Fittingly recorded in a 105 year old church converted into a studio by Groves alongside her bandmates, Groves' latest is both personal and congregational, with songs like "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" staying close to the original hymn, while others such as "Oh My Redeemer What a Friend You Are to Me," and "Fairest Lord Jesus" take on their own creative flair.
"My last album found me on the Floodplain reflecting on the kind provision that comes when I find myself in a place where I cannot rescue myself," says Groves. "Abide With Me is a collection of hymns and songs that were with me on the Floodplain. A highlight for me was re-tracking 'He's Always Been Faithful' with piano, upright bass and woodwinds. My bandmates and I guesstimate that we have played that song well over 1,000 times, and these days it is loaded with the memories of 20 years of making music."
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Bound As Believers| Posted November 17, 2017 Abide With Me by Sara Groves is a fresh take on the timeless hymns of the church, recorded in Sara's signature style at a 105 year old church converted into a studio, Art House North in Minnesota. These stripped down musical arrangements help these deep and meaningful songs to shine.
"For The Beauty of the Earth" is a gorgeous offering to God, setting a reverent tone for the album with its poignant refrain "Lord of all to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise." Don't miss her gorgeous renditions of "Fairest Lord Jesus" and "Praise to the Lord." Both songs are absolutely incredible prayers, flawlessly delivered by Sara's sweet and sincere vocals layered over textured musical arrangements.
Whatever struggle or depression you are facing, you can know that God is with you, always. The comfort and rest offered by Jesus is beautifully captured in "Abide With Me," where Sara tenderly sings "in life and death Lord, abide with me." "The Love of God" is a gorgeous worship sung with a stirring passion behind prayerful lyrics. You'll worship our King Jesus during the song, in particular the chorus: "O Love of God, how rich and pure, how measureless and strong, it shall forevermore endure, the saints' and angels' song."
I'm emotionally moved by the prayerful songs "Song of Blessing," "What A Friend" and "To The Dawn" as they proclaim my heart's cry to worship Jesus. Those songs and their dependence on God have perfectly poetic biblical descriptions of God and His friendship with us. The call to unity and friendship is found woven throughout, also giving us insight into Sara's walk as a fellow believer. Many of the songs, like "Tis So Sweet" and "Lead On Oh King Eternal," also offer emotive and poetic descriptions of what Jesus did for us.
My personal devotional prayer has been to have more faith, and "He's Always Been Faithful" is my heart's cry and anthem to sing in praise to the Lord, regardless of my circumstances. So many people can relate to the message of this great song, which convicts me to know in my heart the biblical truth from Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-23: God's mercy is new each day, and it is not based on our performance. He pours out His mercy despite what we've done; there's nothing we can do except trust in His Son Jesus. Remember the gift of His grace that as followers of Jesus we are sinners saved, morning by morning. The song is a constant reminder for me that "In serving God only and trusting His hand, all I have need of His hand will provide, He's always been faithful to me."
These songs all have biblically-based lyrics that poignantly capture life's simple yet vital messages. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the prayerful lyrics found in these sacred songs. Sara's vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus. There are several personal songs that melt my heart, especially "Abide With Me" and "Lead On Oh King Eternal." There are several instantly sing-able and worshipful arrangements of classic hymns that you'll want to add to your Sunday morning setlist. I especially recommend "Fairest Lord Jesus," "Praise to the Lord," "Tis So Sweet" and one of my top worship songs of all-time, "He's Always Been Faithful."
The Bottom Line: All of the songs are catchy, reverent and worshipful. Abide With Me is a must-have for your praise and worship collection. This is a great album, a moving and prayerful listening experience which reflects how we are bound together as believers in faith.
Song to Download Now:
"He's Always Been Faithful" (Get it on iTunes here.)
Sparse, Simple and Worshipful| Posted December 24, 2017
Sara Groves follows her acclaimed 2015 album Floodplain with her thirteenth studio album. She has stated that her previous album found her on the floodplain reflecting on the kind provision that comes when she finds herself in a place where she cannot rescue herself. Abide with Me is a collection of hymns and songs that were with her on the floodplain. The album was recorded in a 105-year old church (the construction of which is shown on the album cover photo), that the Groves purchased in 2011 and converted into Art House North, a creative community for the common good, in the West End of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Groves has stated that it was appropriate that the album was recorded in a space built for congregational singing. The album was recorded with her long-time bandmates, Aaron Fabbrini (bass, pedal steel) and Zach Miller (drums), produced by John Mark Nelson and mixed by Ben Gowell. The album includes songs carefully selected from Groves’ personal list of hymns. Each song has provided a source of healing and comfort to her throughout the years. Groves’ husband first came up with the idea of a hymns album about fifteen years ago and has been compiling possible songs for inclusion since then.
The album is recorded simply and sparsely, and may underwhelm on initial listen. However, I encourage you to give these hymns additional listens and the project will grow on you with each listen. I would also recommend you have the lyrics to these hymns in front of you as you listen to this beautiful recording.
Below are a few comments about each of the eleven songs: For the Beauty of the Earth – This Eucharistic hymn was written in 1864 by Folliott S. Pierpoint. It begins beautifully with woodwinds, then Groves’ vocal and then piano is added. Many will be familiar with the chorus: Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise Fairest Lord Jesus – This hymn, also known as “Beautiful Savior”, has a long and unconfirmed history. The lyrics we are familiar with are most likely from an 1873 translation by Joseph A. Seiss. The song begins with acoustic guitar. Groves’ vocal is then joined with light drums, pedal steel guitar and backing vocals. Key lyric: Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer Than all the angels heaven can boast Praise to the Lord – The lyrics to this hymn were written in German by Joachim Neander in 1680. Catherine Winkworth translated them into English in 1863. This was my favorite hymn growing up. This version features a choir providing backing vocals. Abide with Me – This hymn was written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte in 1847 as he was dying from tuberculosis. He would die just three weeks after its completion. It is most often sung to English composer William Henry Monk’s tune “Eventide”. This version features piano, banjo, pedal steel guitar and backing vocals. Key lyric: In life and death, Lord, abide with me The Love of God – This hymn was written by Frederick M. Lehman in 1917, based on a Jewish poem titled Haddamut. This song starts with Groves accompanied by acoustic guitar and light backing vocals. As the song moves to verse two, she is joined by piano, bass and then a choir. Key lyric: O love of God, how rich and pure How measureless and strong The Song of Blessing - Groves sings this short song with a choir, backed by acoustic guitar, piano and banjo. What a Friend – This song has Groves singing to her redeemer about what a friend he is over piano, acoustic guitar and light backing vocals. Key lyric: Nearer, draw nearer Till my soul is lost in You To the Dawn – This beautiful song is based on Henry Burton’s 19th century poem “There’s a Light Upon the Mountains” with a refrain based on Isaiah 9:2. “All who walk in the dark have seen a great light”. The song begins with piano and strings. then guitar, percussion, pedal steel guitar and backing vocals are added. Tis So Sweet – The lyrics to the hymn “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” were written by Louisa M.R. Stead in 1882. The music was written by William J. Kirkpatrick. This version begins with some likeable percussion, and then adds acoustic guitar, backing harmonies and a good mandolin solo. A highlight. Lead on O King Eternal – This hymn was written Ernest Shurtleff upon request of his classmates for their graduation ceremony at Andover Seminary in 1887. The song begins with piano, with backing vocals and light drums added. He’s Always Been Faithful – This song originally appeared on Groves’ 2001 debut album Conversations. The song incorporates the hymn “Great Is Your Faithfulness”, the lyrics of which were written by Thomas Chisholm in 1923, and the music composed by William Runyan that same year. The song features piano, upright bass and woodwinds. Groves estimates that she has played the song in concert well over a thousand times. A highlight.