Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
After the glorious pop album live The Life' (and let's quietly forget about the frankly atrocious Christmas album in '98) I was expecting this newie to be a rampant pop feast like its predecessor but uh oh! Sadly, it's not quite there but don't dismiss the album too quickly as you'll find that it's a grower rather than a grabber, even if it's not an absolute classic in the Smith catalogue. More laid back than some of his stuff, the only song coming close to "Love Me Good" is the stomping "Worth It All" which shuffles along to a hooky chorus. Once more, Smith collaborates with one of his all-time songwriting heroes, Nik Kershaw, on the catchy "Hey You It's Me", but there is one song here which will become an MWS classic. The title song is just one of many songs in America that has recently been inspired by the martyrdom of high schooler Cassie Bernall. Inspirational in feel and complemented by the closing rousing chorus of bagpipes, on paper I admit this all sounds doubtful but it really works! Talking of inspirational, "I Will Carry You" is another outstanding song and features a gospelly choir to wonderful effect. Some of the ballads are a bit on the cloying sentimental side so "Anna" and "She Walks With Me" leave me cold, and the plodding "Reach Out To Me", which he co-wrote with Jars Of Clay mainman Dan Haseltine, isn't anything special. On the other hand, I do like the optimism and driving beat of "I Still Have The Dream". This just highlights the fact that this album is just a little on the patchy side. A couple of Michael's most inspiring songs ever, some pretty good pop and a few fillers mean that this isn't the classic you'd hoped for, but still worth checking out if you like Nashville style CCM.
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