Integrity Music (release date: October 9, 2020)
By Robert M. Marovich
Whether or not Sandra McCracken penned the ten songs on Patient Kingdom before or during the pandemic, they certainly express well the disquiet of the times.
But the world-weariness welling from deep within the Nashville-based singer-songwriter’s throat expresses not helplessness but hopefulness, as if giving testimony to the cyclicality and potentiality of life. And that is what, I believe, the new album is all about.
Songs on Patient Kingdom that are particularly attuned to the times include the gentle and tuneful “You Are With Me,” an ode about the Lord’s power to restore and sustain; and the infectious “Lay My Worry Down,” which encourages everybody to leave their troubles at God’s doorstep. Courage to trust God’s faithfulness during life’s tempests is the subject of “Into the Harbor.” The lessons of Hebrews 11:1 (“Faith is the substance of things hoped for…”) hover invisibly over the entire project.
With its melodic and singalong chorus, “On High Places” sounds like an ancient folksong. “I am not afraid to be afraid,” McCracken sings, later augmenting this mantra of fearless vulnerability with the anthemic refrain: “We will rise, we will rise.” It reminds me of a line from Faulkner’s short story, “The Bear:” “Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid.” It would have been particularly stunning had the ensemble sung a few bars of the “On High Places” refrain a cappella, as they do on the title track.
McCracken’s songs owe as much to the folk idiom as to the shape-note hymnody of Southern Harmony. They also seem intended not just for solo voice but for the lusty singing of a chorus of one thousand. Perhaps, when the better days Sandra McCracken sings about come to pass, and they will come to pass, a thousand singers can do just that.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “On High Places,” “Lay My Worry Down”