Remember when Gladys Knight, the lead singer of rhythm and blues band The Pips, added LDS inspirational hymns to her already large repertoire of music genres? I think I am not alone in saying that, at the time, I wondered how Knight fans would feel when their favorite R&B singer began to work with contemporary Christian material. Was it possible the same singer that won a Grammy for “Midnight Train to Georgia” in 1974 could be the same singer that crooned “I Am a Child of God” in 2005? Obviously, my doubts were not only proven groundless, they were also completely obliterated—Knight has gone on to have great success with her latest musical genre, and she is a favorite performer with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
My point is that some bands/singers can change their established material or tone, and they can do so with great results. Such is the case with up-and-comer band Mercy River, the group comprised of all-mom singers Brooke Stone, Whitney Permann, and Soni Muller. The band’s first two albums, Mercy River and Beautiful Dawn, offered inspirational music with a Celtic tone, and they were wildly popular with the Mormon community and at events such as Time Out for Women. Nevertheless, the band has decided to take its music in a different direction with its newest album, Higher. Instead of evolving to inspirational jazz, however, Mercy River is trying out a sort of pop-country sound (think Hilary Weeks), and it’s really working well.
One of my favorite songs on the new album is “With Him I Can.” The song is greatly reminiscent of Vanessa Carlton’s style but with a message about finding hope and trust in God. The whole album is uplifting in a sometimes fun, upbeat way, and sometimes in a soothing, “Be Still My Soul” sort of way. There’s definitely something for everyone in this album, whether you’re a pop music devotee or an avid fan of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Higher, which hits stores February 29, features three original songs as well as eight new takes on old favorites. Fans of Mercy River will find this latest venture to be as uplifting, upbeat, and endearing as the band’s first two albums.