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Rich voices were meant for great music so it was only a matter of time before the quartet Avalon focused on the treasure trove found in traditional hymns.

In “Faith: A Hymns Collection,” Jody McBrayer, Melissa Greene and Janna and Greg Long deliver new renditions of songs ranging from a pop-oriented “Holy, Holy, Holy” to a slow and graceful “Tis So Sweet” to a terrifically uplifting “Blessed Assurance.” On most tracks, the piano and string accompaniment emphasizes the terrific vocals — sometimes sweet, sometimes soaring and always on target.

It’s good stuff if you enjoy pop music — but the best track on the disc might be the “bonus” at the end. It’s a song recorded for a special project meant for deployed troops.

The soft but strong “For Freedom” follows troops heading off to war, parents saying goodbye to a daughter and a soldier facing death.

In an e-mail, Greg Long said the song was recorded when the quartet was in the studio for the album “Stand,” which was released earlier this year.

“When we were asked to do this song we were told it was only going to the troops and not the public,” he wrote. “I am glad that it is now going to public because this song, to me, is all about honoring the sacrifice of the troops and their families. I think it reminds those of us who are here what is going on and how difficult it is for everyone involved with them.”

On the Web:

‘The Reckoning’Pillar’s “The Reckoning” also delivers solid vocals — but with a few yowls and growls thrown in.

Frontman Rob Beckley’s vocals remain assertive as he delivers messages about coping with selfishness and acknowledging the need for divine help.

The disc opens hard with “Everything,” then eases off a bit with “When Tomorrow Comes,” which both discuss changing lives. The music gets heavy again as “Awake” describes dreams of heaven. It sounds good but the throaty yowls don’t exactly mesh with the images of happiness contained in the lyrics. The title track has a Southern-rock feeling as it describes how people like to avoid blame for their problems.

The disc’s most emotional song is “Last Goodbye,” which Beckley wrote after a friend lost two sons in traffic accidents. Another soft, touching track is “Angel in Disguise,” about coping with abuse. The guitar licks are hard and heavy again in “Crossfire,” in which former Army reservist Beckley describes looking for cover amid life’s battles. “Sometimes” is a fun, pop-oriented tun that asks God to sort out life’s confusion.

This diversity works quite well, but it’s still the hard stuff that shines.

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Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry.


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