2010: The Best of the Best

By Jenny Bennett | managing editor, www.watchgmctv.com
Posted: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 18:01

album promo image for 2010: The Best of the Best

By the staff and senior music editors at gmclife.com

We’ve always been a ‘glass is half full’ bunch of critics, but some years more than others have certainly tested our optimistic outlook. But this year – despite the recession and the down-and-dirty politicking, we’ve kept our heads held high and our musical sensibilities, well, sensible...and finely tuned.

And now... we’ve finally done it! After much deliberation and bantering back and forth via the net in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Nashville and Atlanta (and wherever else Deborah Evans Price happens to be traveling) we’ve merged our passionate picks for the year’s best new releases. By no means is this a comprehensive list of the many exciting, well-executed, and radio-worthy Gospel and Christian projects of the year – such a collection would be more laborious than Walmart on payday. (No blood was shed in the making of this list.)

To make the bitter pill of choosing only 10 go down a bit better, we’ve included a hearty ‘honorable mentions’ list. So...with all due disclaimers aside, gmclife.com presents (in no particular order) 2010: The Best of the Best.

Reach Records

This will be one of the most definitive holy hip hop albums we've heard. If the commercial response is any indication, this is not only a breakthrough CD for this artist, whose talent to see it through is as powerful as his testimony, but a breakthrough for the genre he represents. –Lisa Collins

Lecrae is seriously amazing, and Rehab captured my attention at first listen with fresh beats, really clever lyrics and a redemptive message that never comes across as contrived or hokey. –Christa Banister

Next: Ricky Skaggs, Mosaic

Ricky Skaggs
Skaggs Family Records

Skaggs' rousing and moving new album, Mosaic, is a testament to his personal faith. The Cordell, Ky. native worked closely with fellow GRAMMY-winner Gordon Kennedy, known for his work with Eric Clapton, Garth Brooks and Bonnie Raitt, to create an album that mixes elements of country music with Beatles-esque melodies, making “music that is in my head and in my heart,” says Skaggs.

With Mosaic, Skaggs takes his music in a new direction, reincorporating electric instruments, keyboards and drums. While the songs will resonate well with AC Radio, Skaggs hasn’t abandoned his acoustic, bluegrass roots and mixes a pop/rock/ country sound with strains of acoustic guitar, mandolin and fiddle. –Deborah Evans Price

Josh White
BEC Recordings

Loved this at first listen. He writes intelligent, thought-provoking worship that's musically substantive, too. I'll be listening to this for a good long while, I just know it. –Christa Banister

This record, and Josh's voice, has a rawness that captured my attention. It feels like you're sitting in a coffee house, enthralled by these gritty, gospel-y songs, and next thing you know, you're encountering a brand of folk smooth as molasses. –Jenny Bennett

Horseshoes & Handgrenades
INO Records

With secular placements landing on everything from WWE to ESPN, these hard rockers are amongst the hardest hitting crossovers in recent memory. –Andy Argyrakis

The Rend Collective Experiment
Organic Family Hymnal

Just when I thought worship was getting a little boring, this group comes along with one of the best efforts of the year. Love the unorthodox songwriting, instrumentation, and their clever music videos are among some of our favorites this year.
–Christa Banister

Next: Gungor, Beautiful Things

Beautiful Things
Brash Music

It is, perhaps, one of the greatest worship projects I've EVER heard, let alone in 2010. –E.J. Gaines, GospelPundit.com

Marvin Sapp
Here I Am
Verity Records

This follow up to the record-setting and chart-topping Thirsty tells the story of why Marvin Sapp is where he is – at the top of the charts. You can't contain his talent, you can't harness his spirit or his phenomenal vocal range; and you cannot ignore this album for a top slot on anyone's top 10 list. –Lisa Collins

Next: Forever Jones, Get Ready

Forever Jones
Get Ready
EMI Gospel

There's a reason that this heretofore unheard of group was able to break so high on the gospel charts: simply put, they are just that good. The music is phenomenal with piercing vocals and masterful instrumentation. They are here to stay. Wow.
–Lisa Collins

Jars of Clay Presents: The Shelter
Essential Records

Another great concept project that was executed with utmost precision. I also love the way that Jars of Clay continues to surprise us with their sound. This is a quiet, understated little album with some great guest appearances that really highlights how diverse their talent is. –Christa Banister

The band just keeps getting better when it comes to authentic songwriting and rootsy instrumentation. Add in several of the Christian scene’s top collaborators, and it’s sure to garner the Dove Award for “Special Event Album of the Year.” –Andy Argyrakis

Next: TobyMac, Tonight

Forefront Records

Even after a decade out of dcTalk, Toby remains red-hot, seamlessly translating to the current rap and hip-hop landscape. His duet with Skillet’s John Cooper for the title track is the hands-down highlight. –Andy Argyrakis

Next: Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mentions

Matthew West, The Story of Your Life, Sparrow
Great concept that was executed beautifully in my opinion. Love his voice, and I think these story songs will stick with listeners for the long haul. –Christa Banister

James Fortune, Encore, Worldwide Gospel
His power-packed encore – featuring spirited performances from the likes of Kierra Sheard, Lowell Pye, William Murphy and Canton Jones – not only lit up the charts but proved his appeal, talent and authenticity – and why this artist is inspiring a legion of fans all his own. –Lisa Collins

Audrey Assad, The House You’re Building, Sparrow
Assad’s debut, The House You’re Building, is certainly one of the best surprises in Christian music this year, if not the freshest debut we’ve heard in many, many moons. –Melissa Riddle-Chalos

VaShawn Mitchell, Triumphant, EMI Gospel
The title of this one is spot on, not just for Mitchell’s incredible songs and his ability to sing them. "Noboby Greater," the CD’s hit single is still sitting on top of Billboard’s Hot Gospel Radio Charts, and you can bet he’ll be front and center at this year’s Stellar Awards. For anyone who loves gospel, Vashawn Mitchell’s Triumphant is a worshipper's delight. –Lisa Collins

Chris August, No Far Away, Fervent Records
His forgiveness anthem “7 Times 70” is emotive enough to make you cry, while the rest of the record combines bluesy pop elements of John Mayer or Jason Mraz. –Andy Argyrakis

Andrew Peterson, Counting Stars, Centricity Music
Understated, beautiful insights on the life of faith, Counting Stars is one of Andrew Peterson's finest efforts. At times, it's stripped-down folk, in other moments, it's got a majestic, movie score quality to it. But in either case, the results are stunning. –Christa Banister

House of Heroes, Suburba, Gotee Records
This band just keeps making one flawless effort after the last, and I don't know why, but I'm always surprised that they keep crankin' 'em out. I think they are one of our industry's best-kept secrets. –Lisa Collins

The Afters, Light Up the Sky, INO Records
I know fans haven't responded to this album the way they did to the group's previous efforts, but I think these guys have served up yet another superb collection of pop/rock gems and have only continued to improve as songwriters and musicians. Plus, there are some seriously stellar, get-stuck-in-your-head melodies on here! –Christa Banister

Karen Clark Sheard, All In One, Karew/EMI Gospel
With a full-tilt urban groove and KCS’s signature multi-octave vocal stylings, All In One features 11 original songs that span the format globe, including the smash hit single “Prayed Up,” guaranteed to leave people groovin’ in the pews. Simply put, All In One may well be the best recording of Karen Clark Sheard’s career. –Melissa Riddle-Chalos

Tye Tribbett, Fresh, Columbia Records
With 16 title-accurate tunes, Tye Tribbett delivers his first album since disbanding his backing group, Greater Anointing (G.A.); also the first since his rather publicized marital infidelity. Fresh delivers Tribbett’s most transparent and honest musical offering to date. –E.J. Gaines

Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone, ANTI Records
With a little help from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy as producer, this civil rights leader and gospel great still has the Midas touch! –Andy Argyrakis

Delirious?, Farewell: Live in London, Kingsway/EMI
Why there weren't more popular in America, I'll never know, but this album is an outstanding tribute to one of those most innovative worship acts around. They were always best live, and this album captures that awesome live presence perfectly. –Christa Banister

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