Maybe this one should’ve been first on my list, but I decided to leave the best for last. Rich Mullins was a formative artist – perhaps the formative artist – of my musical life. I spent more time learning his piano licks (well, Reed Arvin’s piano licks) and sitting at the piano singing his songs than any other songwriter. Liturgy, Legacy wasn’t my first Mullins album, but it is the best.
Structured in two halves, the A-side (Liturgy) half of Liturgy, Legacy captures all the best of Rich Mullins. His tender vulnerability with his audience (Here In America), his keen awareness of nature’s declaration of the glory of God (The Color Green), his raw and honest heart wrestling with brokenness (Hold Me Jesus), his firm confidence in the faith (Creed), his struggles in relationship to other saints (Peace)… and that’s just the first half of the album.
Then comes the Legacy side, where Rich plays his hammered dulcimer for an instrumental and then explores the challenges of living life in the real world (Hard), wrestles with the challenges of coming from a real family and carrying their legacy (I’ll Carry On), shares the joy of Christmas (You Gotta Get Up), laments the corrupt systems of society (How to Grow Up Big and Strong) and explores the tension of both loving the country you’re born into while yearning for a better kingdom (Land of My Sojourn).
Every song on the record is a gem. And the fact that I just wrote those last two paragraphs directly from my memory of the album tells me something about how ingrained it is in my head and heart.
The other formative piece about Rich Mullins and this album is that Rich was the formative artist for many of the other artists I have included on this list. He was a mentor for Caedmon’s Call. He was the inspiration for Andrew Peterson’s songwriting. If you look behind the scenes at the artists who made Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God record, each of them will point to Rich as the one who charted the course they are following. Then there’s also that weird bit where a guy from Rich’s band also wrote some of the songs for That Thing You Do!, but that’s a different story…
For the 20th anniversary of this record, Andrew Peterson and friends put on a tribute concert at The Ryman in Nashville where they played a bunch of Rich’s other songs up front and then played this album through front to back for the second half of the show. It is, hands down, the best concert I’ve ever attended. Amazingly almost none of it seems to have made it to YouTube, but here’s a taste.
I could go on and on and on but I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that if you want to really get to the heart of the music that has formed me and shaped my musical soul, go listen to Rich Mullins. Peace.