by Peter Fleck
For those beaten down by the troubles of this world, MercyMe’s latest album, Lifer, is pure “ear medicine.” Ear candy, and there’s plenty of that on here as well, titillates our senses. But ear medicine goes beyond that in delivering much-needed healing and hope.
On the Christianbook.com website, a customer named Dee reports, “I have been playing this CD over and over. If I feel oppressed, this one chases it away.”
Opening with the title track, lead singer Bart Millard proclaims in the chorus, “As long as my heart is beating, my lungs are breathing, I’ll keep singing for You…cuz that’s what lifers do.”
Throughout the disc, the message is clear that being a Christian is not just about making a lifelong commitment to Christ, but that our Saviour makes a lifelong commitment to us. “Lead me through the darkness, lead me through the unknown. Oh, lead me Holy Ghost,” are the final words Millard utters on the CD.
Going about restoring joy to even beleaguered hearts, the contemporary pop project is mostly upbeat and celebratory with plenty of soul.
The Texas-based band has put out 17 albums since 1995, including six independent releases and two Christmas offerings. Yet MercyMe shows no signs of rust or stagnation.
Instead, Lifer finds the quintet at the top of its game. Anchored by intelligent lyrics, the music oozes with freshness and creativity.
A key component was retaining the talented producer tandem of David Garcia and Ben Glover from the band’s previous CD, Welcome To the New.
Both albums earned Grammy nominations. That Lifer is considered one of the top Christian albums of the past year should come as no surprise. But maybe this time when the awards are handed out at the end of January, MercyMe will actually be able to capture its first Grammy.
John Syratt: Strange Fire Burnin’
The final track on John Syratt’s debut CD, “Strange Fire Burnin’” recounts the story in Exodus 3 of Moses encountering God in a burning bush.
Like Moses, the 67-year-old veteran Alberta pastor and church planter has seen his life immeasurably transformed ever since “The Lord Jehovah put His light in me.”
As an album, Strange Fire Burnin’ is a collection of original material by someone who has steadfastly proclaimed, “I’m all in, all in for You Lord.”
Having conducted worship seminars since the 1980s, Syratt says, “I always encourage churches to write their own music.” That’s something Syratt has consistently done, often in collaboration with others, while leading congregations in Lethbridge and Calgary.
Thanks to a fundraising campaign initiated by Bettie Orchard at Lighthouse Church in Calgary, almost half of the $13,000 recording budget was covered. And since being released just before Christmas, Syratt’s music is finally available to a larger audience.
Not wanting to compromise on quality, Syratt opted to work with seasoned Calgary producer, Jerry Proppe, who lends his keyboard prowess to the project. Also elevating the product is local musician Derek Gust’s incredibly sweet electric guitar work.
Some may remember Syratt’s stint as the frontman for the Missions Blues Band at the turn of the century. Paying homage to his love for the blues is the opening cut, “Nobody Blesses.” But the rest of the CD morphs into more standard worship fare from the former leader of the Jesus People of Calgary movement in 1971.
Now based out of Claresholm, Syratt worked as editor and co-publisher of City Light News from 2003 to the end of 2008. He currently deals in antiques while still remaining active in prophetic ministry, preaching and leading worship. Preparing to embark on a Mexican mission, Syratt has ministered throughout North America, his native England and into Asia.
Carting along CDs during his travels, the album is also available for $15, plus $2 shipping, online at Facebook.com/john.syratt.7.
A Smitty double
Fans of popular Christian musician, Michael W. Smith, are in for an unusual treat this month.
On February 16, Smitty (as he is affectionately known) will be releasing A Million Lights, his first pop album since Wonder came out in 2010. Then just one week later, his new worship CD, Surrounded (Fight My Battles), hits store shelves.
Videos for the title tracks of both projects are already posted on YouTube. The dramatized version of A Million Lights has Smith in outer space in a spectacular sci-fi setting.