Release Date: July 22nd 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Various Artists- Ragamuffin: Music Inspired By The Motion Picture (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- Creed (Derek Webb)
- If I Stand (Sidewalk Prophets)
- Calling Out Your Name (Andrew Peterson)
- I See You (Audrey Assad)
- Land Of My Sojourn (Jars Of Clay)
- Ready For The Storm (Leigh Nash)
- Wounds Of Love (Mitch McVicker)
- Cry The Name (Jill Phillips)
- Peace (Andy Gullahorn)
- The Love Of God (Matt Liechty)
- Never Heard The Music (Rich Mullins)
- Now (Rich Mullins)
- A Message From The Filmmakers
Have you ever heard of Rich Mullins? Are you a semi-newbie like me, who has only heard popular songs such as “Awesome God”, “Hold Me Jesus”, “My Deliverer”, “Sometimes By Step”, “Creed” and “I See You”, and not much else (and these songs I have in fact heard the cover versions, from Carman, dc Talk, Bebo Norman, Third Day and Michael W Smith respectively!)? Very popular during the 80’s and 90’s, yet equally controversial in his radical theological views, Rich recorded 9 albums from 1981 until 1997, when he was killed in a car accident. Over the past 17 years since his death, many artists have re-recorded his music, and created tribute albums in dedication to him, as he is one of the pioneers of Christian music, but died without the world listening to everything he had to offer. Just this year, a movie was filmed, titled Ragamuffin, based on Rich’s life. And it’s only fitting that some of today’s popular CCM artists, as well as Rich’s personal friends, band together to record songs for the soundtrack album for the movie. Thus, here we are met with Ragamuffin: Music Inspired By The Motion Picture; which is 10 songs long, contains 2 demos as well, and a message from the filmmakers about Rich Mullins. A great way to find out more about the popular singer/songwriter who is still changing lives today; this soundtrack is a must listen to, even if you haven’t seen the film (which I will watch in the coming weeks!).
The first song I hear on the album is “Creed”, recorded by Rich in 1994, made popular by Third Day in 2002, and now on this album led by Derek Webb (which is one of the two familiar tracks on the album). Musically different in that there are hand claps and the atmosphere of a rock/country melody, as well as Derek’s distinct raspy vocals here sounding similar to Robbie Seay Band or Mark Stuart from Audio Adrenaline, this cover basically tells the gospel message. Though musically different, the tempo is hardly changed or altered from the original, and this 90’s timeless classic has definitely been reinvented and re-imagined by Derek (minimal piano), executing a fine rendition. I even enjoyed it just as much as Third Day’s live rockier version on “Offerings II”! Electronics and electric guitar are abounding, and I can’t help but raise my hands and worship God, as Derek fervently cries out ‘… And I believe what I believe in is what makes me what I am, and I did not make it, no it is making me; it is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man…’. The only other well known track (to me) is “I See You”, sung by Audrey Assad. Though not as upbeat, celebratory and boisterous as Michael W Smith’s or The Katinas’ versions, Audrey sings serenely against the backdrop of moving piano, and puts her heart and soul into the song, declaring that everywhere she goes she sees Jesus, in creation and in the people that she meets. This song has wowed me on every rendition, and Audrey continues this trend- her rendition is an album highlight.
Despite me not hearing the rest of the album before, and also having to research copious amounts, (inclusive of hearing the original versions for the first time); the remaining less familiar tracks still carry inspiring messages, and are captivating nonetheless. “If I Stand”, eloquently sung by Dave Frey, and brilliantly covered by Sidewalk Prophets, is a piano only track that reiterates that the only thing that we can stand on is the promises of Jesus Christ- this melody is a prayer reflecting that notion, which stays close musically and otherwise to the original tune. Jars Of Clay are featured here also, and skilfully cover “Land Of My Sojurn”, driven by the acoustic guitar. As Dan Haseltine pours out his emotion, honesty and vulnerability into a song that speaks about longing for heaven, yet also loving our temporary home on Earth at the same time, we are glimpsed into Rich’s mind and thoughts as he lived on Earth- that he was always picturing Heaven and focusing on eternity whenever he sung his songs. “Ready For The Storm”, led with the acoustic guitar and with electric guitar riffs added into create a slower paced country style ballad, is sung by Leigh Nash of Sixpence None The Richer here, and offers up a worthy cover, as she sings with beauty and aplomb, about how we are to be ready for the storm (which alludes to the trials and sufferings of this life, or even Jesus coming back)- as with God with us and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we can tackle and handle anything!
Rich’s best friend Mitch McVicker, who was with him in the car when he was killed, sings probably the most emotional song on the album in “Wounds Of Love”, which is quickened in pace, and more layered as instruments are added, giving it a fuller sound. As a prayer is sung, and words are spoken that ‘…may the angel of His presence keep your heart, and when your prayers give flight to your dreams, may the only scars you see on their wings be the wounds of love…’; comfort, reassurance and hope is found in the fact that God is watching us and loving over us always. “Cry The Name” and “Peace” are covers by Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn respectively (both husband and wife) and are both mesmerising and enchanting. Both are sung with the acoustic guitar at the forefront, with Jill singing an all out worship anthem to God, captivating us with her voice; and Andy encouraging us by singing a simple prayer, and prophesises peace over us; and both give the album a more worshipful feel, after the songs of reflection and contemplation. Matt Liechty delivers a stirring, passionate rendition of “The Love Of God”, a simple ballad that starts off slow yet crescendos to a epic finish as we are met with a track reminding us of the eternal qualities of the love of God; yet it is Andrew Peterson’s offering of “Calling Out Your Name” that has me most excited and has me intrigued.
I was never really a fan of Andrew Peterson until his 2012 album Light For the Lost Boy (I know, it’s pretty shocking!); nevertheless now I can appreciate the melodic intricacies and clever metaphors and imagery Andrew uses as distinct, which is no different on this cover, driven by pulsating drums, gentle piano riffs, and driving electric guitars. Though at first I was unsure as to what was being sung about, a few more listens revealed that Andrew is highlighting to us. It’s simple really, Andrew is singing about what happens in the spiritual realm and even in the physical realm when we praise and worship God- the animals and the inanimate objects celebrate and worship too. It may sound crazy, but when we worship, creation joins with us, so do the angels in heaven, and it’s a welcome reminder of this fact that can sometimes be forgotten.
Ending the album with 2 rare songs by Rich never before released to the general public (the piano only and upbeat “Never Heard The Music”, which is a testimony like jazz style song, where Rich exclaims his gratitude and thankfulness to Jesus; and the more subdued and the more subdued, contemplative and reflective song “Now” that is a challenge to do the things you can now rather than tomorrow) as well as a personal and in depth 10 minute discussion with the filmmakers of Ragamuffin; the soundtrack is a great introduction to Rich’s music for those who may not have heard nor appreciated it before (like myself), or if you want to hear your favourite Rich Mullins songs reinvented and re-imagined by signed and indie artists, as they give their spin and take. Cover albums are tricky in the sense that you may hear a batch of bad re-recordings, but thankfully Ragamuffin: Music Inspired By The Motion Picture isn’t one of those albums. Worth a listen, regardless if you love Rich or not, if you know his music or not; this album is sure to be on my playlist for the foreseeable future. I’ll still be scratching my head to wonder why “My Deliverer”, “Hold Me Jesus”, “Awesome God” and “Sometimes By Step” were not included in this ‘best of’ project!
3 songs to listen to: Calling Out Your Name, Land Of My Sojourn, Wounds Of Love
RIYL: Rich Mullins, Michael W Smith, Amy Grant, Chris Rice, Carman