Ten Independent Artists You Should Know (Fall 2004)
- Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2004 1 Jan
This singer/songwriter from Winnipeg, Canada left her job as a flight attendant in 2000 to pursue a lifelong dream as a full-time musician. I'm glad she did—Jaylene Johnson could well be Canada's answer to the smart AC pop of Nichole Nordeman and Cindy Morgan. She's gradually developed her craft these last four years, sharing the stage with fellow Canadian artists Steve Bell, Carolyn Arends, and Jill Paquette. Her sophomore effort features the work of producers Eldon Winter and Stephen J. Rendall, the team responsible for albums by Paquette, Matt Brouwer, Jake, and Starfield. Like the music of Vanessa Carlton, Jewel, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Sarah Masen, this features progressive pop sprinkled with folk, jazz, and ethereal ambience. But it's Johnson's songwriting that deserves special attention. Too many songwriters today rely on rehashed Scripture and ideas in their songwriting. Johnson instead offers a personalized musical journal of freshly worded perspectives that are more devotional than introspective, with thoughtful takes on contentment ("Here and Now"), creation ("Wonder"), and an amazingly insightful and indicting response to worship music ("Only Have My Love"). Don't just hear these songs;
Glisten is not a new band, but they're probably unknown to most. Formed in 1994, they started out by playing their hometown of Dallas/Fort Worth. After a few years, Glisten recorded a demo produced by Steve Hindalong (The Choir,
It makes sense that hip-hop would grow and improve among independent artists as it continues to gain overdue credibility in the Christian music scene overall. Here's one that's about as good as recent releases from GRITS and The Cross Movement. LeCrae hails from the south side of Houston, but spent most of his life in Denver and San Diego. At 19, he gave his life to Christ, and his newfound spiritual fire inspired him to express the gospel through rapping—a hobby for him at the time. LeCrae is now in Dallas, where he ministers to the inner-city populace, college ministries, and the club scene. The young artist simply wants to point people to the cross—evident from the opening "Souled Out"—but the quality of
Fans of Southern California bands like Switchfoot and Lifehouse will find a lot to love in The Crimson Element. The trio consisting of Michael Stanley (vocals, guitar), Sterlen Smith (bass), and Nathaniel Robinson (drums) has been playing together for five years, opening for several notable Christian acts and recording four independent albums in that time. Word is they put on an impressive live show—they've even got a fourth member listed in their press kit who runs sound and lights. Produced by Audio Adrenaline's Barry Blair, the band's self-titled effort sounds like a cross between Switchfoot's melodic alternative rock ("Rock My World," "Not Alone") and the quasi-metal of Pillar, Skillet, and Hoobastank ("Words," "My Everything"). Songs are generally vertical in scope, with "All I Am" and "In You" straddling the modern worship fence. Though they've been courted by a number of record labels in the last couple years—most recently Reunion—The Crimson Element currently remains independent by choice. Something tells me they'll be getting national attention soon enough; it's a pretty strong sound and production for an unsigned band.Danielle RoseMysteriesAC acoustic pop
Danielle Rose Skorich comes from Minnesota, raised in a Catholic family that believes strongly in a life of service. So at the age of 17, Skorich went to India to volunteer with Mother Teresa's Missionary Sisters of Charity. Mother Teresa herself gave Skorich a rose as a reminder that "her great gift will unfold in God's time." Hence Danielle's modified stage name to remember that blessing. A 2002 graduate of the University of Notre Dame with degrees in music and theology, Rose quickly gained a following as an independent Catholic artist with a pretty voice and pleasant folk pop songs reminiscent of Jewel, Amy Grant, Ginny Owens, and Jill Phillips. The double disc
David Bush is not your typical "new artist." Married for 17 years with 4 young boys, he's run his own business and now regularly leads worship at Third Reformed Church near Des Moines, Iowa.
This Santa Cruz, California foursome (at the core) originally took its name from the book of Genesis when Joseph requested his brothers to come to Egypt as proof of their authenticity. But feel free to apply your own additional spiritual take on the band's name: the fall of mankind, Jesus coming to earth, an obscure monk, etc. With this debut, Brother Down musically recalls the progressive acoustic pop of early Jars of Clay and over-looked Christian band Five O'Clock People. It's probably the soothing combination of acoustic guitars and violin with the soft-timbered vocals and rhythm section. "Freedom" is particularly reminiscent of Jars' 1995 debut, and the opening track "Emancipation" (written as God's love letter to each of us) resembles Nouveaux and Kansas. Songs average five minutes in length (and often run longer), giving them a weightier, epic feel with the poetic lyrics and the guitar solos. A beautiful and interesting acoustic pop album to say the least, it's refreshing to hear this band write for the sake of creating, not to fit their songs to radio.Knowledge MCThe Book of KnowledgeHip-hop
Knowledge MC (aka Alfonzo Marcello Greene) was raised on the streets of Minneapolis/St. Paul without the benefit of responsible parents. Knowledge turned to gang membership in his teens, but he also began to hone his hip-hop chops. Life's hard times eventually took their toll and led the young rapper to surrender his life to God. So naturally, Knowledge is now using his music to share his testimony, as heard in "Baptized in Flames." In "Heart of a Thug," he attempts to relate to other gang members from the hood, and "Bring It In" serves as an open invitation to "Players, pimps, hustlers, thugs/Shorties that strip for a living and cats that slang drugs/Bring it in, come as you are/Don't change nothing at all." According to publicity,
Like most who are serious about becoming Christian artists, the four musicians in Plain Jane moved from mid-Atlantic USA to Nashville in 1999. In 2003, they finally released their debut
It's downright impossible for Springfield, Missouri sextet Chronos to escape comparisons with the Dave Matthews Band. Like the forerunner's concert lineup, Chronos consists of guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, sax, and violin. Also, well-known riffs from DMB classics like "Warehouse," "So Much to Say," "Crash," and "Don't Drink the Water" can be heard in a number of songs throughout Chronos' debut. But the obvious influences don't overshadow this band's quality, or the fact that they sound a lot older and more experienced than they really are—most of them are still in or barely out of their teens. Chronos is committed to glorifying God with thoughtfully spiritual lyrics and excellence in music, which definitely shows in their songs and their impressive mastery over the instruments. A strong lead vocalist, Doug Ray's soft tenor sounds less like Matthews and more like Bruce Hornsby or Gary Chapman. Besides, artists like Todd Agnew, Big Daddy Weave, and All Together Separate have emulated the DMB sound in Christian music and only come so close. Chronos does it so well, I look forward to hearing how they grow in years to come.
Christa Banister Attn: Independent Christian Artists 300 E. 4th St. Suite 406 St. Paul, MN 55101