Cathy AJ Hardy
Openness can threaten some, while it refreshes others. Love Shines will refresh those who are ready for it.
With a voice that is a distinct blend of power and gentleness, Hardy clearly achieves her aim (identified in the album notes) that these songs, “will speak to your soul, comfort your heart, call you to life, hold you where there is pain, lift you up, and spark a taste of joy within you.” (Her voice is somewhere between Margaret Becker and Michelle Tumes, if you follow Christian music, and Bonnie Raitt and Tori Amos, if you do not.)
Producer Philip Janz has his fingerprint all over this album, and it’s the touch of an experienced professional. The vocals shine, the perfectly played and recorded pianos are both soft and deep while maintaining brightness when needed. The use of reverbs and other effects are skilfully placed to add, rather than to colour a clashing hue or to distract. The use of a wide array of instruments makes for a Celtic feel throughout much of the album, and the musicians seem well-guided to know when less is more, and when full throttle is called for.
The lead (and title) track has a Taizé feel, with a stronger verse and chorus division than what listeners of that genre may be accustomed to. Several tracks (3 and 8) are bluesy numbers, and while they fit the lyrical theme of the album, they stretch for the listener’s acceptance. The musicianship and feel is great on these tracks, with only one complaint: the organ. In both numbers, it’s either the wrong sound (too churchy and not New Orleans enough) or not quite right in the mix.
It’s not often explicit that God is the one who is being sung about, nor should it always be so, even when the work is classified as Christian art. While God is mentioned, the names for God are often left more general: Love, Giver of Life, One who is beyond all things, etc.
This openness might alienate some, but I found it comforting in this context. Those familiar with St. Francis of Assisi will resonate particularly with tracks 6 “Creator God (I Sing With the Earth)” and 7 “Hope of My Dreams (The Mountains Call),” as they reflect upon our ability to join with a creation that already praises the God who creates, sustains, and heals.
While expectation, getting up again, and hope are significant themes throughout, the idea of singing out these sentiments clearly envelops the last few tracks. Love Shines invites you to reflect on your journey, holds you in the presence of this Love, and releases you gently again.
Cathy Hardy is a songwriter, music instructor, and retreat facilitator living in Mission, B.C. An affiliate of the Mark Centre involved in leading contemplative retreats in Abbotsford, B.C., and on Pender Island, Cathy attends Highland Community Church (MB), Abbotsford.