Sweet Simplicity | Posted November 14, 2011 Staff Reviewer
After a successful career with rock/pop act Sixpence None the Richer and fresh off her own solo release, the lead vocalist Leigh Nash brings her lovely and unique talent--recognizable to even the most casual fan in hits such as "Kiss Me" and "There She Goes"--to a new heartwarming collection of classic songs that make up Hymns and Sacred Songs.
The album kicks off on a high note with two of the most beloved hymns, “Savior, Like a Shepherd (Blessed Jesus)” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The full fledged folk take on “Savior, Like a Shepherd (Blessed Jesus)” could possibly be the best three-and-a-half minutes of the entire album, not only is the blend of string and percussion enjoyable but it fits effortlessly with Nash’s unique, mature vocals.
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is so sweet musically and vocally, it easily outshines every track that follows, and it’s difficult not to feel a sense of warmth alongside the heartfelt Nash.
This is then followed with a take on Katie Gustafson’s “Isaiah 55,” bringing the song to new heights. “Oh Heart Bereaved and Lonely” slows things down but lacks interest, and gets lost in the mix. Nash’s adaptation of “Power of the Cross” proves the album needed a little more piano and a little less string, although the string feel that drives the album seems to overpower Nash’s vocals at times while the piano not only suits her, it compliments her beautiful vocals.
All else seems to fall in-between. The pop-tune “Give Myself to You” feels out of place, as if it would fit more appropriately on Nash’s solo release Blue on Blue rather than a project like this; perhaps Nash just couldn’t help herself. The album then closes with “Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above” and “Be Still My Soul.”
“Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above,” originally released on the project Love Divine: The Hymns of Charles Wesley in mid-April, may just be one of the most moving adaptations recorded. While “Be Still My Soul” is simpler, musically compared to most of the tracks that came before it, the strings still overpower Nash a little too much in the mix; however, the whole thing comes together well enough to still standout and close the album nicely.
Overall this is a wonderful project; it does have its low points but nonetheless, it’s easily the best cover album released this year. Leigh Nash is better than ever. The beautiful new melodies and arrangements are not only refreshing but heartwarming. More than half the time the lyrics are sung so sweetly and poetically it’s difficult to imagine that most of these songs were written more than a hundred years ago.