Songs of Inspiration II
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2007 1 Mar
- I Am a Pilgrim
- Church in the Wildwood
- Will the Circle Be Unbroken
- If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again
- Down By the Riverside
- Precious Memories
- Lonesome Valley
- The Refrain of John Dillon James
- Love Lifted Me
- When It Comes My Time
- One Life
- The Star Spangled Banner
Last October, country group Alabama released Songs of Inspiration, their first album in five years. A mere five months later, Songs of Inspiration II hits stores. Was a sequel planned all along? Or was it hastily recorded in response to the success of the first Inspiration, which debuted at the top of Billboard's country and Christian album charts? Perhaps it goes to show how much Randy Owen and the band enjoyed recording their first album of hymns and inspirational country favorites.
There's more where that came from. Those who enjoyed the quiet country arrangements of the first will enjoy Alabama's rendition of "Precious Memories" here, as well as the western waltz "Love Lifted Me" (featuring backing vocals by Riders in the Sky). But this album also relies less on hymns, focused more on inspirational classics that the band grew up with. Both "Suppertime" (a Jimmie Davis oldie) and "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again" are sweet examples of Southern Christian nostalgia, and the story song "The Refrain of John Dillon James" has a traditional country feel.
Moreover, Inspiration II offers more upbeat songs like the classic "I Am a Pilgrim," the fast two-step "Down By the Riverside" (complimented by some nice soprano sax), "Lonesome Valley," and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (with vocals by The Del McCoury Band). The two originals on this album are also stronger than those on the last in music and message. "When It Comes My Time" looks hopefully to heaven, while "One Life" uses adoption, the West Virginia mining accident, and Jesus' sacrifice as examples of love making a difference in others' lives.
And though beautifully arranged, "The Star Spangled Banner" is the only misstep here, a patriotic inclusion that doesn't delve into the hymn's additional inspirational verses—plus it sounds odd to end an otherwise Christian-themed album with the American national anthem. But overall, Inspiration II's stronger country flavor gives it more variety and personality than its predictable predecessor.