Sara Groves was born on September 10, 1972. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in History and English in 1994 from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. She taught high school in Rosemount, MN for four years before recording her first album PAST THE WISHING in 1998. CCM Magazine named her ADD TO THE BEAUTY Album of the Year for 2005. I loved her 2011 offering INVISIBLE EMPIRES. Sara has been nominated for seven Dove Awards. She is also an advocate for International Justice Mission, an organization that helps victims of human trafficking. Now she is back with her twelfth album overall, FLOODPLAIN (2015 Fair Trade Services/Sponge Records). A press release quotes Sara: “One main idea that appears a few times on the record is reality and escape. Joy and sorrow are both mixed in our cup. We can see our reality as a burden and try to escape it, or we can drink our cup. Whether it is depression or poverty or caring for an aging parent, these challenges are realities of life. If I avoid the cup, I also miss joy and provision. If I drink it down, I will ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’”.
Starting things off is a co-write with Ellie Holcomb (who provides backing vocals) called ‘This Cup’. It was inspired by ideas shared by Kate Harris at Laity Lodge in 2013. The song speaks of a desire to live life to the fullest: “How many hours have I spent watching this shining TV/Living adventure in proxy in another person’s dream?/How many miles have I traveled looking at far away lights/Listening for trains in the distance in some brilliant other life?/This cup, this cup/I wanna drink it up/To be right here in the middle of it/Right here, right here/This challenging reality’s better than fear or fantasy”. ‘Expedition’ is a warm song of invitation: “Meet me at the river, oh/I’ve fashioned us a raft and oar/We’re going on an expedition/We’re looking for lost time (2X)/Spread the map out on the raft/Scenes appear like photographs/While we search the starlings play/Reeds on the shoreline nod and sway/They don’t toil to be that way”.
In a day and age where anyone can post almost anything on Facebook and Twitter, these thoughts from ‘Second Guess Girl’ are very relevant: “Is it time for a speech or for silence?/Are you calling for peace or defiance?/Is this darkening counsel or wisdom?/Are we all perpetrators or victims?/Is this childlike simple rote history?/Is it complex deciphering mystery?/Is this blessing or ill gotten wealth?/Am I speaking for God or myself?” Sara says the title track ‘Floodplain’ is “first a metaphor for my journey with anxiety and depression, and then in sympathy for people caught in cycles of generational poverty and violence”. Here are some of the wonderful lyrics: “Oh, the river it rushes to madness/And the water it spreads like sadness/And there’s no high ground (2X)/Closer to the danger and the rolling deep/Closer to the run and the losing streak/And what brings us to our knees/Closer to the life and the ebb and flow/Closer to the edge of I don’t know/Closer to ‘Lord please send a boat’/Some hearts are built here”.
Sara co-wrote ‘Enough’ with Julie Lee and Sarah Masen. It speaks of God’s goodness to us: “Really we don’t need much/Just strength to believe/There’s honey in the rock/There’s more than we see/In these patches of joy, these stretches of sorrow/There’s enough for today/There will be enough tomorrow”. ‘Native Tongue’ includes these poetic lines: “Looking for a language that is older still/The taproot of a living Word/Resonating echoes of an Eden song/Waiting to be heard”.
Matt Slocum plays cello on ‘I’ve Been Here Before’ and Lori Chaffer provides backing vocals. This one reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us: “Oh, I’ve been here before and I’ll tell you what I’ve seen/The hand of grace reaches down to me/A voice inside says that I can be free/I’ve been here before/Quiet in a pasture, honey on my tongue/Resting by still waters/I’ve been here before/Feasting at a table in a barren land/Sayin’ ‘I’ll never doubt, never doubt again’” ‘On Your Mark’ is a downer: “What could be stronger in time than fears and thoughts?/On your mark, set go (2X)/You can go far in denial/Fall right asleep on that train/Wake up and you don’t recognize a thing.../Tomorrow never really comes now does it?/So we’re sailin’ up ahead/SS Good Intention full of everything you said/You ever wanted, wanted”.
The duo Jenny & Tyler Somers sing backing vocals on ‘I Feel the Love Between Us’, a song Sara wrote for her husband Troy. It reflects on their mature romantic relationship: “I feel the love between us (2X)/We just walked into some history/You can’t ignore a beautiful past/Full of redemption and mystery/Holding up the things that will last/I feel the love between us (4X)/Love is a diamond hidden in mountains/Covered in danger and dirt/I’m on the outside digging and digging/I’ve seen and I know what it’s worth”. ‘Signal’ is a love song to Sara’s kids Kirby, Toby, and Ruby. The song includes these lyrics: “All the clichés about how fast kids grow are true/I woke up this morning eye to eye with you/The love songs and adages couldn’t explain the whole/Of all you’re becoming, body and soul/Your heart goes out/I can hear your song/Your signal is getting stronger, your signal is getting strong.../All the clichés about how much I love you are true/As big as the sky and up to the moon/A million, a zillion, infinity plus one”.
‘Your Reality’ is another song for husband Troy: “You, when I cannot trust myself/When the soundings are deep and lonely/And I seem to have lost my way/Your reality is my good medicine/Tell me who we are and who I am/The only part of this that throws me off is you’re too good to be true”. ‘My Dream’ was inspired by something Sara’s Grandpa Lloyd Colbaugh shared with her during Christmas 2013. The song depicts God as a loving Father: “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.../You are running now, you are running”. Last up is ‘Expedition Reprise’. It was arranged by Dan Phelps and Aaron Fabbrini plays pedal steel on it.
FLOODPLAIN is a quiet, laid back, meditative, reflective, thoughtful, and insightful soft Christian folk/pop album. Themes on the album include relationships between God and humankind, and relationships between human beings. Sara’s songs dealing with her family members are particularly strong on this project. This really is an album about one woman’s life experiences and how they affect and have affected her. Sara’s vocals are charming and pleasant. Her band on this effort is The Redwoods (Steve Brewster, Matt Pierson, Scott Dente, and Dan Phelps). They sound great! I’m rating FLOODPLAIN 98%. Sara is one of the greatest and most creative artists of our time! Be sure to pick this CD up! For more info visit: www.saragroves.com and www.ijm.org.