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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • 1999 15 Mar
AVALON -- LIVE FROM THE FACTORY! is proud to be the online sponsor of the upcoming television broadcast of "Avalon -- Live At The Factory" on Pax Television.




Late Friday night, May 7th (1999) -- 1 am Eastern/Pacific -- 12 midnight Central -- (again, actually early Saturday morning!)

*check your local listing for PAXtv in your area

Avalon will be performing a one hour live concert featuring songs from their brand new release ==In A Different Light== and their radio hits -- "Testify to to Love", "Give It Up," "Adonai," "Reason Enough" and more with behind the scenes interviews, special guest {{Nichole Nordeman}} and more! NEW Avalon album - ==In A Different Light== in stores NOW featuring "In Not Of" and "Can't Live A Day."

To buy your own copy of Avalon's new project,

A Different Light, click on the cover!

We'll send it to you right away!


Jody McBrayer (Tampa, FL)
Jody was reared singing in his church and as a member of his youth choir. However, it was not until his high school years that he began to take his artistic giftings seriously. Musically, his development had been influenced by artists like Anita Baker, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. During his college years Jody began singing with a performance group, which soon opened doors allowing him to join Truth. He later worked for Walt Disney Productions in their talent, booking and production department and spent four months traveling the U.S. and Canada as one of Disney's featured soloists. He then returned to Truth where he toured Australia, France, Russia, Romania and the Caribbean.

Cherie Paliotta (Providence, RI)
Growing up in Rhode Island, Cherie knew early on that she was called to be a singer. She entered and won several talent competitions but along the way, realized how important a good education is. She obtained her bachelor of science degree in Music Education from Rhode Island College and began teaching elementary students. Soon, Cherie was asked to join a vocal group. She relocated to Nashville and began touring the country with them. Several musicians and producers that worked with Cherie recommended her for Avalon and the rest is history! Cherie sites Brian McKnight, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Shirley Murdock and Crystal Lewis as her musical influences.

Michael Passons (Yazoo City, MS)
Michael spent much of his Mississippi childhood singing hymns in a small country church. As he grew older, he began playing the piano and writing his own songs. Michael found his craftsmanship was soon impacted by keyboard oriented artists like Elton John and Lionel Richie. He went on to perform with a band in college and later a New Jersey-based group that toured nationally. After obtaining his degree in classical piano at Mississippi College, Michael moved to Nashville and began working with fellow musicians. In addition, he had the opportunity to travel as a solo artist performing praise and worship music at numerous conferences for youth and singles' groups. Michael's career took a focused turn when one of Sparrow's A&R directors observed his performance during a Nashville showcase which eventually lead to Michael joining Avalon.

Janna Potter (Baltimore, MD)
Having grown up in a musical family, Janna started singing at the age of three. She spent her youth listening to artists like Aretha Franklin, Regina Bell, Mahalia Jackson and Anita Baker. After graduating from Lee College, Janna spent a year and a half performing as a member of Truth. It was during her tenure with Truth, Janna met Jody McBrayer. She also had the opportunity to tour through China, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, Russia and Israel, as a member of the Virginia-based group, Mission.


1999 ==In A Different Light== produced by Brown Bannister
1997 ==A Maze Of Grace== produced by Charlie Peacock
1996 ==Avalon== produced by Charlie Peacock


--Artist of the Year
--Group of the Year
--Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year A Maze Of Grace
--Inspirational Song of the Year "Adonai"
--Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year "Testify to Love"
--Long Form Music Video "My Utmost For His Highest"
(In addition, "Adonai" and "Testify to Love" were nominated for Song of the Year, which is awarded to the songwriter and publisher)

--Inspirational Song of the Year "Adonai"
--Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year "Testify to Love"
--Long Form Music Video "My Utmost For His Highest"


More than any other year, 1998 was a near-mythical year for Avalon. So much so, one might begin to think their name was a foretelling of sorts. After all, Avalon is a legendary, mythical island paradise where King Arthur sailed off to at the end of his life, having long searched for the Holy Grail. Avalon, mythically speaking then, is heaven. For the vocal group Avalon, comprised of Jody McBrayer, Janna Potter, Michael Passons and Cherie Paliotta, this year was about as close to heaven as a vocal group can get:

"Testify to Love" made Christian music history when it became the longest-running number one Christian single of the 1990's. Wynonna then picked it up for the ==Touched by An Angel== soundtrack, and an entire episode of the series was structured around the song. It finished 1998 as the #1 Song of the Year (CRR).

==A Maze of Grace== more than doubled the sales of ==Avalon=='s debut and has spent over a year in the top ten on the Christian music sales chart.

{{Avalon}} gained substantial media exposure in 1998 with three featured appearances on "CNN Headline News" and guest appearances on several television shows nationwide, including "Good Day Atlanta" (Fox Atlanta), "Good Morning Texas" (ABC Dallas), "AM Northwest" (ABC Portland), "Positively Texas" (CBS Ft. Worth) and "Good Day Kansas" (ABC Wichita), among others.

And Avalon was voted "New Artist of the Year" at the 1998 Dove Awards, an honor previously awarded to BeBe & CeCe Winans, Take 6, 4Him, Point of Grace, Jars of Clay and Jaci Velasquez.

The group has six nominations for the 1999 Doves, including Artist of the Year, Group of the Year, Pop/ Contemporary Album of the Year for A Maze of Grace, Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year for "Testify to Love," Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year for "Adonai," and Long Form Video of the Year for "My Utmost for His Highest." Additionally, both "Testify to Love" and "Adonai" received nods for Song of the Year.

Along with the attention and accolades, Avalon has experienced first hand a glorious and grueling year spent in the whirlwind of success. Early morning flights, days full of interviews and in-store appearances, evening concerts and meet-n-greets, and mid-night flights to new cities . But what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, right? "A lot of days, running to catch flights, its easy to feel like, 'Okay, why am I doing this again?'" says Janna. "And while this year has been very trying, I am reminded of the answer over and over again."

"We've seen God do some amazing things this past year. It has been a tough year and a wonderful year," Jody says of 1998. "We've been exhausted and yet so encouraged by the affirmation we've received. Its great to know that people are hearing the music, and it's making a difference."

It has been a year of growth and change. From the obvious, the departure of Nikki Hassman and arrival of Cherie Paliotta, the renewed (fresh) vitality and depth of their music, Avalon has managed to sail beyond expectations to become the most exciting vocal group on the Christian music scene today. Refusing to be content with the status quo, which in light of the past year is quite overwhelming, Avalon is making the most of the gifts they've been given. And while the numerical rewards are yet to be seen, the best rewards are already apparent. For those who have ears, let them hear As Avalon's sound continues to evolve, the harmonies are more layered and multi-dimensional. With high-energy pop songs, beautifully emotive ballads and stirring, crescendoeing anthems, Avalon delivers a vocal punch that entertains, encourages and inspires a multi-faceted audience. Over the years, they have learned what it takes to be a vocal group, undefined by soloists, but distinguished by four equal parts, four individuals with distinctive personalities and distinctive gifts who have melded into one distinctive sound-reverberating one heart and one mind when it comes to the music. As Avalon has grown, they've grown in their desire to sing from their hearts and out of their unique experiences. ==In A Different Light== is an expression of that collective desire.

Cherie Paliotta has been a large part of the growth they've seen this year, and not just because of the new blood, so to speak. Cherie brings not only stellar vocals, but she also brings an open, vulnerable spirit and a vitality to the group that has helped shape and focus their ministry and their music. "It was a big change for me when I came into Avalon, there were days when I didn't think I could get up there and remember one more lyric. But God came through for me in those moments and gave me the courage to anchor on to him and move forward. And I think that was just the same for the others during the transition. God has really been faithful to all of us to work out the quirks and make this thing work.

"On this album, it was important to me to find lyrics that represented that intimacy with the Lord," she continues. "I just wanted to convey that God knows every thought, every problem, every struggle and temptation, and He's helping us through it."

Michael echoes similar aspirations. "On this album, honesty was the big priority, he explains, "just making sure that what we were singing wasn't just a good melody or catchy hook, but it was something that we believed in, something that we felt, something that we've lived through. The words were more important this time around than any other album. We have poured over the words and also written for this one. So I think we see a lot of ourselves in these songs. I know I do. It's very biographical."

Janna agrees, adding, "These songs say exactly what I would say if I was a songwriter because I know what that feels like, and I know where that emotion is coming from. Finding songs that convey exactly where I'm at in my life is not always easy."

For those who have eyes, let them see ==In A Different Light== picks up where ==A Maze of Grace== left off, thematically speaking, having explored the infinite grace God bestows on believers (as much one can explore such a deep, endless ocean on one album) and the ways that grace is ever present. "This project expands into various facets of our relationships with Christ. It hones in more on how we feel as Christians, serving and being a part of this huge God," Jody says, "a God that is overwhelming, and at the same time our closest friend."

==In A Different Light== encompasses a lot of things," Jody continues. "We are expressing our hearts in a different way on this record than we were on the last; maybe we're seeing God in a different light these days. And so beyond the title, the record is kind of symbolic in many areas."

Creatively, Avalon has never been more unified in their approach to the music. Every idea and effort made is seemingly synchronized, an indication that, as unbelievable as it sounds, four of one mind can work better than four minds at once. And therefore, musically, this album holds promise of even further defining a group that has seen its share of change. Ever the musician, Michael muses, "Sure, we have a new addition, but we also have a newer sound. Our producer, Brown Bannister, has stretched us to be a little more intricate soundwise. Vocally we sound more like a group. There's a way to be a group and not sound like four soloists and still keep it very interesting and alive and not plain or predictable. The music is a bit more progressive and a bit more commercial sounding than our last two records, but we want it that way. We want every record to be in a progression, a growing thing. I think we've done that here."

Janna adds, "Perhaps we probe deeper here, but the message remains the same at its center."

For those with heart, let them be heartened And that message has been at the heart of this group since day one, since album one. "It doesn't matter where we sing, bringing the gospel to people through music is what we're about, whether we're at First Baptist, in Jackson, Mississippi, or doing an interview for CNN," Janna emphasizes. "That is the bottom line of who we are. We are Christians. We bear the name of Jesus Christ and our music needs to reflect that and, more importantly, our lives need to reflect that.

"More than anything," Jody adds, "people these days are starving for honesty. They're starving for people who will be real with them. I think that's been a large part in what we try to do. That's what was so amazing about 'Testify to Love.' It connected with so many people in its simplicity and boldness.

"We've always tried to be real with people," Jody continues. "We've never tried to be stars or to be glamorous. Yeah, we might wear some cool clothes every now and then, but if you sit us down and talk to us, or if we're on stage, we're going to share our hearts. If we're having a bad day, we'll probably tell you. Hopefully, in doing so, God can use that for his own glory because that's kind of what we're called to do."

==In A Different Light== represents a whole new season, spiritually, Cherie says. "As we grow in the Lord, we're constantly being molded and shaped by the Word. We're constantly seeing Christ in a different light." And just when you think you've reached the end of His good work in your life, the end of his grace, Jody adds, "God continues to change and make you into more of what He wants you to be. And it's always different, it's always a surprise and around every corner, there is always grace that astounds."

In the wake of that grace, Avalon has a renewed, singular vision. The awards and recognition may continue to roll in on the tide of hard work and creative effort, but if not, the year to come will be embraced all the same, in recognition of the blessings He's bestowed. It has been a year of illumination, and the future looks brighter than ever.

"We all feel very strongly about the things we want to communicate," Jody explains. "We all have the same concerns and the same ideas about ministry. It's an amazing feeling to be able to get up on stage every night with three other people, knowing that we're all of one mind and one spirit. We all share a common message, and we're confident that if one person gets up and speaks, he or she will say something the rest of us feel is true in our hearts. That's a blessing only of God. I don't know that a lot of groups in the past have been able to say that."

"Even though we're all very individually different," says Cherie, "the more time we spend together, personally and professionally, it's like, even though we're different colored threads, we're woven together as one."