Saturday, May 18, 2013

Music Review: How Mercy Looks from Here by Amy Grant

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Songs that cover the pain and joy of life
Cons: A couple songs that don't quite work for me.
The Bottom Line:
Amy Grant is back
Contrasting the happy, sad
Much like life itself

Fans Will be Happy with Amy's Return

It's been 10 years since Amy Grant's last fully new CD.  No, I didn't know that off the top of my head, but they've been mention that quite a bit in relation to her new release, How Mercy Looks From Here.  Being a fan for over 20 years now, naturally, I pre-ordered it.  And I've been enjoying it since I got it.

Stylistically, this disc fits with the last few releases from Amy.  There are a few mid-tempo tracks, but for the most part these tracks fit in the mellow side of the spectrum.  That's not to say that they blend together in the slightest.  There is enough variety in them that I had no trouble differentiating them, and the disc never lost my interest.

At first glance, you might say the disc is double minded.  On the one hand, there are some positive and encouraging songs.  On the other, some of these are very sad.  But for me the title song pulls it all together.  "How Mercy Looks from Here" was inspired by Amy's experience with a massive flood followed by a good friend dying the same month her daughter got married.  As the chorus says, "When you face your greatest fear/Losing all that you hold near/Open up your eyes my dear/Oh how mercy looks from here."  And really, that is the message of the disc.

The song that will hit your emotions every time you hear it is "Shovel in Hand," a song Amy wrote in response to her son losing one of his friends.  The lyrics really pack a wallop, especially that first time.  It's a slow song with lots of guitar picking.

On the other hand, we get songs like "If I Could See (What the Angels See)."  This is one of the mid-tempo songs, and it opens the disc.  It reminds us that God is still working behind the scenes when we are going through trials.

Another of the mid-tempo songs is "Here."  In it, Amy reflects on how nature can remind us of God's presence.  The piano and guitar work together perfectly on it, and I really like the message.

We also get a promise to help a friend through a trial in "Not Giving Up" and a morning prayer/reminder to look for others to minister to in "Greet the Day."  ""Don't Try So Hard" has a wonderful reminder about God's grace and love despite all our sin.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of songs I don't care for.  It's not that they are bad, but they don't seem to quite work for me.  Fortunately, they are back to back.  The worst is "Our Time is Now."  It tries to be about seizing the day, but somehow, the lyrics just don't add up to me.  I feel especially bad picking on this one because Amy's father and kids provide some of the background vocals here.  It's also the most upbeat song here and has some fun with an ukulele.

I'm also not the biggest fan of "Better Not to Know."  This is another of the songs about the sad side of life, how it is better not to know what is coming since the goodbyes outweigh the hellos.  This one might grow on me, but it just doesn't connect with me.

Amy got a few of her musical friends to help her with the disc.  Amy does a cover of Eric Paslay's "Deep as it is Wide" with him and Sheryl Crow.  This one is really a trio, however most of these musical guest stars stay as backup vocalists.  Her husband Vince Gill (no surprises there), James Taylor, Will Hoge, and Carole King all put in appearances here.

While there are a couple tracks I didn't like, How Mercy Looks From Here is a solid release.  Here's hoping we don't have to wait another decade for another new disc from Amy Grant.

CD Length: 42:16
1. If I Could See (What the Angels See)
2. Better Not to Know (with Vince Gill)
3. Don't Try So Hard (with James Taylor)
4. Deep as It is Wide (Featuring Sheryl Crow & Eric Paslay)
5. Here
6. Shovel in Hand (with Will Hoge)
7. Golden
8. Our Time is Now (with Carole King)
9. Not Giving Up
10. How Mercy Looks from Here
11. Greet the Day

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