Sandra McCracken Desire like Dynamite. These songs of hurt and hope are sheer poetry.



Label: Independent (

Time: 11 Tracks / 50 minutes

This is one of those albums where the artwork really says something about what’s inside: images of a hazy, moody, crepuscular world that glows with the light of hope.

It starts off at its lowest point: a trite, plinky-plonk prepared piano going through predictable chords, but soon develops, as Sufjan-like horns breeze in and the vocal layers build. Play this on a Tuesday and you’ll still be singing it on Thursday.

Desire like Dynamite is built on sheer poetry. After the opener, McCracken turns a corner into a Dylan-like piece. Alongside the closing “In the Garden,” which also points to our resurrection, “Hourglass” instills a sense of hope and anticipation as it looks forward to when God renews heaven and Earth.
 “I am sifted through the fingertips of God’s transcendent hand
  I am numbering the hours on the hourglass of Man
  I am hurtling toward the future with a bulllet in my chest
  Oh, I feel the sting, the longing, running for that final rest. 

  And I saw my home, for the first one was gone, every good thing was restored
  And the sea was no more, the sea was no more.”

And on it continues, with line after line gorgeous enough to hold in the palm and stroke with the mind and heart.  

On “Sweet Amelia” (whose melody is another that refuses to dissipate) written for friends waiting for an international adoption, she sings,
 “Sweet Amelia, I taste the salt on these longing tears;
  The bitter cup that brings communion near.
  Our stories tied with rope, oh the wonder and the hope.
  I want to take you home.”

Several themes interact across the album. Waiting is one. Alongside the tracks already mentioned that point towards our resurrection, McCracken gives us a psalm-inspired song called “The Wait” and a slew of tracks that wrestle with living for God’s kingdom in a world that yearns for healing. McCracken has dedicated the collection in part to environmental charity A Rocha, and inserts a few images of what we are doing to our planet.

Relationships and desires are other themes. “Gridlock” compares some of married life to traffic jam. Each person’s desires are individually valid, but they don’t always meet; the intersection is blocked and gridlock ensues. The title track explores how our hearts drive our actions and getting our desires to be the right ones is so key.

McCracken’s voice trembles with authenticity, feeling her words as if just-thought. At times, she can be too frail and I found that the disc only came alive once I picked up the booklet to discover the lyrics.

All these richly-written words come packaged in a well-judged fabric of sound. Husband (and fine songwriter in his own right) Derek Webb, together with Josh Moore and Jordan Brooke Hamlin, help McCracken in this project, adding just the right mix of programming and organic instrumentation. This is satisfying, as I found Moore’s and Webb’s programming disappointingly cold and lifeless on Webb’s “Stockholm Syndrome.” They have come through to weave beauty around McCracken’s vocals – sometimes they leave her voice dressed in a simple guitar, elsewhere they bring in woodwind, programmed rhythms, guest harmonies, vibes, horns and piano as needed; but never too much.

As a complete work, this is a poetic beauty, rich in thought, melody and mood. It engages as well with Earth as it does with heaven and it captures life’s heady mix of pressures and splendour. It is well worth checking out.



Derek Walker

{module Possibly Related Articles - Also search our Legacy Site}