Favorite Worship Albums of 2008
Whenever we put these best-of lists together, it's always interesting to note any trends that may be reflected in the selections. For example, past lists for worship albums have unintentionally celebrated the growth of alternative worship music styles or confirmed who the most popular worship artists are in music today.
In selecting our favorite worship albums from 2008, released between October 2008 and September 2008, we ended up with a list that champions the work of the lesser-known favorites in modern worship—songwriters and artists who have toiled for 10 years or more in some cases, but haven't quite earned the recognition of a Chris Tomlin, Chris Tomlin, or Darlene Zschech. As far as creative expressions of worship, it's been a very good year for these unsung heroes, so we celebrate their work here (listed unranked and alphabetically) with hopes that they will become more sung in the years to come.
Deluge: Live from Bethany World Prayer Center
Bethany Live (Integrity Music)
With so many live worship albums resembling Hillsong in style and energy, it sure is a pleasure to find some like this from Bethany Live's youth ministry. It's similar enough for fans of United and Jami Smith to embrace, yet different enough in key tracks to set it apart as something special. From the drumline that joyfully opens and The Police riff that carries "I Believe," to the rowdy Green Day styled shuffle of "Make It Loud" and the frenetic guitars that help "Crazy" live up to its title, it's great to hear this worship team doing something different with their God-centered praise, and thus making a more memorable worship album to him.
All of the songs you mention are indeed highlights, and their left-of-centeredness makes me hopeful about what the future holds for this group. Granted, they're still developing, as evidenced in some of the ballads in the second half of the disc, which stick much closer to worship music conventions. But Jonathan Stockstill is proving himself a rising and versatile worship leader—he can be a soulful piano man one minute, only to turn into a consummate youth worshipper the next. The more he and his teammates remain committed to place artistry over accessibility, the farther Deluge will go.
Today Is the Day
Lincoln Brewster (Integrity Music)
High time Lincoln Brewster finally showed us what he's capable of as a worship leader. While his profile has risen as of late thanks to a high-carting cover of Brenton Brown's "Everlasting God," Today Is the Day finally asserts Brewster not only as a radio artist, but also a creative album maker, an accomplished worship writer, and an ace guitarist. With his virtuosity on full display, Brewster has crafted his most complete, versatile effort yet, one that really takes advantage of his rapport as a rocker ("Everywhere I Go"), a bluesman ("The Arms of My Savior"), a fingerpicker ("The Love of God"), and even a soulful leading man ("Give Him Praise"), while still keeping his youthful praise side firmly in check in songs like the title track and a spot-on cover of Hillsong United's "Salvation Is Here."
I think Brewster's somewhat low profile on the music scene in recent years has allowed us to forget just how good he is as a worship artist. In my opinion, he's on par with Chris Tomlin and Paul Baloche—not to mention one of the best guitarists in Christian music, period. With this, his first studio recording in 6 years, Brewster shows how his musicianship can inspire and enhance worship, rather than distract from it. I also love how he steps outside of formulaic worship conventions by embracing a range of styles, most notably songs like "This Love" and "The Arms of My Savior," which resemble the soulful and bluesy guitar pop of John Mayer. In short, Brewster draws us into worship by making the music fun and memorable—ain't nothing wrong with that if it inspires people to praise God.