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MercyMe Returns with The Hurt & The Healer

  • Glenn McCarty Contributing Writer
  • Published May 21, 2012
MercyMe Returns with <i>The Hurt & The Healer</i>

Artist: MercyMe
Title: The Hurt & the Healer
Label: Fair Trade Services

As one of the Christian music industry’s true heavyweights, MercyMe faces the enviable, but nonetheless tricky task of delivering familiar favorites to its core audience while challenging itself artistically enough to maintain freshness. So does the Texas chart-toppers’ latest album, The Hurt & the Healer, avoid staleness and continue its remarkable streak of runaway successes?

A good starting place is the lead single from the album. Throughout its tenure, MercyMe has succeeded most often with ballads (“I Can Only Imagine,” “Word of God Speak,”) and, true to form, it’s the emotive title track that does the trick on this album. Written by Millard after the death of his cousin, it’s a big-ticket ballad with Millard’s engaging tenor as the centerpiece of the song. The chorus—“I’m alive/ even though a part of me has died/ I fall into your arms open wide” finds a fresh way to address a familiar topic—the problem of pain—in an accessible and original way.

Helmed by producing vets Dan Muckala and Brown Bannister, the album hits its AC radio sweet spot head-on, while still attempting to take unexpected turns here and there. Another sweeping ballad is “You Are I Am,” a massive anthem with a soaring hook reminiscent of Casting Crowns. Opener “You Know Better” is cast in the Steven Curtis Chapman mold: a bright, up-tempo shot of encouragement wrapped in a 3 ½-minute package. Lyrics throughout Healer are skillful and mostly successful at navigating the dilemma of expressing complicated concepts in the limitations of pop phrasing.

The band steps outside the traditional occasionally, revving its engines on “You Don’t Care at All,” a Vertical Horizon-type rocker, and conjures a Beatles vibe on “To Whom It May Concern.” “Take the Time” is perhaps the most pleasant surprise: a crankin’ gospel/blues number with guest vocals from Needtobreathe front man Bear Rinehart. It’s a treat to hear these two gifted vocalists trading licks in the song’s latter stages.

All the way around, Healer is sure to please, with enough diversity and pathos to continue to provide encouragement and inspiration to the fans who have made MercyMe one of the most beloved acts in Christian music.