MercyMe released their major label debut ALMOST THERE back in 2001. It gave birth to the mega-hit ‘I Can Only Imagine’ about heaven. Their next album SPOKEN FOR (2002) featured ‘Word of God Speak’ which spent twenty-three weeks on top of the Billboard Christian Songs chart. THE GENEROUS MR. LOVEWELL (2010, INO Records) was the band’s sixth major label studio album. Group members were: Bart Millard, Barry Graul, Jim Bryson, Mike Scheuchzer, Nathan Cochran, and Robby Shaffer. The album was produced by Brown Bannister and Dan Muckala. In the liner notes, you’ll find these words: “Who is Mr. Lovewell? He’s an idea. He’s a movement. He’s the hope that the little things can add up to big change. He’s what the Bible has already called us to do...love one another. Look for the best in people. Give people a chance regardless of status, race, or gender. Mr. Lovewell is the understanding that the Gospel is for everyone. Some may receive it, some may reject it...”.
MercyMe and Dan Muckala wrote the first cut, ‘This Life’. It is a techno-pop song of spiritual purpose: “Every moment is a chance to let your light break through/This life, this life was meant to shine (2X)/I don’t have to stall, I don’t have to wait/Don’t have to bide my time till I make my escape/Cause heaven’s in my heart/I won’t settle for less/I will lift Your Name by the life I live”. The title track, ‘The Generous Mr. Lovewell’, is a happy pop song about a fictitious character, but has a great message about impacting those around us for the better: “He believes it’s the little things that make a great big change/Hey Mr. Lovewell, doing today what you do every day/No matter how small, believing that it’s all the same/Come on Mr. Lovewell/Oh, we could use a few more just like you/Who care enough to give this life away ‘cause you’ve been changed/The generous Mr. Lovewell loves today”. ‘Move’ is a contagious pop song about perseverance: “This hurt is getting heavy, but I’m not about to cave/Everything is about to change/There’s gonna be brighter days/I just might bend, but I won’t break as long as I can see Your face.../No matter what life brings/Gotta move, gotta move to a different beat”.
‘Crazy Enough’ is thought-provoking: “Call me crazy/But what if we learned to love our brother for nothing in return/Oh, how the rules would change/Reaching out to the ones who need help/Treating them as you first would treat yourself/Now that would be insane/It may just be crazy enough to work if we could only love”. The album’s lead single, ‘All of Creation’, penned by MercyMe, Dan Muckala, and Brown Bannister, became a #1 hit. It is a marvelous praise and worship song: “When time has faded and we see Him face to face/Every doubt erased/Forever we will worship the King/And all of creation, sing with me now/Lift up your voice and lay your burden down/And all of creation, sing with me now/Fill up the heavens, let His glory resound”.
‘Beautiful’ is an adult contemporary self-esteem booster: “Days will come when you don’t have the strength/When all you hear is, you’re not worth anything/Wondering if you ever could be loved/And if they truly saw your heart, they’d see too much/You’re beautiful (2X)/You are made for so much more than all of this/You’re beautiful (2X)/You are treasured, you are sacred/You are His/You’re beautiful”. ‘Back to You’ is a breezy pop song that includes whistling. It again deals with perseverance: “If I’m down don’t count me out/I’ll slowly get back on my feet/Stumbling and fumbling but I keep on coming, just as long as You’re not giving up on me/And when I trip, fall, and slow down to a crawl/And feel like I got nothing left to lose/Well, I may slip, slide and watch our worlds collide/But I will hit the ground running back to You”.
‘Only You Remain’ is one of two songs in a row written by MercyMe, Dan Muckala, and Jason Ingram. It is praise and worship in nature: “Only One/Never having a beginning/Only One/Who reigns when everything is ending/High above/Glorious and true/We sing ‘Holy, the only uncreated One/Holy, the Light that was before the sun/You shine and even when the stars have left the sky, You remain/Even when the earth is shaken, You remain/Even when our kings have fallen”. ‘Free’ contains these lyrics I like: “The hands that hold the world have set me free/He has broken every chain so I lift my hands up to the One who saves/Take me captive, you can lock me away/But my debt is already paid/Take me prisoner, but I will not fear/’Cause my Deliverer is already here”.
‘Won’t You Be My Love’ is a wonderful adult contemporary ballad that finds Christ beckoning us, His children: “Won’t you be My voice calling?/Won’t you be My hands healing?/Won’t you be My feet walking into a broken world?/Won’t you be My chain breaker?/Won’t you be My peace maker?/Won’t you be My hope and joy?/Won’t you be My LOVE?” Last up is the quite short ‘This So Called Love’, which reminds us that our good works must spring from our faith in Christ: “I can cover your head when life starts to rain/I can hold on tight when it feels like you’re falling/I can bread-crumb the path when you’ve lost your way.../But if all that we do is absent of Jesus/Then this ‘so-called’ love is completely in vain”. I believe non-Christians can do a lot of meaningful, noble things in this world though.
THE GENEROUS MR. LOVEWELL has several really fun songs to listen to musically. MercyMe shows here that they have diversity when it comes to musical styles. Pop, adult contemporary, praise and worship, and a hint of rock are mixed in together. Instead of leading to an identity crisis, the eleven tracks all come together to create something truly great. Fans of Casting Crowns and Building 429 should acquire this project, which I’m rating 95%. The design of the CD booklet is pretty neat too. For more info visit: www.mercyme.org.