Prime Cuts: Never Too Sad to Sing, People Like Me, Sweet Hellos
Overall Grade: 4/5
The beauty of Jeff and Sheri Easter's brand new album "You Are Loved" is that it takes the truths of Scripture and wraps them around the garments of everyday life and happenstances. Never content with just shovelling down abstract theological concepts, they have a way of allowing us to "see" these truths operating within stories we can relate to. Moreover, the rustic backings of delightful dobro, banjos, steel, and fiddles give these tunes an earthy realism as if these stories were unfolding by the dirt roads right in front of us. Thus, if you like your music adorned with the sounds of unadulterated country music with a tinge of downhome bluegrass thrown into the mix, these 10 songs would definitely be up your alley.
To further strengthen this record's rootsy connection is that the presence of Paul Overstreet's prolific pen. Overstreet was not only one of the major artists to rule the country airwaves in the early 90s, he has had also scribed a large portion of the country music songbook. Having co-written the Judds' "Love Can Build a Bridge," Alison Krauss' "When You Say Nothing at All" among many others, Overstreet has a hand in co-penning "People Like Me." Celebrating God's amazing grace in loving sinners like us, the song is personalised from the viewpoint of the protagonist making the song even more palatable and wistful.
Though the theme of heaven is at the core of scripture, it's not the easiest concept to convey without sounding airy-fairy. However, with the gorgeous ballad "Sweet Hellos," the Easters are to be be commended for taking such a lofty theme and dressing it in a compelling narrative presenting heaven not just as an idea but a welcoming comfort and hope in times of suffering. The same goes for "Learning to Dance in the Rain." Though songs that encourage us to rejoice in times of trouble abound, they are never as practical and as honest as how Jeff Easter presents it in this song.
The Easters also have a way of taking the stories of Scripture and give them a contemporary spin. With the bluesy "Send It on Down the Nile," we get to relive the whole story of Moses again told with twenty first century sensibilities. Melodically, "Never Too Sad to Sing" is superior. Not only does it have an engaging aura but it has a ring of nostalgia calling to mind some of Vince Gill's country shuffles from the early 90s. The album is bookended with two made-for-radio hits, the first being the propulsive lead single and title cut "You Are Loved" and the other being "The Road to Everywhere." The latter is an upbeat love song finding the Easters celebrating their love for each other.
Nevertheless, not all the songs work. After "Sweet Hellos," do we need another song (i.e., "Heaven's Forever") to address the celestial city? Despite the animated banjo pickings, "Today is a Good Day" is a dreary, while "The Life I'm Living" is a tad too self-indulgent. Nevertheless, this is still a very good album filled with great tunes that help us to understand the doctrines of Scripture in ways that not only put check marks in our brains but produce motions in our hearts and hands. The prime cuts listed above are indeed prime.