|Amy Grant - Legacy...Hymns & Faith|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Dan MacIntosh|
|Tuesday, 21 May 2002|
It makes perfect sense for the recently divorced and remarried queen of Christian music, Amy Grant, to record an album primarily of hymns. Music doesn’t get much more Christian than standards like "It Is Well With My Soul" and "Old Rugged Cross" (both included here), and this music’s historical credibility lets Grant attach her career motives to a solid cornerstone of the Christian church’s legacy.
Grant has never been a strong-voiced diva, the way artists like Sandy Patty and Mahalia Jackson before her were. Instead, she sings with a sweet softness on these familiar Sunday morning songs. Her husband, country star Vince Gill, produced the album – along with longtime associate
Brown Bannister – and while this is not country music per se, there’s still a whole lot of mandolin and other acoustic instruments throughout the disc. It is mostly a low-key affair that only deviates from this mellow mood with the
Celtic feel of "My Jesus, I Love Thee," due mostly to pennywhistle in its mix, and on "I Need The Every Hour/Nothing But The Blood" (a duet with Gill), which is nothing short of a horn-honking gospel workout.
Grant also adds some originality to this project through a few compositions of her own. "What You Already Own" speaks of being thankful for the spiritual light God has given and features Gill's empathetic mandolin. "Do You Remember The Time" was composed by Grant, Gill and Keith Thomas. Nice harmonica work from Jim Hoke makes it sound a little like a Stevie Wonder ballad.
When Grant is not singing old familiar songs in the old familiar way, or writing her new hymns, she’s giving well-known works a few new twists.
"Fields Of Plenty/Be Still My Soul" has an almost classical feel to it, and is sparse with only its acoustic guitar accompaniment. Grant also adds a spoken word section to this one. "Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing" has a slightly tweaked arrangement (which came from the imaginations of Bannister and Gill). The phrasing is stretched out in places, and backing vocals are also stacked up behind Grant's lead. There's even a tasteful electric lead guitar break, which further differentiates it from the way a church choir might have interpreted it. "Holy, Holy, Holy" is the only time Grant settles for a tried-and-true string-arranged ballad. But since such strings are not overused, we’re given a track that actually adds variety within this particular context.
The closest this album gets to Vince Gill territory is the bluegrass-y treatment "Fairest Lord Jesus" is given. It’s a song driven by aggressively strummed acoustic guitar and sprightly fiddle. But even this most country-esque of renditions sounds more like the adult folk of Shawn Colvin than anything else on country radio these days, or most other days, for that matter.
Gill and Bannister’s production is subtle and un-fussy on this recording. The songs themselves are the central focus, Grant herself comes second, and production is a distant third – which is really how it should be.
An album consisting entirely of hymns is not an original idea, but Grant approached this project with an adventurous spirit, which makes for a memorable landmark in this pioneering artist’s still-dynamic musical career.