Ginny Owens was one of the many talented female Christian pop artists that made a name for themselves in the late 1990's. Between her story (she has been blind since the age of two) and her captivating, soulful sound, it was easy to love her art. Not only is she still making new music seventeen years after her debut, but also she has outlasted so many of her contemporaries while remaining mostly under-the-radar, which speaks to her dedication to her craft and her ability to adapt to an ever-changing musical environment. Owens continues to remind us of her skills with her ninth studio album, and first independent album, Love Be The Loudest.
The album is bookended by a two-part track called "God Is Love," fading in at the start with a sparse musical backdrop (and revisited at the end as a trio with All Sons & Daughters), before leading into the coolly energetic "Come Alive" (an appropriate title for an album-starting track). This bouncy song roughly follows the well-known pattern for upbeat radio singles, but introduces a new electronic sharpness to Owens' music. "The Loudest Voice" (which serves as the title track) follows as another radio-styled number, and introduces the album's themes of love and bravery ("When I know you love me / is when I find that I'm free / To love the way you love me"). While these two tracks were nice, the album doesn't truly start hitting strong until "Love Looks Beautiful," guest starring Ellie Holcomb. This sets off a string of tracks that encouragingly build up their downtrodden listeners (most notably "The Way God Sees" with Mike Weaver, and overall highlight "The Fire"). Owens experiments with this electronic direction quite a bit on these tracks, but the core of her songs remain the warmth and soul that she has always displayed in her career. "Made For Loving You" and "How Much More" wrap up the original songs on the album in a style more reminiscent of previous albums, while new versions of her two most enduring songs, "If You Want Me To" and "Wonderful Wonder," provide an endearing mix of old and new.
One might think when they hear that Owens has offered up beat-driven, pop/EDM sounds that she is merely jumping on the bandwagon that is driving current pop music, but it doesn't take long while listening to this album to realize that simply isn't the case. I'm sure Owens intended to update her sound a bit, but the synthesized beats offered here are far from "bandwagon" sounds. I honestly would even argue that her personal style hasn't really changed, but that she utilizes modern pop sounds the same way she has long-utilized a piano or a guitar. It is very effective, keeping the heart and appeal of her music without succumbing much to the mere novelty of these sounds, which have been the downfall of other CCM artists that have tried to move in this direction, like The Afters or Sanctus Real of years past.
Like driving on the side road next to an Interstate, Owens' style has never really strayed far off the path of many pop artists in the industry, yet has been able to remain distinct. It helps that she is armed with a voice that makes up for its lack of force with its abundance of warmth, which adds a lot of depth to her thoughtful lyrics. With Love Be the Loudest, Owens embraces her new freedom as an independent artist with a cleverness and subtlety that is more prominent than in her previous material. The inclusion of guest artists, in particular, enhances this album greatly. One of the sure signs of maturity in an artist is when they allow themselves to take a backseat to the performances around them, whether vocal or instrumental, for the betterment of the project. So while none of the tracks truly stand apart from the rest of the pack, the overall album is cohesive and uplifting, and there is a lot to like about Love Be The Loudest as well. Most listeners would do very well in picking this one up.
- Review date: 12/21/16, written by Mark Rice of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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