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Christian music fans in the Middle East and Europe might notice something a little familiar on the radio this morning. “Praise Patrol” has gone into reruns as Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Johnston moves to a new assignment.

Johnston has been playing contemporary Christian tunes on American Forces Network radio for the past two years and is now heading to study ethics at Princeton University through the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling program.

In addition to the music, the two-hour program, which is broadcast to 56 nations, has included interviews with artists and authors, inspirational messages and in-depth discussions.

“We wanted to present the message of faith from an intelligent perspective,” said Johnston, who was co-host along with his wife, Julia.

A replacement broadcast chaplain is expected to arrive in January. Until then, listeners can expect “a series of re-airs — the best of ‘Praise Patrol,’” Johnston said.

“This decision will be worked out over the next few weeks. A new broadcast chaplain is due in January ’05, so there are some questions about the best way to continue the kind of religious programming folks are expecting.”

Disc tip

Two years ago, Sara Groves released an album that unveiled a heartfelt portrait of her life and personal struggles. In “All Right Here,” Groves appeared as the quiet warrior, relying on God’s strength to carry her through life’s tough spots.

Her most recent release, “The Other Side of Something,” contains the same melodic vocals and folksy rhythms. It even contains many of the same themes, but the new disc sometimes feels more like a portrait of someone else.

Some of the songs are quite appealing. “The One Thing I Know” is a declaration of trust in God’s goodness. “Esther” tells the tale of a missionary to children. And there are Groves’ touching portraits of family life, such as “Undone.”

However, Groves appears to be stretching beyond her boundaries in songs such as “Boxer,” in which she uses images of the ring to describe life’s struggles. The lyrics don’t feel genuine and don’t mesh with her willowy voice. And I really want to like the haunting “Jeremiah,” with its strong chorus about relying on God but, in the end, the rest of the lyrics don’t quite hit the mark. A few of the songs seem a bit overproduced, with the arrangements muscling out Groves’ voice.

Overall, Groves excels at creating touching, understated songs about personal trial and family. However, when she steps beyond those boundaries, she sometimes falters.

On the Web: www.saragroves.com.

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


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