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Tell Me What You Know

December 11, 2007

Sara GrovesI usually get hooked on an album and listen to it almost exclusively for a month or two. Over the summer the album of choice was John Mayer’s excellent Continuum. Now it’s Sara Groves’ new project, Tell Me What You Know. Sara Groves has long been one of my favorite song writers. That being said, her new music usually has to grow on me over the course of several listens, letting her lyrics sink in. Her music feels like its written to fit her rapid-fire lyrics, and sometimes it feels more like someone talking to you than singing. I love that her lyrics are never sing-songy, and more like freestyle poetry. It’s usually her lyrics that grab me, as opposed to the actual instrumental music or melody line.

However, with this recording, Groves had me hooked with the opening beat of Song for my Sons and kept me listening in rapt attention. Her melodies are at their best and stayed in my brain, as if I’ve known them forever. Her stories grabbed me like I was reading a novel and kept me listening for what would happen next.

Her overarching theme for this album is social justice. Her message isn’t condemning, but instead full of hope. In the song Love is Still a Worthy Cause she urges us to love even when “your heart is raw” because “love is still a worthy cause.” Why? Because “I love because he loved me / when I had nothing.” She urges us to join saints who’ve gone before us in her rewrite of When the Saints. This song is powerful and moving as she recounts moments of courage, compassion and forgiveness that culminate at the cross:

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sisters standing by the dying man’s side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come and kicking down the door

I see the man of sorrows and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Musically, this project is more electric guitar driven than previous recordings, like Abstraction and In the Girl There’s a Room, inspired by the work of International Justice Mission. But there’s still plenty of piano ballads that Groves does so heartbreakingly well, like the exquisite piano and string driven, I Saw What I Saw and the uplifting It Might be Hope.

I love that she finds inspiration everywhere. In old letters written by her great-grandfather (Song for my Songs), Dietrich Bonhoeffers’ writings (Honesty), and the people of Rawanda (I Saw What I Saw).

So, be challenged and encouraged by Tell Me What You Know. Get it for yourself or as a Christmas gift for someone you love.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2007 11:44 pm

    She sang “Song for My Sons” at the Andrew Peterson concert on Saturday. Great stuff.

    Her song “Less Like Scars” has gotten me through an awful lot.

  2. December 11, 2007 11:53 pm

    We saw her at the Andrew Peterson concert two weeks ago. She sang “Song for My Sons” and “The Long Defeat”. I really liked them live, but was bummed that the production on the album was so different. To be honest, I preferred the relaxed feel of it live. But, maybe the other would grow on me.

  3. bethyoung permalink
    December 12, 2007 8:57 am

    I just added it to my Christmas List, thanks!

  4. December 12, 2007 9:06 am

    FishMama, something like that happened to me once, in the reverse. I had this fabulous CD by Dido that was mellow and then I went to her concert and it was all “poppy” sounding. I was disappointed. Maybe the album will grow on you.

    Beth, if you go to and click on “Store” you can sample each song. However, I wasn’t really hooked on the album until I actually got it. Her songs are so particular, I think you really have to hear the whole thing for the full impact.

  5. December 12, 2007 3:49 pm

    Alissa, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. briana permalink
    December 12, 2007 5:04 pm

    Sara Groves is one of our favorites, but we havent’ gotten the new album yet..maybe that’ll be our gift to each other this Christmas. 🙂

  7. Sara permalink
    December 13, 2007 7:50 am

    I love Sara Groves’ lyrics, but I simply don’t enjoy the music. However, it’s nice to know that there are lots of others enjoying both.

    — SJ

  8. December 13, 2007 10:34 am

    Sara, her music is particular. I don’t know how else to describe it. When I got her first album, Conversations, I didn’t really like it. It was some years later, actually, until I became a fan and started really getting something out of her music.

  9. Sarah permalink
    December 14, 2007 11:27 am

    One of my favorite artists ever, and this CD is definitely going on my Christmas list. I haven’t heard the samples yet, but my dad did and said he didn’t like them as much as her previous ones. I’m glad to know the full version is better!

  10. Kjirstin permalink
    December 16, 2007 10:37 pm

    I so do the same thing! I listen to songs/albums over and over and over, I think I drive Danny crazy! Sara Groves is a definite favorite of mine, so I’m excited to hear this one. Thanks for the review!

  11. bethyoung permalink
    January 2, 2008 2:59 pm

    Ok, so I can’t take “Continuum” out of my CD player. Thank you for the recommendations. Amazing CD.

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