If you’ve ever been to an open mic, you know how much of a mixed bag it can end being. From my limited experience, the bands are, well, bands. They have at least some degree of coordination. But it’s often the singer-songwriters where the uncertainty comes into play. Naturally, it’s a lot easier to play one instrument or sing while other people handle the other responsibilities than it is to do everything yourself all at once. It’s not uncommon for these individuals to excel at guitar or vocals, but not both.
Thankfully, Grand Rapids’ Anita Ranae needs no comparison to open mic acts. Her songwriting is mature, her sound is full, and her lyrics are vulnerable and thought-provoking. Watercolor Sidewalks, released last October, is still essentially fresh out of the oven and I certainly suggest you waste no time taking a listen.
Music aside, the cover art is certainly worth a mention. It’s appropriately in watercolor, with an array of calming tones and a degree of simplicity. It sets the mood for an album that’s down-to-earth.
Instrumentally, the album is a great mix of guitar, piano, and Ranae’s soft vocals. However, the lyrics are much more than a bow on top; rather, they’re the present itself on this album.
Growing Up Slowly comments on trying to find God in the day-to-day and the struggle of surrender:
“Maybe dependence isn’t always something to be fought / And maybe repentance isn’t always something to be taught / But to be given and received”
The third track is titled Epilogue, as it describes a woman nearing the end of her life, wondering where her purpose lies:
“How does it feel to be mother and wife but no longer a daughter or friend?
How does it feel to look back on your life and know you’re only pages from the end?
Is this how you thought it would end?
Now your one hundred years are a day
Your pages lie closed in a cold glass display
There are stories you never did say
But somehow I know you’ll tell me someday”
Stones showcases our inability to face life apart from God with these poetic lines:
“You won’t fit into my armor
It wasn’t made for you
And my sword was never yours to own
So let me walk beside you
In the dry riverbed
And help you find your stones”
Next, there are the vulnerable and compelling lines of Black Coffee:
“Take me to the mission field of my own soul
Take this cup of bitterness and make me whole
Lead me in the quietness of Your pure and holy heart
Make me Your flawed but perfect work of art”
Naturally, these are just some of the stand-out lyrics but it should by clear that Ranae is able to poetically capture themes of life, weakness, and grace in a way that few artists can.
If I had to capture the mood of this album, it’s the feeling of being inside on rainy summer afternoon and looking out the window. It’s mellow. It’s introspective. It’s acoustic. Mostly, it’s just amazing how unknown this album is. Don’t let the “folk” label turn you away – this is an alluring record you should definitely check out.