Chances are, even if you've never heard of John Mark McMillan, you've surely heard his song "How He Loves." Despite being one of the most popular worship compositions of the decade, McMillan himself has unfortunately been slightly overlooked as an artist in the current music scene. At least, that might've been the case until this year's official Integrity label release of The Medicine. Filled with rough "mountain-man" vocals, an edgy alternative sound, and enough plaintive honesty to fill three albums, The Medicine is undoubtedly McMillan's best work to date.
From the first words of the opening track, "Reckoning Day," it's immediately clear that this is not, as you might have thought, a simple worship album. If a possible combination of The Black Keys, Frightened Rabbit, and NEEDTOBREATHE were to exist, this is definitely it. McMillan shows himself to be a pro at organizing musical elements to create the biggest tapestry possible, combining reverberated guitars with expansive choir vocals resulting in a sound that envelops the listener.
Other standout selections include the fast-paced, emotion-laden title track, the loud, beautiful, and just plain stunning composition "Skeleton Bones," and the harmonica-filled rock goodness of "Belly of the Lion." "Out of the Ground" takes on a bit of Killers-esque alternative sensibility, while "Carolina Tide" features perhaps one of the strongest climaxes of the album as McMillan shouts the startling wake-up call of, "Hey girl, let's go down/wash our hands in the Carolina tide/Let's go down and die/and come back like babies." Drawing The Medicine to a close is a thunderous single version of "How He Loves."
For fans of McMillan's newfound style, The Medicine is about as close to perfect as it gets. Each song is excellently written, deftly performed, and fantastically arranged. Though the result sounds nothing like the typical "worship music," lyrical depth is of utmost concern; as McMillan himself says in his website biography, "The Medicine presents portraits of resurrection... I want to write songs that give your heart language in the porch lights of your own reckoning; dangerous songs that give you permission to wear your heart on your sleeve before Jesus, unencumbered by the grave cloths of mindless tradition."
Truly, McMillan's collection of songs is the sound of hope in a hopeless world, the bright light at the end of the tunnel of your soul. All in all, a listen through The Medicine is highly worth your money, time, and thought-- in fact, you may leave the experience with more of the latter than you began.- Review date: 12/14/10, written by Garrett DeRossett of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Integrity Music/Columbia
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