John Mark McMillan: The Mercury Sessions/The Lightning Sessions

The celebrated singer/songwriter follows up last year’s excellent Mercury and Lightning album with a pair of collections revisiting those fourteen songs in acoustic settings. No mere demos, each collection delivers seven tracks with alternate arrangements, including contributions from special guests like Propaganda, Joy Williams, and Josh Garrels. “Unhaunted” sounds even more urgent without the clattering percussion, and the Chinese instrumentation of “Raging Moon” rings through bright and clear. If that weren’t enough, each EP also contains a commentary on each of its songs, unfolding biographical background and McMillan’s thoughts on the themes and images undergirding his poetry, as well as the arc of the “existential crisis” that provoked the album. He reveals inspirations ranging from Hurricane Katrina refugees, to working in construction, to his kids’ scribbling on a closet wall. Between the two aspects of these two releases, you’ll find fifty minutes of music, and seventy music of narrative worth exploring.

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