Stories & Songs
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Oct
In just a few short years, pop singer/songwriter Mark Schultz has rapidly earned a reputation as a tunesmith and storyteller, writing music that truly reaches into the hearts of fans. Five No. 1 hits on Christian AC radio, nearly 500,000 units sold between his first two albums, and ten Dove nominations—five in 2001 alone. Clearly Schultz is doing something right, so why break formula?
That theme is best summed up in "Time That Is Left," a self-explanatory ballad: "What will you do with the time that's left?/Will you live it all with no regret?/Will they say that you loved 'til the final breath?" It's reminiscent of Chris Rice with its simple phrasing and ethereal chorus of hallelujahs. "Do You Even Know Me Anymore?" is a drippy but affecting ballad about a man who almost throws away his family in favor of his career: "I watched my days turn into years/And now I'm wondering how I wound up here/I dreamed my dreams, I made my plans/But all I've built here is an empty man."
The song that's bound to be the most memorable is "Running to Catch Myself," a humorously bombastic and elaborately manic track about the corporate rat race. Lyrically, it draws inspiration from comedic films like
The press materials make much of Schultz's gifts as a master storyteller, but despite his reputation from past songs, I wonder if the people behind this album aren't too broadly defining "story song." Two of the aforementioned tracks certainly qualify, as does "Letters from War," a sweeping and grandiose power ballad inspired by letters between Schultz's great-grandmother and her son during World War II that interestingly (and unintentionally) parallel Christ's sacrifice. But beyond the three, the tracks on
One example is the poignant "Closer to You," a beautiful deathbed portrait of faith, inspired by the passing of close friends in recent years. It's a terrific, hope-filled pop ballad, but there's nothing in it especially unique to a dying person; it could just as well be any of us longing for heaven. The encouraging and energetic first radio single, "You Are a Child of Mine," a simple reminder that we are loved by God, strongly resembles many Schultz past songs with its soaring chorus. "He Will Carry Me" is a comforting song about the Lord's strength and love, while the Beatle-esque ballad "It's Been a Long Time" contrasts self-approval with serving God and others.
Contrary to word-of-mouth about the album, I'm not ready to call this Schultz's career-defining masterpiece. It's undoubtedly better than 2001's hastily crafted