Case's first album since his heart surgery is also his simplest and rawest since his 1986 solo debut. Pounding (mostly) acoustic blues predominates, with forays into the chord changes and/or rhythms of classics for added depth-"Money" on "Ain't Got No Dough," "Coconut" on "Somebody Told the Truth," and "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" on "The Words in Red" (in which Case both celebrates the Sermon on the Mount and wields it against those who read the words in black).
Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty honor the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough Circle Slide album by demonstrating how far they've come and the extent to which that album's U2-ish atmospherics still haunt their music like a melancholy ghost. In other words, there's a lot to like. Too bad that like so many gifted Christian musicians, the Choir has gone a bit soft: Situating Christ among Gandhi, Buddha, Muhammad, and Martin Luther King Jr. ("The Word Inside the Word") has the effect of turning wine into water.
Although Dion DiMucci wouldn't emerge as a card-carrying member of the CCM community until five years later, this 1975 Phil Spector-produced album (which was considered too down-tempo by Warner Bros. and gets its first stateside release with this bonus-track-enhanced edition) contains two powerful if strange reminders that his conversion had begun much earlier: an eerie "(He's Got) the Whole World in His Hands" and "Your Own Back Yard," his account of having finally kicked heroin and other drugs with the help of the "Good Lord up above."
Jason Martin follows up his band's two-disc 2009 collectorama omnibus Ghosts of the Past with an album of originals that barely exceeds 30 minutes but also never wastes a second. The pensive tempos and melancholy tone derive from Martin's mixed emotions upon reaching adulthood and finding it both more and less than what he'd hoped for. Especially less: "When I'm looking in the mirror," he sings, "all I see is frightening eyes." Which is why he prays to the "maker of earth and the seas" for "relief."
Ricky Skaggs isn't the first musician to be as productive at 56 as he was when he was half that, but he may be the first with as many laurels as he has earned to resist the temptation to rest on them. He's certainly the first to wait 35 years before delivering the finest album of his career. Its title notwithstanding, Mosaic (Fontana/Skaggs Family) doesn't so much patch together pieces of Skaggs' impressive country-bluegrass-gospel past as forge an almost entirely new style and use it to illuminate a deep, complex vision.
Call it progressive folk-gospel with country-rock underpinnings. And Skaggs couldn't have done it without the CCM veteran Gordon Kennedy, who co-produced the album and wrote or co-wrote each of Mosaic's 14 songs except for the stunningly unclassifiable bonus instrumental, "Spontaneous Worship." The highlight: "Fire from the Sky," which condenses the story of Elijah versus the prophets of Baal into seven minutes-without losing anything in translation.