Sara floodplainpick of the monthFloodplain is another brilliant album by Sara Groves. An accessible work fof wisdom and beauty: lyrically poetic and musically smart, Floodplain is still essentially a pop album replete with hooks and well-informed by the best of the classic rock era.

Sara Groves
Label: Fair Trade Services
13 tracks – 50:49

Are we companions of Job or prophets of God
are we not of this world or just painfully odd
is it time for free grace or tough love
or a little of all the above?...” -from “Second Guess Girl,” by Sara Groves

When it comes right down to consistency in a catalog of work, I can't think of many long-career artists that have maintained a standard of excellence the way Sara Groves has. Untainted by the trends of the day, seemingly immune to the tampering of industry producers and 'professional' song writers, Groves has stayed true to her particular sound, her signature style, and her profound reality-based presentation of God's presence in everyday life. From the beginning, her work has been about the tensions of the faith-walk of the common person, the dichotomy of God’s majesty filtered through our frailty, the amazing treasure contained, restrained, and sometimes shining through these earthen vessels.

Floodplain is another brilliant album by Sara Groves. It’s an accessible work full of wisdom and beauty: lyrically poetic and musically smart, Floodplain is still essentially a pop album replete with hooks and well-informed by the best of the classic rock era. Once again this artist brings hints of another world into kitchens, station wagons, and backyards.

Produced by Sara, Steve Brewster, Matt Pierson, Scott Dente, Daniel Phelps, and Brown Bannister (with extra production by Waterdeep’s Don Chaffer on “I’ve Been Here Before”), the album manages to sound like a singularly organic work. The sound is warm, with acoustic guitars (Scott Dente), piano (Sara), bass (Matt Pierson) and drums (Steve Brewster) always being the important elements, occasional electric guitar and background vocals appropriately incorporated to round out the sound.

The style ranges from the strong pop of “I’ve Been Here Before,” to the dreamy “On Your Mark,” to the playful “Your Reality,” to the orchestral “Enough.” Of course, the album is full of great songs. “I Feel the Love Between Us,” with its repeating end phrase and building percussion, would have been a nice alternate choice to end the album with – almost Beatle-esque in concept.

I don’t think enough can be said about Sara’s vocal delivery. Certainly she’s not one of those divas bent on producing soaring vocal runs that essentially leave all sense of melody and meaning far behind – she’s almost the opposite of that. Groves’ voice has an honesty about it – with just the right amount of frailty – to communicate with the heart of the listener. Yes, it’s a good voice. A fine voice – probably better than she thinks it is, I’ll bet – but that’s part of what we love about Sara’s music: her ability to communicate the humanness that’s in tension with the God that lives in us. Check these lyrics from “I’ve Been Here Before”:

I’ve been here before
staring at a blank page
waiting for the touch
chasing down a muse that don’t like me much
..... I’ve been here before
feasting at a table in a barren landsayin’ I’ll never doubt never doubt againsayin’ I’ll never doubt never doubt again...”

Of course, she knows not only that we’ve all been there before but that we’ll be back there again, along with those same doubts – but that God will be there, too.

In an album full of great songs there’s always the one that strikes to the heart, and this will differ from listener to listener - but for me it’s “My Dream,” a sublimely-produced piece full of awe and fragile humanity. The combination of melody, chord change and vocal delivery on the chorus is a rare and wonderful moment. In a musical climate that’s too often full of bombast and swagger, Sara Groves’ Floodplain reminds us of our brokenness and points us to our Fixer in Heaven.

I have lived a life of faith
I have felt and heard the Spirit
still the darkness brings its weight
and assurance is gone
but as I fall asleep I have a waking dream

you are standing in the driveway
as I come up the street
I can tell by your movement you’re not angry
you are waiting there

how much foolishness and folly are allowed in your graceland
how much doubt and melancholy
till I’m lost
and as I fall asleep I have a waking dream ...”

On Floodplain, the musical and spiritual legacy of Sara groves is well served. We've been here before....

- Bert Saraco

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