Monday, May 20, 2013

Music Review: No Changin' Us by Point of Grace

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: A couples good songs
Cons: Country arrangements, weak lyrics
The Bottom Line:
Country Point of Grace
Is made worse by weak lyrics
I'm disappointed




No Changin' Us?  Really?  Because Point of Grace Makes Drastic Changes with This Release

I'm still trying to figure out why Point of Grace has called their latest release No Changin' Us because it represents the biggest changes for these ladies.  The group started life as a quartet.  There's been one member change in their close to 20 years together.  But after their last release, another member decided to step down to be a full time mother.  Instead of replacing her, the group decided to continue life as a trio - change number one.  But the biggest change is their evolution from pop with the occasional rock edge to full on country.  And that's the change that is bothering me the most.

It's not that the change completely surprises me.  Their last full studio release had a bit of a country flavor to their pop sound.  And the few songs that they have released as a trio were very heavy on the country.  But I'm not a country music fan.  So the fact that they have gone this far in this direction is a huge disappointment to me.

Coupling with the change of style is a huge change in lyrics.  The themes expressed are much more fitting with their new country focus.  I've got a few discs in my collection that are on that country edge, and I enjoy them for something different because of the lyrics.  Now I know Point of Grace has rarely been known for their hard hitting thoughts.  But even those are gone in this disc.

There are some songs I like.  Disc opener "He Holds Everything" fits with the old Point of Grace lyrically as it reminds us that no matter how bad life is God still has everything under control.  It doesn't hurt that the country influence is left to a little fiddle mixed in with guitar on this upbeat song.  There's just a bit of twang to the vocals.  If the rest of the disc was like this track, I'd enjoy it.

"There is Nothing Greater Than Grace" is another good track.  This keyboard heavy ballad reminds us that God's grace can save anyone no matter how far they've fallen.  This is the kind of song I've always loved from Point of Grace, a song of encouragement.  There's nothing hard hitting about it, but that's not why I turn to them.

"Come to Jesus"  mixes guitar, mandolin, and strings as they remind us that every person hits rock bottom at times.  While I have a feeling it is meant to encourage the downtrodden, it's also a good reminder to me to look for people I can help around me.

Those three tracks I enjoy.  But the other eight?  Not so much.

The fiddle is much more pronounced in "Wildflower" a song about a woman who doesn't fit in.  Frankly, I'm trying to figure out what the point of the song is.  Maybe to remind us that everyone has the same needs?

Nostalgia takes center stage in "Hometown," an ode to the simple life of a small town from the not so distant past.  The mandolin and fiddle are very evident here, and the ladies let quite a bit of twang into their voices.  This is definitely a country track.

There are three songs about the busy life of a wife and mother.  And, frankly, that's another problem for me with this disc.  I know I'm not Point of Grace's biggest audience, mothers.  But outside of a reference or two, it hasn't been in your face on previous discs.  Here, I'm feeling like they are talking directly to women on three of the songs.  Okay, so "No Changin' Us" is actually an ode to a happy marriage.  I might actually like it if it didn't scream country to me.

"Love and Laundry" is a lament to how hard it is to balance the demands of life with the desire for some quiet time and a strong love life.  Any doubt that they are aiming for a country market is gone when you listen to this song.  The banjo and fiddle are very strong here, as is the twang of their vocals.  I've got to confess that one line, as they dream about a bubble bath until they realize they wouldn't have time to clean the tub afterward, is funny.  The rest just doesn't appeal to me.

Finally, there's "The Greatest Show on Earth."  This is the only song on the disc the ladies had a hand in writing.  I kind of like the idea that they enjoy the craziness of their lives, but again the country flavor isn't my cup of tea.  And the first line of the song is "I'm trying to shave my legs/UPS is at the door."  Um, too much information there ladies.

I've been a fan of Point of Grace since they debuted.  I pull out all of their CD's on a regular basis.  In this case, I'm going to copy a few songs to my hard drive and let this disc sit on my shelf.  The changes in No Changin' Us leave me very disappointed.

CD Length: 39:15
Tracks:
1. He Holds Everything
2. Wildflower
3. Hometown
4. There is Nothing Greater Than Grace
5. No Changin' Us
6. Love and Laundry
7. What About Jesus
8. Chalk in the Rain
9. The Greatest Show on Earth
10. A Good Place to Turn Around
11. Come to Jesus

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