Music Review

 

Music Review

Sara Groves: The Other Side Of Something

Label: Sponge/ Word

Genre: Cutting-edge Christian pop featuring novel ideas and above-par substance

By Steve Morley

(UMCom) -- Contemporary Christian music, as a style straddling the divide between Heaven and Earth, doesn’t have it easy. Many - including some of the music’s makers - claim the genre is derivative of mainstream pop and that it stops short of being real art that rightly reflects an endlessly creative God. Under the scrutiny of a cultural microscope - as Christian commerce typically is - CCM often does have a hard time measuring up, but even the most vigilant and cynical critic would have to think twice before dismissing the work of Sara Groves. The singer/songwriter’s third long-player, The Other Side Of Something, is this year’s most potent ammunition thus far against the ongoing torrent of criticism against Christian pop. Groves is an incisive and skillful songwriter who looks at the Christian life from all angles and expertly distills truth into artful expressions, aided ably by producers Nate Sabin and Charlie Peacock

The disc’s ebullient lead-off track, "The One Thing I Know," wastes no time in proving she can hit the radio bull’s eye without sacrificing artistic integrity or dumbing down the Gospel. In it, she shares some simple yet profound revelations about God’s faithfulness that can’t help but uplift anyone within earshot. After the fluorescent welcome, though, Groves addresses a myriad of mortal matters, examining the pitted path of faith in detail both agonizing and affirming. In a confessional style that could easily be drawn from a diary, she confides both a poisonous marital altercation and the intimate nature of its resolution in "Roll To The Middle," a practical application of the biblical directive "don’t let the sun go down on your anger." "All I Need" is a domestic vignette of a different color that features amusing background asides and hilariously demonstrates how idealism can gradually deteriorate into full-fledged materialism. The bittersweet "Like A Skin" poetically poses the wish that inner change could be as definite as a snake leaving its old scales behind or the new butterfly who "never ha(s) to be a worm again."

Groves’ songs range widely in style, topic and even length, breaking away imaginatively from constrained pop song structures. "The Boxer," a Psalm of sorts reimagined as furious, freestyle jazz-funk fusion, makes the most of her superb supporting cast of musicians with a skittering groove, swirling strings, stabbing organ and relentless drumming that keenly conveys the struggle to stay upright in a spiritual sparring match. In an unforced vocal style that freely stretches phrases in unexpected ways, Groves offers stories that are thoughtful, frank, reverent and thoroughly human. On The Other Side Of Something, hers is the voice of a transparent friend who understands the struggles of a life of faith, is willing to admit her shortcomings and knows where encouragement can be found.

Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.

This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of The United Methodist Church.



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