Prime Cuts: Mamas (featuring Hillary Scott), Closer to God, No Place Like Home
Overall Grade: 4/5
In a genre which lack grit and teeth, Anne Wilson's debut album My Jesus sounds refreshing. Instead of recycling through the over-generalized and non-descript lyrics of many worship songs today, these 15 new songs are situated within narrative contexts of Wilson's upbringing and life in Lexington, Kentucky. Rather than sharing her faith out of the abstract, she brings three-dimensional situations, people, and feelings to her songs. And she tells her stories of faith via these people giving these songs a realism that is enthralling. In most cases, she and producer Jonathan Smith have embedded these songs with a modern country backing that Morgan Wallen or Chris Stapleton would be proud of.
"Scatter" opens the album on a high note. Declaring war upon Satan and his cohorts, this modern-day spiritual warfare anthem comes with its own ammunition in terms of its thunderous pop-rock drums that call to mind those cinematic Jim Steinman songs. "Devil" continues the same trajectory. Wilson is vocally on fire here; however, she is vocally buried under the avalanche of cascading electric drums. "Sunday Sermons" brings us back to Wilson's childhood church in rural Kentucky. The rustic sound of the banjo transports us into the church as Wilson reminds us how God can utilize an average pastor's message for his glory.
Lady A's Hillary Scott joins Wilson on the well-crafted "Mamas." A future Mother's Day favorite, anyone who has had ever had a mother will smile at the many heartfelt lines. More familial relationship is explored in "No Place Like Home." A stripped-down acoustic guitar backed track; this ballad presents many heart-warming vignettes of the times Wilson spent with her sister. Those who like 90s country will adore "Mansions." Anchored in John 14:2, "Mansions" is a song that celebrates eternal life and what Jesus has instore for those who are part of his kingdom.
The ballads "My Jesus" and "Closer to God" bring out a transparency to Wilson's faith that is affecting. However, if there is an area of weakness, it's that some of the songs tend to lack distinctive hooks. After a few listens, songs such as "Something About that Name," "That's What We Need" and "This House" tend to gel together making them sound like you are listening to a very long song. This is a perennial problem for many singer-songwriters when they write all or most of the songs on the album. Other than that, this is a fine debut album with attention paid to make you feel like you can be part of the songs' stories.