Thursday, May 24, 2012

“Mercyland: Hymns For the Rest of Us”

(Tone Tree Music, released April 2012)

“I was on my boss Emmylou’s tour bus in 2008 when a really crazy TV preacher came on the satellite TV and caused me to wonder how to counterbalance this bad PR God continues to get from his own flock. 
So, I came up with the simple idea of gathering together a few great musical artists singing songs written around the basic theme of “What If God Is Love?”--Phil Madeira
With that inspiration and vision, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Phil Madeira spearheaded a project that resulted in “Mercyland: Hymns For the Rest of Us.” In no way is this production of the “contemporary Christian” genre but rather a reflection of a universal God or spirit that loves and serves mankind. 
Most songs on this concept compilation are new material--written, performed, and arranged for the CD. Though Madeira had a hand or voice in each song he gathered an impressive group of musicians to share his vision. From the spectacular opening song by the Civil Wars (“From This Valley”) to the final song by John Scofield (“Peace in the Valley”), a variety of musicians fill the “valley” framed by this arrangement. 
I didn’t notice the symbolic bookends these songs created until I started writing this nor do I know if it was purposeful by Madeira. Regardless, a valley sows the seeds of a fertile ground and the songs that sprouted in “Mercyland: Hymns For the Rest of Us” are lush and hardy. Musicians such as Shawn Mullins, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Dan Tyminski share a message of hope that is ecumenical and inspiring regardless of a person’s religious practice--or lack of it. 
The all-star cast of roots and bluegrass musicians make this a CD that belongs in any music lover’s collection. In an age of turmoil, tragedy, and polarization around the world, “Mercyland: Hymns For the Rest of Us” is a universal treat. It neither promotes or negates any religion or spiritual practice. Rather it is a reminder that music and spirituality have always been intertwined and provide solace and hope to a world in desperate need of mercy and grace.
This song by Shawn Mullins addresses God’s love for all--Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, and Atheists are all mentioned by name as Mullins breaks the barriers and reminds the listener that God loves us all even if we all "Give God the Blues.”


  1. Thanks so much for this great review. I love what you wrote about valleys, a greater metaphor than I'd realized. Yes, the Valley Bookends were intentional, but love what your research yielded. Thanks!
    Phil Madeira

    1. Thanks, Phil. It is a brilliant CD and your comment just made my day.

  2. Enjoyed your review and will be featuring two tracks on Monday Music Miscellany 4th.June 1 to 3PM Irish time. Play list at Keep the faith!

  3. I picked up the CD at The Wild Goose Festival after hearing the performance. I didn't feel the full impact while there, but now I'm immersed in the hope of the message. I spent a good part of my morning learning "Give God the Blues" and "If I Was Jesus" on my guitar. I hope no one sues me when I share them with my congregation ;-) This is the soundtrack to Convergence Christianity. Glorious stuff.