Music Review: Sarah McLachlan – Shine On

SM Chine OnI sang with Sarah McLachlan! Yup, this past March at B.C. Place, I sang “O Canada” with Sarah and 54,000 other hockey fans.

Her latest album is mostly inspired by personal tragedy, with subject matter that one might expect from album filled with misery. Well, Shine On is not that – Sarah writes and sings about hope in the midst of pain. Shine On is her eighth studio album, I have the other 7. This CD is dedicated to her father, who passed away in 2010, it includes a few songs dealing directly with his death, and much of the music helps us understand how to cope with pain and loss.

Shine On starts with its most upbeat and optimistic songs. On In Your Shoes, accompanied by spiccato strings, McLachlan sings about moving on and carving her own path. Not known for humor, Sarah delivers a great punch line on one of the album’s best songs, Monsters. While itemizing numerous types of monstrous creatures —from two-faced boyfriends to unscrupulous business associates – she ironically states “Think what your life would be missing if you didn’t have him to sing about.”

Of course Sarah is at her best when singing the forlorn ballad, her voice personifying heartache. It’s what made her famous and the go-to for all sad moments in TV soundtracks. “You were the star by which I light my way/ so how do I find my way now?”she mourns on Surrender and Certainty. Led by guitar picking rather than from the piano bench, Song for my Father, Sarah honors her late father’s “constant unwavering heart”and sings of how he always helped her through difficult times, being “the place that I could always rest my head.” The call-and-response between Sarah and the trumpet echoesthe musical voice of her father.

 Love Beside Me offers balance from the melancholy. Playing a funky electric piano in lieu of her characteristicgrand piano, her energetic grooves breakthrough the haze, McLachlan’s voice is inspired as she sings about learning from past mistakes. Brink of Destructionis another ballad, sung in 6/8time, keeps the melody moving forward. Though the title might suggest despair, I found it uplifting in its honesty. Beautiful Girl is the most stripped down tune of the collection. Instrumentation gets out of the way of Sarah’s lilting voice with her doubling on background vocals, as well. Shine On ends with its warmest track, The Sound That Love Makes. After more than a few songs contemplating death, shattered relationships and anguished comes a blatant happy love song. Reminiscent of Colbie Caillat, a cheery ukulele replaces somber piano chords. Love is the one emotion powerful enough to break through the grieving process and shines its light of hope. “I’m seeing the sun in all the greyest skies,”Sarah sings at her most optimistic self.

I waited a long time to add this disc to my collection, and it didn’t disappoint me at all. In fact, there are a couple of tunes that will hit the radio this summer I’m sure.

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