The Phantom Tollbooth
December 1998 Pick of the Month

Falling Forward
Artist:  Margaret Becker
Label:   Sparrow Records
Time:    11 tracks/49 minutes

Comfort music.  This is the first thought that comes to mind listening to Falling Forward, the 8th release by Margaret Becker.  By far her most mature work, this one is like curling up before a warm fire on a rainy day with good book.  Ranging across a broad spectrum of emotions, Becker shows us someone who's wrestled with her demons and now feels very comfortable where she is.

For this project, Ms. Becker has picked up her guitar again, something that her long time fans have been hoping for for some time.  In all but one song she plays electric or acoustic guitar, sharing such duties with the likes of George Cocchini and Lynn Nichols.  The result is a set of songs rich in texture--smooth and calm at times, raw and strident at others--and a work as honest as the writings in a private journal.

The music ranges from ballads to rockers, with tinges of jazz thrown in. One of the most interesting songs on the project is the jazz tinged "Any Kind of Light."  With the fine jazz guitar of Lynn Nichols, Becker has crafted a song that would be at home on any light jazz radio station. On the last song on the album, "Testify,"  Becker's electric guitar work really shines, making it easy to see why so many have been happy about her return to the instrument.

Ms. Becker digs deep into her soul to pull out lyrics which reflect the struggle to follow her dreams yet stay true to God.  Many of these songs express the willingness to be totally abandoned to God but this comes only after realization that oftentimes other things get in the way.  She speaks her heart.  And in doing so, she speaks ours as well

"I Don't Know How" is a ballad that questions how anyone could go through life without believing in something and yet realizes that so often that is just what we do.  There is a total dependance in this song as she sings:

       And I don't know what I'd do without You
       Where I'd go
       To find some kind of a peace.
       'Cause even when the night comes down
       And I find it hard to breathe
       I still feel You're right here with me

There is a calm serenity of acceptance in "Clay And Water."  She senses a change that will be coming in her life, but reaches out for it, "falling forward" in order to become all that God would have her be.

In "Any Kind of Light," we see her reminding herself and us that, despite all the distractions in this life, all those things which seem important and valuable, nothing can be compared with God.

      I held You up, my diamond to the sky
      Turned You 'round to see every side.
      Looked so hard, stung my eyes
      What did I see?  What did I see?
      Always stunning, always true
      Nothing can hold a candle to You.

Becker gives us a glimpse into her prayer journal with the achingly honest "Take Me In."  With the understated accompaniment of electric guitars and keyboards, we almost sense that we're listening in on someone's private prayer. Exposing all that she is, Becker pleads:

       Take me by reason
       Take me by surprise
       Take me by my heart
       Or take me by my eyes
       Take me, take me, take me
       To Your water's rim
       Lift me up and take me in.

Falling Forward is a work that will make you think.  Becker has wrestled hard with the demons in her life and has come away with much to tell and a strong assurance that through it all, God's presence is there to see us through.  It is music that will comfort and give the courage to continue on this road, wherever it leads.

By Elisa Musso (11/14/98)