Amy Lee Grant was born on November 25th, 1960. She released her debut album, self-titled, in 1978, one month before her high school graduation. That Fall she performed her first ticketed concert in Fort Worth, Texas. Her 1982 album AGE TO AGE was a huge success. One of the tracks on it is ‘El Shaddai’ which Michael Card wrote. AGE TO AGE was the first Christian album by a solo artist to be certified gold (1983) and the first Christian album to be certified platinum (1985). Some of my favourite gospel songs of Amy’s over the years have been: ‘I Have Decided’, ‘Angels’, ‘Love of Another Kind’, ‘Lead Me On’, and ‘Saved by Love’. I had the privilege of seeing Amy live on her HEART IN MOTION tour at Canada’s Wonderland in the early 1990’s. The songs ‘Baby Baby’ and ‘Every Heartbeat’ from that album really helped her break into the mainstream. She has won numerous Grammy and Dove Awards
HOW MERCY LOOKS FROM HERE (2013, Sparrow Records) is her first all new studio album since 2003’s SIMPLE THINGS. It is her seventeenth studio album. It was produced by Marshall Altman who has produced for the likes of Natasha Bedingfield and Audrey Assad. Peter York executive produced. This newest album from Amy debuted at Number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart. It was also her 16th chart-topping album on the US Christian albums chart. In the liner notes she writes: “The best part of waiting ten years to release a record of all new songs is the amount of life lived between projects-so much to write about.” Instrumentalists used include: Jeremy Lutito, Tony Lucido, Tim Lauer, and Tom Bukovac.
A nice pop song ‘If I Could See (What the Angels See)’starts things off. It is presented in memory of Ruth McGinniss and was written by Amy and album producer Marshall Altman. The song finds long time DeGarmo and Key member Greg Morrow on drums and is highly optimistic¨”If I could hear what angels hear/The thunderous sound of a crashing tear/Holy, Holy in my ear/I’d never doubt that God is near/If I could hear/I’d see that love will conquer hate/There’s always hope, it’s not too late/I’d find the truth is easy to believe/If I could see.” ‘Better not to Know’ features Amy’s husband Vince Gill. It was inspired by the fruit trees planted at Riverstone Farm in the Fall of 1988 in memory of Amy’s grandma who died that year. This easy listening song uses strings and admits that there is much pain involved in living: “Oh, it’s better not to know/The way it’s gonna go/What will die and what will grow, oh/Oh, nothing stays the same/Life flickers like a flame/As the seasons come and go/Goodbye more than hello/What comes of what we sow/It’s better not to know.”
‘Don’t try so Hard’ is a pretty song written by Ben Glover and Amy Grant. It features music legend James Taylor and reminds us there is nothing we can do to make God love us more: “When did we start trying to measure up?/When all of this time/Love has been trying to tell us/Don’t try so hard/God gives you grace, you can’t earn it/Stop thinking you’re not worth it/Because you are/He gave you His love and He’s not leaving/Gave you His Son, so you’d believe it/You’re lovely even with your scars/Lovely the way you are/So open up your lovely heart/And don’t try so hard.” ‘Deep as it is Wide’ is a great song written by Eric Paslay. He is an American country music singer who has songwriting credits for Love and Theft, Donnie and Marie Osmond, and Eli Young Band. This song meant a lot to Amy during the last months of her mother’s life. It features Sheryl Crow, Eric Paslay, and a choir. Lyrically, it ponders what Heaven is like: “There’s a place at the edge of the sky/Where there’s a love deep as it is wide/The weak are strong, the hungry are all fed/And there’s a breeze from the angels flying over head.../Every nation, color, and creed/Like grace pouring out, far as the eye can see/Singing praises up to a King/’Cause He died for a crowd/Deep as it is wide.”
While recording the vocal for ‘Here’, Amy was holding a baby girl who was born to an addict in the backseat of a car on a cold January night in Nashville. This light pop song finds God reassuring and calming us when we need it the most: “I am here in the dark/I’m the music in your heart/I’m the song in every corner of the sky/I am here in the light/In the thunder late at night/I am here, I am here/Here/I am here/I am here in the dark/I’m the song inside your heart/I’m the missing piece that you’ve had all along/I am here when you call/When you rise and when you fall/I am here.” ‘Shovel in Hand’ is performed with Will Hoge, who has opened for the likes of Needtobreathe, Sugarland¸and Shinedown. It is dedicated to Davis Porter Rice who only lived to be 20. The song begins with these blunt words: “oLife can change/In the blink of an eye/You don’t know when/And you don’t know why/Forever young/Is a big fat lie/For the one who lives/And the one who dies.”
Amy co-wrote ‘Golden’ with Chris Eaton and Marshall Altman. It includes angelic vocals and is soothing. It is a song of honesty and encouragement from a parent to a child: “You are young for a moment/For a moment you are young/And your song and your story/Well it’s only just begun/And the roads you will follow/Only time will tell/Some will feel like Heaven/Some like Hell/But you are loved/You are golden/And the circle won’t be broken/When you sail into the shadow of the storm.” ‘Our Time is Now’ is an upbeat, catchy pop song, driven by percussion. One of the co-writers is Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman. The song makes use of the talents of music icon Carole King, Amy’s five children, and even her father who has dementia! This song is about appreciating every day we have left on this earth: “Time is illusion/Time is a curse/Time is all these things and worse/But our time is now, ohhhhh/Yeah, our time is now, ohhhhh/Let us sing before our time runs out/I want to sing before my time runs out.”
‘Not Giving Up’ uses strings and talks about the extreme importance and power of our thought patterns: “If you think you’re gonna fail/Well, you’re probably gonna fail/So tell me, what was all the dreaming for?/And if you think you’re gonna lose/Well, you’re probably gonna lose/So what’s the point in trying anymore?/What you’re looking for, you’ll find/It happens every time.”
The title track ‘How Mercy Looks From Here’ is an inspirational song that finds Vince Gill on mandocello and mandolin. It was inspired by the great Nashville flood of 2010, the death of Amy’s musician friend Will Owsley¸the death of Amy’s cousin by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, and the marriage of Amy’s oldest daughter Jenny Gill. The song speaks of God’s faithfulness: “When you face your greatest fear/Losing all that you hold near/Open up your eyes my dear, my dear/That’s when boundless grace appears/Unseen angels hover near/Saints are singing loud and clear/Oh, how mercy looks from here (2X).” ‘Greet the Day’ penned by Amy Grant and Cindy Morgan, was inspired by a prayer Mary Chapman taught Amy in 1992. This cheerful sounding song includes these prayerful words: “Lead me to the ones I need/And to the one who’s needing me/I won’t assume the worst is true/And do the best that I can do/A word of kindness, I believe/Is heard throughout eternity/Hey, hey/This is how I greet the day/I greet the day.” The digital deluxe edition of the album includes the bonus tracks ‘Free’ and ‘Faith’ and the Target edition also includes the song ‘Threaten me with Heaven’.
HOW MERCY LOOKS FROM HERE is an album of great depth and maturity. It should be a real treat for Amy’s long time fans. Amy paints a picture of a God whose love knows no end. He longs for a relationship with each and every person He has created. Amy’s music and message is warm and inviting. The pictures of her accompanying this project are simply beautiful. I’m rating this CD 95%. For more info visit www.amygrant.com.