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The Red Balloon 
Artist: Sandra McCracken 
Label: Towhee Records
Length: 9/33:28  

Presented as two EPs, The Red Balloon is a lovingly crafted home project from Sandra McCracken.  While ostensibly a solo project, husband and collaborator Derek Webb appears in some form on each track, giving hope to the idea that we may have the next Karin/Linford (Over the Rhine) type of pairing on our hands. The discs feel somewhat more intimate than usual, perhaps due to the stripped down approach of the music.  McCracken's vocals are sometimes so good (think a bridge between Sara Groves and Emmylou Harris) that it can distract from the quality of her songwriting ­ you can be lulled intoo missing something lyrically, then find yourself hitting "repeat" on the ipod. The title of the project is undoubtedly a nod to the film of the same name, and McCracken's lyrics also deal with childhood dreams, hopes, and ultimately, outliving the whole experience.  "Guardian" is an ethereal piece, somewhat in the Sarah McLauchlan mode.  The songs seem to progress from birth to the awakening of consciousness.  Titles like "Guardian," "Saturn's Fields," "Halfway," "Lose You," and "Big Blue Sky" offer a rough sketch of a child's development, a mother's bond, and the eventual letting go that must take place. Simply put, a lovely set of songs.

Brian A. Smith


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