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Sarah Masen Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Sarah Masen lyrics)
Sarah Masen Biography
In Sarah's own words... To avoid any misconceptions, I'd like to begin by suggesting that it's not quite right to assume that this newest collection of songs is about angels. What is rumored to be their passion, the longing that apparently keeps them going, though, IS a notion that deeply infuses these attempts at stories, these songs. Word is that the angels are crazy about us; that our miraculously mundane lives, down to the most graphic and minute detail, amount to something into which the angels, in fact, long to look. To borrow from Prospero in Shakespeare's "The Tempest," we are such stuff as angels' dreams are made of.
On June 26th, 1999 - the day before my first wedding anniversary - I found myself pushing, like a woman possessed, a soulful, squealing little girl called Dorothy Day into the hope-ridden wreck of a brand new world. My husband and I were amazed by what a frail and violent process birth is; yet it is happening all the time ... even now. Some old guy with an amazing smile is feeding squirrels somewhere while a child is forming words for the first time and a man is watching his wife sleep. Is anyone taking notice? Shouldn't somebody be bearing witness and writing it all down?
Two months after our daughter's birth, we started travelling again, performing solo acoustic concerts a few times a month. Though it has been nearly three years since my last album, the music has continued to be a very big part of my life. I feel as though I've been able to step back in order to bear witness to the miracle happening around our everyday lives.
This new album contains songs that are born out of some of these everyday observations, a taking note of preciousness and trouble and many a moment of encouragement in my own life and all the wonderfully strange lives around me as we begin to learn how to value one another properly. They generally surfaced in the context of home-based songwriting, put together in response to whatever was happening or being talked over around the house. "Love is Breathing," for instance, began as (and remained) a meditation/prayer concerning the life growing inside me. But the life and Dorothy herself come to represent the breaking-in of beauty all around us and what we're looking to do about it. "We Are a Beginning" has a similar story. I wrote the song for my wedding as a kind of determined hope statement, but it was performed during the ceremony by a motley crew of chums from our assorted community. My husband and I (and now Dorothy) are a beginning certainly, but our friends are, too. As U2 put it, "We get to carry each other."
We are very happy to report that the studio experience was a natural extension of what this collection of songs seemed to nurture. I met producer John Jennings (Mary Chapin Carpenter) through a mutual friend and found in him a benefactor-angel of the music. He rounded up angel friend musicians, Tim Lauer (Matraca Berg, John Wesley Harding), Harry Stinson (Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett), and Glenn Worf (Brian Adams, Johnny Cash, Mark Knopfler) and we recorded the basic tracks of The Dreamlife ... in a week. This required a good deal of relaxation and observation on behalf of the band. And in the spirit of the album, the poetry of everyday life was there, and in my opinion, captured in the music.
"A Beginning," "Hope," "The Valley," and "Give a Little Bit" are songs for the community to sing. They are new folk-song prayers of blessing and release, meant to be caroled in four-part melody-harmony-rhapsody-everybody sing spirit.
"Girl on Fire," "Hit-n-Run," "Home," "She Stumbles Through the Door," and "Midnight," are stories of love and loss, hope and despair, chance and providence. These are meant to be listened to with compassionate affinity-mercy ears. I hold the suspicion that our troubled existence is the soil (the only soil) out of which grace and joy and mirth can break through. The trembly, embarrassing bits are part of the plot, a crucial part I'd say, and often in need of an affectionate glance.
I expect the music to fall into the hands of people who are frustrated with the popular outlets of faith and community, and who are longing for lives of integrity and beauty as a result of being haunted by the fact that we're made for better community, friendship, and neighbor-love than most of us are settling for.
If the rumors are true, and angels, throughout our history, have been about the business of finding our levity and struggles staggeringly beautiful, maybe we can start looking at ourselves (and each other) that way too. Maybe we should. Maybe this is what it means to be really realistic. We get to listen to such stuff as angels' dreams are made of. Imagine that.