Fair Trade Services
Release Date: October 30th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Healing in the Hands
- No Place Love Won’t Go
- Before You Call Me Home
- Sing to the Lord
- Lift Up Your Hands (When You Can’t)
Mark Schultz has been within and around the Christian music industry for a while. Since his debut album in 2000 with his hit #1 song “He’s My Son”, alongside other welcomed and enjoyable melodies throughout his career, from “I Am”, “I Have Been There” and “Broken and Beautiful”, to “Walking Her Home”, “Back in His Arms” and “Love Has Come”; we see this heartfelt and emotive singer/songwriter deliver pertinent, powerful and poignant melodies surrounding and delving into the Christian faith and daily walk. While of late Mark hasn’t really written and recorded much new material (his last album of all-new songs was in 2012 with All Things Possible, Hymns, an album full of hymns, was released in 2014, as was Renaissance, an instrumental album a la Michael W. Smith’s Freedom and Glory); Mark is now back with brand new songs, albeit a short EP set.
Starting off Before You Call Me Home EP with “Healing in the Hands”, Mark opens with a CCM/worship melody fit of the radio airwaves. While I am not sure if this is the first single or not on the EP, the abundance of percussion and easy to sing lyrics makes me think that this melody, if not the first single, is on its way to being a single in the future. With an intro reminiscent of other well-known melody introductions like “Love Has Come” and “I Am” (both recorded and written by Mark himself), “Healing in the Hands” delivers a message of God being able to heal and put back together any scar and any hurt we could feel. While the message of the song is at times cliché (I have heard this message in Christy Nockels’s “Healing in Your Hands”, sung with much more enthusiasm and fervent passion), Mark nevertheless should still be commended for his repetition and rhyme as this catchy melody is testament that Mark can still create an infectious melody even with simplistic lyrics. And with that, let us all declare alongside Mark that ‘…there is mercy in the One who is Love, who is Love, there is mercy in the One who took my place, my Saviour, come…’?
Throughout the rest of the EP, Mark imparts to the listener themes of hope, comfort and encouragement, with a diverse musical backdrop in each of the songs. “No Place Love Won’t Go” shows Mark singing amongst piano riffs and a looping percussion beat as this upbeat melody that features a theme of God’s love weaving through all the areas of our lives, is a message we all need, even on a daily basis; while “Before You Call Me Home” brings the tempo down and the lyrics to the fore as this ballad reminds us all to delve deep within ourselves, and see what our lives will amount to before Christ calls us home, as we ponder what we did and how we lived and whether our lives were pointing others towards Christ or away from Him.
“Sing to the Lord”, though sadly forgettable when you place this song against the other four (though Mark’s heart is in the right place, trying to semi-rap over a repetitive percussion loop seems to tire sooner rather than later), still has a message we need to hear. As Mark declares that we need to sing our praises to the Lord at all times, we try to think of a song, any song, that has a similar theme, with an increased fervour and passion (maybe Amy Grant’s “Sing Your Praises to the Lord” or maybe Third Day’s “Sing Praises”?). “Lift Up Your Hands” is by far Mark’s best track on the EP, as this piano driven ballad is as heartfelt as it is needed for us to hear. Taking a page out of Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name”, you can probably write 10 000 songs about the story of Job and what it means to praise God in the darkness and the middle of the night. As Mark declares for us to ‘…let me stand up and sing of His goodness, let me lift up a song in your place, cause I know that He’ll always be with us, even when we can’t see His face…’, we are reminded to declare in the valley, and to sing praises on behalf of those who may not have the faith to declare at that particular moment. My favourite song on the EP, kudos to Mark for leaving the best song to last, and a reminder of God’s promise and faithfulness to His children whom He’ll never leave or forsake.
Standing at 5 tracks and a touch under 20 minutes, Before You Call Me Home is as musically diverse as ever. While Mark may not necessarily be the most popular artist within the CCM industry currently (artists like Matthew West, Josh Wilson, Brandon Heath or Aaron Shust have been popularised within radio, seemingly at Mark’s expense), we are nevertheless shown an array of melodies delivered with a piano and guitar focus, as lovers of Mark’s previous material will enjoy his new release. While not necessarily the most groundbreaking artist musically (call him the Casting Crowns of Christian male solo singers, if you will), Mark’s heart still is worn and shown in these 5 songs, with each of them telling a story and painting a picture of the Christian walk. Mark’s collection of 5 tracks show us the heartfelt message that God calls us home in every circumstance, but not before He shows us what He longs for us to understand- more about ourselves and Himself as we journey our life with Him by our side.
3 songs to listen to: Before You Call Me Home, Lift Up Your Hands, No Place Love Won’t Go
RIYL: Sidewalk Prophets, Casting Crowns, Matthew West, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith