It's been over sixteen years since the good old boy from Atlanta, Mac Powell, first graced audiences nationwide with his southern drawl. As the vocalist of Third Day, Powell has grown as an artist, a singer and songwriter, and performer over the years. Today, Third Day is as big as ever, and Powell has finally gotten the chance to pay homage to his musical roots in the way he's always been itching to; Mac Powell has released his first-ever solo country album.
Mac Powell's debut self-titled release is a mix of what you might expect from Powell on a country album and completely uncharacteristic material altogether. For someone like me who has been listening to Third Day since 1996, it's a bit unsual to hear Mac's vocals set to classic country flavored rock and delivering lyrics familiar to the genre. When fans are most used to hearing Powell sing lyrics like "Cry out to Jesus," "Who is this King of Glory?," and "Your love, Oh Lord, reaches to the Heavens," it'll be a bit of an adjustment to realize that songs like "Carry You," "Hold On To Me," and "My Love For You Remains" are all relationship-based songs. In fact, aside from the occasional mention of church or The Word, this is the most mainstream you'll ever hear Powell get.
Don't get me wrong, though; this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Powell was weaned on country music, so this kind of stuff is in his blood. If anyone is turned off by the fact that Mac just plain wanted to make a country album like what he grew up listening to, they need to understand that this man has sung countless songs for Jesus and the church through his career with Third Day and even outside of the band (The Glory Revealed projects, for example). Mac Powell is simply another side of the proverbial coin of Mac's persona that few outside of those who are close to him have been able to see. Songs like "Sweet Georgia Girl" and "This Ain't No Hobby" are upbeat and fun country rock songs that honor his wife and family, while other relationship-based songs are more obscure and seem to either be inspired by loves of his past, or are included to fulfill that obligatory need for country songs to be about love and loss ("Mississippi," "Julia Ann," "Trying to Get Over You"). Among the ballads on the record, "My Love for You Remains" is a sentimental love song for his wife about looking back on how their relationship has evolved since the beginning, but his love for her hasn't changed; "Carry You" sounds like a sibling to Third Day, serving as a potential radio single, except given more of a twang than the usual Third Day hit; and "Carolina" is a song about his love for South Carolina. Album highlights include the quirky and a bit unorthodox love song "This Ain't No Hobby," in which he likens to loving his girl as a full-time job, not a hobby; "Mississippi" is a fun (but potentially monotonous) song about getting out of an unhealthy relationship, and "Trying to Get Over You" is a classic, heartbreaking country tune about trying to forget someone who's broken your heart.
Spiritual substance isn't really the theme to be found on Mac Powell, but loyalty in relationships, love, and longevity are. The only time Mac really mentions his faith is in the southern party anthem, "Saturday Night," a song about working for the weekend, in which he sings, "Well, Sunday morning I go to church/ I say my prayers and read The Word/ Trying to find forgiveness for what I did Saturday. Ah yeah, Saturday night... We're gonna have a good time, Gonna let our hair down Saturday night." Knowing Powell, it's all in good fun, but it's liable to take some fans by surprise.
Listeners of pure country music, and especially the times when Third Day has given themselves over to their southern roots and you just yearned for more, won't want to miss Mac Powell's solo debut. Because the territory, particularly lyrically, sounds so different for Mac, there's a hint of "Mac Powell country karaoke" while listening to the record, but it's unmistakable that Powell's got the voice and talents for country music. I'd love to hear Mac explore more of this side of his musical talents in the near future, especially since Third Day continues on as his other full-time job.
- Review date: 7/30/12, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com