Style: Roots-driven rock/pop; compare to Sheryl Crow, Shawn Colvin, Kate Campbell
Top tracks: "Better Than a Hallelujah," "Third World Woman," "Arms of Love"
In August 1999, just two months after her well-publicized divorce from husband Gary Chapman was final, Amy Grant took the stage at the Gospel Music Association's "Music in the Rockies" seminar in Estes Park, Colorado. The divorce—and the resulting public firestorm, especially in the Christian community—left Grant's emotions raw, and it showed. She broke down crying while singing "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" as the audience watched in complete silence.
In that moment, Grant garnered renewed affection from the crowd as her story, vulnerable with fear and grief, resonated real-time with the roller-coaster journeys of many in attendance. It is with the same naked honesty that she has now mapped out a song-by-song journey of the past thirty years with Somewhere Down the Road. It's a project rife with pain, struggle, hope, and the honesty that has endeared her to millions.
The first single, "Better Than a Hallelujah," thematically proposes that a believer's broken pleas to God are "better than a hallelujah sometimes," placing Grant's compassionate vocal within a haunting musical track that is both intimately stirring and radio-ready. "Overnight" introduces the vocal gifts of Grant's daughter, 17-year-old Sarah Chapman, conjecturing the melodic roundness of Frou Frou and Regina Spektor while lyrically challenging, "If it all just happened overnight / You would never learn to believe."
The acoustic rock of "Hard Times," a la Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt, acknowledges that trials and tribulations come for us all, while "What Is the Chance of That" similarly injects Grant's Americana soul into the heartfelt line, "Pain and hard times they come and go / Like some test of faith that purifies my weak belief into something gold."
The equally transparent "Third World Woman," an infectious acoustic blues performance (think Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama There Will Be Light collaboration), effectively contrasts Western affluence with worldwide poverty while issuing a universal spiritual plea ("Lord have mercy") for all souls on the chorus.
Wisely executed instrumentation affords Grant's unguarded voice and prose space to work, a fashion that retired her slick princess pop for the gutsy defiance of 1997's Behind the Eyes—a collection from which this album borrows two tracks. (MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine," which Grant recorded on 2002's Legacy CD, is also recycled here.)
Even with the repeats, these songs sound right for today's Grant. Though she's smiling more these days—with a happy marriage to country singer Vince Gill—Grant won't shy away from life's harsh realities. Somewhere Down the Road once again bravely broaches the here and now with candor while also pointing out hope on the other side.
For the music world, Amy Grant is a treasure. This record seconds that notion.
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