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Christian musicians build bridge of praise

Published: Saturday, April 28 2007 12:09 a.m. MDT

Paul Cardall's CD "Songs of Praise."

Sometimes you just need the words.

Paul Cardall is known for lyrical piano music that speaks to the heart and the soul, but for his latest CD, he says, he needed to say things he couldn't say instrumentally.

It's not surprising that those words are ones of praise and gratitude to the Lord. For one thing, Cardall is in a place in life where he feels extremely thankful. Not only is his music career going well, but he and his wife recently had their first child, a daughter they named Eden.

All the while his wife was expecting, Cardall was so caught up with the idea of fatherhood, so overwhelmed with the changes that were coming, "that I couldn't seem to write. I only wrote one song that whole time." It was an instrumental piece that he titled "Eden." After Eden was born, "I just wanted to shout my love and gratitude. I began writing again, but I found the songs all had lyrics. I found I needed the words to voice the things I needed to say."

That was the genesis for his latest CD, which is called "Songs of Praise." "It represents my love for God and for my family. It expresses my appreciation to the Creator for life." And it does so, he says, in a way that's very different from his usual offerings — not only in words but in sound. It's definitely more like Christian rock, he says.

"I've listened to Christian music since I was young. I've always loved it. And I've always known that if I ever wrote songs with words, that's what I'd want to sing."

He also knew that "I wanted to sing it for the world, for all people of faith. " He hopes the songs will be meaningful to his own LDS community, but "I also want to reach out to any person that has faith." So for the CD, he asked Steele Croswhite, an Evangelical Christian who works with the Rock Church in Salt Lake City, to do the vocals.

Croswhite brings not only a rich sound but also a depth of experience to the task. He was born in Phoenix but grew up in Salt Lake City, where he got into music. "For a time I was in a touring band, and we played with some big-name entertainers," he says. (Among them: Sheryl Crow, Foo Fighters, Cheap Trick, Train, Maroon 5.)

Then, he says, "I found myself back in Salt Lake, and I fell in love with God. I started doing music for him." He met Cardall at a Michael W. Smith concert; they were both there as fans of the Christian singer.

"Then we kept crossing paths," says Cardall. It turned out that they also had a mutual friend in producer Jonathon Shults. "I kept meeting Steele in the studio, and I loved to hear him sing. He became one of my favorite Christian artists. I knew I wanted him on the CD. It felt like I was using one of the big boys."

They asked Shults to work on the project with them, and "it was really fun," says Shults. "They are two of my favorite artists. We wondered if we could bridge the gap between Paul's light piano and Steele's rock guitar, but it came together well."

They had fewer qualms about bridging the philosophical gaps between them. "Paul and I talked about that a lot," says Croswhite. "He's LDS, and I'm Evangelical. We'd talk about how cool it is to have differences in our faiths and differences in our understanding, but how neat it was to come together, to be friends."

Music is a wonderful way to build bridges, says Cardall. "We can build a bridge of understanding. We can all be friends. We may have different doctrines, but we can try to understand each other."

Sometimes, he says, people are afraid to reach outside their comfort zones, but looking for similarities instead of differences can be enriching. "I think we can all become better Christians by listening to all Christian music. We can be uplifted. We can be inspired."

There were times when Cardall was a bit nervous about taking such a departure from his usual path. "I thought, 'What am I doing? What's inside this little piano boy?' And I wondered how my fans would accept it. But I have good fans. They've always appreciated what I've tried to do, and I think they will respect this, too."

The CD is not totally vocal offerings. "Eden" is included, and so are a few other instrumental numbers, including a beautiful version of "Come, Thou Fount" and a medley titled "Redeemer" that are in keeping with Cardall's love of melody and his ability to evoke peace and relaxation.

"Steven Sharp Nelson plays the cello for us and did all the string orchestrations, and they are unreal," says Cardall. "They add so much depth." But there's also a rockin' element to some of the songs. "We brought in a new artist, a guitarist named Jake White, and he's awesome." Cheri Magill, another local singer/songwriter who likes to rock, did backup vocals.

"I love the songs," says Croswhite. "There's one called 'Grateful' that was fun to sing." Another favorite is "Prodigal," a song a lot of people can relate to, he says. The CD includes a Michael W. Smith song, "Agnus Dei"; Croswhite and Magill also team up for an unusual and moving version of "There Is A Green Hill."

"It's been one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of," says Croswhite. "I respect the authenticity of the artists. I'm more country and classic rock 'n' roll; Paul's more soft jazz. It's so cool that we can come together."

People are often afraid to differ, he says, "but it's OK to differ on some things; we can agree on others. We are just a couple of people doing the same things, and at the end of the day, we can be friends. No matter what happens on the cerebral side, we can come together in our hearts. We can build bridges."


E-mail: carma@desnews.com

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