Christine Denté – Closer to Free: Change is hidden in the chrysalis

Artist: Christine Denté
Album: Closer to Free EP
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: A delightful morsel of mellow pop music from one of the very first pop singers I ever fell in love with. This is probably the closest that Christine as a solo artist has come to the classic Out of the Grey sound – just imagine more of a keyboard-based take on that, with the usual understated but smart songwriting, and you’ll have some idea of what to expect here.

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Cool Hand Luke – Cora: I’m not one for dancing, but tonight I’m dancing for You.

2017_CoolHandLuke_CoraArtist: Cool Hand Luke
Album: Cora
Year: 2017
Grade: B+

In Brief: An unexpected return from an artist I assumed had hung it up for good back in 2011. The new sound is a little more groove-based, but doesn’t abandon the piano-heavy indie rock sound CHL had established in their mid-career. This is a strong effort, easily on par with The Sleeping House.

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Jennifer Knapp – Love Comes Back Around: Middle of the Straight Road

2017_JenniferKnapp_LoveComesBackAroundArtist: Jennifer Knapp
Album: Love Comes Back Around
Year: 2017
Grade: C+

In Brief: While it’s a thematically warmer record that opens up a little more about the long-term relationship that Jennifer has been in, I’m not finding a whole lot here that keeps me engaged on a musical level. She’s played it safe with her mid-tempo heartland rock/adult contemporary style for two albums in a row now, and that’s a bit frustrating given the unique perspective that she has to offer.

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John Reuben – Reubonic: The dippity-doer done did it again.

2017_JohnReuben_ReubonicArtist: John Reuben
Album: Reubonic
Year: 2017
Grade: A-

In Brief: The Christian rapper – who has become increasingly uncomfortable with how both aspects of that label describe his work – makes a surprisingly strong comeback after an eight-year absence. Reubonic is as offbeat and weird as a lot of his best work, and it has no pretense of wanting to be mainstream, but it also makes some excellent points in intriguing ways.

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Tim Be Told – Friends and Foes: God, please don’t forget about the children like me.

2016_timbetold_friendsandfoesArtist: Tim Be Told
Album: Friends and Foes
Year: 2016
Grade: B-

In Brief: I admire Tim’s vulnerability as he takes a peek into broken relationships and tries to figure out where things went wrong and how to take the first steps toward reconciliation. But while Tim is a fabulous singer, the music on this record is often a bit too pretty and pristine to really match the conflicts that have led him to bare his soul.

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Out of the Grey – A Little Light Left: Let the music span the distance.

2015_OutoftheGrey_ALittleLightLeftArtist: Out of the Grey
Album: A Little Light Left
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: While it’s quite different from the glossy, catchy and quirky pop tunes of their 90s heyday, Out of the Grey has created a mellow and mostly acoustic record that feels authentic to who they are now. It’s not so much a comeback as it is a welcome visit from old friends you haven’t seen in ages.

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Crowder – American Prodigal: Out of the ruins, back to communion.

2016_crowder_americanprodigalArtist: Crowder
Album: American Prodigal
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: The genre mash-up works a lot better here than it did on Neon Steeple, feeling more like a statement of identity than a mere gimmick. What Crowder may lack in lyrical specificity, he more than makes up for by bringing urban and rural sounds together in intriguing ways.

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