Music is my passion. I enjoy worshiping God with it, but I can’t deny its ubiquitous nature in the world around us. It is everywhere, and it moves people emotionally (both in the positive and negative). I think this is why I tend to gravitate toward music that speaks to me about God, but does it in such a way that is highly musical, creative and is generally making some positive and spiritual cultural impact. What is generally thought of as Contemporary Christian (CCM) and especially the popular worship genre is everywhere in the Christian culture, but has left hardly a dent on the rest of the world. Jesus said something about being salt (what’s the point if it’s tasteless) and light (what’s the point if it is hidden under a bushel). Here are a few of my top picks (mostly current) that you may not find at the local Christian bookstore, but move me towards God. Hopefully they will do the same for you and some of your friends. CD’s are listed from newest to oldest.
Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood  Neko’s voice compells the listener. Her songwriting stirs the soul. « John Saw that Number » lights up those old time gospel feelings, « A Widow’s Toast » tells it like it is, and she calls the listener to « Hold on, Hold on » to what is true. A modern masterpiece.
Calexico / Iron & Wine – « In the Reins »  A southwestern band and a folk artist combine for an incredible well written and performed EP. The title track « He Lays In The Reins » is worth the price of admission, or at least a $.99 download from iTunes.
Nickel Creek – Why Should the Fire Die?  Although most of the songwriting content focuses on love lost, this young bluegrass/pop outfit delivers with passion and fun. « Doubting Thomas » strikes the heart with the challenges of belief and unbelief, while other songs might have you dancing a jig in your kitchen.
Bill Mallonee – Dear Life  The former front man for Vigilantes of Love (VOL) draws an honest picture of life as a struggling Christian with a true heart towards God. The songwriting is great and you may find « Kidz on Drugz (or Life) » to be on repeat for many days.
Johnny Cash – American Recordings (I) –  The first (and I believe the best) of many Cash CD’s produced by Rick Rubin. Johnny comes back raw and rasping out old favourites like « Why Me Lord » from an older perspective. « Redemption » tell the story and the « Beast In Me » cuts a clear path of repentance for Johnny and the listener.
Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball  « Wrecking Ball » is probably the finest example of what I would call a great album. Produced by Daniel Lanois it also features Neil Young, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and Larry Mullen, Jr. Musically, it takes high marks and respect from the artistic world. Emmylou’s voice trembles with sweet emotion. Spiritually, it takes you closer to Jesus and to the heart of what it means to be human and live in this world. This CD is both light and salt. Featuring songs like « All My Tears », « Every Grain of Sand » and « Orphan Girl. » One of the best Christian CD’s you will ever find, not found in your local Christian bookstore.
Jason Johnston is a Church Planter in Mississauga, ON <<www.housechurch.ca>>