Prime Cuts: Ordinary Average Autumn, Take to the Sky, Pick Me Up and Carry Me
Many will know Mark Bishop as one third of the Southern Gospel trio the Bishops. Still others will know him for his solo records. Though his name still fronts "Mark Bishop & Forget the Sea," this newly form band is completely a new creation bearing a distinctive voice of its own. Forget the Sea came about when Mark was approached by his two daughters to start a band of their own. As a result Forget the Sea comprises of Mark, his daughters Courtney Isaacs and Haley Bishop as well as John Isaacs on percussion, Josh Rison on guitar, Chris Withrow on bass and Russell Funk on keys. Named after Jesus' admonition to Peter not to fear the sea but to look to Him, Forget the Sea does live out its titular as these eleven songs have Jesus solely as their foci. Musically, the album trawls its nets beyond Southern Gospel music. Rather, what you will find here is a school of sounds that ranges from folk, Americana, pop, Celtic, and country. For those who are genre-deaf, this album will definitely bring hours and hours of great mediation.
Mark Bishop still does the lead vocals on the majority of the songs. But what deviates from Mark's solo recordings is that the song writing for the entire album is shared between Mark, John Isaacs and Josh Rison. With electric guitars being foregrounded a tad more, album opener "You Love Me Anyway" is a contemporary worship piece where the lyrics do not just speak about God, but it addresses God. If "You Love Me Anyway" is more pop leaning, "Baptize Me in the Rain" returns back to their Southern rustic roots. Featuring a toe-tapping melody with lots of campfire-styled beats, "Baptize Me in the Rain" is to essentially a prayer to Jesus for a great measure of the Holy Spirit.
Mark settles back into his trademark ease with the laidback-sounding "Take to the Sky," this time singing with the gorgeous harmony vocals of one of his daughters at the background. Sounding like James Taylor, Mark is particularly endearing in "The Sun is Shining." Most sublime as far as theological depths go is "I Will Sing." Again singing with one of his daughters, the profound mystery of how we can still sing despite the troubles we go through is sensitively and judiciously explored in this song. Moving into some delightful Rend Collective-esque Celtic dance is "Pick Me Up and Carry Me." Etching into a mid-section where Bishop sounds like he's already on his toes dancing to the song's infectious tune, this song truly does pick us up to worship Jesus.
While the record does try to cover lots of ground lyrically and musically, what's missing is Bishop's intricate story songs where he would situate God's truth in tightly knitted stories of the average American. The only song that comes close to Mark's stellar mettle as a narrative-writer is "Ordinary Average Autumn" which is essentially the story of the woman at the well situated with a modern zip code. This country-sounding ballad is indeed a gem not to be missed.