Prime Cuts: Breathe on Me, No Other, Walk On
The 1990s was the decade when women who could sing rule. Never relegating to auto-voicing or overpowering electronic beats, women then just sang their heads off. Women who could do a vocal workout around a big pensive ballad were rightfully rewarded. Powerhouses like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion were all guaranteed campers at Billboard Hot 100's pole position. The same scenario exists in Christian music. Susan Ashton, Margaret Becker and Christine Dente were the Christian equivalent to the Dions, Houstons and Careys. These triumvirates were their career peaks with sure fire radio hits and outselling tours. In 1994, the three ladies joined forces to record the first of two albums together.
"Along the Road" not only finds the best of Christian music finest female vocalists coming together, they have brought producer Wayne Kirkpatrick on board. Kirkpatrick could do no wrong in the 90s. Every record he touched, literally turned to gold. With Eric Clapton, Wynonna Judd and Amy Grant as his clients, Kirkpatrick certainly puts his Midras touch on this record. Here he imbues "Along the Road" with a rootsy-pop gloss that gives these songs an organic and gritty feel. Vocally, these 12 songs are neatly parceled out among the three ladies with each of them handling 4 songs each. Christine Dente is the first of the trio to make an appearance with the album's opener "Angels." A rootsy propulsive piece that Wynonna Judd would covet, "Angels" speaks of God's promise in Psalm 91:11 of how God often sends angels to protect us with or without our knowing.
"Walk On," a Gayla and Jeff Borders composition, is the album's most sober piece. Even the opening words are chilling enough to gives us frost bite: "Some find their solace in a bottle of gin/Some find it still better when their horse comes in." With just the right amount of attitude and sass, Susan Ashton gives this song which tells of a woman refusing to be ruled by her hurts a convincing read. Ballad-wise, "No Other" is a beautifully crafted worship piece with Margaret Becker declaring our sole dependence on the Father. The title cut "Along the Road," a Dan Fogelberg cover, is not distinctively a Christian song, but the message that speaks about companionship along life journey is indeed Biblical. One could see this song being used at weddings, graduations, and anniversaries to come.
More devotional moments abound with the Dente-led "Breathe on Me." Rather than singing about God, "Breathe on Me" is a comforting prayer to God for God's Holy Spirit to "melt away these clouds of confusion over my head." "Near to You" is the most country effort here calling to mind Susan Ashton's later countrier efforts. On the whole, there's not a weak spot on this album. With three of CCM's best female voices coming together, it's hard to go wrong. After all these years, the songs still sound fresh, engaging, and so melodious!