I like Mark Bishop. He may not be a particularly impressive singer or musician, but there’s just something about his music, a quiet sweetness that refreshes me. He’s not even remotely affected or pretentious. His voice is gentle. His songs are simple.
1. I’m Listening For the Call: This was an instant favorite. Its carefree ukulele/whistling intro evokes a salty sea breeze. It clocks in at just under three minutes, wafting away almost as soon as it’s arrived. The melody is catchy, but the lyrics are thought-provoking. The singer remembers hearing about the second coming as a child and not giving much thought to it, but now that he’s older he sees the prophecies fulfilling. Now, he is no longer looking for signs, because they are all around him. Instead, he’s “listening for the call.”
3. Job’s Wife: The story of Job isn’t very flattering to his wife. After all, she tells her husband to curse God and die. But this brief song takes a fresh perspective and tells the listener to “say a prayer, a prayer for Job’s wife.” She had lost everything her husband lost. When you think about it, it’s hard to blame her for despairing. As is typical of several tracks on this album, Mark has a neat idea but doesn’t deliver it quite as effectively as he could. The music has a cheerful waltz that seems to clash with the sober subject matter, and some lines fall a little flat. The result is pleasant but not a stand-out.
This is a really neat idea. Unfortunately, there are a couple of lyrical inaccuracies. First of all, Mary says “I washed his feet,” but this confuses Mary Magdalene with Mary the sister of Lazarus. She is the only “Mary” who is recorded as washing Jesus’ feet. It appears that there were probably two occasions on which Jesus’ feet were washed by a woman, and the woman described like a prostitute in the other incident is unidentified. However, I won’t come down too hard on Mark for getting this wrong, since he’s not the first. Secondly, the Roman soldier says that he watched the scene between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, but the guards are out of the picture by that time. Besides, they were later bribed to say that the disciples had come and stolen the body. This soldier is made to sound like he completely believed that Jesus rose from the dead.
5. Are You Going Where I’m Going: This track has a fun contemporary kick, less country than the rest of the album. It’s a cool change of pace. Actually quite a lot like Brian Free & Assurance—Mark does some improv at the end that recalls Bill Shivers.
6. I Still Need Him: The title track is a sweet, quiet little gem, by a margin the album’s best song. It had me from the piano intro. It’s got a classic country ballad feel. I could imagine Alan Jackson or someone like that performing it. Mark’s voice is very clear and natural on this track, the perfect complement to the sweet melody. Again, zero pretentiousness. The lyrics possess a childlike simplicity, mixed with startling wisdom. This line in particular, though ungrammatical, still packs a lot of emotional punch: “In agony with every breath, yet even on the verge of death, I needed Jesus more than he needed me.”
8. Your Easter Sunday Is On Its Way: This is a comforting message from God. The lyrics are very touching.
Yes, I listen when you pray
My heart is touched by every word you say
For I remember how the tears flowed
Oh, their memory will never fade
And child, the years have not diminished
The verse uses Good Friday to represent our long, dark nights of sorrow, but the chorus offers the hope of an approaching Easter Sunday that will bring joy in the morning. Three other singers join Mark to form a quartet. I can’t tell who they all are, but I think Chris Allman may be singing tenor. They have a soothing blend. (If anyone knows who handled bass or baritone, I’d be curious to know.)
9. That’s the Sound of a House Being Built On Love: Another song with a strong country feel. While “My Name Is Jesus” looks at the Passion in grand, epic style, this little number takes the perspective of a young boy watching it acted in a play, deacons dressed as soldiers with plastic spears. The boy begins to cry as the nails are hammered in, but the preacher draws him to his side and whispers reassuringly, “That’s the sound of a house being built on love. That’s where grace built the walls and the roof up above.” Great idea, but the next falls a little flat: “It’s the sound of a nail through the wings of a dove.” The poetic imagery doesn’t work for me there. I get it that Jesus was the Prince of Peace, and the dove is a symbol of peace, but I shy away from imagery that sentimentalizes the Passion. This line strikes me similarly to the line “like a rose trampled on the ground” (though it’s not that earth-shatteringly awful). However, the light, upbeat musical touch saves the track as a whole.
Coarse heavy timbers were dragged down the path.
Two rough-hewn beams, fastened together by nails and by straps.
The birds hushed their singing; from the crowd only jeers.
His muscle and sinew glistened in crimson, His eyes moist with tears.
Mark sings the lyric with an honest ache that is completely believable and moving. However, the stillness is broken when things pick up about mid-way through the song with a big choir and strained big production (there’s an electric guitar at the end that’s especially odd and misplaced). And unfortunately, the melody just isn’t as compelling as it needs to be to match the lyric’s force. But it still makes a poignant closing track.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review copy provided by Crossroads.