The One21 Essential 100 Pt.6

essential100 copy

The One21 Essential 100 is a collection of albums that represent the best in creativity, innovation, and originality in music. This is not a “best of” list, nor is it influenced by album sales, or even popularity. Our attempt with this series is to highlight the gems, those rare albums that push boundaries and encourage new ways of thinking; both musical and philosophically. In our opinion, the music highlighted in this series is the “good stuff”.

Simply what this is going to be is a list of 100 albums from Christian music artists that we think you should own. Like our website, most genres will be represented, and some of the albums will be from as far back as the 60s, to as current as 2009. Each week we will post five albums, in no real order, with descriptions, album artwork, and places to buy the music.

Check out Pt.1
Check out Pt.2
Check out Pt.3
Check out Pt.4
Check out Pt.5

Jennifer Knapp - Kansas
Kansas
Jennifer Knapp

1998
Buy this album:Amazon, iTunes
Kansas basks in both the relative youth of as a woman and as a Christian. Featuring her smartly communicative songwriting, Kansas examines matters of spirit and faith in an era dominated by pop culture. Jennifer Knapp chooses to embrace the dichotomy of spirit and culture with the back to back “Undo Me” and “Trinity”; the former, an infectious rock anthem and 1999′s Dove Award for rock song of the year, the latter a harmonically layered scripture-based examination of the Holy Spirit.

Self-described as “just a girl with a guitar,Jennifer Knapp, crafts acoustic folk-rock in the vein of Lilith Fair rock-maids, yet founds her lyrics on her relationship with God rather than on that of a beau. Blessed with an agile, earthy voice that reaches from matter-of-fact talkiness to power yowl to melodious balladic lilt Jennifer Knapp examines herself and, in the process inspires us to examine ourselves. Coupled with her taut and circular guitar lines and inspired string arrangements, Jennifer Knapp‘s Kansas is a testament to her well-used talents.
Highlights: Undo Me, Romans, Martyrs & Thieves

Dogwood-Through Thick & Thin
Through Thick & Thin
Dogwood

1996
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
By combining elements of traditional punk, pop punk, hardcore, and even a little metal, Dogwood’s 1996 sophomore album, Through Thick & Thin, was (and in many was still is) the punk album to beat. Every member of the band ejected each track with their own personal flavor that gave Dogwood’s sound stand so far ahead of the rest they could barely be seen. It wasn’t so much that they reinvented punk, but it is so refreshing still to hear a band who took a genre and made it their own. Josh Kimbles vocals sound like they could fit in a Seattle grunge band, the guitars sounded more Metallica at times than Sum 41, and the lightning fast drumming makes even the most seemingly simple part explode through the speakers.

Aside from the sound, it was the message of Through Thick & Thin that makes it still relevant today. Instead of singing about parties and the beach, Dogwood tackled issues of sin, child abuse, and integrity. Every song contained some type of deeply grounded truth that was far more emotional than expected, and gave Dogwood the distinction of being the most seriously minded happy band on the planet. Fast, impactful, and unique: Through Thick & Thin was a classic then, and it is a classic now.
Highlights: All Hands On Deck, Stairway To Sin, Jesus

Dolly Parton-The Grass Is Blue
The Grass is Blue
Dolly Parton

1999
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
In 1997, middle-aged, no longer viable at radio, Dolly Parton returned to the Tennessee mountain cabin of her youth to “write like I was hungry again.” The first recording out of her return to her roots was Hungry Again. Then Dolly Parton released The Grass Is Blue, the first of a series of three bluegrass albums. Dolly Parton‘s 61st full-length album is not a superstar covering a genre. The Grass Is Blue is Dolly Parton singing the music of her childhood with the kind of authentic, fiery passion we rarely present is the country-pop Dolly Parton has allowed herself to be chained with for decades. This album revived her reputation as a country singer/songwriter and allowed her to sing and testify her faith.

The Grass is Blue is a full-out bluegrass venture. An all star group of musicians bring dobro, fiddle, mandolin and banjo to Dolly Parton’s warbling voice and mountain twang. The seamless grace of Dolly Parton‘s celebration of her mountain roots won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album in 2001.
Highlights: Silver Dagger, I Am Ready, Travelin’ Prayer

James Blood Ulmer-Bad Blood In The City The Piety Street Sessions
Bad Blood In The City: The Piety Street Sessions
James Blood Ulmer

2007
Buy this album:Amazon, iTunes
Free Jazz guitar legend James Blood Ulmer collaborates with Vernon Reid and The Memphis Blood Blues Band to deliver a blues take on the destruction of New Orleans. It’s built around a cycle of original Ulmer songs which directly address Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. With this album, Ulmer has delivered one of the most stirring and emotionally powerful recordings of his career.

“Survivors of the Hurricane” opens the album with a bluesy cry of despair and longing that survivors feel. In “Katrina”, Ulmer virtually wails at the physical and spiritual destruction wrought by the big storm. Ulmer’s gruff shuffling singing style delivers a powerful texture to this haunting song cycle.
Highlights:Let’s Talk About Jesus, This Land Is No One’s Land, There Is Power In The Blues

mewithoutYou Brother, Sister
Brother, Sister
mewithoutYou

2006
Buy this album: Amazon, iTunes
By the time that Brother, Sister rolled around in 2006, people already knew that mewithoutYou were special. What they didn’t know is that past albums hadn’t even begun to tap into what the band was capable of, and Brother, Sister was the album the band was the album the band was born to make. If you have never heard mewithoutYou, then this will be very hard to describe, because simply…..there isn’t anything that sounds like them. The music is heavy, but it isn’t hard. The songs are creative, but they are simple at the same time. The vocals are not sang or screamed or spoken, more ranted….and sang…..and screamed…The sound mewithoutYou had spent years crafting came on in full force with Brother, Sister, and so in a way it was like everything they had done before, but in the right order for the first time.

Lyrically, Brother, Sister is a call of unification, and plead for brotherhood and worship. Like most things mewithoutYou, this message isn’t obvious; many of the songs talk more about animals and life on the sea rather than the Body of God. What you will find is that the first time you listen to the album, you will spend most of your time trying to get used to mewithoutYou’s unique brand of folk and progressive post-hardcore. The second time you will just start to love the songs themselves, the third time you will start to recognize and dig into the lyrics. Then, something will click, and you cant imagine listening to anything else. We at One21 consider this to be one of the best albums every created, and we also believe it will stand the test of time and be copied, imitated, and ripped off for years to come, all a testament to the power that mewithoutYou communicates. Oh, earlier, notice I didn’t say one of the best albums ever created by CHRISTIAN artists….
Highlights: Messes of Men, A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains, In a Sweater Poorly Knit, O, Porcupine