Prime Cuts: Thy Will, Still, Sheltered in the Arms of God
When established artists step out of their commercially viable boundaries and record side projects, it's sometimes a cause for worrying. Some years ago, Garth Brooks took a hiatus from his multi-platinum records streak and gave pandering to his alter ego, Chris Gaines. The result was such a huge artistic and commercial disappointment that Brooks has had never resurrected his Chris Gaines persona ever again. Hillary Scott who is part of Lady Antebellum is currently at the height of her illustrious career. Lady Antebellum, to date, has scored 4 #1 country albums, 6 #1 country singles, and they have sold nearly 11 million records. Thus, for Hillary Scott to step out of her highly lucrative career to record a Christian album is indeed a step of faith. But, a listen to this record will immediately assail our fears. "Love Remains" doesn't disappoint one single bit. In fact, it's perhaps one of the most rewarding moves in her career.
"Love Remains" isn't precisely a Hillary Scott solo endeavour. Rather, it's a family effort where Hillary sings with her famous mom Linda Davis (who is herself a successful country artist), her dad Lang Scott, and her sister Rylee. Unlike other lesser country artists who are very reticent in mentioning about Jesus and the Gospel, Hillary doesn't hide her faith under thinly veiled love songs. Right at the get-go, she plunges into the salvific work of Jesus on the Cross in the infectiously hooky pop-country number "Beautiful Messes." "Still" has the word "perfect" stamped all across: lyrically, the song challenges us to place all our striving at the foot of the Cross and rest in Jesus Christ. Musically, this ballad traverses along a gorgeous melodic arch that has such a therapeutic effect that soothes the soul.
Hillary's mom Linda Davis has been a country singer way before Hillary was even born. Together with her former boss Reba McEntire, Linda Davis recorded their #1 duet "Does He Love You?" Davis went on to record for both Capitol and Arista Records where she scored hits such as "Company Time," "Shoot for the Moon," and "Some Things Are Meant to Be." Linda Davis takes on the microphone for the Dottie Rambo classic "Sheltered in the Arms of God." Davis' crystalline vocals with her Reba McEntire-ish growls really make each and every syllable of this ballad come alive. Davis again joins Hillary and sister Rylee on Jordan Feliz recent #1 song "The River." Featuring a metallic sounding percussion beat with some old styled bluegrass Gospel wails, this is Southern Gospel meets pop-country at its best.
"Thy Will," one of only 2 songs co-written by Hillary, comes from a tender spot in Hillary's life. Inspired after her miscarriage, "Thy Will" is essentially a heartfelt prayer to God for His will to prevail when all our plans have gone hay wired. "Love Remains," a top 20 hit for Collin Raye, is a tear-inducing song that chronicles through the vignettes of life how love can cause a lasting mark. Most precious is that Hillary gets to sing with her dad Lang Scott; a definite sonic heirloom that she's going to keep for the years to come. Dad and mom get to write with Don Poythress & Kenna Turner West the rowdy and anthemic "We March On." Perhaps the weakest moments on this CD are the times when Rylee takes the lead. Relative to her powerhouse mom and her older sis, Rylee sounds pretty amateurish and off-key (at times).
"Love Remains" is not an album made to peddle the likings of radio. Rather, it's an album full of superior songs, thanks in part to producer Ricky Skaggs. And never for a second will the songs make you second guess Hillary and her family's faith in Jesus Christ. When you sing about Jesus with such conviction and beauty, you can't help but create music that has heft and longevity.
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