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Music Monday: Laurene Bonsink – Father

Photo: Laurene Bonsink
This Monday I am revisiting an album I reviewed a while ago because it’s been THAT kind of month and I really needed something (If you know what I mean). I needed a refreshing and for God to just wipe the slate clean (as He does) and for me to start this new month with new thoughts and a fresh inspiration. Maybe you felt the same? Maybe you’re also going through the mid year slump? Join the team 🙂 Laurene Bonsink released her debut album in January 2015 and let me tell you, this CD is really something else! This is the review I wrote for Gateway News
Bonsink recorded the album in the Netherlands, where she currently resides, leading worship in one of its biggest churches, Doorbrekers. She shares that her longing for more “free worship”  and the prophetic in the local church is what led the worship leader on a journey to singing spontaneous God-instructed songs during services and eventually recording an album that has the depth to “take you to the heart of God the Father,” as described on her website. This sound is evident in her album and I thoroughly enjoyed the unobtrusive, delicate way in which she ministers in the prophetic. It was easy for me to rest in God’s presence, whilst listening to Bonsink’s serene vocals and honest, unfussy songwriting.
Bonsink’s heart is evident in her song recordings. Each song leaves room for you to encounter your own Holy Spirit movement whilst listening to it because of the uncomplicated arrangements and her moving so easily into spontaneous worship that it gives the listener unconscious permission to do the same.
Photo: Laurene Bonsink
An example is Track 2, Beautiful Saviour. With simple lyrics that say: “You’re beautiful God/You’re beautiful Saviour/You’re beautiful King,” I immediately got caught up in the attributes of God while listening to her minister so effortlessly.
Other songs that include a time for free worship are I want to beand Safe with you. Both tracks have easy, likeable melodies and straightforward, heartfelt lyrics that make it easy for you to enter into a personal time of worship. In my opinion, it would’ve been nice to hear even more spontaneous worship from the singer.
The electro intro of Safe in your arms immediately grabbed my attention. The song has a more contemporary sound and is so different from the first four tracks. It was quite unexpected.
You will never leave us is a wordy song that speaks about the power of Christ’s work on the cross. It’s a typical Easter song but with a unique sound – almost ethereal instrumentation and beautiful vocals by Bonsink and David van den Heuvel. Another Easter song, It is done, has almost the same sound but with lyrics that paint a picture of the Crucifixion of Christ.
I found Father God to be a beautiful, easy-to-listen-to heart song. In fact, if my guitar skills were up to par, I would probably download the chord charts and lyrics to this one from herwebsite. Another guitar-based track that grabbed me was bonus track, Your love. Unlike the original (which is actually Track 3 on the album), the bonus track only features an acoustic guitar accompanying Bonsink’s vocals. In the song’s bridge, she croons “How deep you touch me Lord/how deep you do/I’m falling more and more in love with you.” Stunning!
Album closer, He is King, is a declarative song with a chorus that simply says: “He is King/we raise our voices/we sing/He is King”. It has the potential to be a congregational anthem and has really powerful moments, which I quite enjoyed.
If you enjoy worship that is easy to listen to, but has depth, then I would recommend this album to you. If I could describe it in one word, I’d say “airy” – It gave me the feeling of having room to relax, breathe and let go. There isn’t a lot to focus on except the beauty of the presence of God and who He is, and as much as I love big productions and big vocals with 5-part harmonies, there is a beauty in worshipping with music that is simplistic and focused on having the Holy Spirit move. 
 If you would like to purchase a copy of this album, you can visit Laurene Bonsinks website or contact Harry Chesling at 082 320 2853 for more information. 
This review was originally written for and published in Gateway News

Music Monday: Worship Central – Set Apart

Photo: Worship Central
I loved reviewing London based Christian movement, Worship Centrals’ third live album, Set Apart. The album, which was recorded in 2014 at Hillsong’s Warehouse Project in London features worship leaders Tim Hughes, Ben Cantelon, Luke and Anna Hellebronth and Karen Gillespie.
With the sole mandate and desire to see the worship of Jesus Christ made central throughout the world, the Worship Central movement has certainly been making an impact in worship circles worldwide, most recently with its 100 Gatherings initiative which saw 100 worship gatherings taking place across the globe over the period of a week, as reported by Gateway News.
Co-founder and director, Tim Hughes, has shared that he believes that worship is more than just the songs we sing. “If we let the song become the king, then worship becomes more about what we can create and less about our response to God’s initiating love and glory,” he explained. And this is evident in his passion to see and facilitate the growth of worship services across England and the world.
With all of this in mind, I listened to the new album full of expectancy, knowing that these guys are the real thing! I was not disappointed and found the album to be exactly what one would expect from a current Christian band/worship collective – electric guitars, easy melodies, lots of anthems and a few really groovy congregational songs that can be added to many a set list.
Album opener, “The Way” is led by frontman Tim Hughes and is an array of synth and electronics with an easy to sing chorus speaking about Jesus being the way. Listening to this song took me back to my youth days, strobe lights and wearing neon coloured clothing. I love that it’s a party – because, hey, we have a lot to celebrate!
Anthem, “Stand up” also peaked my attention with its catchy hook ‘When we don’t know what to do/what to do/our eyes will be fixed on you/fixed on you!’ Lead by Luke Hellebronth, this song urges the congregation to set their eyes on the Lord.
Judging by their response on social media platforms, Worship Central music fans seem to really love “Can’t stop Your love”– an anthemy song lead by Ben Cantelon. The track has a strong chorus, which is a really catchy chant taken from Psalm 139: ‘Where can I go/Where can I go/From Your presence/In Your light I am known/I’m surrounded/I will not walk alone.’ This is one of those songs that you can’t get out of your head after a few listens!
I found a favourite in “Awsome is He” which features the amazing Anna Hellebronth. It is a mid-tempo congregational song which encourages the listener to rise up and worship our great God. When you get your hands on this album and you’re wondering where to start, I would say start here. After having a listen to the entire CD the very first time this is the song that made me go back again.
In my most humble opinion, the worship ballad titled “Worth it all”, led by Cantelon, is one of the best worship songs on this album. I love the wordy bridge that builds into a crescendo with Cantelon declaring that Jesus is “worth it all!”
I also enjoyed the likable melodies of “Enough light” and “Let go” – both modern sounding tracks with easy to learn choruses. I think they would make for excellent introductions to Youth service worship sets. But I must share that the ultimate winner on this album, for me, was Karen Gillespies “Singing over us.”The chorus very simply sings: “For You care for us/For You care for us/You are singing over us/With Your love.” I think that the combo of uncomplicated, honest lyric coupled with an awsome synth, won me over! The song ends by transitioning into a spontaneous worship session with Tim Hughes who begins to sing the song of the Lord. Wow! It is so aptly named“Wide open space” and Hughes sings about the love of the Father and how God is calling us to be His Good News.
In a nutshell, this is a ‘typical’ modern worship album, which would be an asset to anyone’s collection. After a few listens, it totally grew on me and since it has an up-to-date sound that is similar to some of the stuff that we enjoy (as a family), it was easy to introduce this album to our play list in the car. Two thumbs up!
This review was originally written for and published in Gateway News

Music Monday: Christy Nockels – Let it be Jesus

I have been a Christy Nockels fan since 2013 when I heard her rendition of the Chris Tomlin/Martin Smith anthem, “Waiting here for you,” from the Passion 2011 album. I was immediately struck by the depth in her voice (and boy does she have a set of pipes!) and quickly got hold of the Passion 2013 album to hear more. That album hosts one of my favorite Christy Nockels songs called “My delight is in You”, where she goes off into the  bridge of an old Hillsong classic, “Purify my heart.” I was immediately a fan! 
Born and raised in Texas, Nockels is a singer and songwriter of note and has been leading worship since 1993 when she and hubby, musician Nathan Nockels, began serving as worship leaders in their local church in Oklahoma City. The pair also lead the Christian band Watermark, signed under Michael W Smiths label. Smith has said of Watermark, “Christy Nockels creates space for worship like few artists I’ve been around. When she sings, it’s disarming–you must pay attention. Whether it’s 10,000 people at a Passion Conference or an intimate gathering, Christy is a worshiper who leads us all. Nathan and Christy Nockels are a huge part of the Rocketown Records story, and my life has been enriched by their love for worship music.”
In 1997 they were invited to attend the first Passion Conference in Austin, Texas and the rest is musical history. Nockels is a regular feature at the Passion Gatherings where she co-leads worship alongside the likes of Chris Tomlin, David Crowder and Matt Redman. 
I loved her second album titled “Into the glorious” which was released in 2012, with husband Nathan as her producer. So needless to say I was quite thrilled to hear her latest offering titled “Let it be Jesus”, which is what I will be reviewing today. She shared her heart about the album, which was recorded at Passion City Family Church in Atlanta, Georgia: “I can’t wait to release this offering and to share what a beautiful night this recording was as we gathered with dear friends and our Passion City Church family. Something SO unforgettable happened as we worshipped Jesus together in wonder and remembrance.”
The album starts off with a happy mandolin strumming away in the uptempo opening track ‘Freedom song’. I think that this is the perfect album opener. It has a bright, pleasant melody and lyric that speaks about Jesus being our freedom… which is certainly a truth that I enjoy singing about. 
The second song is called ‘My anchor’ – a worship song that is sung directly to God, telling Him that He is our anchor and shelter in the storm. This track also recently featured on “Even so come”, the Passion 2015 album. Another song I appreciate is ‘Everything is mine in You’ — a percussion driven ballad that speaks about all the promises we have in Jesus. It’s one of those songs that has a melody that makes you want to hear what the lyric is speaking about. I also quite like the hook — very congregational. 
Title track ‘Let it be Jesus’ is a heart cry that has the potential to make its rounds on Sunday morning set lists. I was especially moved when Nockels so beautifully sings “For me to live is Christ/God I bring your name above everything/Let it be, let it be/My Jesus”.  This song has the same potency as her previous tracks (such as the famous “Waiting here for you”) and can actually be found on the Passion 2014 offering, “Take it all.”
Other stunning worship songs are “Find me at the feet of Jesus” and “The wondrous cross”. It’s evident that the calling on this lady’s life is to worship and to lead others to a place of intimacy and knowledge of the Father. 
One of my favorites on this album is called ‘If you never’. It is an uptempo, folksy, praise song that so poetically says “If you never do another thing for me/It will always be enough that you set me free/Always be enough that you gave your life/Jesus you are mine!” I love that! This song is guaranteed to have you singing along because the beauty in that truth is enough to make your heart burst! 
Another must listen is Nockels’ rendition of ‘Jesus, Rock of Ages’ – an old school hymn that speaks about Jesus being our rock. Christy’s vocals pair gorgeously with the lyric and she does not push herself to do vocal acrobatics or belt out power notes. Instead, she takes her time with the song, singing each sentence as if it is coming right from her heart.
This album is filled with Biblical truths, beautiful composition and the stunning vocals of a worship leader doing what she has been called to do. I think that it is the perfect follow-up to Nockels’ previous offerings and will be a beautiful addition to any worshipers collection! 
This review was originally written for and published in Gateway News

Music Monday: Worship Mob – Carry the Fire {And Giveaway!}

Photo: Christian Music Review Org

When I first heard the name “Worship Mob”, I felt an immediate intrigue and was extremely keen to hear the sound of this oddly named band. I’ll be honest; the words “worship mob” incite images of a bunch of guys and girls flooding a mall, bedecked with banjos and drumsticks, to render spontaneous worship unto God in a somewhat rebellious way. So, to put my imagination to bed, I decided to Youtube the collective, who hail all the way from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Well, let me start by saying that the band already has over 50 000 Youtube channel subscribers! The sound and musical style is reminiscent of Housefires or All Sons and Daughters and it is obvious that these people love the presence of God!
I discovered that the team comprises a collective of worship leaders and musicians who basically started worshipping together, keeping the door open to anyone else who wanted to come and rest in the presence of God. The weekly gathering, which was the brainchild of Sean Mulholland and Garrett Chynoweth, started in 2011 and now they have over 80 other ministry leaders from 30 other surrounding local churches as part of their membership. Mulholland shared that the meetings have always been open to anyone. “We felt God’s leading to create a unifying worship setting that transcends denominational limitations, and to unite the global Body of Christ to collectively experience the deep, intimate, and life-giving relationship that only Jesus provides,” he explains. The team was signed up to Integrity Music at the beginning of this year and recently released their first studio album, “Carry the Fire”, which is what I will be reviewing today.
I was pleasantly surprised to find two covers on it – Hillsongs’‘Oceans’ and the Bethel hit: ‘You make me brave’, both of which were done well and although they are a welcome addition I must say, they were not needed on this album. The album songwriters did so well at penning tracks that hold messages you’d want to hear and declarations you’d want to sing.
An example is opening track, ‘Satisfy’. Besides the captivating voice of the amazing Gina Milne, the song’s message swept me away as they sing as the voice of the Father beckoning His children to draw close to Him for all that they need. My favorite part is towards the end of the song — a prophetic interlude where the singers literally just let go and allow God to use them as a mouthpiece. I mean, if this is the first song, then I think I really like this band!
Track 2 is titled ‘Our Father has won’ and is one of my favs on this album. The chorus breaks something in the atmosphere, with its hard hitting lyric and piercing vocal that sings: “Once broken and guilty/Now drowning in mercy/All curses undone/Our Father has won”.
‘More, More of You’ is a worship song that I can definitely see on rotation on a church set list. It speaks about wanting more of the Holy Spirit and has a really catchy chorus, with easy-to-sing lyrics that compliment it. Another worship track, ‘Love outran me’ is a love song that speaks about the work on the cross — how God loved us so much that He made a way for us to have a relationship with Him. It is such a beautiful song. 
My husband appreciates ‘Love break down these walls’, which I believe was birthed out of spontaneous song. This worship tracks lyric says “Let love break down these walls/Let church go past these walls…” It created a moment of awareness for us of how important it is to take the love of God outside of the four walls of the church building, to the lost and hopeless.
I love how this album reflects true hearts of worship – how a group of normal people got together to glorify God, and He turned it into something unexpected! It’s amazing how God takes what you have in your hand – what you are willing to offer Him – and makes something grand out of it, that is able to transform lives and bring people closer to Him! I genuinely recommend this album to anyone who loves deep worship and the presence of God. The vocals are superb and the songs were clearly written from a place of deep intimacy and yearning. I give it 2 thumbs up!
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This review was originally written for and published in Gateway News

Music Monday: Desperation Band – Banner

The very first thing that I liked about Desperation Band is their name. Led by Jon Egan, the band was birthed out of the student ministries of New Life church in Colorado Springs. The church hosts an annual student conference called Desperation Conference, with the intent purpose of sculpting a generation to be desperate for God. I love that. I love that the conference focuses on young people and that it challenges them to take, what they call “The Vow” – a vow to live out a devoted life to God and the things of God. The website says: “Desperation calls young people to live in desperate pursuit of God.” With that in mind, New Life Church pastor, David Perkins, approached Egan in 2001 to form the Desperation Band – a band desperate for and deeply in love with the presence of God.
Known best for their songs: “Overcome”, “I Am Free”, “My Saviour Lives”, “Here in Your Presence”, “You Hold It All”, and “Yahweh”, the band released their 3rd album, titled Banner in September 2014. The album was recorded live during the July 2014 Desperation Conference and features 12 original tracks; lead by conference worship leaders Jon Egan, Nico Perez and the amazing Gina Milne.
My first listen to the album gave me the impression that it is through and through a youth worship album. My second listen showed me that it is a layered compilation, representing the various stages of praise and worship and I found a few worship songs that really stirred me up.
It’s obvious that the album was written with students in mind, with song titles such as “Future” and “Fun”. Both are upbeat, spunky, praise songs with the latter being especially interesting. The chorus simply says ‘We’re having fun/Oh oh/We’re having fun/Oh oh!’ I think that this track has the potential to be a hit at youth gatherings. “We’re taking a big risk with this one,” Egan says, “but why not celebrate the kind of love that frees us, gives us joy and allows us to have fun, to ‘dance with every reason to dance, sing with every reason to sing…’”  
Title track, “Banner”, speaks about God being our banner, going before us, strong and mighty and never faltering. The melody is pretty straight forward and easy to learn. The song was written as an anthem and boldly declares God to be the great I am.
“On the throne” was written with Kari Jobe and Jason Ingram, with Jobe joining them on the recording… and, of course, I likey. This is one of my favourites on the album, partly because I love Kari Jobe that much but more because it’s a hard hitting worship song with a chorus that boldly proclaims ‘For the Lord is/He is able/He is faithful/Higher than the mountains that I face!’ The Bridge is also particularly powerful, speaking about God being glorious and sovereign over all. This song is not just for your youth meetings – I can definitely hear the bridge being sung on Sunday mornings as well. It’s one of those kinds of bridges.
I love the theme behind “You make a way”. Egan leads this worship song that speaks about God being our hope and strength. He has shared:” This song has been blowing up at our church and at youth events! I think they have really connected with it because it gives a voice to people believing for miracles!” Another worship song with potent lyrics, which speaks of relying on Him, was “We are Yours.”  The opening lyric says ‘More transformation/less of the same/More of you Jesus leading the way.” There are many more ‘wow’ factors throughout this song, that speak such truths, that you can’t help but find yourself in a place of hope and faith after listening to it!
I really enjoyed “Closer to Your heart”! When I kept gushing on and on about it, my husband laughed at me (in all his musical-geniusness) and said that the song sounds very ‘old school’. But that is what I appreciate about it! The song features Bri Giles and has a really catchy, quirky melody and honest lyrics that simply say ‘All I want is to know You, Jesus/Draw me closer to Your heart.’
Another track that I couldn’t keep quiet about was “No one else.” Wow! Co-lead by  Nico Perez and the fabulous Gina Milne, this track cut me to the core when I heard the chorus: ‘No one else pulls life from the wreckage/No one else lifts me from under the waves/My God You’ve broken my fall/God You’re stronger than it all.’ It’s a bold declaration, sung in a whisper, with the potential to really minister!
Can I end off by lauding Gina Milne again? She leads another worship track, “Multiply” and you can really get the feel of her level of intensity in that one. Her sweet voice really has depth and I thoroughly appreciated the deep lyric on the song, which speaks about giving God every aspect of your life, in order for Him to multiply it for His glory.
Youth worship leaders: this album is for you and was written with your young people in mind. Worshippers: you will enjoy the many worship tracks on this album, whether you are a ‘youth’ or not. The live recording was done with excellence, the musicianship and vocals were beautifully arranged and executed and the song writing is top notch. Great album!
To end, a quote from Jon Egan:  “We’re not interested in being part of the worldwide movement that is modern worship-the albums, the sales, the touring, the photo shoots-because if it starts to pay back more than what it costs you, that’s when it gets dangerous. Worship is supposed to be carried on our backs; it’s supposed to be sweaty, to take some effort. That’s why it’s called a sacrifice of praise. That’s our life message.”

This review was originally written for and published in Gateway News

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