When you think of the best Christian singer/songwriters, which names come to mind? Jennifer Knapp. Bebo Norman. Sara Groves. Jason Gay.

Jason Gay?

Gay's recent A Place Called Hope, on True Tunes Records, is strong enough to garner mention alongside some of Christian music's finest. Groves even lends Gay a hand (singing backup on Things We Hold Back) as well as a producer -- Nate Sabin, who worked with Groves on <I>Conversations</I> and the forthcoming <I>All Right Here</I>.

The songs on A Place Called Hope aren't overly complex or subtle, but joyfully introspective, focused on growth in grace and surrendering to the Lord.

On A Little More Like Jesus, , Gay sings: Heaven knows I'm no saint, there's a lot that I regret / so much if I could I would undo and much more I'd rather forget / All the tears I've caused and all the tears I've cried / swell and billow around my feet in a fearsome rising tide / but everyday I'm doin' my best to mend my broken ways / with the high and holy hope that I might hear someone say / You look a little more like Jesus every day.

Gay wrote or co-wrote every song on A Place Called Hope save one: his beautiful take on Mark Heard's Look Over Your Shoulder. That Gay's own songs should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Heard's is a testimony to the surety of voice and passion Gay brings to these songs, including the vivid The New Jerusalem (with Sounds of Blackness), the electric The Prodigal and his peaceful I Surrender.

Gay, who first encountered God while listening to Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, brings the same sense of rescue and encouragement to A Place Called Hope, a worthy entry in the line of music inspired by the artistry of Heard and another of Gay's favorite artists, Rich Mullins.