Monday, February 27, 2017

God's Highway - Sandra McCracken


For those willing to slow down, God’s Highway offers substantial substance and is deeply reflective.

God’s Highway
Artist: Sandra McCracken (www.sandramccraken.com)
Label: Towhee Records
Length: 11 tracks/45 minutes

If you have a record player and can afford to pay a little more, consider getting God’s Highway by Sandra McCracken on vinyl. If you accept the idea that records sound better, you might feel justified once the needle drops. Why even my digital download sounds vibrant! How much more the grooves on a 12 inch? Plus, you will be helping to support an artist that has a heart for psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

The supposed warmth of vinyl is a complement to the organic tones found here. No synthesizers and programming. This sounds like a group of musicians playing live in the studio on guitars, bass, piano and drums. Electric guitar adds texture. Drums are on the soft side.

The roots oriented style is a vehicle for themes like waiting and hope, in conjunction with the attributes of God. These are modern day gospel songs for pilgrims on God’s highway.

Allusions to and adaptations of Scripture abound; there is no wooden literalness. McCracken knows how to translate Bible truths into song. Each one remains saturated in a biblical worldview. Four of them even have a Scripture reference in the title.

This is a songwriter’s praise and worship. It is rich in poetic imagery and deep thought. With the music being either slow or mid-tempo, and with plenty of space to hear each instrument, this can become a meditative experience. It reminded me of Fernando Ortega’s The Breaking of the Dawn.

In its simplest form as on “Trinity Song,” featuring All Sons and Daughters, I’m captivated by the delicate beauty. This has singing in rounds. There is wonderful restraint in this release in every phase, as heard in the number of instruments, background vocals, the choice of words, etc.

I like how “Come Light our Hearts” and “Be Still my Soul” (an original song) touch on being quiet before God. This whole record can be aid toward that end.

The closing “Song for Rachel” is just McCracken with piano backing. I appreciate the thought in the chorus:
Until the trumpet sounds,
Until our home comes down,
Children of Zion raise up the sound
Until our home comes down

People imagine going up to heaven. How often do we think of the New Jerusalem coming down? It’s a biblical picture (Revelation 21:10).

McCracken breaks into beautiful falsetto on the closing refrain:
Your deliverance is coming
For us while we wait,
In the wilderness You walk before us,
Give us grace

What a fitting benediction! This is someone to follow as we travel this way.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Winter EP - Audrey Assad

Who can find a warmer winter song?

Winter EP
Artist: Audrey Assad (www.audreyassad.com)
Label: Fortunate Fall Records
Length: 3 tracks/12 minutes

Who can find a warmer winter song? “Song for a Winter’s Night,” the Gordon Lightfoot composition, falls on the ears like light footsteps on freshly fallen snow. The organic blend of drums, guitars and keyboards are inviting. A strong hook takes listeners in. Cares recede in the enchanting glow.

The temperature drops in “Midwinter”: “In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.” This is an adaptation of the well-known carol. The second stanza and subsequent bridge are new along with a slight change to the last line, but all in keeping with the original lyrics.

Even the music is chillier than the first song. The added hooks are dreamy and elongated. The bridge, make it a snow-covered one, includes a biting guitar solo.

The resolve, like the dawn of a new day, comes on the last stanza, which has never sounded more beautiful with its sparse musical backing. It makes the lines of the final stanza stand out:

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
Yes, and if I was a Wise Man, I would do my part;
But all I have to give HimI will give my heart.

This ends with the breezy, keyboard-driven “Winter Snow.” It likens God’s coming to gently falling snow. It calls to mind the following verses:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV).

The spectacular gets more attention, but the falling snow can be like a low whisper.

The last song was first recorded as a duet with Chris Tomlin on Glory in the Highest (2009). The album cover, like the recording, is a work of art.

Overflow - Hannah Kerr

Young women leading the way Overflow Artist: Hannah Kerr ( www.hannahkerrmusic.com ) Label: Black River Christian Length: ...