A few years ago, I arrived at a church choir gathering with friends of all ages. An elementary-aged girl had been dropped off by her parents and I noticed her sitting by herself with a shy smile. I smiled back and waved, taking a seat and settling in.
My friend Beth arrived shortly after me and within a few moments, she crossed the room, knelt down to look the girl in the eye, and reached out her hand. They shook as Beth asked her what her name was. To be honest, I’d never even considered that as an option. I imagined later what the girl must have felt to have an adult single her out, stoop down to her level, and dignify her with a real-life handshake.
All Creatures dignifies children by looking them in the eye and asking them to sing with the voices they have now.Kelsey Miller
What does this have to do with All Creatures, the new Rain for Roots album? Their music does the same thing. It dignifies children by looking them in the eye and asking them to sing with the voices they have now. Leading the charge is Sandra McCracken, Flo Paris Oakes, Katy Bowser Hutson, and Alice Smith, and the result is tender-hearted, lively Scripture songs for children and anyone else who needs simple truths to sing. Throughout the album, listeners hear the voices of children and adults singing together, trading verses and harmonies. It reminds me that we’re all part of the larger family of God and every voice has its part.
Right off the bat, “All Things Bright and Beautiful” sets the tone for the album as a folky yet groovy, reminding the listeners of the many sweetnesses that God gives us in the natural world: the little flowers, the birds that sing. Some of the chords and progressions remind me distinctly of the kind of music I’d hear on Gilmore Girls, a sort of Sam-Phillipsy vibe. I can give no higher compliment.
In “Listen, Listen,” Katy Bowser Hutson draws on the blues as a delightful setting for Psalm 107. It’s boisterous yet controlled and pulls back at just the right moment.
In “Only, Ever, Always,” Sandra McCracken and Joseph Bradshaw sing together, “His love, it makes us younger.” Here, I find the crux of what Rain for Roots aims to do in their work: the group reminds us album after album, and this one is no exception, that spiritual growth may have as much to do with growing young as with growing old. The embrace of mystery, waiting, and longing is a posture that comes especially naturally to children—if we are able to abide in that posture, then children we will remain.
Flo Paris Oakes sings “Tell Me” with her signature soulfulness. The song feels like a real balm applied to wound, as Flo asks the fearful questions, names those secret fears, and then gently soothes the listener with the medicine of relieving truth: that no darkness, storms, or anger can remove us from the sight and love of God. What a relief.
Wherever you are and whatever your voice sounds like, I hope you take a listen to the entirety of All Creatures by Rain for Roots and find your place in its songs.