Six Inches of Sky
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 2 Feb
Despite the fact that this is her debut album on BEC and that you might not recognize her name, Sherri Youngward actually has three albums already under her belt (her first two were released on Five Minute Walk records, the third was an independent release). Hailing from the west coast (originally the San Francisco Bay area), Sherri is actively involved in the Youth With a Mission ministry, a program for mentoring street kids. It's undoubtedly a ministry close to her heart since she became a Christian as a teenager. Immediately after making that life-altering decision, Sherri fell in love with the concept of worship music, a passion that's clearly shaped her songwriting and has led to many performances performances at churches across the country. Her new CD, Six Inches of Sky, is filled with plenty of these worshipful songs set against a dreamy and edgy alternative-folk backdrop.
Sherri recalls a lot of different Christian folk artists. Imagine Over the Rhine if they decided to focus more on worship, or the vocals of Danielle Young (Caedmon's Call) if she were her own songwriter. When you listen to "I'll Fly Away," a song about the joy we'll experience when we leave this earth for eternal life with God, you can't help but think of the roots-pop sound for which Carolyn Arends is known. The folk-pop is evident throughout the album, especially on the hidden track, "Nothing Like Before." The arrangement is appropriately stripped down to vocals and acoustic guitar as Sherri bares her soul about accepting Christ into her life. It's easy to make comparisons to any number of alternative folk-pop female artists (Sarah McLachlan, Sandra McCracken, and the Indigo Girls come to mind), but Sherri's music takes a small step outside the box thanks to interesting production by "The Glitter Twins" from the worship band Rock n' Roll Worship Circus. (Trust me, you'll be hearing more about them later this year.)
What could have been a simplistic acoustic-folk album is layered with ambient drums, programmed loops, classic keyboard effects, and fuzzy electric guitars. The sound draws obvious comparisons to Over the Rhine, The Choir, and Common Children's recent album,
With artistic songs, such as "This Dream of Mine," and smartly written worship songs, such as "Where This Love Goes," on the album, it's surprising to me that so many of the other album tracks are repetitive and uninspired by comparison. While many of the songs are every bit as passionate and worshipful in performance, Sherri often limits herself to a single verse, chorus, and bridge for the entire lyrical content. One or two like that would be fine, but I'm talking about half of the album. Some tracks, such as "First Fire" and "Falling Down," have the beginnings of great worship songs, but don't seem fully fleshed-out with only seven or eight lines of lyrics. This is unfortunate, because Sherri clearly is capable of poetic insight, and she easily could add another verse to some of these songs without making them too complicated or inaccessible. Her music also could benefit from more instrumental solos, such as the sweet guitar solo at the end of "Falling Down," to fill in her songs with more artistry. As it stands,