REVIEW: Mitch McVicker

                Mitch McVicker
                MITCH MCVICKER
                Rhythm House Records

The first clue that Mitch McVicker might have difficulty establishing his own musical identity came a few years on Canticle of the Plains. McVicker, Beaker and their late friend and mentor, Rich Mullins, wrote that musical, based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi. It would be fair to say that you feel as though you're listening to a younger version of Mullins on the songs where McVicker performs the lead vocals.

Mullins and McVicker had just completed the recording of McVicker's solo debut in September of 1997, literally hours before the accident that claimed Rich's life and left Mitch badly injured. The self-titled disc, first released as an indie project in the summer of 1998, sold pretty well, considering the fact that Mitch, because of his injuries, was unable to give it his full support.

With McVicker now much closer to full recovery, Rhythm House has picked up the album for national distribution. Benefiting from re-mastering and a wonderful new cover, the Rhythm House disc includes McVicker's version of the Dove Award-winning song, "My Deliverer." One might suggest that the definitive version of this song was sung by Rick Elias on The Jesus Record. But one could also argue that, as the co-author, McVicker is entitled to record the song. The bluesy, downbeat take included here is certainly a unique interpretation. Recorded after the accident and before McVicker's voice was fully healed, the scratchy, dry quality of McVicker's vocal on this song helps it stand well apart from the other tracks.

That song aside, McVicker's album is loaded with several other musical gems. McVicker seems to always have one eye on present day matters and one on God's eternal kingdom. The robust opening track, "Here & Now", invites listeners to become fellow travelers in pursuit of faith, while "lookin' for them gates swinging' open wide/'cause I know when I get home, I know they're never gonna close."

"She asked me how I'd change this world/And I couldn't think of nothin' to say" and "It's all I can do is look out for what's comin' my way" ("She Asked Me How") may seem like admissions of futility. But McVicker quickly counters that statement with "Your word is plain as the nose on my face" and "Every leaf that falls is a burnin' bush" ("Gospel Rain.") Further admonitions to be guided by the Spirit can be found in "Freedom" ("So I'm gonna pray I'll prayer a prayer of hope/That I walk by faith through this world"), "Hope" ("But without you Lord, my walk wouldn't last a mile") and "New Mexico" ("And I know His love will give us the strength we need to press on/So let's hold on to Him and He will show us our way home.")

Just as A Ragamuffin Band has found its footing in the wake of Mullins' passing, so will McVicker. Whatever vocal and songwriting tics he may share with Mullins, McVicker's album earns our respect for its gentle, heartfelt lyrics and its potent, heartland-inspired folk/rock.

--Bruce A. Brown