, Third Day is hanging it up. But not front man Mac Powell. With Mac Powell and the Family Reunion, the Alabama native has resurrected the solo country act he introduced to critical (and even secular) acclaim in 2012. Powell’s third album is a 10-track offering of family-friendly country, light on theology, heavy on fun. Lyrically, the opener “Back Again” sets the tone, tapping classic country tropes a plenty by dropping state names and celebrating interstates. Also classic? The sound. The crunchy riffs and use of steel guitar hearken back to a day when mainstream country was actually distinguishable from pop music. And of course, Powell’s rich, trademark vocals — what more can I say? If you like good country music, or if you just like good music in general, you’ll like this.


Riley Clemmons
Riley Clemmons
Capitol Christian Music Group, 2018

Four songs off Riley Clemmons’ self-titled debut are currently featured on a popular Spotify play-list called “Positive Pop,” which tells you two things: they’re positive lyrically and they’re good enough to make it on a popular Spotify playlist. And there’s eight more where those came from. The record starts strong with “Hold On,” a finger-snappin’ gem catchy enough for a commercial. The chorus: “Hold on / When the rope you’ve been holding is down to a thread. / Hold on / To the air in your lungs when you’ve got nothing left / … I found my faith dancing through the fire / By the grace of God I’m a survivor.” And that may not even be the album’s most infectious track. But what makes the 18-year-old’s eponymous introduction stand out is that she has pipes that not only belie her age but also the genre. She can candy coat it when she needs to and raise the roof when she wants to. I’m looking forward to more from her.


Caitie Hurst
How Could I Be Silent
Centricity, 2018

There’s a reason the title track off Caitie Hurst’s debut is No. 2 on the Christian Contemporary Hit Radio Indicator chart. Hurst’s pop chops rival anything currently riding the mainstream airwaves, Taylor Swift included. Some have criticized a few of the seven tracks, all written by Hurst, for being too polished, which given the genre seems strange; tight melodies, tight production — that’s what you want in a pop song, right? If there’s anything raw on the album, it’s the lyrics — in a good way. “Answers” asks honest, age-old questions about why God permits pain: “When all I want is answers, / But all you want is faith / Faith that can conquer fear.”