Idol Chatter

millard_hymnedagain.jpgThe best part about “Hymned Again,” Bart Millard’s second solo album of updated (familiar and unfamiliar) hymns is his powerful and buttery voice. As part of Christian band MercyMe, Millard’s voice is always what stands out, adding that extra punch to the catchy rhythms of the guitars, drums, and keyboard.
In “Hymned Again,” Millard’s voice blends perfectly with a new range of sounds that are influenced by brassy New Orleans jazz, smooth country and bluegrass, and some easy gospel and soul. You’ll hear banjos, ukuleles, trumpets, and–what sounds like–a clarinet. If you liked Jars of Clay’s bluegrass venture, “Who We Are Instead,” you’ll like Millard’s take on mixing hymns with bluegrass and country. Even if you didn’t, you’ll still like this album.
As with Millard’s MercyMe songs, the ones on this album are guaranteed to set your arms waving and your body swaying through impromptu dance steps. The first track, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” sets the tone for almost all the songs that follow–full of exploding energy and strong rhythms. There will be times when some sounds seem a little too familiar, influenced by other bands perhaps, but still every song has a clearly different style and they ease into each other in a coherent way. “What a Day” and “Victory in Jesus” have a slight swing and 50s doo-wop feel, while “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “I Saw the Light” are clearly straight bluegrass. “I Stand Amazed” has a classic worship and praise sound, which is appropriate since Millard sings it with Christy Nockels, who is part of Passion.

My personal favorite is “Grace That Is Greater,” the last song on the album. With its soft and melodic ukulele strumming, the song will evoke comparisons to Jack Johnson and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Personally, I find Millard’s voice is best when it’s allowed to shine and stand out; it loses something when softened and mellowed in “Jesus Cares for Me,” which Millard sings with country artist Vince Gill.
Still, with 11 tracks on this really fun and listen-worthy album, disliking 1 isn’t such a bad thing.

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