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Review: John Mark McMillan’s “Economy”

September 29, 2011

John Mark McMillan’s much-anticipated album, Economy, soars above the lofty expectations I was almost afraid to hold for it.

I met John Mark in August 2007, with tens of thousands of others. The Song Inside the Sounds of Breaking Down was almost life-changing for me. Later, The Medicine was a religious experience in itself; it took worship music to a whole new place – beautiful, simple melodies and stunning lyrics. When he signed with Integrity and they re-released The Medicine without changing anything, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

When I started hearing about a new album coming out this fall, I admit I was more nervous that excited. We’ve all been in love with some independent musician or band who finally got discovered, signed, and then pushed to put out a new album … which then, of course, sucked. Or the band that gets signed and decides (or is told by the producer) to change their sound … which then, of course, sucks.

Label-signing aside, everybody reaches a peak at some point, right? It was hard to imagine anyone keeping up with The Medicine, much last surpassing it. Even John Mark.

But he did it. No kidding. Whatever your expectations for Economy, I assure you, he (and his team) exceeded them.

If you love his music, you’ll still love it. It’s still the folk-infused indie experiment you already adore. (Yes, I just made that up, you like it? “folk-infused indie experiment”)

And the lyrics? Come on. If John Mark can do one thing, it’s write poetry that also perfectly fills in a melody that you can’t not sing. Some of my favorites:
From “Daylight”:

The boardwalk is painted red with the blood
Of a thousand prospective heroes but one
Still cries out beyond all the grave and the flood
Where the blackest abysses cannot overcome

Cause we live on the edge
On the edge of a darkness oh
We live on the edge
On the edge of a darkness oh
But daylight is coming on

From “Murdered Son”:

Glory to One
God’s murdered Son
Who paid for my resurrection
Once from the dust, once from the grave
Daughters and sons from the ashes you’ve raised
And hidden our faults even from your own face
And scattered our debt upon the waves

From “Chemicals”:

But I want to love you
When the blood of my veins
Don’t know how to call out your name

And at the same time, “Sins are Stones” is three or four simple lines over and over again, but it will move you to tears like the rest.

A friend of mine once commented, “I think John Mark McMillan understands Jesus in a way I just don’t.” I think that’s a great way to describe his work. I’m just humbled and grateful that he shares it with the rest of us.

November 1 it can be yours. (The single, “Sheet of Night” can be yours now.) Mark your calendars.

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