Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Hillary Scott spends most of her time known as being one-third of Lady Antebellum. With the group on a bit of a hiatus, Scott took a sharp left turn with a spiritual album recorded with her mother, Linda Davis, father, Lang Scott and younger sister, Rylee.
The release grew out of the death of Scott's grandfather in 2011, which drew the family together to grieve through religious songs. Here, they merge country ("Safe Heaven" with lots of pedal steel from Dan Dugmore), pop country (the most upbeat song here, "We March On"), bluegrass and gospel ("Sheltered in the Arms of God') into a collection that sounds fresh and invigorating.
Ricky Skaggs produced, and he keeps the focus on the vocals, a good thing because these Scotts can sing. Hillary takes most of the leads, but Davis' voice has aged in a good way ("Sheltered in the Arms of God") and Lang Scott along with Davis offer harmony vocals to subtly give backing to their daughter. Christian music superstar Steven Curtis Chapman adds his sterling vocals to "The Faithful Love of Jesus," while they and Skaggs (he also sprinkles mandolin in the musical mix) trade lines on a stanza.
Skaggs also had the musical acumen to ensure that the music didn't overwhelm the singers, most of the time. It's also a family effort with Skaggs' wife Sharon and sister-in-law Cheryl White helping out on the more soulful "The River (Come On Down)," which is almost thwarted by drums and electronics. In an ultra-smart move, Hillary Scott leads the late closing charge with a snippet of "Down in the River to Pray," best known from Alison Krauss' version for "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" The choice comes out of left field, but flows perfectly.
So does the album overall. Yes, Hillary Scott is front and center as she ought to be. Her take on the tender, soft and most heartfelt "Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)" is simply beautiful with strings smartly added. It's more of a family affair on their cover of "Love Remains," a 1996 hit for Collin Raye. Rylee sweetly tackles Hillsong Church's "Your Unfailing Love." And Lang assumes lead on the closing "Ain't No Grave," far more upbeat than Johnny Cash's take.
Hillary Scott deserves much acclaim for putting out the type of music she wanted, particularly compared to the far more mainstream sounds of her main gig. She gets more than a little help from her family in an album where faith rings true and so does the music.