Sara Groves: Abide with Me

On the heels of 2015’s deeply introspective Floodplain album comes this collection of hymns set to varied tunes: traditional ones, original ones, and hybrid reconfigurations of the two. Producer John Mark Nelson, known for several well-received acoustic-ambient albums under his own name recently, brings a fresh sonic palette to Sara’s piano-based singer/songwriter style, achieving airy results on tracks like death hymn “Abide with Me (fast falls the eventide)” and “The Love of God (is richer still),” one of the crowning poetic achievements of hymnody. Groves also includes a few originals, including a remake of her well-known “He’s Always Been Faithful.” The best track, “To the Dawn,” retunes and adds an Isaiah 9:2 based refrain to Henry Burton’s 19th century poem “There’s a Light Upon the Mountains,” whose “hope beyond the aching” theme recalls much of Groves’ own most eloquent work: “Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seems so long, but the hearts of men are stirring, and we hail it with a song.” For good reason, these songs keep coming back around to subsequent generations. This opportunity to hear them afresh, from such an appealing singer, is most welcome.

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Robert is a Sunday School teacher, music nerd, and acoustic guitar enthusiast. He lives in rural Tennessee with his wife and three boys.

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