Steven Curtis Chapman

All Things New

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No one can churn out the hooky CCM quite like Steven Curtis Chapman, whose 13th album is a beautifully crafted and unabashedly, unambiguously devout set of Christian pop songs that will appeal to his large following and maybe even convince a few from outside that circle to give him a listen. Longstanding fans may be surprised by the amount of piano he plays on these tracks -- guitar is his usual instrument, but he acquits himself nicely on the keys on songs like the title track and "Last Day on Earth"." Another slightly unusual element on this album is the thick layer of turntable scratching, courtesy of Ric Robbins, that fills in most of the empty sonic spaces on "Just Getting Started." Even when things threaten to get a bit dense and cluttered, though, Chapman's sweet melodic hooks manage to hold center stage; his lyrics generally manage to avoid both smugness and cuteness, frequently challenging his fellow Christians to examine critically both their lives and their commitment. The album ends with more of a whimper than a bang, with three slow numbers in a row: the rather saccharine "Angels Wish," the slightly more interesting "I Believe in You," and the much more rewarding "Treasure of Jesus." Recommended.

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