Prime Cuts: I Surrender All, The Old Rugged Cross, Victory in Jesus
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
Lady A's Hillary Scott has done it. So have Reba, Alan Jackson, and Randy Travis. It is almost rite of passage these days for veteran country artists to record a hymn-collection midway through their career. After Underwood's hugely successful Christmas album last year, where she.did tackle some Christmas hymns, she has decided to record an album's worth of them. For Underwood, the pandemic has made her look more introspective as she looked inward to her own heritage and faith. Since she has had dabble with a hymn here and there before, she has decided to put her stamp on these treasured gems of the church.
Partnering with producer David Gracia (who worked with Underwood on her 2018 "Cry Pretty" album), "My Savior" features 13 hymns, with no newly crafted songs. Instead of adorning them with programmed beats, stadium-loud percussions, and wailing electric guitar riffs, Garcia and Underwood have decided to keep the backings rustic. Fans of traditional country or those who like their music relaxing rather than ear-boggling will love the harmonica instrumental of the album opener "Jesus Loves Me." The haunting sounds of the harmonica transports us to a time and place where life is simpler and more nostalgic. This segues into a gorgeous acoustic-guitar -led version of "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus." Underwood's addition of "oooh" in the chorus adds a personal touch to this familiar hymn that is refreshing.
Underwood is most soulful on "Just as I Am." She takes her time to nuance every word of this invitation hymn that Billy Graham had used countless number of times to close off his crusades. Those who like Underwood's soaring soprano will love her take of "Victory in Jesus," which also boast some bluegrassy influence that is noteworthy. CeCe Winans sounds assured and affirming on "Great is Thy Faithfulness." Rather than trying to out-sing each other, the ladies sound more united in their praises of our Creator.
However, the major weakness of this record is that this album is predictable. For those who have grown up with the hymn book, there's not really an "obscure" song in the offering. Moreover, Underwood doesn't do gymnastics with the tunes. She simply sings them with few different vocal intonations along the way. In fact, the instrumentation sometimes is more interesting than Underwood's singing. The Vince Gill-esque backing of "The Old Rugged Cross," for instance, is so intriguing that one would wish this was an instrumental rather than a vocal track.