Posted May 23, 2013
Yancy's recording career dates back to the 1990s. And, though you may be unfamiliar with her recorded work, chances are you know one of her compositions. Together with Jess Cates, Yancy penned the no. 1 Avalon hit "I Don't Want To Go." From 1997 to 2004, she released four indie records. Since 2006 her focus has been making music for kids.
In Yancy's original plan, Roots For The Journey was to be an album of lullabies for her son, Sparrow. She wanted to impart biblical truths to her boy while teaching scripture to kids. But along the way, things took a different direction. Yancy felt the music had larger purpose. Her hope is that these songs will help listeners not simply learn scripture, but allow it to take root in their hearts. In her own words, "The Word of God gives us the roots we need for the journey."
Working with producer Stephen Leiweke and talented musicians, Yancy has created a low-key, organic sound complete with glockenspiel, cello, and clarinet for a uniquely serene worship project. All the songs on the record were penned by Yancy, except for two: the hymn, "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," and Jon Foreman's "White as Snow." And aside from "I Don't Want to Go"—which is much more mellow in her hands that on Avalon's recording—the songs are based almost entirely on assorted scripture.
Yancy begins with "The Joy" which takes inspiration from Lamentations 3:22-23, Nehemiah 8:10, and Psalm 30:11. Lyrically, the song is spare and simple, using just a couple of repeated refrains. But it works. Yancy's voice is warm, and the music bright and joyful, though more peacefully than exuberantly so.
In "Safe," Old Testament messages from Proverbs 18:10, Isaiah 41:10, and Psalm 121 are sung through direct lyrics. This pretty piano piece is as melodically sound as the scriptural truths it contains. So don't be surprised if you find yourself taking refuge from life's storms in God's word through this song.
"Creator" employs an upright bass and percussive beat behind a simple guitar to communicate God's creation of and His plan for us as written in Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 29:11. Rare for this album, Yancy inserts her own words—not from scripture—in the final verse lending strength to the song by adding a light-hearted, personal touch: "You know each freckle / and all my silly faces / You know all my pluses / You know my fears and struggles / Still You love me the same."
Isaiah 40:31 serves as the focal point for the brief, meditative "Hope," while Psalm 121 underscores that help comes from God who watches over our every moment.
The theme of protection and provision spills over into "His Eye Is On The Sparrow." Yancy's arrangement of this classic hymn lends a freshness that, combined with her soulful vocal performance, results in one of the record's high points.
With glockenspiel and little other accompaniment, the Proverbs 3:5-6 based "Trust" is appropriately bare. It begins with such intimacy that it feels as if we are intruding on Yancy's private moment with God. For this reason, it's a little difficult to embrace Sam Tinnesz's (MIKESCHAIR) guest vocal when he joins in. Though admittedly, it's a neat touch to have a male singer give voice to God's words from Proverbs and Jesus' words from Matthew 11:28.
After its midpoint, the album sags a bit. Though "Healer" carries an important biblical message of Jesus' intercession as written in Isaiah 53:5, the melody doesn't work as successfully as in previous songs. Here, and on "Our God Reigns" which includes the Lord's Prayer, the musical treatment feels sluggish. Similarly, "Call," while heartfelt and soaked in scriptures from Romans and the gospel of John, gets lost in what begins to feel like a sleepy, monochromatic album.
Finally, with "No Other Name" and "I Don't Want To Go" Yancy returns to form. The former, with a solid melody and a simple piano accompaniment, recalls the beautiful, personal simplicity of Nichole Nordeman. And the latter, while clothed in mellower trappings than the Avalon hit, raises the tempo significantly enough to give the album a needed boost. More importantly, these songs leave us with a God-centered mindset, praising the Lord and walking with Him.
Although her newest project is a sonic departure from recent recordings, a passion for sharing the word of God and the hope found in Christ has long been rooted in Yancy's heart. In Roots For The Journey, she takes a brave step in creating a quiet, contemplative album, based almost wholly on scripture, to share God's word that we might better carry His truth in our hearts.
While the album might have benefited from more variety in both sound and tempo, it creates a safe haven within which the listener can be comforted and nurtured while learning of, or being reminded of, God's unfailing love.
As Yancy sings in "I Don't Want To Go," "I don't wanna go somewhere / if I know that You're not there / ‘Cause I know that me without You is a lie." It is in this posture of worship and obedience that Yancy leaves us – after gleaning all the record has to say about the hope, strength, healing, and security offered in Jesus – with no logical choice but to surrender our life to the Prince of Peace. In this, Roots For The Journey is a resounding success.
Song to Download Now:
"Safe" (Get it on iTunes here
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