"Rich Mullins might be among the most cited influence among today's finest artists in Christian music. He's also not only the greatest artist in the genre to ever put pen to paper, he's the most important. His honesty and willingness to be genuine about what it means to be a man of faith changed Christian music and paved the way for so much of the best music of our generation. I still marvel at his songs – the poetry, the pairing of sounds and words, and the emotional chords. He was an arrow pointing to heaven who is still missed. "
Favorite Albums: A Liturgy, A Legacy, and A Ragamuffin Band, The World as Best as I Remember It 1&2
"Exhibit A: "Don't You Want to Thank Someone?". This might be the greatest song of all time. No other artist can voice the human condition in the context of eternity so well. Peterson so often gets it just right, in so few words, and in a way that stirs the listener to the very soul. (And may I add… it says a lot about Christian retail and radio that the second greatest artist of all time, who happens to be contemporary, is unknown by so many.)"
Favorite Albums: Light for the Lost Boy, The Burning Edge of Dawn
Favorite Songs: "Don't You Want to Thank Someone," "The Sower's Song," "Let Me Sing," "The Reckoning"
"Back in 1997, a California surfer dude sang, "I don't know what love is, and I don't know who I am." Since then Jon Foreman and mates have built an extraordinary body to work trying to figure out answers to those questions. Foreman has a remarkable depth of emotion in his songwriting and a willingness to wrestle with profound philosophical and theological questions. And he's still a surfer dude."
Favorite Albums: Vice Verses, Fading West
Favorite Songs: "Where I Belong," "Restless," "Love Alone is Worth the Fight," "Twenty-Four"
"It's difficult to overestimate the impact of that one album, Jesus Freak. Pick a cliché: game-changer, mold-breaker, innovator. Jesus Freak and the band that made it were all of these. Only the most discerning fan or critic could have recognized the seeds of songcraft and musicianship back in the Nu Thang days, but in 1995 Jesus Freak broke the record for first week sales and all but created a genre within CCM. Their excellent reunion track on TobyMac's latest hints of more to come."
Favorite Albums: Jesus Freak, Supernatural
Favorite Songs: "Jesus Freak," "What if I Stumble?," "My Will," "The Hardway"
Steven Curtis Chapman|
"Maybe it's the era in which he had his string of hits, but there is a temptation to assume that Chapman's music is standard CCM pop fare. Look closer. Catch the surprising complexity in the music of those early 90s albums. Listen to the ache on Beauty Will Rise. And observe how even 2 years ago, with The Glorious Unfolding, Chapman's relevance has held fast as his wisdom has grown. And yes, he's won more Dove Awards than anyone in history (58!), which speaks to his accessibility and knack for a great hook."
Favorite Albums: This Moment, Speechless, Beauty Will Rise
Favorite Songs: "His Eyes," "Angels Wish," "I Will Be Here"
"David Crowder is a gift to worship music. In a genre often characterized by bland, formulaic songwriting, DC*B brought a shot of creativity and originality in intelligent lyrics, loops, and the occasional banjo. When I've interviewed Crowder I've often been left scratching my head, but in a good way."
Favorite Albums: A Collision, Church Music, Remedy
Favorite Songs: "SMS (Shine)," "Remedy," "Foreverandever Etc.," "Surely We Can Change"
Jars of Clay|
"I was visiting Los Angeles, on the way up to the Getty in a rental car with the radio set to a random LA station. I heard guitar, then vocals: "Rain, rain on my face." And I smiled. Jars of Clay were even a mainstream "thing" all the way out in California. Those single-word song titles -- Flood, Liquid, He -- introduced to the world a band with a unique and memorable sound. It's remarkable that these days Jars are seriously underrated."
Favorite Albums: Jars of Clay, The Long Fall Back to Earth, Who We Are Instead
Favorite Songs: "Love Song for a Savior," "Boys (Lesson One)," "Shelter"
"Just like it pains me that some people only know Rich Mullins for "Awesome God", I am similarly bothered that people might only know Amy Grant for "Baby Baby". Yes, Grant paved the way for crossover success with high-impact pop songs, but that shouldn't overshadow her cornerstone contributions to CCM."
Favorite Albums: Lead Me On, Behind the Eyes
Favorite Songs: "Lead Me On," "1974," "Thy Word," "Heirlooms"
"Caedmon's was a creative convergence that happened at just the right time. Their 90's folk-rock resonated on college campuses, they developed a strong and well-organized fan following, and despite multiple lineup changes they've continued to produce excellent work."
Favorite Albums: Share the Well, 40 Acres
Favorite Songs: "Center Aisle," "Thankful," "The Only One"
"Christian rap had for years been a difficult genre to figure out. Mainstream rap was built on self-aggrandization, nefarious street cred, and anger. Christian rap that tried to replace the egocentricity with spoken-word preaching lost the roots of the genre and in so doing lost a massive audience. Then along came Lecrae. Though he's not alone in revitalizing an entire genre, he's the most visible frontman, crafting rhymes that resonate and hitting just the right tone."
Favorite Albums: Rehab, Anomaly
Favorite Songs: "Boasting," "Fakin'," "Welcome to America"
"For the record I'm focusing here on the Furler-era Newsboys, those Aussie lads who decided long ago that whistles make for better mixes. Their songwriting was clever - don't miss the Steve Taylor influence - and they left a legacy of hits that made CCM vivacious through the 1990s and 2000s."
Favorite Albums: Take Me to Your Leader, Go
Favorite Songs: "Lord (I Don't Know)," "Shine," "Entertaining Angels"
"A brilliant songwriter with an easy, sometimes unassuming sound, Rice was the finest product of Michael W. Smith's Rocketown Records. In youth group circles he was perhaps best known for a hidden track, "Cartoons", but the perceptive kids in those youth groups fell in love with "Deep Enough to Dream" and the stellar songs that followed. Rice is a classic "where are they now" artist; as it turns out he's eschewed the media spotlight in favor of making a different kind of art: painting."
Favorite Albums: Past the Edges, Deep Enough to Dream, Run the Earth, Watch the Sky
Favorite Songs: "Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)," "Welcome to Our World," and" Your Praise Goes On"
"The stylized question mark is a little annoying (and my goodness, sometimes the "s" is "5"), but this much is true: it's likely that the majority of listeners of modern worship music, especially in the US, don't appreciate the profound contribution of Martin Smith, Stu G, and company. Passion, energy, and a willingness to take risks characterized this landmark band."
Favorite Albums: King of Fools, Glo, Mezzamorphis
Favorite Songs: "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?," "Rain Down," "Deeper," "History Maker"
"What happens when a serious Bible scholar makes music? You get albums tied to specific Biblical themes, specific books of the Bible, or even individuals in the Bible. And you also get mega-hits like "El Shaddai". Card's music teaches more than anyone else on this list, and his albums often serve as complimentary soundtracks to his excellent books."
Favorite Albums: Poiema, Scribbling in the Sand, Joy in the Journey
Favorite Songs: "Love Crucified Arose," "Home," "Heal Our Land"
"My friend Randall Goodgame recently gave the following description of Groves and her new album: "Sara Groves' new CD is jammed with deep truth clothed in killer songs (psst... SG is a song ninja. Lethal.)' This "song ninja" has a gift for writing songs that speak to the heart and affect listeners in deeply emotional ways."
Favorite Album: Add to the Beauty, Fireflies and Songs, Tell Me What You Know
Favorite Songs: "Add to the Beauty," "When the Saints," "He's Always Been Faithful"
Downhere, Michael W. Smith, Mark Heard, Larry Norman, The Choir, Vigilantes of Love, Keith Green
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