Indie artist JJ Heller makes her national debut with Only Love Remains, bringing her intimate acoustic artistry to the world for the first time. While bearing a vocal style that at times closely resembles Sara Groves, Heller's approach to songwriting is strikingly different. Choosing straight-forward and sweet, over the more cryptic for a shot at profundity, Heller is able to create songs and pen verses that cut straight to the heart in ways not too commonly found in today's music.
Only Love Remains blends raw acoustic melodies with folk elements, forsaking big pop songs with radio hooks. "Only You" is a modest opener, asking the listener what kind of legacy they wish to leave on earth. Subtlty in the music is Heller's charm as her intimate vocals are complimented by soft acoustics and drumming. "Love Me" is a delicate folk song about finding worth in ourselves as JJ tells three stories of people wondering who will love them despite their imperfections. "Thank You" is a simple expression of appreciation to our Creator while "All The Beauty (Kati's Story)" incorporates strings and a more upbeat vibe that tells a story of redemption in Christ.
"Make Believe" is one of the standout tracks on Only Love Remains, a heart-wrenching acoustic ballad about a girl who's father walks out on her because he doesn't want the role of parenthood, leaving her with a desire to find him when she's older. Heller's emotional and tender story reaches a positive resolution, but it's the realism of the situation and the innocence of Heller's vocals that really bring life to the song. "Lullaby" is a beautiful little successor, a simple and short little tune with tender lyrics, "Close your eyes little one / This is your lullaby / The love of God is evident in the miracle of you."
"Everything Is Changing" breaks up the run of softer songs for a little more of an upbeat feel while "On My Own" is much darker, taking a look at guilt in sin with a sound that almost resembles a much more stripped-down Plumb. "On My Own" stands out as something completely different on the record and works just as well as anything else. The album wraps with the Groves-like "Garden Variety" and title track, the latter of which that offers prayerful, sincere lyrics like, "Please kill the liar / Kill the thief in me / You know that I am tired of their cruelty / Breathe into my spirit / Breathe into my veins / Until only love remains."
Only Love Remains is a beautiful collection of songs from a truly talented young singer/songwriter. It's a joy to see Heller being recognized for her craft enough to earn national distribution for this release and a chance to work with Grammy-winning producer Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay, Bebo Norman) and other Nashville names like Andrew Osenga (Caedmon's Call, The Normals), Jeremy Casella, and Aaron Sands (to name a few). If you like soft acoustic music with folk leanings and lyrics that stick with you awhile, Only Love Remains from JJ Heller is the right pick.- Review date: 11/15/06, written by John DiBiase
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