"Sounds Like Grace" – Synopsis
One magical day in Nashville a group of artists time travelled to capture the soul of a song and bring emotions to music for a documentary soundtrack. The film is a love story called, “Met While Incarcerated” about strong, successful women who’ve fallen for a man who is in prison for a violent crime.
The song is “Amazing Grace.”
No one who arrives to play in Addiction studios that day knows exactly what is going to happen. Singer Jadea Kelly has a mission, producer David Kalmusky has a vision, and session players Marc Rogers, Travis McNab and Billy Justineau are musicians known for their ability to move through musical eras, but live in the moment. Over the course of the day “Amazing Grace” gets re-designed to remember its darker roots. Four versions from four different eras use the instruments of the day echo in the loneliness of women whose only crime is loving a man in prison that the world would call monster.
It started when “Met While Incarcerated” producer Catherine Legge approached singer/songwriter Jadea Kelly to write music for the documentary.
“I was already a huge fan of Jadea’s music that I found by accident. Her voice is so pure and angelic but her lyrics are weighted with dark thoughts and emotions, the contrast in her songs had exactly the kind of tension this documentary does. Beautiful love stories about people who’ve done terrible things.“
Legge mentioned that she heard a version of Amazing Grace in the documentary because the song actually has really dark origins and it’s the rise from the depths that makes it all the more meaningful.
I loved the Willie Nelson version, in the minor key. It’s just so different than the gospel versions I was used to hearing and fit better with the people I was talking about. So I played it for her.
A couple of hours later Jadea was getting on a plane to Nashville. She sent Catherine a recording she made on her phone, singing the song and playing acoustic guitar.
It sent chills over me. She got it. She was saying everything I needed the music to say.
Jadea was doing some writing in Nashville and approached a producer and longtime friend David Kalmusky about the idea of telling a new story with “Amazing Grace” for this film. And so the journey began.
History of "Amazing Grace"
Amazing Grace is a song of deep meaning and origins. The popular hymn describing the profound experience of being lifted out of the darkness has been believed to be performed more than 10 million times annually, and recorded over 11,000 times.
The lyrics were written in 1772 by an Anglican Priest named John Newton. The song told of his dramatic religious conversion after a nearly dying in a shipwreck in 1948 during his years working as a slave-trader. Decades later Newton would become a priest and leading abolitionist. The lyrics were put to the popular tune “New Britain” and the two were first published together in 1947. Many believe that revivalist preachers of the era added versus written down by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” from 1852.
The song became a popular hit during the civil rights movement in 1970-72 when singer like Judy Collins’ recording spent 67 weeks on the charts peaking at #5. It was a hit on British radio and lead to a bagpipe arrangement by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards that has since become a staple tribute at memorials for fallen soldiers, police officers and firemen and a few versus performed by by President Obama at the memorial service following the tragic church shooting in Charleston, south Carolina in XXXXX.
The gospel hymn has since been made famous by artists Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, and Elvis. The version that inspired this new recording is the darker, minor key take made famous by Willie Nelson.