Hillary Scott hasn’t abandoned her country origins on Love Remains, but she and her newly formed family band did find one particular source of inspiration for her latest album away from Lady Antebellum; her religion. Love Remains follows the trend of country artists turning to Christian roots, in this particular case fueled by the passing of her grandfather, collecting original material and covers of hymns and other religious songs together. It doesn’t take this theme lightly, and runs wild with it throughout the album, though it’s got a few moments of real inspiration that help to make things a little easier.
Given that Love Remains can be considered a partial cover album containing popular religious hymns, it’s no surprise that the religious themes run so heavy handed, and with that does come a sense of sappiness when viewed in the eyes of someone outside of its target demographic. Sheltered in the Arms of God is particularly guilty of this, with its overly dramatic swells of strings and vocals battling to be heard above them creating a grand, sweeping image that reads as just a little too over the top for such a song. This isn’t always the case, with alternate cuts like The River placing the gospel backing vocals as the focal point, making for a more literal take on the gospel style that feels nice alongside all of the heavier country cuts and those that bury themselves under their instrumentals. For the most part, the covers tend to be hit or miss, more often leaning towards the latter.
The original material, however little there may be, is much more striking. Thy Will twists the album’s religious imagery in a different way, having been written by Scott herself as a direct letter to God; fueled by a miscarriage in 2015 and her reaction to the event, Scott sounds connected to the material in a way that the covers never manage to achieve, and the increased emotions make for a much more powerful moment on a somewhat surface level album. Fellow original track Self Haven, focusing on her grandfather’s passing, blends in with the rest of the album more than Thy Will, but feels somewhat distinct thanks to the personal spin Scott placed on it.
With the album’s covers being a very hit or miss affair and the original material being strong but sparse, it leaves Love Remains in a strange place. As part of a very particular niche of music, and one that differs to the work of Lady Antebellum despite remaining within the same genre, it’s solid; it’s built to appeal to the religious folks among us, and this is a job that it fulfills to full effect. Had there been more truly emotional, original and relatable moments like Thy Will, it may have even found a wider audience.