This week I cheat. I can't decide so, for now at least, I'm going to squeeze as much of these two albums as I can on a compilation CD and call it my desert island pick.
As I mentioned in my review of Add to the Beauty, I have almost given up on CCM. So much of it seems to be slick, over-produced and mostly interested in not offending anyone. It's like they want to make sure that the point is so clear that someone scanning the radio can't help but catch that the song is about Jesus. There are, however, a few exceptions, artists that I continue to listen to. Jars of Clay, Derek Webb, Andrew Osenga and Phil Keaggy are on that list (and all three of them have taken a detour away from the big-time CCM industry.) But Sara Groves might be my current favorite. Ever since I heard All Right Here, her first nationally released album and third overall, I was sold on her music. I went back and found her first two independent albums and enjoyed them too. Her most recent album, Add to the Beauty, is also so good that I couldn't leave it off the list. I was trying to decide which album be my choice I realized that I needed to include "First Song That I Sing" from All Right Here. That song has such a simple yet elegant message and energy that I couldn't resist making sure it was on my list. All Right Here is a quantum leap better than her first two albums and it features wonderful writing, singing and production. The songs all seem to come straight from Sara's heart (with a path through her brain to make them cool and thoughtful.) The themes are about the value and love of family and friends and trust in the Lord and she explores them in a way that gets to me almost every time I hear the album.
I was slightly disappointed with The Other Side of Something, the album between these two. That album almost made me think that Sara was going to be another CCM casualty but I was wrong. Here is what I said about Add to the Beauty in my review nearly two years ago: "Groves once again goes back to one of her favorite themes – that the love of God is needed to help us love each other. In Add to the Beauty she doesn't use a lyrical sledgehammer to make her point but does it gently with directness, grace and sometimes even humor, as in the delightful "To the Moon." With Brown Bannister in the production chair this time she seems to be back in a place where production doesn't overwhelm the songs or scream 'Look! I'm trying to have a hit!' Groves and Bannister hit just the right balance between art and accessibility." I still agree with that assessment. She nailed it on both of these albums.
There are four friends joining me on my Desert Island journey. Check their developing lists:
My Complete Desert Island List (so far):