“I’m on your side”
Truth be told, I wouldn’t normally listen to anything that falls under the Christian label on iTunes and so Alison Jiear’s album Inspirational hadn’t quite registered on my radar until someone passed me a link to the stunning version of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ that sits in the middle of this collection. A gospel adaptation on which she duets with Cynthia Erivo, it just crackles with fervour, from its gorgeous unaccompanied intro to its ecstatic finale and made me want to investigate more.
And it’s a fascinating collection (produced by Steve Anderson, how could it not be), not least because its ‘inspirational’ content is generally unfamiliar to me. The soaring slow-build of One God, popularised by Johnny Mathis and Barbra Streisand, is undeniable; hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’ has a certain rousing power; and if Christian rock anthems like ‘I Can Only Imagine’ don’t really do it for me at all, the passion which with Jiear imbues ‘Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) really makes you listen to every single word.
And when things are more secular, they’re no less heartfelt. Gently stirring songs like the rather beautiful ‘I’ll Keep You Safe’ and ‘To Where You Are’ suit the clarity and purity of Jiear’s voice here down to the ground, as does the powerful ‘Remember Me’ (An Anthem for Alzheimer’s Disease), the poignant subject matter close to her heart as her father fought the condition for 4 years before passing in 2014. A slowed-down ‘Both Sides Now’ is genuinely ruminative, its wisdom hard won and all the more affecting for it. The Christian label is thus unfair, or rather my presumptions about it are, as Inspirational shows off faith at its best, in its all-encompassing openness no matter what you believe in.