Guest Blogger Stephen Simpson!

This week, for the review, I asked Stephen Simpson if I could reprint the following review.  He is benwardmusic.com’s first guest blogger!

poythress

“WASH AWAY” (Integrity Music, 2009)
Don Poythress
5 Stars out of 5

The long-awaited major label debut from singer/songwriter Don Poythress arrives in the form of a fresh – and refreshing – praise and worship expression entitled “Wash Away”. Don is known and loved among many of our One-to-One readers as the leader of the annual Gatlinburg Conference worship team; but he is also highly respected among some of the most prominent music artists in America.

Over the past decade, Don has quietly built an exceptional collection of songs – classics that have been recorded by artists such as Clint Black, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Jr., Travis Tritt, Jaci Velasquez, Sir Cliff Richard,and The Martins (the Dove Award-winning song “The Promise”).

With “Wash Away,” Don presents an exceptional blend of his original songs, along with two much-loved hymns. As a lyricist, Don Poythress has few peers … he has an uncanny knack for presenting timeless truth with an unvarnished biblical perspective that is devoid of clichés or pat answers; these songs are deeply personal, yet can touch something unique in the heart of every listener. Strong and memorable melodies are offered in a Modern Country style, played by some of the best musicians in Nashville.

The worship experience begins with the chiming “Expectation,” which is the perfect invitation to go up together into the presence of God. Don’s leadership and the song selection throughout is a study in how to flow in the Spirit, soaring into “I Will Call Upon Your Name” and then, a thrilling vocal collaboration with Paul Baloche on “Brand New Day” – definitely two of the many songs here that your congregation will want to sing. The poetic, gently flowing “Fill Me Up” makes room for the searingly honest and moving heartcry, “Wash Away.”

The modern hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” is the natural response to the deep repentance and cleansing of “Wash Away,” followed by the peace-imparting “I Will Bless the Lord.” On “The Faithful Love of Jesus,” Don is joined by the incomparable bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs on vocals and mandolin… “I pray you’ll know the love of God, the love that never leaves us, the height the depth, the width the breadth, the faithful love of Jesus.” Just hearing this song is an answer to that prayer.

Don again displays his poetic gift with “Lord of All” which leads into a powerful promise-filled proclamation: “A Thousand Generations”. The simple eloquence of the “Doxology” closes out the time of congregational worship. But Don isn’t finished yet: he offers one of those signature Poythress real-life stories – as only Don can tell them – about “Joseph,” the human father of Jesus. It’s a masterful and moving portrait of the man God chose and tested and used to care for His own Son.

TO SUM UP …

A fresh – and deeply refreshing – collection of songs that flows perfectly in the presence of God. Those who love and seek truth will find this authentic expression a welcome respite from market-driven artiface. Those who enjoy Modern Country music will enjoy the excellence of the singing and musicianship offered. Brilliantly produced, but thankfully not over-produced, by Paul Mills, this is one of the warmest and best-sounding music releases of the year.

Don is the worship leader at Abundant Life Church in Mt. Juliet, TN (Pastor Larry Grainger), along with Jim LaVerde (of Barren Cross) and a stellar team of musicians, singers, and tech support.

“Wash Away” is available in music stores and iTunes June 23, and through:
http://integritymusic.com
http://amazon.com

Music Matters

IPods now have video, games, audio books and podcasts. Will iPods always be about the music?
Who knows? But it’s hard to imagine that music is not the epicenter of the iPod, for a long, long, long, long, long time.  I was very lucky to grow up in a time when music really mattered.  It wasn’t just something in the background; it really mattered to a generation of kids growing up. It really changed the world. I think that music faded in importance for a while, and the iPod has helped to bring music back into people’s lives in a really meaningful way. Music is so deep within all of us, but it’s easy to go for a day or a week or a month or a year without really listening to music. And the iPod has changed that for tens of millions of people, and that makes me really happy, because I think music is good for the soul. – Steve Jobs, Newsweek 2003

Music has taken a backseat in today’s culture.  Some would say it’s been relegated to the trunk rather than the backseat.  The Industry has so contained it and controlled it, that it has become safe, predictable, and gives you a shadow of the emotional impact it used to.  Now I’m not one to keep harkening back to the “glory days” when everything was better, but these are not the days of a musical renaissance.  We need them now more than ever!  Music can do things no other art form can: penetrate a place in people that words can’t do alone.  This is true for all genres and stripes of music:  Rock, Pop, Country, Gospel, etc., etc., etc.

It’s interesting how computers and computer companies get all the buzz in society today.  The quote from Steve Jobs above is so ironic, because he is probably the biggest “rock star” in the world today.  What used to define rock musicians – cutting edge, mystery, impact – now are best seen in a corporate CEO.  That’s weird.  But, as you can see from his quote, he understands what makes culture click and he’s used some of the elements of the power of music to thrust Apple’s products into the cultural consciousness.

The only problem with this (and believe me I’m into Macs:) is that we’re now celebrating the method of delivery instead of what’s being delivered.  That’s like being so excited about the envelope but just ho-hum about the check inside it.  How crazy would that be?  Instead of focusing intently on the quality and power of the artists, songs, musicianship, we’re focused on the type of computer, or iPhone, or iTunes, or streaming.  These things are fun to talk about if you’re interested in computers, but they are not as important as the art being delivered.  That’s the product that can change hearts and change the world.

So, may there be a new renaissance: a renaissance of music, a renaissance of making the important things important again.

 (And it goes not just for music, but, as I wrote last week, the American Church is doing the same things by stressing production and venue over the content of services and the spiritual experiences of people.  How can the setting and the method of delivery be more important than what you’re delivering?)

New Week. New Song.

youtube sessions

This is the fourth song in the YouTube Sessions. I’m proud to bring you a brand spanking new song that took me forever to record (hard guitar parts take some time:)…I hope you like it!!!

Please comment and let me know what you think.

Download the MP3 here.

A Few Favorite Tunes

This week, instead of reviewing an album, I thought I would give you a few of my favorite tracks currently “in rotation.”

  1. “Where I Belong” Matt Gilman & Cory Asbury, Holy – From the IHOP-KC free album download.  When it first came on, I had to listen to it several times before I could listen to anything else.  Musically, it’s got a great soaring chorus and some nice drum programming.  Lyrically, it’s got such a spirit of joy about “finding the place I belong – Your presence.”
  2. “In Your Atmosphere” John Mayer, Where the Light is – This is from the acoustic portion of his live album.  Moody and profound, it articulates a feeling you know you’ve had: love, friendship, family, somewhere.
  3. “Closer” Matt Gillman, IHOP LE Volume 18From a series of best-of compilations from the Prayer Room, this is a highlight in 9(!) that sounds natural and builds from very intimate to grand and sweeping.
  4. “Between the Lines” Sara Bareilles, Little Voice – Ah, the bass line and melody together!  This is just such a beautiful song.  Poetic title and wonderful piano.
  5. “Every Tear” Jon Thurlow, Songs About Jesus – I wrote a review of this album a few months ago and have recently been listening to it a lot again.  This track is just beautiful (that seems to be a theme here) and the truth of Jesus wiping every tear from our eyes is comforting and powerful.
  6. “The Hardest Part” Coldplay, LeftRightLeftRightLeft and X&Y – I had heard this on X&Y and didn’t think much about it, but when I heard it on the new live (& free!) album I flipped.  For the past three weeks I have literally woken up with it running through my head.  The stripped down version with just piano and the singing crowd is awesome.  Coldplay’s melodies and general vibe are so unique and captivating.

Definitely Not Boring

{I started this post as a response to the question, “What is worship?” posed by Stephen Simpson at the CSM Forums. Check out the site for some great conversation.}

I hear so much talk these days about how just singing some worship songs and hearing a sermon has gotten stale, boring. How we need to expand our creativity in services and come up with new ways to experience God. And while I think it is valid to seek to be creative (God is the most creative Being of all), I think we miss the point of worship. I think we could all agree that the worship life of the early Church in Acts was vibrant and definitely not boring. But we see from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church that it was very simple: Chapter 14 talks about gathering, singing a couple of songs, having words of prophecy, tongues, etc.. This is so simple. You don’t really need a producer for it. Do we need special lighting* for the Holy Spirit to come in power and heal broken hearts?  When He comes – how could that possibly be boring?

So what is worship?

There are so many “right” definitions of worship that you can read in so many amazing books. But my favorite way to discuss worship is to talk about what happens when I worship. What happens when I come into the presence of the living God and see just a glimpse of who He is. So often I can’t even stay on my feet. I have to fall to my knees and then that’s not even good enough. I’m on my face. He is so great, He is so wonderful, that nothing I could say or sing or do would even be close to enough. All I can say is, “You are worthy. You are worthy.” That is the place we truly worship and that is the place I want to be as much as possible. If more believers (and unbelievers) could have those encounters, disagreements over style and music would take a backseat to the main event: His magnificent presence.

Definitely not boring.

*I don’t have a problem with “production” as an avenue for someone to use his or her gifts, but these elements become the focus too often.