Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sandra McCracken - Desire Like Dynamite (Album Review)

From the first time I heard Sandra McCracken’s voice singing a duet of Dylan's “Make You Feel My Love” with (then future husband) Derek Webb in the late 90s, I was hooked by the unique emotional weight carried in her voice and her powerfully gentle delivery. As I have followed her career, she has continually built upon (and surpassed) this initial sonic stamping with album after album of lyrical creativity, thought-provoking confessions, encouraging challenges, honest longings and communal engagement. Her attention to the craft of complimentary musicianship is phenomenal as well. She has proven again and again that there will be no throwaway lines or stray instrumental noodlings on a Sandra McCracken album. You can enter into each album with confidence, knowing that both entertainment and enrichment are waiting within the sounds and spaces.

Her newest album, Desire Like Dynamite, follows true to this preceding catalog. Your heart, brain and ears will all be equally attended to as clever melodies dance with candid lyrics above a rich bed of folk-pop instrumentation. Take opening track “Go” for example. A whimsical string line and (serendipitously taped-up) piano introduces deceptively understated lyrics like “Listen when you first wake, your compass aligns to the sounds of the morning, thoughts like tiny earthquakes alive in your head, a light and a warning.” As the additional organ, drums and trumpet usher in the chorus, the song literally comes alive in conjunction with the direction of the lyrics. With “Forgiveness,” the quiet piano ballad unrolls over a steadily strummed acoustic guitar that gives just enough of an uncluttered foundation for the gravity of “When the blessed assurance is hidden behind a great cloud, when the joy is a secret and pain like a trumpeted sound, oh for grace to be measured by more than my means and to love with a love that gives free without strings.” You could actually pick any song as this poetic synergy is genuinely found throughout the entirety of Desire Like Dynamite, creating an integrated listening experience that sticks with you long after the final song has ended.

In addition to writing and performing, Sandra produced Desire Like Dynamite with (now present husband) Derek Webb, with additional co-production assistance from Jordan Brooke Hamlin and Joshua Moore. Derek, Jordan and Joshua also contributed their talents via a variety of instrumentation throughout the songs. Sandra even has a few impressive guest vocals from her friends Matthew Perryman Jones (“The Wait”), Lori Chaffer (“Dynamite,” “Forgiveness”) and Chelsey Scott (“Forgiveness”). The final result is a stirring album from a fantastic artist that is beautifully accompanied by a creative community of friends.

Desire Like Dynamite is currently available in physical or digital form from, as well as through iTunes and Amazon. You can also get three of the songs (“Go,” “Gridlock” and “Dynamite”) via her NoiseTrade sampler HERE.

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