Thursday, February 5, 2009

(bluebird) EP - Randall Goodgame

A whimsical singer/songwriter balances world-weary sentiment with hope

(bluebird) EP
Artist: Randall Goodgame (
Label: brite entertainment
Length: 6 tracks/23:09 minutes

You may have “heard” Randall Goodgame without realizing it. He’s written 15 songs for Caedmon’s Call and collaborated and sung with Andrew Peterson. In addition, he’s had three previous solo releases. His last, War and Peace (2004), included a three part ode to Charlie Brown. How can you not like someone who writes a song about that loveable loser? It’s indicative of the sometimes-whimsical nature of Goodgame’s songwriting.

On (bluebird) it’s the wistful lines that resonate. On the title song he sings, “Bluebird, bluebird, don’t you fly away. Bluebird, bluebird, don’t stay gone. Sometimes I’m up all night. Sometimes it just takes a bluebird, to write a song.” This is not about one species of our winged friends of the air. It’s a beautiful metaphor for the intense but complicated desire one feels for a lost love. It’s an extraordinary song that has more depth than the common fare about romance.

It’s also a masterpiece of pop. As it builds, every word and sound border on perfection. This and the next two tracks are my favorites. This middle-aged reviewer can relate to the struggle and world-weariness that are heard.

Goodgame’s pensive side is obvious on “All the Years.” “I’ve grown tired of all the years. I can feel my bones grinding down. I used to keep all my fears, but I've grown tired of all the years.” The chorus expresses a yearning for change and security, “Take me away; take me away my love. Can you find me a road I’ve never been on? Take me away; take me away my love. I’m tired. Can you just take me home?”

It’s the combination of longing and hope that make this such a delectable listen. You hear both on “Heaven Waits.” “Heaven waits. Heaven waits. There will be troubled times, but there will come a grace. Heaven waits. Heaven waits.” He longs for the day when he will see his Savior face to face. He imagines that “like a bird flown from the cage, all my questions (will) melt away.”

Musically, what makes this interesting is a subtle shift from the folk and Americana heard on previous releases to indie pop. Quinlan, the producer, adds light programming and fascinating production finishes that give Goodgame a slightly different sound. He has a great supporting cast that includes guitarist Andy Osenga (Caedmon’s Call), and his wife Amy once again provides backing vocals. John Catchings, the celebrated cello player, is part of the occasional strings that are heard.

The new sound is also partly due to an instrument change. Goodgame has gone back to writing with a piano rather than a guitar. He grew up with the piano, and it’s the instrument that he finds the most comfortable.

“If I had forty-two dollars, I would grant myself a loan,” Goodgame sings on the opening of “Jubilee,” the last track. At first I couldn’t comprehend what he meant by these words. Then it dawned on me that Israel’s jubilee every fifty years was the time when debts were forgiven and captives set free. It’s playful and creative way of looking forward to the time when all sorrow and suffering will cease. This is a rousing gospel song that takes a brief but delightful detour into the chorus of “Unclouded Day.” It sounds like Darwin Hobbs on an uncredited guest vocal.

Goodgame spreads his wings on this release and soars high. Grace and hope undergird the realistic perspective on the trials of life. This bird is worth repeated listens.
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