“For What Is the Journey,” the debut release from Ann Arbor’s Sari Brown, is yet another entry from a growing cadre of brilliant young Michigan songwriters.
Many of them already have been reviewed in this space, and many also appear on this album: Seth Bernard, Josh Davis and bassist Dominic Suchyta from Steppin’ In It, Dan Kahn and fiddler Jeremy Kittel, among others.
The youthful Brown (still in her teens) calls her CD “a collection of spirituals”—but like much of “Journey,” that phrase mystifies as much as it explains. There’s nothing of doctrine here; and while worship abounds, it’s not the conventional kind.
Each one of these 11 original songs deals in some way with finding the sacred in the ordinary, in carving something beautiful from something simple—an image that pops up repeatedly. And it’s not always clear whether the many expressions of yearning, missing someone, are addressed to a God or to a lost love.
For every couplet that plays like one’s first, tentative attempts at self-expression, there are a dozen that hit the mark. Sari Brown is a fine, beguiling singer, but it’s her skillful, fresh wordcraft that gives “Journey” its spark.
The speculative theology of “Jesus’s Waltz is not as irreverent as it sounds, although there’s some sly humor shining through the cracks of all this high seriousness. “The Creator” muses about who that might be; “Asleep By This Hour” is a moment of heightened reflection and perhaps the album’s most skilled lyric.
Such earnestness, and broad scope, would almost have to come from somebody young. But Brown’s positive, unblinking belief (faith?) in some transcendent haven that informs all these songs is also welcome—almost courageous—in an era of requisite youthful cynicism.
Humble, low-tech and occasionally uneven, like many self-produced singer/songwriter CDs, “Journey” is nonetheless an album of real promise, from a literate and often original new talent.
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