Artist:  Amy Grant
Title:  "Rock of Ages … Hymns & Faith"
Label:  Word/Curb

Imagine the liberation that a successful 28-year recording career affords an artist. There's no analyzing the radio charts, second-guessing musical trends or reconciling one's true self with the celebrity portrait. Amy Grant, who celebrates her 20th release with "Rock of Ages ... Hymns & Faith," displays such artistic freedoms on her latest collection of updated standards.

With the twangy chords of “Anywhere with Jesus,” the iconic singer starts the disc off by putting foot-stomping energy behind an old-time country feel. Though still reverent, the album opener shows that Grant can reinvent a worship song with the same spark that helped her reinvigorate pop music during her commercial prime. Elsewhere, the singer harnesses the beauty of a choir on “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” as easily as she captures the mood of a bluesy ballad on “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.” From the upbeat “Joyful, Joyful” to the gentle piano-and-strings of “God Moves in a Mysterious Way/The Lord Is in His Holy Temple,” "Rock of Ages" marries simplicity and tradition with inspiration and reinvention.

Grant's new album, a follow-up to 2002's gold-certified "Legacy... Hymns & Faith," also features a new version of “El Shaddai.” The original appeared on Grant's 1982 breakthrough, "Age to Age." Back then, as bands like J. Geils and the GoGo's topped the sales charts, "Age to Age" scored the budding star her first Dove and GRAMMY Awards. Throughout the years, “El Shaddai” remained one of the disc's most memorable songs, so in a sense, Grant actually updated her own classic. Not that anyone's complaining. ...

Ultimately, for a prolific artist like Grant, each new album is viewed through the vast prism of songs that came before it. She's surely stretched her musical wings in years past, but "Rock of Ages" reveals someone who's moved beyond the commercial markers by which so many artists judge themselves and others. With help from producers Brown Bannister (Steven Curtis Chapman) and Vince Gill (Amy’s husband), the accomplished singer found a way to use the vintage sounds of Americana, folk, gospel and bluegrass to give the classics a modern twist. By those standards, Grant's wingspan is wider than ever.

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