Bill Bentley, Americana Highways – Once every few years a song appears that sounds like it’s always been here, something that has to be heard immediately. That’s Leeann Atherton’s “Smack Dab in a Miracle.” It rises and falls and fills in all the missing pieces like an answer to life. Atherton’s mighty voice is powered by that secret source of emotion, the one which cannot be questioned. And that’s just the first track on Atherton’s new album. Followed by a whole other side of the singer, “Joy” is a soaring ode to everything that turns up the fire and keeps things burning. It feels like it comes from several different styles, which are melted down into one. In fact, all twelve songs paint a portrait of someone who’s been chasing the sound long enough to know it’s the journey and not the destination that supplies the kicks, and eternity can often be found in the questions that never really need to be answered. For now, grace and giving is where this music lives, from top to bottom. And with producer-guitarist Mac McNabb so steadily guiding the players, these are songs that feel like they’re built out of stone, ones that were always hiding here until Leeann Atherton came along to free them with her strong voice and sure heart. Collections like this have a way of finding their way out of a dark corner and walking right onto the stage to grab the spotlight and demand to be heard. As a special sign-off, Atherton’s a capella “Motherless Children’s Club,” sung spontaneously at her mother’s memorial, reminds us all where we came from, and where we’re going. Right on time.