Nashville singer/songwriter pens her own hymns
Three years ago, Sandra McCracken released The Builder And the Architect, a collection of reworked traditional hymns that remains one of the strongest albums in her near-decade-long career. Her latest, Red Balloon, only sounds like a collection of hymns. These McCracken originals move gracefully and dramatically, exploring spiritual matters with wide-eyed inquisitiveness. At times, her lyrics veer toward the saccharine, but her soft-as-down voice—equal parts Emmylou Harris, Dusty Springfield and Eva Cassidy—makes “Guardian” and “Lock And Key” feel like comfort food rather than Hallmark sap. Red Balloon sounds best when McCracken and collaborator/husband Derek Webb are most adventurous: Standout “Saturn’s Fields” marries cosmic imagery to fluttery backing vocals and cascading keyboards that sound more shoegazer than stargazer. Superfluous programmed beats rumble through most of these songs, threatening to carbon-date Red Balloon circa 1994, but eventually these tacked-on rhythms become part of the album’s larger tapestry, complementing rather than overpowering McCracken’s elegant vocals.
Listen to tracks from Red Balloon on Sandra McCracken's MySpace page.