What Makes it Through is a reflective, introspective album of songs that probe beneath the surface and plumb the depths of our motives and emotional reflexes.

What Makes it Through 

Sara Groves 


Label: Fair Trade  

9 tracks – 35:53 


there’s a lot of pain in reaching out and trying

it’s a vulnerable place to be

love and pride can’t occupy the same spaces baby

and only one makes you free”  -from “Loving A person,” by Sara Groves 


What Makes it Through is Sara Groves’ 14th album - her first album of original songs since 2015. The intervening six years have changed much of the landscape of our lives and our souls, and Sara’s current work reflects significant changes and growth artistically. For one thing, this marks the artist’s first turn in the producer’s chair, and the very intimate, personal quality of the project is either a product of that new degree of control - or is that simply what the songs demanded? Either way, What Makes it Through is a reflective, introspective album of songs that probe beneath the surface and plumb the depths of our motives and emotional reflexes.


Less overtly spiritual than you might expect (if you’re a word-counter), What Makes it Through is a bit of spiritual self-analysis for the thoughtful believer. Of course, if you have ears to hear, you’ll pick up on the story of the woman at the well right off the bat in “Soul of Things.”

“Why is it so hard to tell yourself the truth,” she continues, “to see into the soul of things / what a mystery your very heart, held inside you and known in part.”

The song is musically more sparse, melodically pure, relying mostly on Sara’s piano and voice to convey the message. The quiet intimacy seems to color the first part of the album, although there’s a perky quality to “Cheshire Cat,” with its military-type cadence on the snare drum and Sara’s infectious crystalline vocal refrain.


“Deal Breaker” is a pivotal song, dealing with how we need to learn to live with our differences instead of allowing those differences to separate us. Using just voice and piano, we’re told, “I always thought with you and me, though it’s not on paper, there would never be a deal breaker...” By the way, you might want to look up the word, ‘detritus’ before listening... The poetry of Groves’ lyrics is evident in the very beautiful “Rendezvous,” which also features one of the artist’s most beautiful hymn-like melodies:

I have to break the seal of this warm interior / set out across the field of landmine and cold / say i won’t be everything for myself / for every good a threshold / for every good a threshold...”

Once again, the song is carried mostly by vocal and piano, with just a taste of acoustic guitar and (surprise) bass clarinet (Kenni Holman) as a foundation.


The first real taste of Sara’s pop side, aided by Jerry MacPherson on guitar, Matt Pierson on bass and Steve Brewster on drums, comes on “Remains of The Day,” which seems to be a reflection on the pitfalls of hero-worship, especially in a church setting. Hearing Sara’s “Holy Charisma!” is an unexpected treat! For all of you Edgar Allen Poe fans, “Telltale Heart” is a smartly-rendered tale of facades and lies we tell to ourselves and others. “Smile and welcome in the guests - see the fork is on the left / there are bodies in the basement.” there’s a bit of a sardonic tone to the song, and Charlie Peterson’s organ solo is worth the price of admission.


Every war’s a civil war if all men are brothers,” Sara sings on “Reach Inside,” a strong, very moving song with intriguing lyrics. Appropriately, next comes, “Nothing,” a plea for communication - at least that’s how I take it. The lyrics tend to grow and evolve with every listening, which is the way it ought to be with art.

The album ends with a re-worked “Loving a Person,” with its gentle melody and vulnerable lyrics. This is Sara Groves at her communicative best, calling out “hold on to me, and I’ll hold on to you / let’s find out the beauty of seeing this through,” - it’s somewhat of a capsule-form of the message of this album: “loving me right where I am, it’s not a small thing


What Makes it Through is a reflective, introspective ‘Sara sandwich’ - soft, gentle and vulnerable, with some musical protein on the inside for texture and flavor. The songs are all written by Sara Groves, with co-writing credits on “Cheshire Cat (Charlie Peacock) and “Telltale Heart” (Zach Miller). Along with Sara on keyboards and vocals (and other musicians already noted above) are Aaron Fabbrini on pedal steel and bass, Steve Bosmans, Ben Gowel, and Dan Phelps on electric guitar, Zach Miller on drums and loops, Scott Dente and John Mark Nelson on acoustic guitar, Dan Lawon on guitar and cello, and John Mark Nelson, Sara Renner & Tonia Hughes on background vocals.

Let Sara Groves’ new project make it through to your ‘must listen’ list.

 - Bert Saraco 


you can see Bert Saraco” concert photography at www.facebook.com/express.image