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Sounds like … some of the biggest examples of inspirational country today, including Carrie Underwood and Brooks & Dunn, as well as country-flavored offerings from Christian pop artists like Casting Crowns and Third DayAt a glance … Believe is a good collection that introduces the rise of inspirational country in recent years, but it has to reach too far by to fill the album with artists outside the genre and songs that only skim the surface when it comes to Christian faithTrack Listing Jesus, Take the Wheel—Carrie Underwood Who You'd Be Today—Kenny Chesney God's Will—Martina McBride Stained Glass Masquerade—Casting Crowns Believe—Brooks & Dunn I've Always Loved You—Third Day Go Tell It on the Mountain—Sara Evans When I Get Where I'm Going—Brad Paisley (featuring Dolly Parton) Postcards—Cindy Morgan This Is God—Phil Vassar Perfect Day—Josh Bates
In the great tapestry of musical genres, country has long remained close to CCM and Southern Gospel, naturally so with Christian faith part of the heritage of many Southern-bred artists. But the term "inspirational country" is still relatively new. Some consider it a legitimate sub-genre, and a young industry that's even developed its own awards show. Others see it more as a trend that's only begun to take shape in recent years, but certainly one that's on the rise as evidenced by recent best-selling inspirational projects from Alan Jackson and Alabama.
Either way, the surge has caused record labels to sit up and notice. Provident/Sony/Arista felt prompted to promote their artists with Believe: Songs of Faith from Today's Top Country & Christian Artists (which ), calling attention to some of the biggest names and songs considered to be inspirational country. (Word/Warner released a similar project of their own the same month, entitled Three Wooden Crosses: 17 Inspirational Songs from Today's Top Country Artists.)
One has to conclude that the success and popularity of American Idol winner Carrie Underwood has played a huge part in establishing the genre, thanks to her breakout, award winning hit "Jesus, Take the Wheel"—a prototype if there ever was one with its fusion of country storytelling, pop production, and clear-cut lyrics of faith-inspired surrender. Similarly, there's Brooks & Dunn's award-winning smash "Believe," a mellow organ-driven ballad about the sustaining power of faith and the hope of heaven. Brad Paisley's "When I Get Where I'm Going," a duet with Dolly Parton, is another favorite, very similar to MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine" by considering what heaven will be like someday.
Indeed, if Believe is truly representative of the inspirational country scene, then there seems to be a preponderance of songs focused on the great hereafter. Is belief in the afterlife and reuniting with lost loved ones enough to qualify a song like Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today" as "inspirational country"? What about reference to the Way to heaven? Songs like this and others in the genre might be "inspirational," but are they necessarily "Christian?" Is the genre intended to be subtle or broader?