They're the darlings of Christian radio. Each album seems to have a slew of hits that can be heard at any given moment across the country. Their last album, All That Is Within Me, once again reached the top of both Christian and mainstream charts. Now, MercyMe's lead singer, Bart Millard, returns to us with his second solo-project, which coincidentally is also his second hymns project, aptly titled Hymned Again.
The first thing you'll notice is that Millard presents these hymns in a fashion that is familiar and comfortable. The range in style includes some bluegrass, jazz, southern gospel, and pop. All of which, on the surface, sound quite interesting, but you quickly realize that it isn't something you haven't heard before. Actually, many of the songs come off feeling stale as similar arrangements have been overdone before.
Outside of style, there is very little difference in the arrangements than what you would find in a hymnal, outside of a nugget here and a nugget there. Diversity in lyrical arrangements and vocals would have helped to keep the listener interested, but I often found my attention wandering until the next song started. The diversity of style does bring you back, but again you find yourself lulled into more of the same.
The one original song on this collection is "Jesus Cares for Me." Millard calls on his Grammy award-winning friend Vince Gill to turn this song into a duet. It fits quite nicely on the record as it sounds like an existing hymn. The song has a soothing and relaxing style to it, which is a good contrast to some of the bluegrass and jazz that surrounds it. Christy Nockels also makes a guest appearance on the album in "I Stand Amazed," which has more of a pop influence and might be more what you'd expect to hear from the singer of MercyMe.
Another bright spot on the album is the big band style of "Victory in Jesus." Going against the grain, the upbeat, blaring trumpets make for a fun rendition of one of the most beloved hymns. While at first you may think that the style doesn't exactly compliment a song that speaks of the "groaning" of Christ as he suffered, you soon find yourself bebopping and singing along.
Hymned Again is a record that's probably going to resonate with two types of people - those who love hymns, regardless, and those who enjoy the particular styles it contains. However, there's a large segment of people this one is going to miss as well. With an abundance of hymns projects in the last five years (not to mention the fact that most Christians have grown up hearing them every Sunday), it would be nice to hear something a little more interesting, dynamic, and dare I say "edgy?" If you happen to find one that pulls that off, please let me know.- Review date: 8/16/08, written by Matt Johnson
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