Tony Cummings and Mike Rimmer survey all the releases to find the best Christian music albums of 2008



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The 20 Best Albums Of 2008

HANNAH ATKINS - Falling (Independent)
This is actually the second album from Manchester-based Hannah who creates what can only be described as impossibly beautiful ethereal pop music. Imagine something between Enya and Kate Bush and you'll get in the right ball park. Topping the creative production and arrangements is Hannah's expressive and plaintive voice. The album is the best example of a grower that I've heard all year where its charms become more apparent the more you listen. From the drifting title track to the lush "If Life Were Some Music" to the soulful "Poetic Dreams", Hannah is one of the few female artists I've heard this year with the talent to take on the many mainstream singer/songwriters.
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Albums Of 2008

LIC - Awesome (Independent)
It's taken this talented team of Afro R&B gospel musicians a long time to gain much national attention but maybe now the great church-going public will finally wake up to what the congregation at London's Liberty Christian Fellowship church have known for years - these guys are HOT. Nigerian rhythms are artfully fused with sassy R&B grooves and seasoned with the occasional pinch of hip-hop. Earlier this year the Cross Rhythms reviewer selected the cuts "You're Blessed" and "Let's Dance", Cross Rhythms radio programme controller went for "Draw The Line" and "Awesome" while the Christian Broadcasting Council plumped for the whole album as R&B/Gospel Album Of The Year. One thing everyone is agreed on though LIC (Living Is Christ) are a class act.
Tony Cummings

The 20 Best Albums Of 2008

THE WELCOME WAGON - Welcome To The Welcome Wagon (Asthmatic Kitty)
The Welcome Wagon are the Reverend Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, who create a gorgeous rambling folk gospel that reminds the listener of the tradition of American sacred song. The collaboration with Sufjan Stevens, who produced the album, means that comparisons to Stevens' work are inevitable and yet there's something of the naivety and simplicity of the Aiutos' faith that shines through here. You have to admire the mix of hymns, original songs and well chosen covers. I love their version of the Velvet Underground's "Jesus" and the way they've reworked "Half A Person", the song by The Smiths. It's a beautifully unusual album, simultaneously clever and simple.
Mike Rimmer

The 20 Best Albums Of 2008

NATALIE GRANT - Relentless (Curb)
It's taken quite a while for Natalie to rise to her present position as America's most popular Christian female singer but with albums as strong as this one clearly the plaudits and album sales are deserved. Natalie has an exceptional voice able to adopt a husky, breathy tone for percussive pop numbers but then throw back her head for blue-eyed soul emoting on gospel-tinged balladry. The production here, from husband Bernie Herms, is top rate while whether Natalie is handling a soft piano-led ballad like "Make A Way (Brittany's Song)", a power pop song with an R&B groove on "Make It Matter" or her current Cross Rhythms radio hit "Let Go", the effect is consistently good.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Albums Of 2008

MATTHEW WEST - Something To Say (Sparrow)
Matthew is by all accounts an extremely prolific songwriter and that works well for him here because for every song selected there are probably another two rejected and the snag with so many singer/songwriter projects - two or three memorable songs and several tracks of filler - is skilfully avoided. In fact, the songwriting craft here is exceptional. A staggering seven tracks have been selected for the Cross Rhythms playlist and from the upbeat "Something To Say" to the powerful "Stop The World" this is Nashville pop executed with the skill of a true artist.
Tony Cummings
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Albums Of 2008

NEWWORLDSON - Salvation Station (Inpop)
Who would have thought that a bunch of Canadians playing music in a bar could end up being one of the breakthrough bands of 2008 but that's exactly what's happened for Newworldson. The unassuming quartet formed when they got a residency in a club and told the owner they wanted to play gospel. Musically they were so strong that the punters loved them and the band grew from there. The album captures them blending a mixture of gospel, blues, soul, jazz, pop and the results are extremely catchy. Despite the old school influences, the resulting music sounds modern and fresh. "Workin' Man" became a Cross Rhythms radio favourite and you can't fault the vibe on "Babylon Is Gonna Fall" or the amazing "Sweet Holy Spirit". A poppy commercial success for a band with the musical and spiritual chops to take this far!
Mike Rimmer
9.97 at Cross Rhythms Direct

The 20 Best Albums Of 2008

GUVNA B - The Narrow Road (Independent)
With an infectious mix of sounds, Guvna B is the first of the acts from the London-based gospel hip-hop/grime scene to deliver a full length album but expect a slew of releases in 2009. Guvna B certainly manages to create plenty of hooks and funky grooves that catch the ear and one bona fide phenomenon, "Kingdom Skank", which caught loads of attention from the hip-hop underground earlier in the year. The track gave me a shimmer of pleasure during the summer when I played it to some American friends who had never before heard anything like it. The whole album is jam packed with gems.
Mike Rimmer CR