Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Album Review: Big Love by Holly Renee Allen

Holly Renee Allen sings with a voice that’s older than her years. Lifetimes older. How else can you explain the emotion, texture, and soul that pour out of her petite frame? She used that incredible voice to garner tons of praise for her debut album Red Dirt Soul. She follows that success with her new album, Big Love. As the name implies, Holly focuses her attention on affairs of the heart. She explores the love of a woman for a man, the love of a mother for her child, the love of God for all God’s children, and even the love of a woman for her guitar. In a relaxed, “unplugged” session, Holly’s voice and lyrics take center stage on this album.
On the opener, “Back Home,” Holly sings a fond remembrance of her parents and the love that inspires good people to work themselves beyond the point of exhaustion just to build a better life for their children. She follows up with the album’s theme song, “Big Love.” Sharing intimate glimpses into the lives of two broken souls (as if she’s lived them both) Holly reminds us that even broken hearts can be mended if you surrender to BIG LOVE. Holly’s is the voice of experience that keeps telling us that there is a love that transcends romance. Singing, “Even on the verge of madness spinning out of control, when you get lost in life and run out of hope; you’re gonna find your healing in BIG LOVE.”
Holly explores the transcendent power of love on some of the albums other cuts like “Bigger Than Both of Us,” “Faith,” “Love is the Healer,” and the touching, “Pop Bottle Arney.” Showing her understanding of the depth and complexity of love, she tells the story of a mentally challenged child abandoned by his father. Teased by lesser hearts, Arney still finds his redemption in the power of his mother’s love: “Now the folks around here say he ain’t got no sense. I reckon everyone’s had a laugh at Arney’s expense. Just the other day at Gray’s grocery store, somebody asked Arney, ‘what’s the biggest word you know?’ Arney stammered and stuttered and broke out with a smile, and he said ‘LOVE stretches here on up to Heaven’s eyes’.”
Holly’s lyrical depth combined with her intimate, honest vocals resonate more like hymns than mere songs. Each song is a prayer and a meditation that washes over you like a musical baptism. These hymns to love remind me of the times in my own life when I was touched by BIG LOVE: when I felt the kindness of a stranger or when I was lifted from despair by the actions of a friend. And like those moments, BIG LOVE inspires me to be more loving in my own actions. I know that’s not a typical reaction to an album, but this is not a typical album. This album needs to be felt as much as listened to, and you’ll feel better for having listened.

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