I haven’t watched the Ragamuffin movie yet. Having known and loved Rich Mullins for the last 20+ years exclusively based on his music, I’m not sure I’m ready to have a moviemaker tell me what I should think about him as a person. But along with the movie today came out an album of music “inspired by” the movie – basically an album of Rich Mullins covers, with a couple old Rich demo tracks to round out the record. The artist list (including Andrew Peterson, Andy Gullahorn, and Jill Phillips, among others) pretty much guaranteed that I’d buy it. And I did.
The track listing includes:
- “Creed” – Derek Webb
- “If I Stand” – Sidewalk Prophets
- “Calling Out Your Name” – Andrew Peterson
- “I See You” – Audrey Assad
- “Land of My Sojourn” – Jars of Clay
- “Ready For the Storm” – Leigh Nash
- “Wounds of Love” – Mitch McVicker
- “Cry the Name” – Jill Phillips
- “Peace” – Andy Gullahorn
- “The Love of God” – Matt Liechty
Some preliminary thoughts on the songs:
If I Stand – I’m not familiar with Sidewalk Prophets, but their take here is a solid remake of Rich’s original. Not much variance from the old track here; even the piano riffs remain by the book. Good vocals, though. Nothing to complain about.
Calling Out Your Name – If you’d told me that Andrew Peterson would be the guy on the record bringing in electronic elements, I’d not have believed it, but here it is. He sets up a gentle electronic loop that serves as a solid base for a really nice remake of this song. Peterson’s creativity never seems to wane.
I See You – I wasn’t familiar with Audrey Assad before today, but I’m gonna have to fix that. She took a rather repetitive song here and made a beautiful track out of it.
Land of my Sojourn – This one was a real disappointment. This is one of my favorite Rich songs, but all Jars of Clay did with it was thump a single bass note, put the guitar in an open tuning and slide around the neck from there while Dan Haseltine did a real low-key vocal. I know the JoC guys know more chords than that – wish they would’ve used them here.
Ready For the Storm – Rich didn’t write this one, but Leigh Nash does a really nice job of covering the tune. Not much new here, but a solid remake. (She also skips the Picardy third in the final chord, so that wins her bonus points with me.)
Wounds of Love – Mitch McVicker is an obvious choice to cover songs on this record, having been a good friend and collaborator of Rich’s. This one, though, feels like he’s trying to hard. There’s a little bit of everything on this track – a hammered dulcimer here, a string section there, and he turns what was a low-key, heartfelt song into a more intense rock track that drags on far too long before an awkward ending. I wasn’t sold on it.
Cry the Name – Jill Phillips. What else can I say? This is the one track on this record where the artist took the song and really made it their own. Jill takes Rich’s rather upbeat, 9/8 rhythm song and dials it back to a 4/4 ballad with her husband Andy Gullahorn playing guitars and singing backups. Of all the songs on the record, this is the one that sounds a lot less like Rich and a lot more like the recording artist, and that’s a good thing.
Peace – I can’t imagine anybody I’d rather hear do a cover of this song than Andy Gullahorn, and he doesn’t disappoint. He manages to replicate a lot of Rich’s piano riffs with layered acoustic guitars, then blesses us with his calm, sure vocals on top. Pretty much exactly what you’d expect to hear from Gullahorn, so if you’re a fan of him, you’ll be a fan here.
The Love of God – I’ve got no idea who Matt Liechty is – a quick Google search doesn’t even turn up a proper artist homepage – but he seems far out of his depth being included with the other artists on this record. He pushes this piano ballad too hard, and his vocal chops aren’t up to the standards otherwise present here. I love this song, but not this version of it.
If you’ve read this far you may have noted that I haven’t said anything about Derek Webb’s cover of Creed. Honestly, I haven’t been much inclined to listen to anything by Derek after his recent shenanigans, so this track will probably sit unplayed for a while until I’m ready.
Unless you’re a die-hard completionist, I’d say this is a record where you could save a few bucks by just buying some selected tracks instead of the whole thing. I’d recommend “Calling Out Your Name”, “I See You”, “Ready for the Storm”, “Cry the Name”, and “Peace”. Skip the others, or go back and listen to Rich’s versions instead. Sometimes the original is best left alone. You can find it on iTunes today.