Carrie Underwood and producers of the 2017 CMA Awards chose the Christian hymn “Softly and Tenderly” to remember musicians and country music dignitaries who died in 2017, as well as the 58 people killed during a shooting at the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival.
While her performance was emotional, a case could be made that several other country covers of the song are as good or better.
Hank Williams may have been the first country star to cut it, if only because he was among the first country stars. His version was released in 2008 as part of The Unreleased Recordings, and the traditionalist’s version strays little from his sincere, earnest style.
Reba McEntire asked friends Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood to join her for this song as part of her Christian album Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope, released in 2017. The trio’s version is more heavily produced, with piano, bass and guitar complementing the vocalists.
Of course Amy Grant has a version of “Softly and Tenderly.” Her dramatic arrangement starts dark before the Christian vocalist rises to offer a wonderful moment of divine inspiration. Grant’s version is a part of her 2002 album Legacy… Hymns and Faith. You have a great ear if you recognized Vince Gill‘s guitar work on the song.
Dolly, Linda and Emmylou
The Trio was an all-female supergroup made up of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. They cut “Softly and Tenderly” for their 1994 album, but it wasn’t released until 2016 as part of The Complete Trio Collection. The women expand on the song, taking it to over five minutes long but the vocal performances are worth every note.
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