Star-Powered Christian Album Looks to Engage U.S. in Poverty Battle

A joint charity album featuring 19 of the most well-known artists in Christian and Gospel music is making its U.S. debut Tuesday, more than two months after releasing to the rest of the world.

More than just a musical masterpiece, CompassionArt: Creating Freedom From Poverty is being touted as an effort to engage people everywhere to help end world poverty.

"We are a global community, an underground adventure, a map being drawn as we speak that connects wealth with poverty, art with hope, compassion with despair," said CompassionArt founder and Delirious? frontman Martin Smith in a released statement. "We have united ourselves as a community of artists and songwriters to give it all away. Please join us by purchasing the album, playing these songs and singing them in your church services."

CompassionArt is the result of a historic songwriter's retreat in Scotland one year ago that gathered internationally recognized songwriters – including Israel Houghton, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Darlene Zschech – to write 10-12 songs to raise money for those suffering in the poorest countries.

Through small break-up teams, the talented group ended up cumulatively producing 22 strong songs that mix together creativity, compassion, and activism.

"There is something so special and exciting about CompassionArt," commented songwriter Tim Hughes.

"Combining great creativity with a heart and passion for the poorest of the poor and issues of justice seems to be a powerful combination," he stated. "I really hope and pray this album will bless and inspire many people and will also raise money, resources and awareness to make a real impact in this world. This is God's heart."

All proceeds derived from the songs written for CompassionArt will go directly to charity, with half going to charities chosen by each of the 16 initial songwriters and the other half going toward four collective projects – Hand of Hope, Stop The Traffik, Ray of Hope, and Watoto.

"[W]e wanted to invest the other half of the proceeds in projects that would join the dots between art and compassion," explained Delirious? frontman Smith.

And more than a one-time live aid concert or a "We Are The World"-type song, the whole album of songs will forever benefit the poor. Songs can be heard, recorded, re-recorded and sung for generations, earning royalties for publishers when the songs are played and through a variety of other outlets over many years.

"The song 'Happy Birthday' generates an estimated $2 million a year for its publisher," CompassionArt promoters note. "That is the hope for these CompassionArt songs, except all the proceeds go to charity."

On Nov. 25, 2008, the groundbreaking recording made its debut in Europe and Scandinavia through Fierce!/Kingsway; Asia, Africa and South America through Integrity; and Australia and New Zealand through Crossroads.

Prior to its release, CompassionArt was already recognized for its charity work, presented with the Gospel Music Channel's inaugural "Gospel Angel Award" during last year's Dove Awards.

"From beginning to end, the CompassionArt project has felt like the heart of God expressed through music, friendship, and charity," commented Christian songwriter, worship leader, and producer Paul Baloche. "I pray that the church will get behind this as all the royalties will go to help the poorest of the poor."

Included with the 14-song album is a 50-minute DVD documentary on the CompassionArt movement as well as PDF downloads of song and chord charts for all of the tracks.

In addition to the album, the songwriters who gathered for the retreat last year have united to produce a book, The Art of Compassion, which hit U.S. stores earlier this month. The twelve-chapter book unravels the trail of worship, hope and justice found in each of the writers' lives.

As with the album, all proceeds generated from the book will support the work of 16 initial charities.