Sunday, December 12, 2010

John Mark McMillan: The Medicine Review

If the name John Mark McMillan sounds familiar, it’s probably because it was John Mark who penned the modern classic “How He Loves.” Although John Mark released The Medicine, an independent album in 2008, Integrity records picked up his release and re-released it this year with an appendix of four extra tracks. John Mark’s sound is comparable to Don Francisco, famous for the blockbuster hit “He’s Alive,” even containing the deep, vibrating voice similar to Don.

“Reckoning Day,” a contemporary and slightly-gospel track, is based on Psalm 24 about Christ riding in: “Lift up your head/ oh you gates/ lift up your eyes/ all you who wait/ daughter and son/ ashes and dust/ come untied from the weight of the age.” “The Medicine,” featuring grunge guitars with a very catchy bass act, seemed a bit hard to follow, but seemed to be written to someone who had committed suicide because they were “afraid of being alive.”

“Skeleton Bones” and “Carbon Ribs,” both slower worship songs featuring cool guitar picking, celebrate the glory of the Resurrection, and its impact on our lives, as “Dress Us Up” seems to be a contemporary retelling of the prodigal son story. “Death In His Grave,” a soothing country track, again speaks of the resurrection of Jesus, only this time speaking of all that Jesus gave up for us by His death on the cross.

“Belly of the Lion,” begins with little more than guitar strumming and clapping for the beat, obviously birthed out of heartbreak that John Mark went through during the writing process for this album. However, by the second verse, the upbeat country takes over, making for a highly catchy song with these lyrics: “Days like these we’ve got nothing to sing about/ days like these/ I don’t know what I think about/ days like these/ who would’ve known?”

“Philadelphia” and “Ten Thousand” are also slower country tracks lamenting the loss of some special person in John Mark’s life, while “Out of the Ground” is a highly upbeat track reminding me Rebecca St. James’ rendition of “It is Well.” As its name implies, “Out of the Ground” again speaks of the resurrection, something that John Mark has had on his heart. As he said, how can you not give all of your life to the God who gave all He had just to have a relationship with you?

“Carolina Tide,” the last track on the original independent release, speaks of regret and forgiveness, obviously written to his girl, while “My Only” is a contemporary track praising Jesus for being our ever-present help in time of need. “Between the Cracks” sounds more like a Creed song than a John Mark McMillan song, as it speaks of how hope is there for anybody in need of help. Finally, “How He Loves” ends the CD The Medicine, sounding almost identical to the David Crowder Band, expect for more percussion. I did find that I enjoyed this version more than David Crowder’s version for that reason. “How He Loves” was a perfect end to this debut project from John Mark, with a strong message of God’s forgiveness and love in our lives.

I enjoyed John Mark McMillan’s country style that composed The Medicine, as well as the powerful message of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection to save us. Many of the songs on this album were shaped from the loss of a loved one, or regret in times past, making many songs emotional, as well. I also found several songs to be hard to follow without first looking up the stories behind them. However, overall, The Medicine was an enjoyable listen with wonderful lyrics by a great male vocalist.

Rating: 3.5/5

Track listing:
1. Reckoning Day
2. The Medicine
3. Skeleton Bones
4. Carbon Ribs
5. Dress Us Up
6. Death In His Grave
7. Belly of the Lion
8. Philadelphia
9. Out of the Ground
10. Ten Thousand

11. Carolina Tide
12. My Only
13. Between the Cracks
14. How He Loves

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