'Inspirational' but Uninspired

Who would have ever figured that the teenager who turned to Patsy Cline to get to the top of the pop and country charts last year would now switch to Debby Boone and Whitney Houston in hopes of staying there?

In her third album in just over a year, the 15-year-old unleashes her powerful voice on a dozen inspirational songs, starting with the title track, which was a No. 1 pop single 20 years ago, and proceeding through gospel-tinged pop ("Bridge Over Troubled Water") and patriotic numbers ("God Bless America").

All of which is great news for her record company and retailers. This album should be huge, especially during the holiday season. And there's a moment where the artistic results match the commercial potential: an a cappella passage, highlighted by "Amazing Grace," that is the most stirring thing Rimes has yet done on record.

Mostly, however, the album is a dud musically.

Instead of injecting intimacy and character into these songs, she pumps them up with melodrama. It's as if she sat down and studied Whitney Houston's overblown rendition of "I Will Always Love You" before going into the studio.

Next time, she ought to curl up with some country-tinged singers, such as Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, who know the value of subtlety and restraint.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).


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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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