When I first met Sara Beth Go (then Sara Beth Geoghegan), it was at a house concert in my home in 2009. She was loudly banging out tunes on our Baby Grand. When I asked her about the volume level, she unapologetically said “That’s how we do it in Nashville.” Well, OK. It was a sweet if loud evening of stories, jokes, sing-a-longs, an impromptu high school chorus, and sweetly sad love songs and fresh takes on faith from her then new release, Tired of Singing Sad Songs. I asked her back, and back, and back.
Is she tired of singing sad songs? Apparently not. But it’s OK. Unlike her last offering, you won't find direct references to Christian faith in her latest, Wish It Had, or the slightest of nods to the CCM music industry (which is just fine), but what you will find is a kind of sweet snarkiness, a wit and whimsy reflected in these songs of longing, these parables of unrequited, moribund, or complicated love — one person’s attempt to navigate in a world where love is still a precious and rare commodity.
Point in fact: The lead track, “Kids in the City,” gives voice to twenty-something relational longings: “I don’t know where exactly this is going to go/ Kids in the city we don’t wanna be alone/ Puttin’ up signs and looking for hope.” (Whimsy? Check out the video.) There’s plenty of break ups, “I thought we’d grow old/ the day your mother told me I was pretty/ Now it’s such a pity” (“Wish I Had”) or the holiday blues of “It was the worst New Years ever/ When you told me your heart wasn’t in it” ("Worst New Years Ever"). And yet as much as there is a longing for love there is an appreciation for how the memories we form make us who we are: “Funny, it’s funny what you remember/ All the pieces, the pieces come together/ To make you who you are/ To tell a story, a story that’s your alone” (“Pieces”). In such lyrical territory, you might think that, as Neil Young (aging rock star, kids) once quipped, “these songs are guaranteed to bring you right down.” Not so. What you get with Sara Beth is not an earful of simmering angst, or world-weary muddling through, but life and love as adventure. Hope remains. She still believes.
Sonically, the mood is boosted by the buoyancy and playfulness of the songs. A little ukulele here, bells here, the ba-ba-ba of background vocals, strings, an up and down bass line. It’s so fun to break up and look for love, the songs seem to say. Of course not, and yet Sara Beth’s point seems to be that love is worth it, worth the risk:
You might say I’m foolish and reckless
But I will not put a fence around my heart
Just be safe and protected
And yes it hurts more than it really should
And yes it will be worth all the good and bad.
(“All the Good”). Love is scary, and messy, and risky, and yet Sara Beth says go for it: “"For me in life, it's never been black and white. I want to connect the dots from A to Z and make this really pretty, but it's still a tangled mess. God is simply asking that we trust Him, that we believe the gospel."
And that, people, is what it comes down to. A grand adventure. A trust walk. A two-steps-forward-one step back kind of GPS-less walk in the direction of Love.
So go buy Sara Beth Go’s Wish It Had. Play it loud. And hope that when she does meet the right man she still has something to write about. I think she will.