Prime Cuts: Be Not Afraid, Panis Angelicus, Alone With My Faith
Overall Grade: 4/5
When we think of Harry Connick Jr., we remember his crooning behind romantic chick flicks such as "When Harry Met Sally." Or we think of his brassy takes of those Cole Porter's standards or his innovative nu-age jazz records such as "She" or "My New Orleans." But a Christian-themed album? The pandemic is his inspiration: the lockdown has challenged Connick to do some soul-searching and he has decided to return to his Gospel roots as a means of finding solace and comfort during such troubled times. Therefore, Connick has decided to make this record all by himself. Not only did Connick produced the record, he played every instrument on the entire album.
"Alone with My Faith"contains 13 songs, 6 of which are originals with the rest being Connick's unique takes on traditional church hymns. Let's start with the originals: the title track "Alone With My Faith" sand "Benevolent Man" set the template for the album. They are basically piano-based ballads with the highlight on Connick's tenor. The song "Alone with My Faith" has that "demo" feel as though Connick is still constructing the song's bridge as he records. Best among the self-written set is the assuring "Be Not Afraid," a contemplative ballad that warmly reminds us of God's presence.
Connick kicks off "Look Who I found" with those brassy New Orleans' horns. Then he does a Prince-like take on "Thank You for Waiting (For Me)" with its multiple chord changes and Connick's swirling vocals. Meanwhile, the use of a choir in "God and My Gospel" gives the song an old-time Gospel feel accompanying by a stunning electric guitar riff. The covers, on the other hand, are a tad on the predictable side with oft-performed hymns such as "Amazing Grace," "How Great Thou Art" and "The Old Rugged Cross." Most interesting take is Connick's interpretation of "Old Time Religion," which could snuggly find a place on his "My New Orleans" album.
Step into church with the organ-accompanied "Panis Angelicus" and be ready to clap along with Connick's rousing take of Bill Gaither's "Because He Lives." "Alone with My Faith" may be Connick's first attempt into Gospel music, but it contains all of Connick's deft fingerprints. It's innovative, daring, fresh, and varied. Just as jazz music knows no bounds in Connick's hands, the same goes for this Gospel record.