Mark Bishop “This is What It’s All About” Album Review

Mark Bishop

Prime Cuts: Pray on the Little Days, The Devil's Playing Chess, God Loves to Tell a Story with a Happy Ending

Regardless of what others may say, size really does matter.  Too often our worries linger because the size of our problems are so big that they have dwarfed our vision of God in our lives.  Anxiety is nothing more than just the symptom of a God shrunk a few sizes far too small.  What is most glowing about Mark Bishop's latest release "This is What It's All About" is that it gives us glasses to see the bigness of God in every day happenstances.  Listening to these 10 songs is like looking through a photo album where Bishop functions as the narrator.  Here he patiently walks us through each photo pointing to us where God is in each frame before elaborating on the importance of the role God plays in each of them.   So, whether it is at the country church where a pastor was speaking to a distraught parishioner ("The Devil's Playing Chess") or in the harvest fields praying for rain ("Pray on the Little Days"), Bishop carefully removes our blinders so that we can see God in each and every of these circumstances. 

While Southern Gospel artists are notorious in borrowing songs from each other, Bishop never exhausts the Southern Gospel canon.  Rather, he is one who contributes to them with his own original compositions. Thus, it comes as no surprise that these 10 new cuts are all written by Bishop from bar one.  When he was part of the Bishops, Mark wrote 10 of their Top 10 songs.  On top of this, he has also written for artists such as the Kingsmen, Legacy Five, Brian Free and Assurance, Allison Durham Speer, and others.  As a soloist, Bishop wrote most of his songs with 16 of them becoming Top 40 songs, 5 making into Top 5 and two back-to-back #1 songs in 2004 and 2005 with "Can I Pray For You" and "I Got Here As Fast As I Could."  "This is What It's All About" is the much anticipated follow-up to 2002's "I Can Rejoice."  

If you want foretaste of Bishop's stellar mettle as a songwriter, don't miss the piano ballad "Pray on the Little Things."  On days when God has become minuscule because of our burgeoning anxieties, this is the type of song that will shake us back to the reality of God's bigness.  And when he tells the conversation between a young man struggling with sin with his pastor in "The Devil's Playing Chess," he delivers the song with such a realism that it's more than just words and melody to him.  Rather, this song is more like experienced truth expressed through music.  Going through story after story, from Noah to David to Daniel to Jesus, the ultra-catchy "God Loves to Tell a Story with a Happy Ending" offers assurance that those who trust in Jesus will never be ultimately disappointed.

Stylistically, the most progressive entry here is "Love's Gonna Get You Yet."  With programmed drums and a gaudy guitar riff, this is definitely going to appeal to fans outside the Southern Gospel arena.  On the other extreme, we have the John Denver-folkish "Tonight I'll Mention You in My Prayers" where Bishop is only backed by the plucking of the nylon strings of an acoustic guitar before being joined by a slim layer of piano fills.  Nevertheless, regardless of the backing, it's the messages of these songs that are at the cynosure.  These songs, in many ways, function like our spiritual spectacles; they help us to see God in times when our vision has become blurred by the hurts and disappointments of life.

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