2 kids’ albums that are actually really good!

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As y’all know, my wife and I are the parents of three little kids—Abigail (7), Hannah (4), and Hudson (2). Our house is always hopping with this crew, especially when there’s music on (or in their heads). I took the girls to The Muppets Most Wanted recently, and while we were in the car, Hannah and Abigail immediately started singing a heartfelt rendition of every girl’s current favorite song, “Let it Go.”

Just imagine that for a minute.

Alright, back to the task at hand. Because these kids really enjoy music, I get to expose them to a lot of different material. The challenge has been finding good kids’ albums! Many, as you can imagine, are vile, poorly produced, dreck. Some are okay. Few are exceptional.

But the exceptional few are ones I’d like to talk about a bit today. Here’s a look at two kids’ albums that are actually really good!

1. Coal Train Railroad, self-titled. I was pointed toward these folks by one of my followers on Twitter and I’m so glad they did. Coal Train Railroad is a jazz group for kids from Nashville, and their stuff is exceptional, both what’s been released on their self-titled debut and the follow-up, Coal Train Railroad Swings!

Our kids really like to bop to these albums, and Hudson typically asks for “Train!” when we get in the car, so there’s that.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | iTunes

2. The Verve Pipe, Are We There Yet? Honestly, I never thought I’d put “The Verve Pipe” and “great” in the same sentence, but there you go. These guys had a couple of big songs in the mid-late 90s but they fell off my radar a long time ago. Then I learned they had made a couple of albums for kids, the latest being Are We There Yet? This album has a lot of fun songs, including one called “When Grandma Says No,” which describes the all-too-true reality of Grandma’s no’s true meaning: maybe.

And all the parents said, “amen.”

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | iTunes

So those are a couple of really good kids’ albums we’ve picked up recently. If you’re a parent, definitely check them out, and if you have recommendations, share them in the comments!

The five best and worst Christmas songs ever

Around Christmastime, I’m usually informed by someone that I’m something of a grinch. My heart seems to be three sizes too small… at least when it comes to Christmas music.

Although I try to have a bit of yuletide cheer, I’m generally not a fan of the songs. So many are just kind of, well, terrible. Either theologically inaccurate, badly written and performed, or some combination thereof.

But that’s not to say all of them are awful. Some are really, really good. So today, I thought it’d be fun to do a bit of comparing and contrasting, with what I believe are the five best and worst Christmas songs ever.

Best: “This is War”

I love this song a lot, even if it’s not super-cheery in tone:

Worst: “It Must Be Santa”

This song is six kinds of terrible—and Bob Dylan made it even worse:

I’m pretty sure this is one of the songs that will be played in Hell. On repeat.

Best: “Go Tell it on the Mountain”

Jacob Moon does a great job on this one:

Worst: “Last Christmas”

Any version is terrible, but here’s Taylor Swift’s (since I hear it every time I go to the grocery store):

Best: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

Worst: “Wonderful Christmas Time” 

The post-Beatles years were not always kind to Paul McCartney, as evidenced by the following:

Best: “O Come, Emmanuel”

There are so many terrific versions out there, but this one is excellent:

Worst: “Santa Baby”

Because nothing says “Christmas” like prostitution for presents:

Best: “The 12 Days of (Canadian) Christmas”

Because I’m Canadian:

Worst: “Mary, Did You Know?”

This one’s extra cringe-worthy in its Technopraise (seriously??) remix:

So those are a few of the best and worst from my perspective. Did I miss anything?

Cultivating a culture of worship: four practical suggestions

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Today’s post is by Nathan Clark George. Nathan is an award winning singer/songwriter, and serves as Chief Musician at Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, TN.


As God called Adam to tend and care for His creation, God calls the church musician to name, distinguish, care for and cultivate musical settings and compositions that enable and promote biblical, meaningful and vibrant congregational worship. Over the years I have done my best to stay out of the worship wars, but from my experience and what others have taught I do have practical suggestions that I hope are useful when considering music in the context of worship:

1. Focus. Our focus must be on God’s Word, for our singing is, in almost all cases, prayer. In prayer we usually spend less time talking about how we feel, and more time speaking about how God feels about a subject. Therefore, most of our music and its text should be God oriented, much like our spoken prayer.

2. Congregational vs. Individualistic. I have had several people ask if they can use my older settings of the Psalms, which were written for the purpose of presentation and performance and personal meditation, in congregational worship. My response is usually “good luck.” Now, there is certainly room to train, learn parts, practice, and get better, and we should do so, but there is also a reason Come Thou Fount is going nowhere soon. It’s singable. It’s not individualistic pop music. The rhythm and melodic movement employed is predictable, simple without being simplistic, and is accessible to the folks – it is true folk music. It is congregational.

3. Style. If we get sidetracked into thinking about how someone may or may not like our style, we will have gotten off track already. Remember, as John Frame pointed out, it’s less about style than content. I would add to that it’s less about style than purpose. Is our purpose to impress? Is our purpose to sound like Bach or Vaughn Williams? Then we have miss God’s purpose.

4. Sing the Psalms. Though I do not fall in the exclusive Psalmody camp, the importance of singing Psalms can barely be over emphasized. I would challenge us to look hard at our song choices and see how often we are singing the Psalms. Is it once a month? Once a week? Never? I would humbly and forcefully suggest that we begin to sing and write with the Psalms as fixtures before our eyes.

Above all, the Word of God and the worship of God must be the fertile soil in and out of which a musician cultivates a culture of worship that reflects God’s nature and glory.


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Nathan’s new album, To Live is Christ, is now available. You can download “Calm Content” free here.

3 Reasons to Get Lovers on the Edges of the Twilight by Michael Krahn

Recently, my good friend Michael Krahn released a new 5-song EP, Lovers on the Edges of the Twilight. I’ve been listening to it pretty steadily for the last little while and it’s great stuff. My first thought: “This is very Blue Rodeo.” (Canadians know that this is a very good thing, depending on your taste.) Here are a few reasons why I hope you’ll buy this record:

1. It has nothing to do with Twilight. Tim Challies may have beat me to that smart-alecky comment, but it’s still true. It also has no connection to mid-90s Canadian rock band The Tea Party (their second album was called The Edges of Twilight)… aside from both being from Canada.

2. It’s heartfelt. You know how you can listen to a song and you really get a sense that the artist was processing some pretty heavy stuff while writing and performing? That’s what you’ll find on this album, and it works really, really well.

3. The title track is exceptional. Seriously, take the next four minutes and listen:

The record’s available now on iTunes and MichaelKrahn.com—I hope you’ll get a copy today.

Meet My Friend Deni

I met Deni Gauthier a few days back during a visit with fellow blogger Michael Krahn. Deni’s a funny and very personable guy who isn’t afraid to share a few embarrassing stories (I, however, will leave those for him to share sometime :)).

He’s also an extremely talented musician who has spent the last several years touring the world and has just released a new EP, Man About Town.

I’ve spent the last couple days listening to the record and I really enjoy it.

(This might come as a shock to some of my friends—I don’t listen to a lot of music these days.)

Deni’s new record is a really solid set of folk pop/rock songs. Thoughtful and unpretentious lyrics along with music that reminds me of some of the best elements of Derek Webb (particularly his Mockingbird record) and Wilco.

So, I’ve got a favor to ask you all. Give the video above a watch. If you like what you hear, share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. You can also buy Man About Town on Deni’s website or at iTunes and follow Deni on Facebook or Twitter.

I hope you like the record!

Who are you listening to that you’d recommend?

Dear Song Leader

Dear Song Leader,

You have a tough job. You’ve been tasked with leading the congregation in song, choosing music that flows with the sermon to be preached and is actually enjoyable.

And everybody has an opinion on what “enjoyable” means.

Including me.

There are some songs that are just offensive to my taste. There are some songs that are just impossible for me to sing because I’m a guy and the key is just too high (and I can’t pull off the skinny jeans that could make it possible to hit those high notes). I don’t like songs that go on for seven minutes when they have six words.

And I don’t like Hillsong United.

Truthfully, I could go the rest of my days without ever hearing another one of their songs and die a happy man. Because honestly, I doubt we’ll be singing any of their material in Heaven—not even “Mighty to Save.”

That’s my taste—and it’s something I am trying to get over every time I hear one of their songs. My taste is not what’s important. What’s important is that our songs are pleasing to Christ and communicating truth about Him and praise to Him.

Song leaders, I have a request:

Challenge us when we sing.

I’m not saying that you need to start rocking the classic hymns. (Although you could. They communicate the truths of the gospel in a way that many modern songs simply don’t even come close.)

I’m not saying put Romans 8 to music, or write a song that goes through the doctrines of grace or advocates for the free will of man in salvation (if such is your theological position).

I’m asking you to make us think deeply when we sing. Make us think deeply about what we’re singing. Confront us with our sin.

Help us rejoice in our salvation.

Sincerely,

Aaron