The phrase "Good Christian music" used to sound like an oxymoron to me. For a long time I rejected the idea of "Christian" music at all. I don't like it when we categorize our faith, as though there are exclusively Christian moments and non-Christian moments. Is it Christian when a young Sunday-schooler walks an old lady across the street and non-Christian when a gang-banger caps off a drive by? One demonstrates charity and grace and the other reflects grave depravity, but both speak clearly of lynch pin doctrines of the faith. So is sin any less Christian than love? Without sin, after all, there is no need for the sacrificial love of Christ.
Music, in much the same way, can't simply be defined as "Christian" or "non-Christian." It either speaks of the goodness of God or the depravity of man, but themes of faith abound in any form of art. So, the real designator when it comes to the industry known as "Christian music" is the faith status of the singer/performer. The music itself is neither Christian nor non-Christian, but the artist can certainly claim one or the other designation.
Anyway, now that I've cleared that up... Here's my list of good music that happens to be performed by Christian artists. This is not a comprehensive list, but simply a few good things I've listened to lately that seem worth passing along. Enjoy!
- Phil Wickham - I'm not big on the whole "Worship" genre, but Wickham's music is so artfully arranged that I can no longer deny its greatness. His voice is full of believable passion, and the writing aptly captures the mystery and greatness of God. When you listen to his songs, you feel as though you're being swept up into something bigger (Try "Cannons" or "Heaven & Earth")
- Sara Groves - Before her latest release, "Fireflies and Songs", I couldn't have told you a single song by Sarah Groves. I'm sure I've heard her before, but nothing memorable comes to mind. But this most recent album is great. It's smart, dignified and moving, and the music moves as naturally as a mountain stream. There's nothing spectacular on this record, but it's the kind of album you can play several times and hear something new with each listen.
- Glenn Kaiser and Darrell Mansfield - When I was in college, one of my friends bought Kaiser/Mansfield's "Trimmed and Burnin'", and it instantly became one of my favorite records of all time. Imagine two guys sitting on the front porch of a rickety rural farm house with a dobro (a kind of steel guitar) and a harmonica (and maybe a glass of moonshine and a burning cigarette), and you're probably pretty close to envisioning the setting where a lot of these songs were written. This is just gritty, down home blues sung by two gravel throated virtuosos. Every song speaks of the holiness of God, but nothing about this album feels contrived or condescending. I've listened to these guys consistently for nearly 20 years, and they never get old.
- Ben Shive - I first heard Ben in December at the Behold the Lamb of God show in Cleburne, TX (This show is a must see, so if it comes your way, you must go see it!). I was blown away by his writing. Rich, deep, truly powerful writing. He can really play the piano too, and his album, "The Ill-Tempered Klavier", is quite magical. You should probably buy it.