Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China. Follow him on Twitter @ArsenioOrteza.

Sounds for the season

Music | Noteworthy new Christmas releases
by Arsenio Orteza
Posted 12/10/20, 12:56 pm

Bleak Midwinter by Barnaby Bright: Of all of the Christmas songs on the verge of being recorded too many times, “In the Bleak Midwinter”—lyrics by Christina Rossetti, music by either Gustav Holst or Harold Darke—is surely the most durable, holding up under both high-art and folk-art conditions. Nathan and Becky Bliss, aka Barnaby Bright, have opted for the latter (and for Holst’s tune), giving the carol an eerie yet reverent sheen that falls within the parameters of their Bandcamp tags (“Americana,” “indie folk”).

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Robby Klein

Modern-day psalter

Music | Sandra McCracken’s latest album steadies in turbulent times
by Arsenio Orteza
Posted 12/10/20, 12:49 pm

“I’m somewhere in between.”

So says the Christian singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken via email from Nashville when asked to situate her lithe, grainy voice along the alto-soprano continuum.

Her latest release, Patient Kingdom, is her 13th studio long player and her second in a row for the contemporary-worship label Integrity Music. It’s also about as single-minded as musical endeavors get.

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Michael Stravato/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Rough around the edges

Music | Billy Joe Shaver led a hard life but penned music full of truth
by Arsenio Orteza
Posted 11/19/20, 03:28 pm

I once interviewed R.C. Sproul about his book Willing To Believe. In its discussion of faith and salvation, he’d referred to semi-Pelagians as “barely” Christians, and I asked him what he meant.

“All of us who are Christians,” he said laughing, “are only barely Christians.”

The country-music singer-songwriter and Texas legend Billy Joe Shaver would have agreed.

Shaver, many of whose compositions became “outlaw country” staples, died three days before Halloween after suffering a stroke. He was 81.

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