review by Michael McCarthy
“I’ll still be here when the troubles come / Here I stand / On the rock of your love,” sings the late Kenny Rogers, who passed away Friday night at the age of 81, on “The Rock of Your Love.” The inspired track hails from his now final album, The Love of God, released in 2019. It’s God’s love he’s singing about on the song – and on the rest of the record – but you can easily make it about whoever you’re leaning on for support in these dire times.
Elsewhere, on “He Showed Me Love,” he sings, “He gave me strength to carry on / I just put my faith in Jesus / Let him take my hand / I know he’s gonna lead me to the promised land.” There’s something so tender and genuine about the way he sings it – you might not believe in Jesus, but you will believe that he believed in him.
Rogers also delivers a touching cover of “Amazing Grace” here. Other singers have taken it to higher notes and delivered it with more gusto, sure, but one has to appreciate how he conveys the message without using the song as an opportunity to show off. Granted, his voice wasn’t what it once was when he made The Love of God, but an old school country guy like Rogers surely would’ve taken the laid back approach even if his voice could have gone wider. He was earnest like that.
I suppose the album might be a put off if you’re an atheist, but for those who believe in a higher power, it’s a mighty inspiring record that just might be the rock you need right now. I recommend you listen to it loud enough for it to all but drown out your anxious thoughts and let it take you on a journey to a place full of hope and promise.
Finally, I have to take the opportunity to praise Roger’s criminally underrated 2013 album, You Can’t Make Old Friends. In my book, it’s mandatory listening, ranking right up there with The Gambler and his other classic records. The title track alone, a sweet duet with his friend Dolly Parton, is worth the price of the album. The quality of the songwriting on this affair is top-notch all around. On “You Had To Be There,” a son meets his father – who’s in prison – for the first time, telling a story that’s reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. Then there’s the “Dreams Of The San Joaquin,” an epic, six-minute song about immigrants struggling to make it here in the States so they can send money back home. “Every day I struggle / With the distance and the fear,” he sings. “That I will not return / Or find a way to bring you here.” Like the rest of the album, it’s deeply affecting.
You Can’t Make Old Friends is my fave Kenny Rogers album in a great many years. Some sweet songs there like you pointed out. “You Had To Be There” is def my fave.