Sara Groves - Abide With Me

Published Saturday 10th February 2018
Sara Groves - Abide With Me
Sara Groves - Abide With Me

RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 167643-26415
LABEL: Fair Trade Services 497622
RELEASE DATE: 2017-12-08
RRP: £12.99

Reviewed by John Cheek

Something of a veteran of the Christian music scene, Sara Groves probably now has the time, finance and critical acclaim to do something like this. 'Abide With Me' is a labour of love and like all labours of love, required hard work, patience and dedication for its realisation. Those qualities were evidently not in short supply with Groves, as this collection of old, classic hymns and spirituals feels warm, homely, unpretentious and lovingly assembled. A collection which I find myself surprised to describe as 'counter-cultural' as it sounds completely at odds with most things you will hear at present. Certainly, the theology contained within the words of many of the hymns will be regarded by some as being politically incorrect - eternal truths communicated in hushed-tones; the fist within the velvet glove. This album doesn't work during the middle of a busy day. Thankfully. Instead, I found myself waking early in the morning, really wanting to listen to the tracks in my kitchen whilst it was still dark. Or late in the evening, when it was all quiet outside. You have to be in-the-mood for it, but careful listening is an illuminating experience. As is the title track where the arrangement is completely different to the standard "Abide With Me" sung at Wembley on Cup Final day. I long have thought that the black gospel version of it by the London Community Gospel Choir is the essential rendition of the hymn; Groves' take is radically different, to the point where it could almost be a different hymn - but it works. Country arrangements elsewhere put a fresh spin on Victorian standards; "Tis So Sweet" has a modern, percussive-feel. With such sparse production at times, the vocal delivery stands out almost as an instrument in itself and is occasionally reminiscent of Vicky Beeching. The way Sara breathes "you are" on "What A Friend" you can almost hear the full stop in her delivery from the line before. It could be a performance poet, offering her final, moving statement. An epilogue of hope.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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Product Description
For six years, Sara and Troy Groves have been curating art community events in a 105 year old St. Paul, MN church, now called Art House North. This summer, Sara and her bandmates converted the building into a studio for her 13th project, Abide With Me. It is fitting that this collection of hymns was recorded in a space built for congregational singing. Abide With Me finds Groves recording with long-time bandmates, Aaron Fabbrini (bass, pedal steel), Zach Miller (drums), and Ben Gowell (engineer, mix), and introduces a new collaboration with singer/songwriter/producer John Mark Nelson (guitar, vocals). Woodwinds, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and accordion round out this beautifully warm record. There is a strong St. Paul presence on this record, with most of the players residing in a square mile of The Groves. "The songs for this record were carefully selected from a personal list of songs that have been a comfort and aslve to me over the years." Some songs stay close to original while other are fittingly re-tuned.

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