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So Far: The Acoustic Sessions

  • reviewed by Christa Banister Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Apr
So Far: The Acoustic Sessions
Sounds like … acoustic pop/folk that combines the styles of Jennifer Knapp, Jill Phillips, Vanessa Carlton, and Sara GrovesAt a glance … considering the artistic growth of last year's Waking Up, hearing the strictly minimalist on So Far is relatively boringTrack Listing Dreamer When You Love Someone We Can Work it Out Top of the World Hallelujah All I Need Beautiful Hero The Kingdom Let Your Light Shine

Music fans are persnickety when it comes to the old acoustic vs. electric debate. Just look at the stir created when artists like Bob Dylan, Caedmon's Call, and Bebo Norman tried to broaden their sound. Some embrace the variation, others noisily protest it.

Bethany Dillon's fans probably aren't as testy as the other Dylan's were, but there's still plenty of message board banter every time she releases a new album. Personally, I thought the lively musical experimentation on last year's Waking Up added significant depth to her rich, spiritual reflections on life and faith. Others disagreed, and that's probably why we now have So Far: The Acoustic Sessions.

Favoring the stripped-down, girl-with-a-guitar style that originally endeared her to countless fans, there are moments where Dillon is in fine form on So Far, particularly "When You Love Someone," which is even more meaningful now in light of her recent marriage to Shane Bernard (Shane & Shane). Christian radio favorite "All I Need" also benefits from a less-is-more makeover, showcasing Dillon's soulful vocals and the song's hopeful message.

Unfortunately, the unplugged approach doesn't sustain momentum over the course of So Far. Most of the 10 tracks lack distinction musically and vocally, ultimately sounding too similar to each other, whether it's the humdrum cover of The Beatles' classic "We Can Work it Out," the plodding pace of "The Kingdom" (a bright standout from Waking Up), or the plaintive praise of "Hallelujah."

Not that there's anything wrong with simple, unadorned accompaniment. Many folk artists last their entire career with just an acoustic guitar, but they sustain interest with their musicality—a key change here, a tempo change there, or an inventive chord progression. A good acoustic album sharpens the songs through the arrangements. So Far doesn't transform Dillon's material, it makes it downright soporific.

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