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Amy Grant’s album keeps a promise to her mom

By Walter Tunis
Lexington Herald-Leader

LEXINGTON, Ky. She might not have realized it at the time, but a specific muse guided Amy Grant as she set to work on her newest album, “How Mercy Looks From Here.”

Listen to the songs as unrelated works, and you might think several were by her side – spirits depicting her faith and family through stories of love, life and loss. The literal-minded might even suggest the high-profile guests helping her ignite these songs – talents including James Taylor, Carole King, Sheryl Crow, Will Hoge and, of course, her husband of 13 years, Vince Gill – could be collectively viewed as the muse at work.

But it wasn’t until “How Mercy Looks From Here” was completed that the inspiration, one Grant has known all her life, was revealed.

“I remembered a conversation I had with my mom a couple of months before she died,” said Grant, 52. “She was not quite in her right mind. She didn’t remember that I sang. But we really had this lovely visit. When I told her I had to go pack for a couple of shows that weekend, she was so enthusiastic, as though this was all new information. It was like, ‘You sing? Will you sing something for me now?’ So I chose an old hymn, because those old songs tend to be logged way deep in the memory. At the end of the conversation, she called out in a really upbeat manner, ‘When you walk out on that stage, sing something that matters.’

“So after all these songs came together … without even knowing it, I really kept a promise made to her.”

The songs on “How Mercy Looks From Here” were not written with Grant’s mother in mind. She said all songs are as specific in the inspirations that spark them as the audiences are that eventually receive the music.

“Every song has its own story. Every song stands alone. I’ve always believed that every song also finds its own audience, but that just happens one person at a time. So when you write a song, you have to determine what best communicates that song – instrumentally, vocally, everything.”

Leading the guest list on “How Mercy Looks From Here” was Taylor, a lifelong favorite. Finding the right song to share with him – in this case, the album’s first single, “Don’t Try So Hard” – took some time.

“I had asked James to sing with me for a record in the ’90s, and he was so quick to say yes. … But I couldn’t think of a voice I trusted more. His voice is the wallpaper of my entire life.”

Having Gill singing beside her on “Better Not to Know” and playing guitar on several other songs on the album was an affirmation of the music that is a vital, everyday part of Grant’s home life in Nashville.

“Just to have Vince always making music somewhere within earshot is one of the greatest gifts and experiences of my life. It’s hard to explain how grateful I am for that. …

“So to have Vince on my record, that’s me getting to share the amazing gift that I get to enjoy all the time.“

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