Barely six months after My Gift, Carrie Underwood follows a festive album with the gospel album which she has spent 15 years waiting to make. There was no doubt that once she’d done all the usual girl-singer stuff – woman scorned, woman in love, woman taking a Louisville Slugger to both headlights – she was going to get to sing to My Savior on an album of 13 tracks. She’ll play them on Facebook on Easter Sunday, with donations to Save The Children, at 11am Nashville time which is 5pm British Summer Time.
Softly and Tenderly, Blessed Assurance and Just As I Am are all tender, acoustic ballads that sound like Temporary Home. Carrie’s voice quivers, mostly over solo piano or strings, in awe of the Lord. We get hymns galore about the Holy Trinity: Great Is Thy Faithfulness is a duet with the Carrie Underwood of gospel, CeCe Winans; I Surrender All (‘to Him I freely give’) goes out to the Lord, Carrie’s biggest fan.
The Old Rugged Cross (‘the emblem of suffering and shame’) make the release topical, since the album will be played by thousands over Easter Week 2021. With acoustic guitar and some gentle backing vocals, this is the type of gospel-pop Whitney Houston may have moved to once she got too old for r’n’b.
One thing that Carrie and David Garcia (or the people funding this release, Capitol Records Nashville) must have known is that we don’t need the church all the way through. Thus Nothing but the Blood of Jesus and Because He Lives are given Mumford beats and guitars (played by the great Mac McAnally), Victory in Jesus is presented as an old country shuffle, and both O How I Love Jesus and How Great Thou Art, in the middle of the album, put echo on Carrie’s voice. The latter has a key change and is the best track on the album. I predict a viral hit for that one, perhaps even a top 10 smash. Ditto Amazing Grace, where guitar, voice and Buddy Greene’s harmonica intersect and then a kids’ choir of wretches join in for the last chorus.
Carrie literally takes us to church with her once-in-a-generation voice. The production, which glows throughout, is sometimes more drum-heavy than, say, a Reba McEntire or Alan Jackson gospel album was in the 1990s, since pop production has moved into the 21st Century. This is a proper digital era album, in the style of Josh Groban.
Perhaps Amy Grant is the main influence here, and she can’t go on forever.