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Various Artists

Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest of Us – 2012 (Mercyland)

Reviewed by Bob Gottlieb

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This project was set into motion by Phil Madeira, who produced, had a hand in writing most of the songs and assembled the wide variety of musicians. There are musicians as renowned and varied in style as Buddy Miller and The North Mississippi Allstars as well as such far lesser known artists as Mat Kearney and Cindy Morgan. Emmylou Harris (Madeira has been in her band) summed up the idea very well: "Not all hymns are found in the pocket on the back of the church pew. Here are some for your consideration from folks who set up their tent out in the left part of the field." These are not songs you will find being sung in houses of worship now with the exceptions of Lights In The Valley and I'll Fly Away. Many of these songs reflect positive messages of love and the dignity of those that practice this love of their fellow beings.

The diversity of artists Madeira reached out to led to a wide variety of musical genres here from the almost throwback sound that is modern of The Carolina Chocolate Drops to Shawn Mullins' new electric sound to the soft folk sound of Amy Stroup to the beautiful interplay of John Scofield's electric guitar and Al Perkins' soulful pedal steel guitar, so many of these would fit right into a church service. They are songs about respect and love for one's fellow human being, not necessarily about a religious personage, which makes them even more meaningful.