Until the Whole World Hears
Helmed by youth pastor Mark Hall, Casting Crowns was formed in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1999 as a student worship band. But the group's pop-rock sound soon attracted the attention of Mark Miller, lead singer for country music's Sawyer Brown. By 2003, the band—now leading student worship services at Eagles Landing Baptist church near Atlanta—had inked a contract with Beach Street Records and released a self-titled debut album destined to go platinum.
Since then, Casting Crowns has become one of Christian music's mainstays. The band has sold a whopping 4.5 million albums, pocketed 23 Dove Awards and even nabbed a Grammy. And Until the Whole World Hears could become Casting Crowns' most successful album to date. In its first four weeks alone, it sold more than 500,000 copies and was certified gold—earning that designation faster than any of the group's previous releases.
Despite such success, Hall and Co. continue to lead worship weekly (as their touring schedule allows) at Eagles Landing. "Our songs have always come from our ministry in the church," Hall says. "They start as messages on Wednesday night, things we're teaching our teenagers and their families."
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Every track on Until the Whole World Hears is loaded with references to God and Jesus, salvation and Scripture. In the liner notes, listeners will find a list of the Bible verses that inspired each track. The lyrics of two songs in particular ("Holy One," "Shadow of Your Wings") come almost word for word from Psalms, and we also get 21st-century takes on two timeless hymns ("Blessed Redeemer" and "Joyful, Joyful").
The title track (and first single) was inspired by John the Baptist ("Like voices in the wilderness we're crying out/And as the day draws near, we'll sing until the whole world hears"). Hall says of the song, "Speaking out in the wilderness is never popular, but in the body of Christ, we've got to do it in love."
"Always Enough" was born out of the tragic loss of an Eagles Landing congregant in Afghanistan: "In a sea of shattered ones/Your love comes rushing in/ … Through every fire and every storm/You're always enough, always enough."
Other tracks explore themes of repentance and dependence ("If We've Ever Needed You," "At Your Feet," "Mercy" and "Jesus, Hold Me Now"), relinquishing all to follow God ("To Know You") and the beauty of forgiveness ("Glorious Day").
Casting Crowns' brand of worship rock, which fuses Nickelback-style growl with pop-country twang, has struck a powerful chord in the music world. The result? The band isn't just a popular Christian band. It's one of the most popular rock bands in the country—period.
And in the midst of that acclaim, Casting Crowns has stayed true to its worship-band roots. Mark Hall and the six other musicians who perform with him know exactly who they are and what they're about. And they've proven that they're unwilling to compromise their strong message in the interest of broadening their crossover appeal even further.
With appropriate apologies to the many talented and successful acts that straddle the secular and spiritual with their tunes, it's great to have a band that speaks to the Christian heart with such power and eloquence—without apology.
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Until the Whole World Hears debuted at No. 4 on the mainstream Billboard 200 chart and at No. 1 on the Christian chart.
November 17, 2009