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Doerksen, Ord and Fortnum Among B.C.'s Best

An overview of popular CD's by eight of B.C.'s top Christian artists.

Brian Doerksen: Holy God

Once again, one of Canada's premier Christian musicians demonstrates his special gift for powerful worship music. Aside from the brief opening, which provides an unfortunate reminder of CCM's love affair with the synthesizer, this Abbotsford-based artist's musicianship is impeccable. The use of Spencer Capier's violin on "Show Me Your Way" is particularly tasteful. Doerksen's solid voice needs no assistance, of course, but it is nicely augmented by Christine Dente on "He Is Here," Debbie Fortnum on "Be Unto Your Name," Brenda Janz on "Song for the Bride" and Joseph Williams on "Change Me on the Inside." What especially sets this album apart, however, is his use of a choir. They are acapella on "Trinity," with a beautiful arrangement by Larry Nickel, and enhance the buildup of power on the stately title song. The highlight is the worshipful "Our Father in Heaven," which gives the Lord's Prayer the full-blown rock treatment.


Graham Ord: Regarding the Maker

Vancouver Christians no doubt miss Graham Ord. The British expatriate was a fixture there for many years, and now resides in Kelowna. Never one to overdo a good thing, Ord here expresses himself through low-key, laid back funk, not big on flashy solos. "The Lord is Gracious and Compassionate" is a powerful song of praise; and "You are Loved" is a superb song of comfort. And in "Heal Our Land," that most overused passage from Chronicles (you know the one) gets a fresh interpretation, with perceptive lyrics augmenting the Scriptural plea for God's intervention. There are also some fine backing vocals from Michael Hart and Leora Cashe; and Lianna Klassen shines on "Like Joshua of Old."


Debbie Fortnum: To Love and Be Loved

This Chilliwack musician is blossoming into a major talent—a fact which was acknowledged by several Maja Awards last year. Simply put, Fortnum has a wonderful voice, demonstrating conviction, sensitivity and nuance. She is also a skilled pianist, and her songwriting is top flight. This is evidenced in "Imagine Immersion," which is perhaps a clumsy title—but she makes the idea work very well in the lyrics. Highlights here include "Glorious Joy," expressing the contagious beauty of praising God; "The names of God," celebrating the myriad facets of God's nature; and her take on Psalm 139, "Where Can I Go?" As for "He Bore My Sorrows," well—say no more.


Mike Mulder: Human Nature

After making his mark as half of Salmond & Mulder in the 70s and 80s, Washington State resident Mike Mulder has finally released a solo album, recorded in Vancouver. He's got many aspects of the human condition on his mind, with songs covering topics such as disintegrating relationships ("Honey Pie"); everyday angst ("Looking for the Sun"); catastrophic human tragedy ("New Orleans Tonight"); and gossip ("Bitchweed"). He especially goes to town on the title song, which tackles politicians, TV news, film makers, sleazy comedians and popstars. The most affecting selection is "Streams of Shiloah," a portrait of people starving for God's healing. Solid songwriting, plus good musicianship and arrangements, make this a welcome return.


Sheree Plett: Red Circled Heart

This CD, recorded in Langley, presents an outstanding singer, with a warm, flexible expressive voice. On her second outing, Abbotsford-based Plett is enhanced by fine musicians and imaginative arrangements. "Soldier" employs a driving beat strategically in several places; and "Flash Photography" utilizes contrasting fast and slow passages, with some interesting sound effects. Plett is a good lyricist, exploring topics ranging from romance to childhood fun. The most impressive selection is "Death Due Us Part," a touching song about a troubled marriage.


Steve James: Home Tonight

The rockin' rector is back. Many will remember Steve James as the founder and chief musician of the popular evening service at St. John Shaughnessy Anglican church in Vancouver. Now ensconced as the head of a church in Bebington, UK, James paid a visit to Canada recently to record at Roy Salmond's Whitewater Studios in Surrey. This CD feels more pop-oriented than most of James' previous work. As always, he makes effective use of backing vocals. The chorus of "Psalm 22" has an especially infectious exuberance; and "The Living One Dies" makes effective use of muted trumpet to underscore Jesus' Passion. As one would expect from a fine preacher, his best work deals with key biblical subjects—as in "Say the Word," which extols God's majestic work. The highlight is "Christmas Alleluia," which ranges through Christ's nativity, crucifixion, resurrection and second coming.


Shane Wiebe: Shane Wiebe

This Abbotsford-based musician made a good impression as a Canadian Idol finalist, and reinforces it with this debut CD. His expressive voice is well suited to the album's love songs, most notably one of Gordon Lightfoot's best, "The Way I Feel." "Just Wait" effectively uses strings to punctuate the words; "Trace You" features Wiebe's wife Angela on lead vocal. The highlight is the Dylan classic, "Forever Young." Wiebe gives a sensitive interpretation which builds in power, enhanced by a well-placed violin.


Brian Thiessen: Road to Home

This Cloverdale musician excels at fluid guitar work which conveys a sense of real tranquility. These instrumentals are mostly acoustic, with "Passing of Day" venturing into electric enthusiasm. Another highlight is "This is My Father's World." Thiessen's work is ably assisted by Nelson Boschman and Phillip Janz on keyboards. The CD comes highly recommended by no less than Brian Doerksen.


David F. Dawes lives in Vancouver and is an associate editor of BC Christian News.

Originally published in B.C. Christian News, March 2007.

 

 
 
 
 

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