John Mark McMillan
"Raise your voice, chase away the ghosts." So begins the title track from John Mark McMillan's new release, Economy. A natural progression and a departure, McMillan's latest album has moved away from the themes of death and resurrection that clothed The Medicine to the interior psychology of a man trying to live in the uneasy valley between this world and the next, standing on the edge of the ocean of eternity, straining to see beyond the horizon line.
"For me, the greatest days—the birth of a child, the success of a career—have always been coupled with the worst ones—the death of a loved one, a friends' divorce," McMillan explains, "it's a tension we all live in."
On Economy, that tension is electric. From the first drumbeat of album opener "Sheet of Night" to the post-rock cacophony that closes out "Seen a Darkness," there is a palpable weight that permeates the entire project. This is Gospel music run through the filter of the Southern night; this is electrified folk—the music of a man who cut his teeth on Dylan and Kerouac and Springsteen all the while haunted by the presence of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Economy is the sound of glory and shame, murder and grace, darkness and daylight and all those spaces in between. And it shows up in the songs—in the delicate beauty of "Love You Swore," in the rowdy drawl of "Daylight," and the quiet solemnity of "Murdered Son."
For those following McMillan's steady rise as an artist, Economy will not disappoint. Having grown as a lyricist and musician—this body of work finds the North Carolina-based artist at his most mature. And sonically, the album is far greater than the sum of its parts, served by the production team of Jeremy Griffith and Joel Khouri, and performed by the musicians that have supported McMillan across the world. The team has created a perfect accompaniment to McMillan's searching, searing vision of a world that is "not as it should be." But it's not just a broken world that McMillan's singing about. With Economy, he's pointing out across the horizon, across the waters, to the hope of something much more than the devil's "broken hearts and counterfeit currency."
"We have seen the night," John Mark sings, and then adds, "but we have seen the day."
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