It's been a big year for Miss Bethany Dillon. Her third album, Waking Up, released in April, she became engaged to Shane Barnard (of the acoustic duo Shane & Shane) this summer, and now she's released her second EP, So Far: Acoustic Sessions exclusively to the online music-buying public.
I'm absolutely a Bethany Dillon fan, but I have to admit that this EP is a great comfort to me as I recover from the overly CCM Waking Up. I found her latest full-length album to be over-instrumented and too "adult contemporary" for such a wonderful, young singer-songwriter. I can't listen to Waking Up without thinking, "Play something acoustic! Lose the electric guitar lead! Gimme more Beth and less PRODUCER!" Enter So Far: Acoustic Sessions. Cue my sigh of relief.
This is not new material. The songs haven't even been changed that much from their original versions, but the EP communicates the essential Bethany Dillon - a girl and her guitar. It's these two elements so many people have fallen in love with in Beth's live performances. It's these elements that lost their prominence in her latest full-length.
The EP opens with "Dreamer," with a sweet, rambling piano track to augment Bethany's characteristic rhythmic acoustic guitar. "The Kingdom" follows, almost entirely just voice and guitar. "All I Need," a personal favorite is next. If I close my eyes I can imagine she's singing this in my living room. Yet another example of the charm of this EP: the songs retain a very "live" feel, complete with the occasional teeny vocal mess up and kind of a dive-coffee-bar performance vibe.
Fourth is Bethany's signature "Beautiful." This is a much more pensive and ballad-y version than previous recordings. It's nice, although I prefer the version on the 2004 Beautiful Sessions EP. Waking Up's "Top of the World" follows. Why is it in a lower key on the EP than on the full album? I don't know, but I like it. If you're familiar with Waking Up, chances are you won't notice a difference in the acoustic version of "Let Your Light Shine" and the original version on the full-length album - at least until the chorus. No guitar here, but a lovely piano and minimal string accompaniment.
Overall, it's a satisfying mini-album for us Bethany Dillon purists. If you dig the adult contemporary angle, chances are you'll like it too. Maybe the positive response this EP is bound to receive will inspire our favorite guitar-wielding 19-year-old newly engaged Ohioan to give us more acoustic songs on future full-length albums. So whaddaya say, Beth?- Review date: 10/5/07, written by Miriam DiBiase
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