Singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken talks about her albums and her life, in beautifully descriptive allegories. Do not ask her to explain the meaning behind her carefully crafted songs and expect anything less. She will only give you a wry smile and pause while she invents a red herring, in the form of an Aesopian tale, for you to chase after. Just ask the handful of talented musicians heard supplying the sonic muscle and sinew to the bone and soul of McCrackens songs, they often pestered the artist about the meanings wrapped up in her latest work. But there are no shortcuts especially for an independent artist who feels it is part of her role to foster in her listeners a desire to seek out the answers that are not easily found.
You may have heard the story before. The Missouri born singer-songwriter from a family of seven who moved to Music City and quickly became Nashville s best kept secret. These bits of trivia are true, but there is much more to this folky troubadour than a few niceties any music critic could bestow upon her, but who can blame them one listen to McCrackens songs and you are pulled back to the heart of something that feels familiar and mourned. It is the sound and guts of real music, honest songwriting and an artist that is sold out to the art and not an industry.
World renowned producer Peter Collins (Nanci Griffith, Jewel, Shawn Mullins) obviously recognizes it because he has again teamed up with McCracken for GRAVITY | LOVE, her fifth full-length studio project, releasing on her own Towhee Records in the fall of 2006. The two previously collaborated on McCrackens 2004 project Best Laid Plans , admittedly the songwriters most commercial album. GRAVITY | LOVE falls somewhere between the appeal and accessibility of Best Laid Plans and McCrackens 2002 gem and critical favorite Gypsy Flat Road, a space where the artist admits to feeling comfortable in her own skin maybe for the first time.
Wrapped within the packaging of GRAVITY | LOVE are eleven stories of living the highs, lows and all the fragile moments in between. Instantly memorable are Long Way Home (a song that makes you wish you were out on the open road, with just enough slide guitar to make you thirsty for a roadside bar), Gravity, Portadown Station (a haunting song with beautiful piano and strings that McCracken wrote almost five years ago while touring in Ireland), Shelter (a song that once you are in the middle of it you cant imagine listening to any other song for the rest of your life) and the ironically carefree Chattanooga. There is plenty here to live with and love.
Like the songwriters that we all hold in the highest esteem, McCracken writes about the mystery of this world we live in, the mystery of love and the broken state we often find our hearts and hopes in. There are mornings where you cant get out of bed because your heart cant come up with one substantial reason. Then there are the moments when you hear a promise in your head, a tiny whisper of hope, that nobody else can hear, but it fills your chest like the light from the sunrise. And these two experiences can be just hours apart. How can that be? Its another mystery of humanity, as we know it. Those experiences and moments are laced all through out GRAVITY | LOVE.
I really believe that art is a reflection or a capturing of our humanity. I can see it now, how this art is a little fragment of my story, and that our humanity binds us together in such a way that it might look a little like your story, too, McCracken paints one last picture and welcomes the listener into the conversation.