Being a Sara Groves fan means a couple of things. First, you have to really dig in to her music and be ready to be convicted. Second, you've got to pick up Add To The Beauty, her latest album. While The Other Side of Something, her last national release, held a few darker undertones of conviction in personal life and finding identity in who you are in Christ, Add To The Beauty begins to look outward. Themes of community, reconciliation, and building the kingdom of Christ run rampant throughout the thirteen tracks.
Sara's musical style has grown in some ways, and yet remains the same in others. Her music took a slight shift during her All Right Here album into an almost country sound, but for Add To The Beauty, Sara has returned to the feel of Conversations. Every song flows into the next one, giving the feel of one continuous music experience with varying motifs that end with the reprise of "When It Was Over."
This time around, Sara brings in some heavy hitters to help out with the songwriting and producing. Brown Bannister, Ed Cash, Gordon Kennedy, and Joel Hanson are all out for Add To The Beauty, making this possibly Sara's best album yet. Scott Dente also shows up a few times playing acoustic guitar, and tobyMac's own Nirva Dorsaint makes a few appearances on "Loving A Person," "How Can I Tell," "It's Going To Be Alright," and "Just Showed Up For My Own Life."
"When It Was Over" starts things out a little slow-paced, but is a perfect fit to follow The Other Side of Something. After working through themes of tapping into the power of God (songs like "Jeremiah"), now Sara is focusing on reconciliation with fellow believers. She somewhat speak-sings through the beginning of the song, which leads into the chorus, "Oh love wash over a multitude of things... make us whole..."
"Just Showed Up For My Own Life" comes next, and bears an upbeat sound reminiscent of her duet with Joel Hanson on the Traveling Light project's title track. And seeing as Joel Hanson collaborates with her on "Just Showed Up...," this isn't a surprise. Lyrically, she takes a peek at the ideas of starting to look outward in life, and how she has finally shown up for her purpose on earth. "You Are The Sun" brings more of Sara's poignant songwriting into play, with thoughts about how Jesus is the sun, we are the moon, and in order to reflect His light, we've got to turn our faces to Him. "It's Going To Be Alright" is written as Sara speaking to a friend about a difficult experience in their life. The acoustic piano and guitar sound continue with the title track, and starts to really hit on the theme of this record: the building of the kingdom of God.
Opening the second half of Add To The Beauty is "Rewrite This Tragedy," another song that flirts the line between slow and upbeat at points. Sara hits on themes started in "Roll To The Middle" on The Other Side... and after even quoting lines from her previous album in "Something Changed," this record is beginning to feel like a true companion to The Other Side of Something. Piano seems to be the main instrument of choice for Groves, and it leads the bouncy "How Can I Tell." At certain points in the course of the album, some of Sara's songwriting leans toward the cheesy, with lines like, "So I'll expand my vocabulary / Spend some time at the local library..."
"To The Moon" is a short (barely a minute and a half long) track bearing the central message of leaving this earth, getting away from all of its nonsense and taking the church to the moon. Sara Groves leads on with the piano, and Brown Bannister joins in the background choir as Sara takes "our church to the moon." In, "Kingdom Comes," a highlight track, she walks through different ways that the body of Christ can reach out and be "a little stone... a little mortar" in building up the church. "Why It Matters" follows, simply lead by piano and cello, almost bearing sounds reminiscent of "Tent In The Center of Town" from Conversations, sans that 'circus tent' feel.
Second to last, "Loving A Person" touches on themes of simply loving people "just the way they are... it's no small thing." The song keeps with the slowed tone that reminds the listener very much of the ending tracks on Conversations. Closing the album out is "When It Was Over (Reprise)," which stays loyal to the soft feel of this entire record. Mixing together lines from the different tracks, Groves effectively reminds us of all that we have learned through this journey she takes us on on Add To The Beauty.
After everything, this record is definitely the companion album to The Other Side of Something, and builds on the sound that Groves first created back on Conversations. Addressing her usual weighty themes and convicting topics, Sara Groves has put together quite the listening experience. Perfect for rainy afternoons, Add To The Beauty is great for those looking for a soft sound and a definite thought-provoking conversation with Sara Groves.- Review date: 10/13/05, written by Shaun Stevenson
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