Billy Ray Cyrus

The Other Side – 2003 (Word/Curb/Warner)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Billy Ray Cyrus could have easily made a token religious album - one needlessly stuffed with all too familiar inspirational numbers and overused hymns. Instead, this is a collection of mostly unknown Christian-themed songs that is often autobiographical and rarely preachy. Too many times country artists (especially country artists!) make spiritual albums where they sound like they're sleepwalking through the material, just like a snoring Sunday morning parishioner that didn't get quite enough sleep the night before.

But even this album's one standard, "Amazing Grace," is treated as a blues-y workout, where Jordanaires-like backing vocals provide a slightly new twist. Rather than getting all "Left Behind" and theologically heavy-handed on his audience, Cyrus sticks to subjects most anyone (sacred or secular) can relate to. "Face Of God" speaks of seeing the love of God in the faces of children, for example, and "Always Sixteen" talks about the way real love is truly ageless.Over the years, it's been easy to have fun with Cyrus by calling him Mr. Mullet or 'That Achy Breaky Heart Guy.' But with "The Other Side," he deserves credit for doing a spiritual album the right way, because this 'other' side is also one of his better sides.