By Kevin Pollard
Tauren Wells: Hills & Valleys, Reunion, 2017
After two albums and five years as the frontman of pop/R&B band Royal Taylor, Tauren Wells made the difficult decision to break away to pursue a solo career. His debut full-length solo album Hills and Valleys is probably the best album I have heard this year as it showcases his songwriting and vocal skills on songs that cover a multitude of genres from Pop, R&B, HipHop, EDM and Worship. Obviously others have been taking notice as he was asked to open for Lionel Ritchie and Maria Carrie on their 22-City Tour this summer that stops in Vancouver on September 3rd. Highlights here include the title song that was released as the first single and has seen significant radio play, the infectious pop groove on the album opening “When We Pray,” the soulful “All About You,” featuring Gotee artist Hollyn and the acoustic guitar backed ballad “Known” where he sings “It’s not one or the other, it’s hard truth and ridiculous grace to be known, fully known, and loved by you.” And his diversity shines on the dance track “Love is Action” the EDM and HipHop “Undefeated” and the old school funk on Earth, Wind and Fires cover “September”.
Manafest: Stones, The Fuel Music, 2017
Ten year veteran HipHop Canadian artist Chris Greenwood aka Manafest has released his tenth studio album Stones that leans towards his harder rock sound on this effort. Highlights here on his second independent release on Fuel Music include the infectious album opening title track,
the rousing anthem on “House of Cards” and “Firestarter” that challenges the listerner step out of your comfort zone. The lyrics throughout this album never waiver from his core message to challenge listeners to pursue your passion and use your God-given talents regardless of those who may try to bring you down and get in your head.
Bethel Music: Starlight, Bethel Music, 2017
From their humble beginnings in 2001 to their songs like “One Thing Remains,” “This is Amazing Grace,” “No Longer Slaves,””Forever” and “Ever Be” being sung in churches around the world, Redding, CA based Bethel Music has left a deep imprint on the worship music scene for over fifteen years. Their new album Starlight is unique in that it is comprised of songs led by all female worship leaders Jenn Johnson, Amanda Cook, Steffany Gretzinger, Kalley Heiligenthal, Melissa Helser, Kristene DiMarco, Hannah McClure and Francesca Battistelli. The albums standout songs include “Starlight” led by Amanda Cook, “Extravagant” and “King of My Heart” led by Steffany Gretzinger, “Take Courage,” led by Kristene DiMarco and “No Other Name,” sung by guest leader Francesca Battistelli.