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“Coming Up To Breathe” is the latest disc by the praise band MercyMe. Lead singer Bart Millard, front, is in top form for the band’s latest outing.

“Coming Up To Breathe” is the latest disc by the praise band MercyMe. Lead singer Bart Millard, front, is in top form for the band’s latest outing. (INO Records)

MercyMe has been running at such a brisk pace since the breakout hit “I Can Only Imagine” that it’s no wonder the band’s latest album is titled “Coming Up To Breathe.”

The disc — which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s contemporary Christian chart — offers rock, pop ballads and more as it dishes out encouragement and praise.

It opens with the title track, a song that’s not the mellow stuff many causal fans are familiar with. Frontman Bart Millard’s voice is as strong as ever as he calls out, “I’m in way too deep again” and reaches out for God’s help.

The first radio single from the disc is the fun, energetic “So Long Self.” The song takes its cues from countless breakup songs. However, the jilted lover Millard sings about is the self — or selfishness. When he sings “There’s no room for two,” the one who stays is God.

The songs range from the mid-tempo “You’re To Blame” — which focuses on thankfulness — to the high-voltage “Last One Standing” — which features Millard belting out his expectation to stand before God in the end.

“Bring the Rain” is a ballad that welcomes hardship if it brings closeness with God. “Where I Belong” is a strong praise song about purpose and place. And “One Trick Pony” is a fun, bluesy song about being totally focused on God.

We’ve come to expect solid praise songs and insightful lyrics from MercyMe. “Coming Up To Breathe” delivers those but also offers quite a bit of fun.

On the Web: www.mercyme.org

Concerts for troopsIn coming days, troops in Germany will have the not-so-ordinary opportunity to hear from a young band called Ordinary Man.

The praise band from Stockbridge, Ga., will perform at: 10:45 a.m. today at the Protestant contemporary service at Fliegerhorst in Hanau; 1 p.m. Monday for a barbecue and concert at the Wolfgang commissary in Hanau; 8 p.m. Friday for a concert at the Alpine Club in Giessen; 11 a.m. June 4 for worship at the Heinerberg Chapel in Wiesbaden; 5:30 p.m. June 4 for a concert at the Hainerberg Chapel in Wiesbaden; 11:30 a.m. June 6 for a prayer luncheon at the Rheinlander Convention Center in Baumholder; and 7:30 p.m. June 6 for a concert at Chapel No. 1 in Baumholder.

The concerts are free and sponsored by the U.S. Army Garrison Hessen Chaplains Office.

Ordinary Man, which formed about two years ago, takes its name from the passage in the Book of Acts that describes how people were astounded by the teaching of the apostles, who were just ordinary men.

Even if you can’t go, check out two of their songs — the catchy rocker “Revive Me Again” and the ballad “Love Came Down” — at www.myspace.com/theordinaryman.

Sweet, strong voiceI saw the CD and thought: “Wow! Jessica Alba’s singing praise songs.”

I quickly realized the disc was by Ana Laura and, wow, she can sing.

Her debut disc —titled “Ana Laura” — is filled with a melodic pop that’s often compared to Jaci Velasquez’s work.

Ana Laura, whose last name is Chavez, delivers rich vocals that can soar when a song demands it. For example, “If You Ever Fall” pours out a heartfelt plea to land in the arms of God. And “Safe In You” glides gracefully as it offers comfort.

Other tracks offer a sharper edge. The upbeat “No More” urges a focus on God, rather than self, and “Water” delivers assertive pop as it asks God for cleaning.

Overall, it’s an excellent debut that’s already sent three songs to the radio: “Water,” “Completely” and “Because You Loved Me.”

Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry. It appears on the Religion page.

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