The members of the popular Christian band Casting Crowns can feel a bit better about the timing of their tour this summer. As these shows hit, fans have had a chance to hear the group's latest CD, "Until the Whole World Hears."
Last fall, when the group began its tour behind the CD, very few had heard the new music, because of a delayed release of the disc.
"Well you know, it wasn't the plan," Mark Hall, singer and songwriter, admitted during a recent phone interview. "When it gets time to record, it gets really hard to find time to do that. It really puts a strain on (our) schedule. And this time, it really did. We weren't ready for the record to come out. It was supposed to come out around September or October, and it just wasn't done.
"We were having fishing trips with our teenagers and youth camp and all of this stuff going on at home and couldn't get it finished," said Hall, a youth pastor at Eagles Landing Baptist church near Atlanta.
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The late release of "Until the Whole World Hears" was one of the few times that things haven't gone as planned for Casting Crowns, which will perform tonight at Central Community Church in Wichita.
The band was formed by Hall in 1999 in Daytona Beach, Fla. (and relocated to the Atlanta area a short time later), simply to complement his work as a youth pastor.
But what began with modest ambitions didn't take long to grow into something bigger. The group started to make a name for itself with the release of two independent albums that were warmly received in the Atlanta area.
One person who heard the early albums was Mark Miller, singer for the country band Sawyer Brown. He signed Casting Crowns to his Beach Street Records label, which was a division of the Christian label Reunion Records.
When the group released its self-titled CD in 2003, it became one of the fastest-selling debuts in Christian music history. Things haven't slowed down since.
The second Casting Crowns CD, "Lifesong," arrived in 2005 and debuted at number nine on "Billboard" magazine's album chart (which covers releases from all genres, not just the Christian scene) and went on to top 1 million copies sold.
Next came "The Altar and the Door," which debuted at number two on the Billboard album chart and became yet another hit, firmly establishing Casting Crowns as one of Christian music's most popular groups.
It's against this backdrop that "Until the Whole World Hears" made its belated arrival.
And the latest CD immediately connected with Casting Crowns fans, as it sold 167,000 copies in its first week — a record for a Christian release — and now stands at more than 600,000 copies sold. The CD's decidedly mainstream brand of pop features a likable mix of crunchy rockers ("Until the Whole World Hears" and "Holy One") balanced by melodic ballads ("If We've Ever Needed You" and "Joyful, Joyful").
Now the second half of the "Until the Whole World Hears" project has arrived in the form of a concert DVD/CD, which was released this week. The live CD/DVD includes concert performances of eight of the 11 songs from "Until the Whole World Hears."
If the response from audiences on the earlier tour dates is any indication, it appears that Casting Crowns has once again created music and a message its fans want to hear.
"The crowd is really responding well to the new songs," Hall said. "And as well as some new songs, we're doing all of the songs that people know us for. So it's a lot of music and neat moments of the big rocking set and the little acoustic sets and you get to hear some stories here and there and crowd involvement."
If you go
What: Grammy- and Dove-winning Christian band
Where: Central Community Church, 6100 Maple
When: 7 p.m. Friday
How much: Tickets $18.70-$65.40