A Profound, Solid Return
Posted April 30, 2013
By KevinDavis_NRT, Staff Reviewer
How Mercy Looks From Here finds Amy Grant collaborating with other songwriters and producer Marshall Altman crafting a collection of songs that mine the depths of both heart and soul as only Amy can.
I've been listening to Amy Grant for over 25 years, as I first heard "El-Shaddai," "Thy Word" and "Tennessee Christmas" when I was in high school. Like many avid Christian music collectors, I agree that 1988's Lead Me Onwas one of the most influential albums in the history of Christian music. Amy truly paved the way for all female artists and today I hear her influence in some of my favorite artists including Sara Groves, Britt Nicole and Francesca Battistelli.
After 10 years since her last full album of new songs comes How Mercy Looks From Here, Amy's newest collection chronicling the lessons of faith, family and love that are on her heart from the past decade. This album includes 11 compelling new songs about her experiences of the past decade being a wife, a mother and Christian.
"If I Could See" is an uplifting song with Amy's passionate vocals setting the tone for the album with the confessional lyrics, "If I could hear what angels hear…Holy Holy in my ear, I'd never doubt that God is near, If I could hear…"
"Better Not To Know" is a wonderful prayer-song about finding regular strength and courage in God's faithful kindness. In 1988, Amy planted 75 fruit trees on the Tennessee farm where she lived with her first husband and children and returned 20 years later to find the trees overflowing with fruit, after there had been no fruit for years. Amy reflected if she "had known 20 years earlier what life would bring, she didn't know if she would have planted the trees. Sometimes it's better not to know."
"Don't Try So Hard" features James Taylor and addresses the topic of being honest with yourself and God. Her vocals are stellar and the poignant message behind this song of "God gives you grace and you can't earn it, don't think that you're not worth it, because you are, He gave you His love and He's not leaving, gave you His only Son so you'd believe it, you're lovely even with your scars, don't try so hard" has me hooked again. We are called as Christians to believe in the freedom that we have in the Cross of Jesus. We are free from our fears, addictions, insecurities and perfectionism. Jesus came to die for us so that we can all truly live in Him. It reminds me of Amy's classic songs "Lead Me On" and "Saved By Love," both in catchiness and transparency.
"Deep As It Is Wide" was written by Eric Paslay, and he and Sheryl Crow sing with Amy on this standout song about the depth of God's amazing love. "Here" is a great reminder the Lord is ready for us to approach His throne of grace. James 4:8 promises that when we draw near to God, He WILL draw near to us. Whatever struggle or depression you are facing you can know that God is with you, always.
"Shovel in Hand" featuring Will Hoge is a piercing ballad about Amy's son Matt dealing with the sudden passing of his friend. Anyone who has experienced parenthood and loss will actually physically feel the emotion so poignantly expressed by Amy as she passionately cries out: "I watched my son, shovel in hand, go from bullet proof boy to a broken man...19 years old and he's burying a friend, goodbye two boys, hello one man."
"Golden" has an ambient musical feel and is a meditative reflection on the unmerited grace and unconditional love of God. Amy's vocal runs in many of the songs including "Golden" cause me to hang on every word she brilliantly sings. The lyrics reflect the theme of this mesmerizing album—"You are loved, you are golden…every son, every daughter, when you're out on the troubled water, just hold on, you are loved, you are golden." The strong biblical message comes right from 2 Corinthians 6:18 where God promises: "I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty."
Don't miss the beautiful song "How Mercy Looks From Here," where Amy sings in faith: "I would have given up, drowning in my tears, if it wasn't for Your voice, all these years, when you face your greatest fear, losing all that you hold near, open up your eyes my dear, that's when boundless grace appears, unseen angels hover near, saints are singing loud and clear, oh how mercy looks from here."
I know that many of us struggle with the idea that our past and present mistakes are unforgivable, yet the Bible tells us that isn't true. Read the great translation in The Message of Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus tells us: "Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest." What an amazing comfort to know that when we struggle with our pain, pride and unloving natures, we can all lay it at the feet of Jesus. God's promises us in His Word that His mercies are new every morning.
Amy has dedicated this poignant album to her mother, Gloria Napier Grant, who passed away in April, 2011. Before she passed, she gave Amy the advice, "sing something that matters." Mission accomplished. Grant has built a long, successful career with music that matters.
I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2 Friends Tour in May, 2011. That night Amy said, "I started writing something for my mother over 20 years ago about aging. Back then, I thought, "What do I know about aging?" Now when I washed my face this morning, I see the changes in my face. What I know is that things change, but it's good to know the One Who never changes." Amen.
In light of recent tragedies, the somewhat somber tone to this album is quite soothing and many of these songs are lyrically profound. This album soothes, moves and challenges listeners. Those looking for '90's pop music star Amy Grant won't find her "Here," however. How Mercy Looks From Here is a profound listening experience and a very solid return from one of Christian music's most beloved stars. This is easily one of the best albums of the year. This entire album is loaded with relatable lyrics, incredible singing and prayerful themes about what it means to be a parent, spouse and child of God.
Song to Download Now:
"Don't Try So Hard" (Get it on iTunes here
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