With three decades of experience in the Christian music industry, Mark Bishop, who made a name for himself as a southern gospel singer in The Bishops and as a solo artist, is now teaming up with his two daughters, son-in-law, and friends to form the band Mark Bishop & Forget The Sea. Instead of pursuing Bishop's southern gospel fan base or even striving for CCM radio play (something they would be capable of doing) the band is taking a folk-worship direction with their self-titled debut album.
Forget The Sea's brand of folk music is both fun and beautiful, but the centerpiece of the band's sound is undoubtedly Mark Bishop's vocals. His strong and arching voice, which always has a southern twang, readily adapts to the varying styles of music the band covers, from the alternative sounds of "You Love Me Anyway" to the folksy tones of "Pick Me Up And Carry Me" to the country style on "Tinderbox."
"Pick Me Up And Carry Me" is a prime example of how fun this music is with a steady handclap drum loop, bright acoustic guitar work, accordion and occasional banjo. This is matched with optimistic lyrics about depending on God's grace for all the times we stumble or go through difficult trials. "Sometimes God Whispers" is another highlight with four narrative verses that speak of God working through creation and in our lives, threaded by a simple but thoughtful changing chorus. "Baptize Me In The Rain" maintains a similarly cheerful vibe, and though it has some nice moments, like the infectious electric guitar lick in the chorus, it doesn't have as much lyrical substance. Other upbeat tracks, like "You Love Me Anyway" and "Everything I Give," are not particularly exciting, but still enjoyable enough to prevent you from reaching for the skip button.
When the band slows things down, the result is a similar mixture of solid and decent songs. "Take To The Sky" has a soft acoustic sound as Mark Bishop and his daughters sing about stepping out in faith, but with the lyrics "time to take to the sky" being repeated almost 30 times, it is simply too redundant. In fact, it is over-repetitiveness that is this album's biggest setback. Artists like Hillsong and All Sons And Daughters use plenty of repetition for making songs more singable, but for several songs on this album it feels overdone. The gently uplifting tune "I Will Sing," which is led by Mark Bishop's daughter, is a notable exception. With a chorus that declares "I will sing, I will sing / I'll sing 'till my tears wash away, wash away / my doubt and my fears," the repetition here is more meaningful as she communicates a tangible sense of trust and honesty.
If you are looking for something a bit different from the standard pop-worship album, Mark Bishop And The Sea is definitely worth checking out. It's not a perfect debut, but it is a promising one.
- Review date: 1/2/16, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com