Margaret Becker File:
Reviewed by Michael Ehret
"...an amazing return to form for Becker. A 'must have' for fans and as good of an introduction to her as any for those unfamiliar."
Nine years. That’s how long it’s been since Margaret Becker’s last full length, all new, studio album. In that time, she left Sparrow Records, the only label she’s ever recorded for and went independent. Over the years she has come to understand an essential truth about Christianity: We humans complicate it far more than is necessary.
Of course, during those nine years Becker wasn’t silent – far from it. She spoke at Christian women’s conferences, recorded numerous group praise and worship albums, released Just Come In an album of five new songs and six re-recorded songs from previous albums, produced and championed other artists, particularly indie artists, and wrote books.
Now she returns with Air, a companion piece to her latest book, Coming Up For Air. Becker, CCMs true Renaissance woman, has smashed expectations with Air, turning out certainly one of the best projects in her impressive career, if not the best.
The disc opens with “Coming Up For Air,” and Becker gets right into her overall subject of rebirth and rejuvenation with these lines: “Been a really long time coming/You think I would have known/When you lay down on waves of worry/You wake with vertigo/Out of breath and short on everything it takes to go/I’m coming up for air.”
There are no accidents on this disc. Becker writes, sings, and plays as if these songs, like air, are essential to her being, to her existence, and that emotional investment pays off repeatedly as each song sounds like a personal communication from her heart to the listeners’.
Musically, this is pop/folk + soul. Similar in sound to 1999’s What Kind of Love, but modernized to fit comfortably in today’s musical landscape. Becker and her collaborators hue to the classic Maggie B sound, though less heavy on the rock and roll and more focused on the pop/soul elements, following the same maturation process as her audience.
Each song, with one possible exception, is a highlight.
“Surrender” encourages those who have tried everything else to “try something old and new like surrender. Let it all fall where it must and just, trust, trust, trust.”
The beauty of Becker’s songwriting is that it is infused with her Christian worldview. So much so that there’s no need to take pains to indicate that she’s writing about God. But on the other hand, there’s also no doubt about her intent.
But she can still write an obvious praise song, as well. One such song is the gorgeous “You’re Still God,” which exalts God for his constancy despite all of the distractions and discouragements we face. Becker writes: “Mountains tremble when you least expect/I am shaking, I’m a mess, but/You’re still God, You’re still God/I pray for comfort, I pray for rest/I lay down worried and I wake up blessed because/You’re still God, You’re still God.”
The song rides effortlessly over a bongo-styled beat, with Becker adding instrumentation as the song builds and builds and then backs off again in celebration and awe of the presence of God.
The one song that is questionable? That would be the closer, “To Be An Indian.” Musically it is beautiful, but lyrically it doesn’t connect with me. It seems to be based on the idea that Indians are more closely connected to nature than others – and that seems a bit of a stereotype to me.
Overall, Air is an amazing return to form for Becker. A “must have” for fans and as good of an introduction to her talents as any for those unfamiliar.
Michael Ehret is a music maven who has written about music, secular and Christian, as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star newspaper, several Internet sites, and even CCM magazine. He is also the editor of the newsletter Afictionado, the e-zine of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is testing the waters with his first novel, Beyond December, while working on his second, Skipping July.