It doesn't happen all that often, but every now and then, an will artist produce a landmark recording that not only functions as a benchmark against which every other work they produce is measured, but that also, in one way or another, influences nearly every other artist in their particular niche of the music world. While Christian dance-pop was hardly a non-existent quantity in the mid- and late '80s, it wasn't until the release of Amy Grant's 1991 six-times-platinum Heart In Motion album that the floodgates were good and truly opened. Within two years' time, newcomers like Lisa Bevill, Cindy Morgan and a very fresh-faced Nicole Mullen (then known simply as Nicole) were lighting up the Billboard and CCM Magazine charts. Making her debut roughly three years after the opening bows from the abovementioned artists, Trent's first few projects, like those of Bevill & Co., were carved from the same sparkling, danceable piece of wood as the ground-breaking Motion effort.
It's been a half-decade since Trent's last album (a near-eternity in music business years), and, if the bubbly textures of the new record are any indication, the resilient Michigan native - whose last two releases were penned in the wake of her husband's death in 2001 - seems determined to face the future with her toes tapping. Indeed, while many of her '90s contemporaries have long since stripped away all but the most cursory traces of rhythm and beat from their compositions, Trent's latest batch of songs still falls broadly into the category most hearers would label as dance music. To be sure, "Glow in the Dark" would hardly have sounded out of place on any of Kim Boyce's lilting late '80s outings. The insistently propulsive "Stronger Now" and "We're Letting Go," on the other hand, exhibit heretofore unexplored elements of synth-pop and house. And the title cut, "Sunny Days," which sounds like a very close cousin to tobyMac's 2012 single, "Me Without You," highlights Trent's continuing ability to fashion the perfect soundtrack for cruising long stretches of open road on a sun-drenched day with the top down.
In fairness, the better portion of Sunny Days lacks both the infectious melodic content and funk-filled grooves of Trent's pre-millennial material. Where early songs like "Someone 2 Love" and "Your Love Is 4 Always" could have slotted in on most club playlists alongside genre-defining New Jack Swing classics like Lisa Stansfield's "Been Around the World" or Bobby Brown's "Don't Be Cruel" without most patrons being any the wiser, even Sunny Days' fastest numbers lack the ingratiating syncopation and swagger that rendered Trent's nascent work so immediate. Likewise, while cuts like "I'm Running" and "Fall at Your Feet" are certainly invigorating enough and sound fine while they're playing, they lack the indelible hooks and melody lines needed to etch them into the average listener's long-term memory once they conclude. To be sure, it's more than a little telling that the most rhythmically-engaging entry on the project is a remake of Trent's 1997 Top Ten hit, "Welcome Home."
This isn't to say that Trent's fans should steer entirely clear of her most recent offering. For those who prefer latter-day tobyMac to early-period Lisa Bevill or Cindy Morgan, the new release will very likely be just what the doctor ordered. Similarly, the buoyant closing track, "Don't Let Him Be the Last to Know," is an unexpected treat; showing Trent to be surprisingly proficient in the pop-country arena. And her superb rendering of the 2008 Hillsong United praise anthem, "You'll Come," lends strong proof to the notion that the original plan to craft an all-worship album was - and, indeed, still is - a good one. Neither as cohesive nor unrelentingly catchy as her freshman or sophomore records, Sunny Days nevertheless equals, or tops, anything Trent has turned out over the last decade and a half. More importantly, it stands as a convincing and inspiring testimony to a tenacious and talented soul who continues to chronicle her ongoing journey toward wholeness and joy in the most appealing of ways.- Review date: 7/19/13, written by Bert Gangl of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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