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Various Artists

Amazing Grace 2 – 1997 (Sparrow)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Various Artists

Country has always maintained close ties with Southern gospel music, so the success of Sparrow's first "Amazing Grace" album was not surprising. A sequel features 12 gospel songs by a broad spectrum of country artists.

Lari White, who displayed gospel leanings before on songs like "Lead Me Not," turns in an great five-minutes-plus rendition of "There Is Power in the Blood."The incredible Kim Richey performs "A Beautiful Life" with her distinctively spare instrumental sound. Banjo maestro Bela Fleck plays his own arrangement of "Amazing Grace," and bluegrass band The Cox Family sweetly sings "'Neath the Old Olive Tree."

Two of the most beautiful male voices in country music, John Berry and Ricky Van Shelton, sing "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," respectively. On "Wayfarer's Stranger," the album's biggest surprise, Scott Hendricks perfectly frames Trace Adkins' deep voice with an acoustic production, rather than drowning him in hot new country. It's easily the best track Adkins has ever recorded and the highlight of a very good album.