Worship Leader May 2010 : Page 60

A F E A T U R E R E V I E W Som ewhere Down the Road BY AMY GRANT SPARROW RECORDS AMYGRANT.COM Somewhere Down the Road is not your conven- tional worship album. Probably not meant to be a worship album, but Amy’s Grant’s mainly acoustic, folk, pop, soul, and rock passage offers some prayers and inspires some worship along the way, nonetheless. We have all seen the line in the program: “Special Music.” Music for reflection, music that moves a heart towards God, illustrates a sermon, or is a prelude to an altar call or communion. It’s sung to the congregation, prompting a “search me, know me” mo- ment, or a revelatory “aha,” a confessional, “forgive me,” or a proclamation of “I for- give,” among a host of other responses. And that’s where prayer poets come in, where seasoned writers such as Amy Grant and her cohorts shine and bless the Church. They are able to distill life’s experiences into stories that cause us to reflect on God and find the eternal in the everyday, expanding, sacred space in—and outside—the sanctuary (Matt 4:19-24). This is not a parallel or substitute for “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” but part of the back story that actually heightens the force of that sort of worship poetry. One sees clearly the richness that comes from shared authorship in Somewhere Down the Road—included are both vintage and up to the moment collaborations. The ti- tle track and “Every Road,” written with Wayne Kirkpatrick, made their first ap- 60 WORSHIP LEADER pearance on Behind the Eyes, and most will remember the classic “Arms of Love,” co- written with Michael W. Smith and Gary Chapman. Because the album reflects life’s journey, it’s fitting that some of the songs from Grant’s earlier chapters are included alongside new material. “Better than a Hallelujah,” written by Sarah Hart and Chapin Hartford, is an af- fecting opening to Grant’s musical journal and scrapbook. It gives legitimacy and power to the unspoken prayers, the wordless cries sent up to God and the desperate pleas that are a testament to faith—when we’ve forgot- ten we have it—and also to God’s love for the AMYGRANT beautiful mess we are. “Overnight,” a duet with her daughter Sarah Chapman, is a song about faith and patience, and like many of the songs—in oblique and direct fashion—it un- derscores Christian virtue and character. If ever there was a prayer from an uncer- tain soul asking for Jesus to come in, “Come into My World” is it. It provides a unique choice for a pre-altar call selection. The raw and naked simplicity of guitar and voice with little or no technical meddling makes it accessible to almost anyone on your team with a sense of interpretive depth. “Find What You’re Looking For” is a “pause and consider” moment and nails our human tendency to size people up according to our preconceived notions about them—sermon illustration written all over this one. Somewhere Down the Road could be looked at as a collection of songs that form one long psalm. And like many psalms, it asks hard questions; it has moments where faith is stretched thin and personal pain exposed, where emotions are raw, but in the end the psalmist sings how God’s unfailing loves trumps all else. The final words on Grant’s musical journey come from, “Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,” a benediction to “Imagine,” Grant’s adaptation of Bart Millard’s “I Can Only Imagine,” originally released in 2002. Her lyrical additions en- rich the song and add depth and wonder to God’s redemptive work in us, a perfect capstone to an album about our journey through life—with God. As much as this album provides fresh ways to view the function of worship in our services and new material to imple- ment, it is also a primer in great storytell- ing and songwriting—a refreshing, main- ly gentle, contribution to the listening

Feature Review - Somewhere Down the Road

Andrea Hunter & Scotty Smith

Somewhere Down the Road is not your conventional worship album. Probably not meant to be a worship album, but Amy’s Grant’s mainly acoustic, folk, pop, soul and rock passage offers some prayers and inspires some worship along the way, none-the-less. <br /> <br /> We have all seen the line in the program: “Special Music.” Music for reflection, music that moves a heart towards God, illustrates a sermon, or is a prelude to an altar call or communion. It’s sung to the congregation, prompting a “search me, know me” moment, or a revelatory “aha,” a confessional, “forgive me,” or a proclamation of “I forgive,” among a host of other responses. And that’s where prayer poets come in. Amy Grant and her cohorts, on what is a singularly lovely release, simply shines as a prayer poet—blessing the Church with Somewhere Down the Road. Writers like Grant are able to distill life’s experiences into stories that cause us to reflect on God and find the eternal in the everyday, expanding sacred space in—and outside—the sanctuary (Matthew 4:19-24). This is not a parallel or substitute for “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” but part of the back story that actually heightens the force of that sort of worship poetry.<br /> <br /> One sees clearly the richness that comes from shared authorship in Somewhere Down the Road—included are both vintage and up to the moment collaborations. The title track and “Every Road,” written with Wayne Kirkpatrick, made their first appearance on Behind the Eyes, and most will remember the classic “Arms of Love,” co-written with Michael W. Smith and Gary Chapman. Because the album reflects life’s journey, it’s fitting that some of the songs from Grant’s earlier chapters are included alongside new material. <br /> <br /> “Better than a Hallelujah,” written by Sarah Hart and Chapin Hartford, is an affecting opening to Grant’s musical journal and scrapbook. It gives legitimacy and power to the unspoken prayers, the wordless cries sent up to God and the desperate pleas that are a testament to faith—when we’ve forgotten we have it—and also to God’s love for the beautiful mess we are. “Overnight,” a duet with her daughter Sarah Chapman, is a song about faith and patience, and like many of the songs—in oblique and direct fashion—it underscores Christian virtue and character. <br /> <br /> If ever there was a prayer from an uncertain soul asking for Jesus to come in, “Come into My World” is it. It provides a unique choice for a pre-altar call selection. The raw and naked simplicity of guitar and voice with little or no technical meddling makes it accessible to almost anyone on your team with a sense of interpretive depth. “Find What You’re Looking For” is a “pause and consider” moment and nails our human tendency to size people up according to our preconceived notions about them—sermon illustration written all over this one.<br /> <br /> Somewhere Down the Road could be looked at as a collection of songs that form one long psalm. And like many psalms, it asks hard questions; it has moments where faith is stretched thin and personal pain exposed, where emotions are raw, but in the end the psalmist sings how God’s unfailing loves trumps all else. The final words on Grant’s musical journey come from, “Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,” a benediction to “Imagine,” Grant’s adaptation of Bart Millard’s “I Can Only Imagine,” originally released in 2002. Her lyrical additions enrich the song and add depth and wonder to God’s redemptive work in us, a perfect capstone to an album about our journey through life—with God.<br /> <br /> As much as this album provides fresh ways to view the function of worship in our services and new material to implement, it is also a primer in great storytelling and songwriting—a refreshing, mainly gentle, contribution to the listening library of the Church. Making a joyful and amplified noise to the Lord is great, but ironically, the new “alternative music” might be a lot like David’s (and Amy’s) life stories in the Psalms.<br /> <br /> ¬–Andrea Hunter<br /> <br /> <br /> Pastor’s Point of View<br /> <br /> I begin this review of Somewhere Down the Road, not so much having to own my bias as giving thanks for my vantage point. I met Amy when she was 17 and I was 27. I turned 60 this year so you can do the math. In the language of Scripture, that means this is Amy’s Jubilee year—a year to be marked by grace, freedom, and forgiveness. This incredible collection of story songs is marked by all three of these much longed-for and to-be-treasured realities. Quite frankly, this is my all-time-favorite Amy Grant recording.<br /> <br /> What we’ve come to expect from Amy is very much here—creative arrangements, tasteful nuancing, impeccable players, believable vocals—but so very much more. As long as I’ve known Amy, the investment in her art has always mirrored the reach of her heart—a reach that has strained and grown in every season of life and with every record she’s made. These songs reflect that ongoing journey. It’s like watching a beautiful bud come to nearly-full blossom—a phenomenon which doesn’t always happen. It’s not simply that Amy has gotten older, because age guarantees nothing. There are a lot of old fools running around. <br /> <br /> The best way I can describe it is like this: A once innocent worship leader has become a mature lead worshiper. The mercy and wisdom reflected in these songs doesn’t happen apart from a commitment to love family and friends well—a willingness to stay present in the chaos and brokenness of life—and the ability to embrace mystery and the grace of God at the same time. <br /> <br /> Personal favorites? I connect with every song on Somewhere Down the Road, but the bookends are really special to me. The leadoff cut, “Better Than a Hallelujah,” makes me hungry to experience much more of the gospel. And the final cut offers additional verses to Mercy Me’s, classic, “I Can Only Imagine.” Amy’s new lyrics invite us to see, not just ourselves, but the whole of creation as it will be when Jesus returns to finish making all things new. <br /> <br /> Scotty Smith <br /> Christ Church, Franklin, Tennessee

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