Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Music Review: Somewhere Down the Road by Amy Grant

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Eight great new songs to make you sing and think
Cons: Long time fans already have four of these tracks
The Bottom Line:
Great artist returns
I hoped for all new content
New songs worth hearing

Amy Grant's Return is One Her Fans Will Enjoy

When this disc came out in 2010, It had been seven years since we had a new studio album from Amy Grant.  Not that she's been completely absent during that time.  We've gotten a second hymns project, two best of's, a concert CD/DVD combo, and one Christmas best of.  But Somewhere Down the Road is the first time we've had some truly new music from the artist.

I've got to admit, I wasn't impressed by the release at first.  But I kept listening to it, and slowly the songs have grown on me.  I'm really enjoying most of them now, and think I will be listening to it for quite a while.

One strike against the disc is the number of retread songs.  Three of the songs, including the title track, are copies from previous releases Behind the Eyes and Rock of Ages...Hymns and Faith.  Additionally, "Arms of Love" is a new, more contemplative recording of a lesser classic from Age to Age.  I've always loved this song, and the new version comes close to matching the first one for me.  But these recycled tracks put me off a little bit.  It does seem to be that after seven years she could come up with a completely new release.

But once I started listening to the 8 new tracks, I really liked them.  In many ways this is a follow up to 1997's Behind the Eyes, which was a great disc.  Once again, we've got a bit of the folk sound going on here.  While the songs on the previous release were a bit focused on the hardships of life, this disc is looking at them from the other side of things.  It acknowledges the hard times, but it reminds us there is hope in the midst of them and on the other side.

The disc opens with the first single, "Better Than a Hallelujah."  It's a nice mid-tempo opener heavy on the piano and guitar.  The song reminds us that God loves to hear our pleas for help as much (or more) than our pure praise.  I don't quite know why this song struck me as it did, but this was an early favorite because I so often forget that God loves to hear us surrender to Him.

Amy's daughter Sarah Chapman joins her for the next track.  (And does it ever make me feel old to find out that Sarah is now 17.)  "Overnight" reminds us that we will only truly enjoy the joys of life after going through darker times.  What amazes me is that Sarah's voice appears to be even deeper than Amy's.

"Unafraid" is a very slow, quiet song as it celebrates the true freedom that unconditional love from any source gives someone.  The last verse about Amy's mother is packed with emotion.  The strings behind the plucked guitar really add to the beauty of the song.

"Hard Times" picks things up a few notches.  There's nothing especially amazing about the lyrics that simply remind us that we will always face hard times.  But it focuses on the wisdom passed from one generation to another that love and dreams will get you through them.  And the mini choir behind her on the chorus really helps add some joy to the song.

"What is the Change of That" is the first of two songs written in 1996 but not released until now.  This is the only true soft rock song on the disc, but the harmonicas add a hint of country flavor, too.  Considering how much of the song talks about trains, those harmonicas add a fun touch there.

"Third World Woman" contemplates the luxuries we have in America and, in a subtle way to take some action to help those in poverty around the world.  It's got a catchy beat and melody.

I've got to admit that I cringed a little the first time I heard "Find What You're Looking For."  But I was listening to a song to find deep theological truths.  Um, that's probably not the best place for it, right?  Once I got over that, I really began to enjoy it.  The song, inspired by Amy's ex-mother-in-law, reminds us that we can find good or bad in anyone around us.  In fact, what we go looking for is what we will find.  This song isn't about how sinful man can be but about our need to open our eyes and hearts to those around us, trying to find the good.  The guitar heavy, mid-tempo music really catches your ear and lets you meditate on the message.

The final new track was originally recorded in 1996.  It's a simple recording with just Amy and her guitar.  But anything more would ruin the simple power of the song.  "Come Into My World" is a plea to who love someone to get involved in their messy, hurting life.  The simplicity makes it that much more vulnerable.

I truly do wish we were getting 12 new to us songs here.  But I can't complain about the power of the new songs we do get.  The older songs blend in well, making this a complete package.  Somewhere Down the Road may never hit the level of Amy's 80's classics in my eyes, but I have a feeling it will get lots of play time as I travel the road of life.

CD Length: 46:46
1. Better Than a Hallelujah
2. Overnight
3. Every Road
4. Unafraid
5. Hard Times
6. What is the Chance of That
7. Somewhere Down the Road
8. Third World Woman
9. Find What You're Looking For
10. Come Into My World
11. Arms of Love (2010 Version)
12. Imagine/Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

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