Listen to This: Jonathan Cain’s Christmas Album and Worship Music from The Porter’s Gate

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Unsung Noel

It’s October and I’m listening to Christmas music! I love Unsung Noel, a new album from Jonathan Cain of Journey (yes, the ’80s band). The music is definitely contemporary, but it’s also very devotional. It’s refreshing to hear religious Christmas music from a mainstream rock artist — normally you’d expect songs all about winter and snow and mistletoe, not songs with lines like “[The Savior’s] birth has changed our lives.” 10 of the 14 tracks are songs written by Cain, and they are beautiful, reverent and joyful.

Jonathan Cain Unsung Noel cover art

While I enjoy those familiar carols, new Christmas music that celebrates the Savior always draws me in. These songs have a sound all their own — this is not “Journey Sings Christmas.” Cain is backed by the Grace Nashville Church choir on two of the tracks, but this is very much solo work. I’ll be listening to this frequently as Christmas draws near.

Work Songs

Does it strike you as strange to think about worship music centered on the theme of work? The Porter’s Gate, a collective of musicians featuring Audrey Assad and many others of varying Christian denominations, recently released Work Songs, an album of 13 modern hymns centered on affirming vocation as an integral part of a life of worship.

ThePortersGateWorshipProjectcoverart

I don’t consider this music something that could be used at Mass (it’s really not suitable for assembly singing), but it’s beautiful for use at retreats or prayer services. One of my favorites from the album, which features quite a few different musical styles, is “Ever Mother Every Father” with Audrey Assad.

At once joyful and meditative, the music on this live album is definitely worth a listen.


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I received preview downloads of the albums for this review, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#WorthRevisit: Epiphany Edition

It’s January 6, and in some places, Epiphany is celebrated today and not the Sunday before. With that in mind, here’s my #WorthRevisit from 2 years ago:

I Played My Best for Him

I love Christmas carols–always have. If you ask me to choose my top 3, it’s an easy choice:  “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night,” and “The Little Drummer Boy.”

That last one hardly fits into the category of “traditional Christmas carols,” but I can’t help it. That song makes me cry every time–always has. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to sing the line, “I played my best for him” without choking up.

The Little Drummer Boy gets it right. He brings his gift–not something that can be opened, but his talent–and he gives his best effort to honor the newborn King. As a musician, it’s what I try to do, Sunday after Sunday. And I love that after the Little Drummer Boy offers his humble gift, Baby Jesus smiles at him.

Pass me a tissue, please.

Why would I choose bongo drums to illustrate this post? In art, the Little Drummer Boy is always pictured with a snare, sometimes slung around his neck, and drumsticks in his hands.

But my Little Drummer Boy (AKA Little Brother) has bongo drums. We sang “The Little Drummer Boy” on Tuesday at church and will do so again today. (It’s not “orthodox;” it’s not in the hymnal, but it’s better theology than a bunch of what is in there.) Little Brother has learned to play the song on his drums. On Tuesday he knelt beside the guitarists and nailed that drum part, even meriting a thumbs-up from Bill, a former drummer who’s very particular about how percussion is played.

I love that my kids have had the opportunity to offer their musical gifts in worship, to play their best–even when they’re beginners musically. I teared up on Tuesday when my Little Drummer Boy played his best, right alongside me. And it’s pretty much a given that I’ll cry again today.

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We played this song on Sunday, as we do each Epiphany. Yeah, I cried. And even though the song is not in the hymnal, so we didn’t announce it, the congregation sang right along. (Which means we’re doing our job.)

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!