Monday, October 16, 2006

CD review: All Right Here

Sara Groves is one of the most talented singer-songwriters currently recording. Her honest words go straight to the heart, and her music often takes unexpected and interesting turns. The fact that she is a devout Christian limits her audience in an era where it's OK to be honest about anything except a belief in God.

So I would recommend her album All Right Here to anyone who'd like a taste of this lady but is off-put by Jesus. No, she doesn't disguise that aspect of her life - heck, the closing song is "Jesus, You're Beautiful" - but she spends a good chunk of the album writing and singing about more general themes. "Every Minute" is about friendship; "Fly" is an amazingly sensual song to her husband, Troy; "You Cannot Lose My Love" is for her infant son - all three of those songs are so achingly sincere that you want Sara as your friend, your wife, your mom.

"Just One More Thing" catches the tendency to let all of the pressures in life steal time from the important things ("Love to me is when you walk out on that 'one more thing' and say 'Nothing will come between me and you'"). "Tornado" is a nifty fusion of country, jazz and bluegrass that sings about a lost love in a way that would feel right on any radio station that played country, jazz and bluegrass - if there was such a station. For unapologetic contemporary Christian music fans, there's "First Song That I Sing," the catchiest praise song since Amy Grant's legendary "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," and as if aware of that fact, Groves merges the two songs in a glorious climax.

The title track says it all - it's the sixth song on the album but it's such a great introduction that she played it first and second at two of the three concerts I've attended - "It's what is best and what is worse/It's how I see the universe/It's in every line and every verse/Oh, it's all right here."

In 2000 Sara Groves put out one of the all-time great CCM albums in Conversations, and she had the CCM magazine Album of the Year in 2005 with Add to the Beauty, a project so damn near perfect it reminds me of Carole King's Tapestry, but listening yesterday to 2002's All Right Here, I realized this is the album to hand to skeptics or even atheists and say, "Listen to what this lady has to say. If the Jesus stuff makes you queasy, just skip to the next song. You'll find something cool there." But you might even like the Jesus stuff.

(Reprinted from the Green Bay Free Radical)

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