sometimes, the least religious interpretations of religion teach us the most about what faith means. the traditional christian hymn “amazing grace” has an amazing backstory of its own, written by the 18th century slave trader john newton whose life turned around after several near death experiences. newton’s expression of amazement, however, finds little resonance with the disenchanted world today that shrugs its shoulders at any form of institutionalized religion. it is in this regard that cat power‘s revision of the hymn does some work in restoring the meaning of amazing grace as not some abstract theological concept, but as a saving reality realized in all its fullness by “a wretch, just like me“. the thing about this version that brings me to tears is the way chan marshall inhabits the song and wrestles it in the first person, at times holding on so tightly to the freedom promised, and at others loosening her grip (“you know the rest“), but never ever losing sight of the respite for her own wretchedness, which she knows so well. have a grace-filled christmas, all ye wretches. – dan.
“amazing grace” is taken off the red hot compilation dark was the night released earlier this year. do support the organization’s efforts in raising awareness about AIDS by purchasing your own copy of the album.