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The Mercy Project is a new album featuring twelve of today's top female Christian artists. All the proceeds benefit Mercy Ministries of America, a non-profit organization that provides shelter for troubled girls with problems such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and eating disorders. Founder Nancy Alcorn's vision is to overcome these problems with education and the love of Christ. So now you know the album's heart is in the right place and buying it actually helps young women.
Artistically speaking, I found The Mercy Project to be a mixed bag, though it does have its good moments. It's nice to see the reemergence of several notable Christian artists. Christmas project aside, we haven't heard Amy Grant much, so her voice is a welcome addition to "Irresistible Love." Likewise, "We Cannot Hide It" is enjoyable because it seems too long since we've heard from Christine Denté (Out of the Grey). Kim Hill's "New Eyes" and Jill Phillips' "Love Is Relentless" are both a welcome breath of fresh air to The Mercy Project — the only truly upbeat tracks on an album filled with ballads and middle-of-the-road adult contemporary. The one truly stirring song, for me, was interestingly enough performed by April McLean, the one artist on the album with whom I'm not familiar. Her song "Inside Out" is the most beautifully written and performed track on the disc, and I'm looking forward to more of April's music.
Otherwise, most of the disc feels too much like cookie-cutter Christian pop. Though lyrically encouraging, the songs just don't compare to the power, beauty, and sadness expressed in last year's Streams project. And with just a couple of exceptions, most of the songs on this album could have been sung by any of the women who worked on this project. The instrumentation varies a bit from song to song, but mostly the songs are interchangeable. It's nice to hear Amy Grant and Christine Denté again, but their songs aren't as moving or as exciting as either one's past work. Worship leader Darlene Zschech, who wrote the new classic "Shout to the Lord" and has such an incredibly powerful voice on her live worship recordings, sounds too tame on her contribution, "Kiss of Heaven."
The album accomplishes its goal, and it certainly will find an audience. The collection of artists and vocal talents is indeed admirable. The songs are thematically related, offering God's love to the unloved and his hope to the hopeless. And the project helps a worthy cause. Still, I can't help but be reminded of the recent Roaring Lambs project, which also boasted an impressive roster of artists performing relatively under-whelming music (compared to each of their previous works). The Mercy Project doesn't move me as much as the Streams album did, because the level of artistry isn't up to par, but it is good enough to earn a place in many listeners' hearts.