Fair Trade Services
Release Date: May 22nd 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
In early April just before Easter, my parents, brother and I attended a MercyMe concert, with lead singer Bart Millard and other members Mike, Barry, Robby and Nathan conveying stories and songs from popular hits such as ‘I Can Only Imagine’, ‘God With Us’, ‘All of Creation’, ‘Move’, ‘Homesick, ‘Finally Home’ and ‘Beautiful’. They sang the lead single and title track of their upcoming new album, and Bart gave a mini sermon also. After the concert, I was enthralled and thus could not wait until May. Now that May has arrived, I have listened to the new album, many times over, which was produced by Brown Bannister and Dan Muckula. I was inclined to just rate their album 5/5, however a deeper look at each of these 10 tracks show that MercyMe have evolved and matured in Jesus as a band. ‘The Hurt and the Healer’, while not a perfect album, is an album worthy of following ‘The Generous Mr Lovewell’ and ‘All That is Within Me’ (still MercyMe’s crowning achievement).
‘You Know Better’, a song of declaration and total abandonment to God, starts off the album. Right from the outset, it is clear that a more rockier dance vibe is employed, as Bart fearlessly cries out against the heavy guitars that Jesus is Lord and we know that He knows our lives better than we do. Similar musically to ‘I Know’ from ‘All That is Within Me’, this pop-dance jive really hits home and tugs at listeners’ hearts when Bart proclaims in the 2nd verse ‘…would You wake me up and make me aware of what You are doing…it’s Your call, help me understand it’s not how I fall but where I land…I’m not the one in control…’ We all need to surrender to God our lives fully, and this songs gives listeners a meaty topic to ponder.
If you thought the previous track was a great album opener, ‘You Don’t Care At All’ (odd choice of a title!) is all kinds of awesome too. In my mind this should have been the opener, it’s rockier, more flash, and lyrically is more sound. (no matter…) Singing about how our old self has died with Christ on the cross and how we are made free, Bart gives the listeners a dosage of the good old gospel message, a concept tried again and again, and in my opinion never tried enough. Musically similar to ‘Move’ from their 2010 album, and including a stirring guitar solo in the bridge, the lyrics that touched me most were from the chorus ‘…all of my yesterdays, all of my past mistakes, you know me all the way…no matter what I do, what I am going through, it’s already died with You, You don’t care at all, You don’t care at all…’. As far as God’s concerned, our slate is clean, and that is definitely something we should celebrate!!
3rd is the first single ‘The Hurt and the Healer’, and this is where the album makes its’ mark, with the first two rocky tracks being an entree to the main course, which is the softer ballad radio single. As Bart explains the heart of the title track in their press release ‘…The Hurt & The Healer is a celebration of that moment when these two worlds collide….the deep need for healing and the God who provides it…’, the song was borne out of a tough year, especially when Bart’s cousin died. Grieving is a part of the process required for healing, which cannot be found in an explanation. If God were to answer everyone giving a more than adequate reason as to why he didn’t heal their relative of cancer, or their broken marriage, or whatever circumstance; the hurt would still be the same. The healing wouldn’t come any quicker. And God will still be God, sitting on His throne. Healing comes in time with Jesus Christ, knowing He is there to carry you through the storms. A sombre yet uplifting song (at the same time!), MercyMe have crafted an emotional tear jerker with heartfelt lyrics surely in contention for at least one Dove Award next year! With the stand out lyrics ‘… I’m alive, even though a part of me has died, You take my heart and breathe it back to life; I fall into Your arms open wide when the hurt and the healer collide…’ this is one of my favourite songs ever from the Texan band.
While the rest of the album fades in comparison to the title track, there are still treasures and gems to be found. ‘To Whom It May Concern’ is a electronic based synth heavy dance tune where Bart gives the listeners a word of comfort that we aren’t defined our measured by our past mistakes but by who we are in Jesus. With subject matter comparable to Tenth avenue North’s ‘You Are More’, the point MercyMe drive home in the bridge ‘…breathe deep and believe that wherever you go…it comes down to being found and who you know…’, is that when you are found in Jesus and are a child of His, we can begin to live a life of true freedom.
From countless listens, I can definitely see the 2nd single as ‘You Are I Am’, a light guitar ballad based on the theme of acceptance in God, and believing into who He is so that we can believe who we are in Him. As Bart explosively proclaims in the chorus that ‘…You’re the One who conquers giants, You’re the One who calls out kings, You shut the mouths of lions, You tell the dead the breathe…You are the One Messiah, You are ‘I Am’…’ it is clear that the all powerful all mighty God is King, and he loves us unconditionally, and wants the very best. One of the highlights, I am sure ‘You Are I Am’ will be a staple and a given in concerts for the next few years…
Bear Rineheart, lead vocalist of NEEDTOBREATHE, lends his talents as the 6th track, ‘Take the Time’ gets into gear; a slower southern type gospel song, reminding me of something Third Day might sing. Starting off with the twang of the electric guitar, Bart and Bear trade voices in the verses as they sing in harmony about Christians helping their fellow brothers and sisters or even non Christians in need. The bridge which states from God’s perspective ‘….I’m the hungry and the weak, can you ever see me, I’m the stranger all alone, won’t you welcome me home, I’m the naked and the shame, won’t you look my way?…’ and an energetic bout of spontaneous guitar solos is my favourite part of the song. Kudos to the band for turning an uncomfortable and confronting issue into one which hopefully stirs people to action. Based on bible verses Matthew 25:31-46, and James 2:14-26, ‘Take the Time’ is a diamond that is sure to win some accolades, and the guitar solo with distortion pedal can only help its cause.
In ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’, an alternative electric guitar prominent possible CHR hit, Bart fervently gives a plea to God to not give up on us when we’re in the pit, the storms of life. This song is more a song of reassurance to ourselves that God is faithful ‘…when my world comes crashing, crashing down, will You still be with me? Don’t give up on me…’. The bridge is extremely heartening, as the words of Jesus are ever present in Bart and the band’s ‘electronic voices’. ‘…be still, I’ll never leave you, you’re far, I am near, My grace will always be greater, the sun through all your fears…’ Musically this song is MercyMe at its peak, through the soaring guitars and the passionate vocals of Bart!
‘Hold On’ is my least favourite from the album, however it does it have its place amongst the big anthems in this album. A light ballad in which Bart inspires the listeners to hold on and to remember ‘…it’s the [Jesus] arms that are holding you…’ there is enough comfort in the track to move the listener to reconnect with Jesus as ‘…you ain’t see nothing yet…’. God will always surprise us. Segueing next is ‘Best of Me’, one of MercyMe’s tracks that came out of left field for me- in a good way! With a groovy electric guitar baseline, and some experimental electronic sounds added in as well, Bart distorts his voice, and brings the listener a fun danceable track as he sings about giving our all and our best for God as ‘…You are my everything…’ This is another one of my highlights, as MercyMe continually pushes the envelope of safe genres, showing that they are currently one of the world’s most inventive bands.
Lastly, the album closer is the powerful piano only track ‘The First Time’, with a similar message to Britt Nicole’s ‘Seeing For the First Time’. A track that is also as emotional as Sidewalk Prophets’ ‘This is Not Goodbye’, Bart expresses his praise and burning questions to God, and also sings about how Jesus continually exceeds and sometimes defies our expectations and logic. We may say we want something from God, or for God to do something, however He mostly turns everything on its head when He gives us something infinitely more relevant and exciting for us, something unexpected. When Bart declares to Jesus ‘…I thought I knew Your face, I thought I tasted grace, I have never felt anything close to this; just when I’d seen it all, new mercy breaks the dawn, with my eyes open wide it feels like the first time…’ it is evident that God will always do things from left field! He is God! What a way to finish! This song is also bound to be a single sometime soon.
MercyMe have come a long way since their hit song ‘I Can Only Imagine’ since 2001. With a glut of singles and Dove Awards, never have they lost focused on who their ministry is about. As Bart explains in the press release ‘…the idea is to create an album to help bring healing to people…even in the midst of life’s worst moments, there’s this irony of feeling more alive than any time before…’. With what I have experienced in this 40 minutes musical and lyrical journey across an expanse of genres from alternative rock to the humble piano ballad, I can truly say that MercyMe has matched their 2010 album 110%! Though it is a shame to see Jim Bryson not present in the band anymore (he was not on their press release photos…), I am sure Bart, Mike, Nathan, Robby and Barry will continue to serve the Lord like how they’ve been doing for the past 10 + years! Keep up the fantastic work guys! Hats off to Dan and Brown for producing as well! For fans of Third Day, Newsboys and NEEDTOBREATHE.
- You Know Better (3:27)
- You Don’t Care At All (3:06)
- The Hurt & The Healer (4:51)
- To Whom It May Concern (3:38)
- You Are I Am (4:22)
- Take The Time (4:45)
- Don’t Give Up On Me (3:57)
- Hold On (3:57)
- Best Of Me (3:30)
- The First Time (3:46)
Favourite Tracks: You Don’t Care At All, The Hurt and the Healer, You Are I Am, Don’t Give Up on Me, The First Time