Prime Cuts: Call You Blessed, You Know, You Restore My Soul
Overall Grade: 4/5
Fans of CCM will remember Bethany Barnard as Bethany Dillon. During 2004 to 2009, Barnard (then known as Dillon) released 6 albums and she scored a collection of radio hits including "All I Need," "Beautiful," "All that I Can Do," and a stunning cover of Amy Grant's "Lead Me On." After which, she took a hiatus, married Shane and Shane's Shane Barnard, and raised a family. Barnard returned briefly in 2017 with "A Better Word;" she had no plans to follow it up with another record, until tragedy struck. This includes her own father's lengthy bout with illness leading to his subsequent death. This season of grief became her muse, inspiring Barnard with a renewed perspective of God's grace amidst her questionings. "All My Questions" is the ensuing effort.
One of the album's most winsome points is that Barnard has not resort to riding on the trendiest cliches or tropes. The opening lines of her latest single "You Know" is ready to stop you in your tracks when she sings, "Holy Spirit, you are bigger than depression." Unafraid of talking about issues that many people think as taboo, songs like "You Know," "Tears Are Smoke" and "From the Head Down" are therapeutic for those mired by grief but have no facility to articulate them. Many of these are prayers that one can use to bring our often-unspoken pain before God. Don't miss the tear-jerking biographical "I Was Listening to a Song," which reflects the day her dad passed away.
Moreover, Barnard does not just approach her song writing palette with an empty mind. Rather, she fills her mind with the words of scripture so that her lyrics are not just her random thoughts. They are instead words that have been marinated by God's word. "Your Comfort," for instance, is a great example. In showing us how to ground grief in the Gospel, the song uses 1 Thess. 4:18 as the template. The upbeat country tinged "Call You Blessed" is a gorgeous meditation of Naomi in the book of Ruth. Though most of the songs here are presented from her own personal vantage, "You Restore My Soul" sounds like a contender for corporate worship.
However, there's a major weakness in the record. Like many singer-songwriters who are eager to get their thoughts out, less attention is paid in developing strong melodic structures. "Who Else" is a prime example of a song that needs a stronger structure to make it stand-out. Also, a few of the piano ballads, just meanders and meanders along melodic lines that lack destinations. Other than these quibbles, "All My Questions" is honest, engaging, and filled with so much emotion that you can't help but be moved. Welcome back, Bethany!