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JFH Music Review

John Mark McMillan, The Medicine

John Mark McMillan
The Medicine

Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 14 tracks: 69 minutes, 39 seconds
Street Date: July 6, 2010

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

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

With more and more worship albums on the market, there is an inherent, crucial need to stand out from the pack to truly make an impactful difference. Integrity Music signee John Mark McMillan does just that, making his move with The Medicine, a worship record that borders on astounding but with enough to improve upon. With plenty of underground credibility built up, solid talent is extremely evident within the project, and it carries an approach that's refreshingly hard to define. There are plenty of the standard elements of worship music in place, but it's the little changes to the same old that prove to make the difference; some tracks carry a southern influence ("Belly of the Lion," "Philadelphia," "Ten Thousand," "Between the Cracks"), while others care for a flat-out rock 'n' roll edge ("Reckoning Day," "The Medicine," "Out of the Ground"). Album standout "Carbon Ribs" majors on an atmospheric element with clever rhythmically-placed picking. Usually avoiding canned "worship catchphrases" and opting for more artful representations of praise, "Skeleton Bones" and "My Only" are exemplary of congregational worship that feels fresh. While the entire project is glistening with innovation and expertise, sometimes the album's flow becomes inconsistent or the compositions drag on for just a little too long, losing their maximum effect ("Dress Us Up," "Skeleton Bones"); they're mostly minor issues, but reordering some tracks and "trimming off the album's fat" would have resulted in a slightly stronger project. All things considered, however, The Medicine is artistic, reverent, and accomplished, and is more than a significant step in the right direction both for McMillan and the modern worship scene as a whole. - Roger Gelwicks, 11/26/10


. Record Label: Integrity Music/Columbia
. Album length: 14 tracks: 69 minutes, 39 seconds
. Street Date: July 6, 2010
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It:

  1. Reckoning Day (4:07)
  2. The Medicine (3:34)
  3. Skeleton Bones (7:09)
  4. Carbon Ribs (4:12)
  5. Dress Us Up (8:43)
  6. Death In His Grave (5:54)
  7. Belly Of The Lion (3:43)
  8. Philadelphia (4:27)
  9. Out Of The Ground (4:17)
  10. Ten Thousand (4:46)
  11. Carolina Tide (3:41)
  12. My Only (5:25)
  13. Between The Cracks (4:55)
  14. How He Loves (Single Version) (4:46)



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