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Amy Grant’s “Be Still and Know… Hymns and Faith” Reviewed

homepage-bestill-4.15.2015

“Hymns were so much a part of my childhood,”  Amy Grant recently said of her new latest album of songs culled from previous releases and with new ones to gild the lily, Be Still and Know… Hymns and Faith.  “We sang hymns like people sing the national anthem before a ballgame; it was hymns before everything. We sang hymns in our homes, in our church three times a week ­ there would be some Sunday nights where all we did was sing hymns. These songs are for people who grew up with the hymn tradition ­ to remind them how inspiring they are.”

It is well to quote Bob Dylan here: “Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground”, an interesting concept so put me firmly in the unbelief category. Who knows what happens after life but whatever it is I would be shocked (and a little dismayed) if any of the organized religious had come within spitting distance. But then again, that’s why you live and die: to see what happens.

And also to listen to Amy Grant, the top selling Christian singer of all time, sing songs of praise, sometimes with her husband Vince Gill, the premiere country singer alive. To complain about Jesus in Augustus Toplady’s “Rock Of Ages” is like complaining about Yoko Ono in John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”and here it would negate such words as empathy, compassion, shared experience. “Rock Of Ages”, with Vince and Amy trading verses and backing each other, is a beautiful experience which bypasses questions of shared faith simply because it is so heartfelt and soaring without smothering God (or Jesus) in a bear hug. If you have disbelief as a matter of course, you can listen to Amy Grant and believe in her humanity and you can love and believe in the hymns and the musics whether it means anything to you on an other level than your shared consciousness. In effect, it is the precise opposite of Christian Contemporary Music, where if you have no faith all you can hear is squawking.

Far be it for me to ignore “thou shall not steal” in a review of religious music STILL, this is edited from a terrific review on a Christian website called Hallel (here):”Out of this oeuvre of work is the title cut “Be Still and Know.” The song bears all the fingerprints of Vince Gill and “Be Still and Know” takes the words of Psalm 46 The other new entry is the album’s opener “Power in the Blood.”(It) also include some of her other more contemplative original material sandwiched in between the hymns. Grant’s #1 hit “El Shaddai” . Taken from Grant’s 2012 “How Mercy Looks from Here” is “Deep as It Is Wide.” Originally lifted from her “My Father’s Eyes” but re-recorded a few years back is “Carry You.”  The rest of the hymns are taken from two of Grant’s formerly released hymn collections. ”

“Power Of The Blood” is a little too lively and the use of electronics while, obviously, a powerful aesthetic choice -it makes the timeless timely, is ultimately self-defeating. But the album has the breadth of testament without the smugness that seems to go hand in hand with faith: a mix of self-importance inherent in subjugating yourself to only the biggest thing in the universe. There is always that “yeah, you God, you’re bigger than I am, but everybody else can kiss my ass”. Not to mention religious zealots of all stripes where the addendum is “and now I’m gonna kill em all for you.” And finally, the concept where you can only get God’s attention by singing loudly together.

These hymns and songs of faith  are not that, partially because have a great deal of Vince Gill in them -country rather than pop takes. Plus a sliver of what made  George Jones 2003 -a year after the initial Hymns And Faith, The Gospel Collection such a masterpiece. What they share is not simply a love of God but more importantly a love of music, they are albums for un-believers because they are so beautiful they put seeds of doubt in the unbelievers head. And Be Still and Know… Hymns and Faith is better in 2015 then it was in 2002. From an early “Be Still And Know” to a late “Softly And Tenderly” and a closing “Holy, Holy, Holy”, Grant maintains a calm, sweet quiet entry into faith: if we can’t join her in Jesus, we can join her in sound.

Grade: A-

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