Life On the Edge (Forefront Records)
Various Artists

By Robert Gruber

If you're looking for the perfect gift for this year's high school grad, this CD is it.

Life On the Edge is a call-in Christian radio show (produced by Focus On the Family) just for teens. In addition to dealing with real-life teen issues from a spiritual perspective, they also keep up with the latest in cool Christian music, as evidenced by the tunes available here. Current hits by Audio Adrenaline ("People Like Me"), the Newsboys ("Entertaining Angels"), Avalon ("Testify to Love") and Margaret Becker ("Clay and Water") are rounded out by classics: dc Talk ("What Have We Become") and Steven Curtis Chapman ("Let Us Pray"), amongst others. Perhaps the most important song in this set is Rebecca St. James' moving "You're the Voice," with the verse, "We're all someone's daughter, we're all someone's son, how long can we look at each other down the barrel of a gun," she speaks directly to an issue that has affected all of us-teen or not.

In addition to being a fine set of songs, this CD doubles as a CD-ROM that has software for a Zondervan New International Version Bible. That's quite a buy for the price of one CD, and adds a tremendous, potentially life-changing resource to your grad's computer.

Will Ned Oldham?

Summer Never Ends (Palace Records)
The Anomoanon

By Robert Gruber

This sublime 7-song set from Will Oldham's brother Ned's band is one of those records I heard coming out of a dream once, barely connected to consciousness, pushing through groggy waves to surface in the daylight, traces of this music echoing in my mind. To have this music here in the real world is a joy indescribable.

That brother Ned's vocals bear slight similarity to Gram Parsons (especially on "Around the Road" with its vague musical resemblance to "Hickory Wind") only enhances that joy for me. This is not country music, though country-tinged, perhaps, but not like that "Americana y'alternative" country-lite that's so popular with the public radio set these days. The fact that most of these songs were recorded in Shelbyville, KY may account for the rural vibe that flows through songs like "Summer Never Ends,""First Date" and "Her Little Kitty."

What Summer... lacks in polish, it makes up for in homemade charm - the fingerprints are still on this music. The occasional missed note or out-of-tune guitar chord is what makes this record close enough to perfect for me.