By Bunni Pounds
I thought for the benefit of my fellow Christian music fans, worship leaders out there in cyber land, and people who just want to fill their lives with more Christian music, I would compile a list of my favorite CDs of 2011.
Now limiting my list to just CDs released in 2011 really hurts me because it excludes some of my favorite CDs that I have listened to this year like Prepare the Way by Klaus Kuehn featuring Kari Jobe , Chris August’s No Far Away and Bebo Norman’s Ocean.
People who know me know that I have a Christian music buying problem. I love to worship God all day long, promote great artists who love God and who want to impact people for the kingdom of God, and I study great songwriting. Here are CDs that I worshiped with, was inspired by, rocked out to, and sang at the top of my lungs in the car with- all released this year in 2011.
#1 - Leeland – Great Awakening
I don’t where I have been when it comes to Leeland. I had purchased their first album Sound of Melodies in 2007 but it ended up on my shelf for some reason. Israel and Ben, our 12 and 14 year old sons, downloaded the song Tears of the Saints off that album after we heard from Michael W. Smith that he thought that song was the best song of the decade. They didn’t even know what we had the CD on a shelf. The boys started listening to that song over and over again. It got into our souls. When their new CD came out this year, we got it right away.
Great Awakening is a blend of some of the best songs, harmonies, and arrangements that I have heard in a long time. I have not stopped listening to this CD since I got it and have since bought everything that Leeland has done to this point. These songs are in my blood now - cries to God for renewal, awakening, and a free church. From rock, country, folk, and great worship, every song is a masterpiece in my viewpoint.
#2 - Christ for the Nations – 37
As a CFNI alumnus, I have gotten all the CFNI worship CDs since my time there in 1992-1994 when Kevin Jonas Sr. was the worship leader. I feel in love with worship leader Klaus Kuehn’s music while he was at Christ for the Nations, but not since Overtaken has been such a great album as 37. They called it 37 because it is the 37th album out of Christ for the Nations and they didn’t feel like they had a real theme to the record.
Since Gabriel Allred come in as the worship leader a few years back, they have been producing some amazingly anointed worship sessions, but 37 goes above and beyond even the last two. I can see my church doing almost every song on this CD and that is an amazing accomplishment.
Blood so Beautiful is our family’s favorite song and we love Chris Martin’s song He is God, and Bethany Stephen’s My Heart Sings Worthy. Again, all the songs and arrangements lead you straight into the presence and the heart of God. As a result of this wonderful recording CFNI just signed an agreement with Integrity Music to see it released nationwide. Until then, you must get it at http://www.cfnmusic.org/.
#3 - Matt Redman – 10,000 Reasons
What makes a great worship album for me is when I ask the question “How many of these songs would I lead or would like to see done at my church?” For me on this CD like the CFNI one, the answer is all of them. Matt Redman has a gift of writing incredible congregational worship songs and he has collaborated with some of the world’s best worship writers for this live recording. Amazing writing and great congregational songs for all churches- Inspiring!
#4 - Switchfoot – Vice Verses
Me and my boys (ages 12 and 14) have spent a lot of time in the car over the last few months with this CD, since its release. This San Diego band rocks but with an anthem that inspires a generation of wanderers. Switchfoot tells a whole generation that it doesn’t matter what their cultures says about them -in spite of the opposition and mixed messages in their lives, they can make it. Their first single Dark Horses inspire all people who feel like giving up to keep fighting and to keep going.
I have a huge respect for this band, their songwriting, and their hearts that point people to ask the right questions about their lives, even in the midst of a turbulent culture. I also took the boys to see them live this year at House of Blues after seeing them at Celebrate Freedom this year. They were incredible in venues, the big festival and the full rock concert. Go Switchfoot!
#5 - Gungor – Ghosts Upon the Earth
This year I discovered again that Christian music can have some amazing and unique talents that come along that go beyond the ordinary. While we were at the final tour of the David Crowder band in Dallas this year, our family discovered a group by the name of Gungor.
Wow – is all that I can say! We were all blown away with their acoustic set, Michael Gungor’s guitar playing, their amazing cello player that beat boxed while he played the cello, and their incredibly unique songs that sang forth the creative power of God. We left that night and watched video after video of Gungor on the internet and then purchased both of their CDs, Beautiful Things and Ghosts Upon the Earth. Ghosts Upon the Earth has become a favorite among the Pounds’ family.
Warning: This is not your normal worship album, but it will mess you up to worship the King of Kings. It will awaken your soul and your hunger for more of the creative God of the universe. Let is just wash over you. Watch When Death Dies at http://www.gungormusic.com/ and you will be hooked.
#6 - Klaus Kuehn – Everything Lives in the River
I listen to more Klaus, Kari Jobe, and Shane & Shane than any other artists. They bring me into the presence of God, I can sing my heart out with them, and their songs leads me into in a special place with Jesus. It doesn’t hurt that I know Klaus, I grew up in the same youth group as Kari, and Shane & Shane live in the Dallas area as well. Klaus’ Prepare the Way CD has been a staple of our family’s life for over a year and I just ordered his new devotional CD Everything Lives in the River. I have only listened to it about 4 times now, but it is going in as #6 on this list because I will be finishing off my year with this CD and I guarantee that it will be a constant CD in my life.
When I was on the mission field in Guatemala as a twenty year old, I lived on Kent Henry’s Seeking His Sanctuary project every day. It was just 6 or 7 simple majestic songs with scriptures about seeking God all mixed in. It was and still is a taste of heaven. Klaus’ devotional project here brings me back to my years of listening to one of the greatest worship leaders of our time, Kent Henry, and that is one of the biggest complements I can give Klaus.
Thank you, Klaus, for being faithful to take the body of Christ into the deep places of the heart of God. We are so thankful. Get the CD here as well as Prepare the Way and Glory at http://www.klausmusic.com/
#7 - John Waller – As for Me and My House
Prophetic, upbeat, uplifting, majestic, challenging, and real – these are the words that I would describe John Waller and his project As for Me and My House. John has a kind of modern country feel to his music with a whole bunch of good rock, but his lyrics are what move you. This man has depth, passion, and a heart after God. The first four songs on this CD – we play over and over again and the song Somebody Else’s Story has moved my husband and I to tears as we seek after God’s will for our lives. We are blessed to have discovered the music of John Waller this year.
#8 - Shane & Shane – The One You Need
Many years ago when their Psalms project had just come out, I discovered Shane & Shane. A young girl was sitting next to me on a plane and we started talking about Jesus. I discovered she was a believer and we started sharing the Word with each other and got on the topic of music. She asked me, “Have you heard Shane Everett and Shane Barnard yet?” I said, “No”. She then started playing me the independent version of their CD Psalms on her CD player. I was hooked. It remains one of my favorites to this day. I have been a crazy Shane and Shane fan since that day and I have spent countless hours singing with them in my car, at my computer, and around my house. Their song Yearn has been a staple of my life for years. I sing it over and over again at our church, our home group, and everywhere I go. I wish I had written it. Bummer!
These two men have a heart for God, a way of writing a melody that goes straight to heaven, and harmonies that send me emotionally over the top. Every CD they have made I love and they have done it again for me with The One You Need. I especially love Liberty, Without You, Victory, and Running to You on this album. Thank you, Shane & Shane, for giving one worship leader in Garland constant music to love and worship with.
#9 - Shawn McDonald – Closer
I love great singer- songwriters and Christian music has produced some great ones over the last few years- Bethany Dillon (wife of the above Shane Barnard), Bebo Norman, Brandon Heath, and Nichole Nordeman just to name a few. At the beginning of this year, a young songwriter from Seattle produced another great CD, Shawn McDonald.
Shawn has been redeemed from much and loves much. It is evident in his songs, his passion for Jesus, and the realness in his songs. If you love acoustic well produced songs about freedom, faith, and life, you will love Shawn McDonald. I and my boys love the songs Rise, Closer, and Faithful among others on this project. He is a jewel!
#10 - Chris Tomlin – And if our God is For Us
(I know…..it was released in 2010…don’t email me about this point…I had to stick it in.)
As a songwriter and worship leader, I have more and more respect for Chris Tomlin each year. It is hard to write simple songs. You might think it is easy, but it is not. As a writer, we start thinking too much and corrupt the simple things of life. Somehow Chris has an ability to keep it simple and I respect him deeply for it.
Our family started out the year singing Our God. We got it late, so I must put it on this list, even though I said I wouldn’t put any 2010 CDs on my list. Ben, our 12 year old, sang it at his school this spring, and we started doing the song at our church. We also saw Chris at Celebrate Freedom this year bring down the house with hit after hit of worship songs that everyone knows and loves.
This CD is my favorite Chris Tomlin record to date and I learn more and more from him every day as I listen to these songs of worship.
***Since I am mentioning one 2010 CD, I have to mention one more that I discovered in 2011. One of our friends posted it on their facebook page and I have loved this CD all year, Rend Collective Experiment out of the UK. The project’s name is the Organic Family Hymnal. Wonderful, pure, and real worship to God from a great family of people, this project is great. Check them out at http://www.rendcollectiveexperiment.com/.
I hope you have enjoyed my list of my top 10 CDs of 2011. Remember, worship is not just something we do, as believers in Jesus Christ; it is part of who we are.
Keep great music around you that encourages you, lifts you up, and brings you in the presence of God especially in these days of hardship, trials, and confusion. Support great artists by actually buying their CDs and supporting their music and livelihoods.
My prayer is that God will continue to bless the Body of Christ with great music, great art, and encouraging worship music that lifts up His name. This is only the beginning.