ALBUM REVIEW: LeAnn Rimes Excavates and Empowers With ‘God’s Work’
On the opening track of her new album, god's work, LeAnn Rimes has an important question: "How much pain can we bear being human?"
It's clear from the twelve tracks that make up this album that Rimes has spent much time contemplating this question and others like it — A lifetime considering them, perhaps. Like most great questions of the heart and spirit, we each have our own answer. For just over forty-eight minutes, Rimes invites us to sit with what she's discovered — and she's found that we can bear a whole lot.
On "How Much a Heart Can Hold," a track she co-wrote with David Francis Baerwald and longtime collaborator Darrell Brown, Rimes delivers a stunning vocal performance, allowing her voice to undulate between being delicate and robust. She sings, "You take on me I take on you / God knows it's not an easy thing to do / But, we have a lifetime for us to prove / How much a heart can hold."
And thus, Rimes reveals to us the theme of her album. We can bear unbearable loads so long as we let ourselves give and receive love.
god's work is infused with global sounds and influences, and more often than not, a joyous celebration alive with primal needs and feelings. Some of the most successful tracks on the album are the tracks in which Rimes joins forces with fellow musicians, making this celebration a communal one.
On "The Only," Rimes embraces a reggae-inspired groove and brings her voice together with Ziggy Marley, Ledisi and Ben Harper. The song's message is as uplifting as its beat, reminding us that the only way to get through this life is by supporting one another.
Later, Rimes teams up with Sheila E. and Mickey Guyton for a rousing renunciation of the patriarchy on "The Wild," one of the album's greatest tracks. With hypnotic backing vocals and insistent percussion driving the song forward, Rimes urges us not to shut the wild parts of ourselves out.
Rimes was raised as a Southern Baptist, but it is not the fire and brimstone God who reigns over this album. In a statement, Rimes says, "god's work was all about a journey of reclamation, where humanity meets spirit."
Stylizing the word god with a lowercase g was international for Rimes as it represents her own evolving journey with the concept of god.
"The idea was to really dig into the duality of life, and I needed to be at the place I am in my life now in order to release this record whole-heartedly. It's so empowering that I am finally there."
Her empowerment is deeply felt, especially on the album's closing track, "I Do."
Written by Jon Levine, Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins, Sarah Solovay and Jay Stolar, and performed as a duet with Aloe Blacc, the track is an ode to growing from life's ups and downs.
They sing, "Everything before us / Was stretching out my heart just / So it could be big enough to beat for two / Never understood why / People always say love chooses you / But now I do."
The lyrics are emotional, but the most moving thing about the song is the exquisite vocal performance delivered by Blacc and Rimes.
Rimes has undoubtedly allowed her heart to be stretched. The hope is that we will, too.