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JFH Music Review


John Mark McMillan, 'Deep Magic'
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John Mark McMillan
Deep Magic



Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Indie / Folk Rock
Album length: 13 tracks: 47 minutes, 4 seconds
Street Date: October 6, 2023


READER RATING:   


If you've followed the worship scene for some time, the name John Mark McMillan should ring a bell. And if it doesn't, then I know for sure you have heard at least two of his songs. Ever heard of "How He Loves"? The 2005 song was a hit despite it being an independent release and has been covered by many artists, more notably by David Crowder*Band. And what about "King of My Heart"? This 2015 hit song was cowritten with his wife Sarah McMillan. It became an anthem for churches worldwide. This song was also covered by many artists as well.

Since "King of My Heart," I hadn't heard from McMillan and wasn't sure if he made music anymore. It's been great to find out that he still does, but his music isn't what I was expecting. The latest album by McMillan is titled Deep Magic. This album continues to challenge his artistry by embracing beautiful synth sounds, jumpy acoustic picking, echoey vocals and unique lyricism. Most of all, the album is an authentic look into McMillan and his personal feelings and beliefs. Highlights include "Deep Magic," "Roaring Thunder," "Has Been You," "Love with a Crown," and "Deliver Me." There are even two cool session takes on two of the tracks, featuring Owl City and Sleeping At Last.

Deep Magic opens with "Has It Been You." Enchanting with the beautiful vocal soundscapes, the song declares that within everything it has always been the Lord, "All this time, has it been you, all this time, yeah…" This song, by no means, is a "big" opener, but it doesn't need to be. The beautiful lyricism does all the work. And that idea seems to be the consistent factor with this project.

From there, the album begins to open up in the next track, "Roaring Thunder," and gets deep with the title track, "Deep Magic," as we hear a vulnerable side of John Mark McMillan. "Love With A Crown" might be my favorite track because it paints a picture of what McMillan sees. It's almost as if he's having these visions, and within each one, he's reminded of Jesus being the symbol of love, yet like we all do, we get stuck and we plead with the Father to always see love THROUGH Him. In the chorus, he pleas "Jesus, Jesus, save me from the tyranny of the familiar. Jesus, Jesus show me the face of God in every human creature."

"Deliver Me" (which could is also a favorite) is the driving, hard-hitting track of the album. McMillan continues with his deep and very thought-provoking lyricism. Within the song, we see chaos, but there seems to be some sort of hope from up above, "When the day changes at midnight, But you don't know it until the morning light, And the footsteps of the midwife, Are already in motion, and in motion we sing… Oh, deliver me Oh, deliver me, yeah The sun is leaning on the darkness again and we sing, 'Oh, deliver me'". Did you catch that scripture reference in the pre-chorus? McMillan refers to Romans 8:22, which says "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." This line refers to the future glory we all long for. This passage lines up with the line "But you don't know it until the morning light, And the footsteps of the midwife, Are already in motion." How cool is that? Deliver me Oh Lord, for I know what is to come.

Overall, this album is great. You hear John Mark McMillan's full heart in each track and I'm glad I got to rediscover this artist and hear this record. McMillan is authentic, bold and not afraid to challenge the listener and himself as an artist. That's why this album works. It's set apart in the coolest way ever. It's poetic. It's simply Deep Magic.

- Review date: 10/16/23, written by Michael Carder of Jesusfreakhideout.com



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JFH Staff's Second Opinion



Bearded philosopher musician John Mark McMillan has been on a journey. For several years, he has metaphorically wandered on a search for meaning and renewed purpose as he's navigated the familiar middle-aged midlife crisis. Deep Magic has been a three-year process with nearly every one of the thirteen tracks released as singles between 2020 to 2023 before the album's official rollout. This distribution practice known as "waterfalling" is becoming an increasingly popular way to stay evergreen to the distracted modern music listener, but runs the risk of alienating fans of the long-form album.

McMillan himself expressed doubt about the strategy but wanted to keep the songs coming in real-time, unfolding the theme as he went. With an album title like Deep Magic sure to raise a few eyebrows, this reviewer immediately thought of Narnia and the white witch in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. John's explanation has some similarities explaining, that "DEEP MAGIC" is a metaphor; a way to talk about life and God. And 'deep' magic assumes that there also exists a 'lesser magic' in the world. 'Lesser magic' is the magic of manipulation, marketing, and self-preservation. 'Deep Magic' is something else." All that aside, this is a solid album from start to finish with a relatable theme of renewal and rebirth (communicated by the flower pictured on the album cover) in the face of doubt, change, and grief. The biggest highlight is the weary piano ballad "New Day in the Dark." Additionally, "Has it Been You, "Ordinary Love," "Deliver Me," and "Awake in the Dream" round out a terrific top-five tracks. Lyrically, JMM is still top tier with lines from "Had it Been You" like, "Is resurrection baked Into the fabric of the plan/Like seasons, tides, and even/The revolutions of the land/And I believe/Even if it's something/That I'll never live to see/I believe in a kingdom that's coming." Or these lines from "Deliver Me," "And the day changes at midnight/But you don't know it Until the morning light/And the footsteps of the midwife/Are already in motion/And in motion we sing/Whoa, deliver me/Oh, deliver me, yeah/The sun is leaning on the darkness again…"

Ultimately, this is vintage John Mark McMillan. And though I still find it a touch below his two previous works, Deep Magic has plenty to enjoy. - Review date: 10/18/23, Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com

 

. Record Label: Lionhawk Records
. Album length: 13 tracks: 47 minutes, 4 seconds
. Street Date: October 6, 2023
. Buy It: Apple Music
. Buy It: Amazon Music (MP3)

  1. Has It Been You (3:21)
  2. Roaring Thunder (3:18)
  3. Deep Magic (3:52)
  4. Love With A Crown (3:16)
  5. Deliver Me (3:51)
  6. New Day in the Dark (3:56)
  7. Awake in the Dream (3:27)
  8. Re-Enchanted World (3:47)
  9. Ordinary Love (3:28)
  10. Atlanta (3:25)
  11. Prove My Love (3:59)
  12. Re-Enchanted World (Sessions) [feat. Owl City] (3:33)
  13. Hammering Heart (Sessions) [feat. Sleeping at Last] (3:53)

 

 



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