John Misunderstood Messiah 90

Card’s reflections on the life of Christ never get old

A Misunderstood Messiah
Artist: Michael Card
Label: Covenant Artists
Length: 10 songs/39:08                                                  

A banjo playing a traditional Irish melody is the first sound on Michael Card’s John: A Misunderstood Messiah. This is soon augmented by Bill Verdier’s fiddle. Together they set the stage for Card’s rumination on Jesus being “The Bread, The Light, The Life.”

The incarnation, the life of Christ, have been constant themes in Card’s career. It makes the gospels ideal subject matter for his recordings.

This is the last of four recordings covering Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, one for each book.

On this, and the prior releases, Card once again leans more toward a stripped-down, roots-oriented sound, which serves him well.

His banjo playing is once again evident, and I would appreciate more of just stringed instruments playing together as on the previously alluded to track.

Fortunately, the banjo is once again prominent on the gentle tune, “How Can These Things Be?” Keep in mind these songs are all inspired by John’s gospel. Can you guess the identity of the person from the following words? “He clings to his own righteousness/Of being good to be blessed/But Jesus speaks of a healing wind/The fact of being born again.” I have not heard a better song about Nicodemus.

This is followed by what might be the most gorgeous track. Ginny Owens composed the music for “All I’ve Ever Done” and performs it on piano. She is the sole voice of the lyrics written by Card from the perspective of the so-called “woman at the well” (John 4). Card wisely chose to have a female voice, and Owens rises to the occasion, giving one of her best performances.

This continues Card’s inclination to collaborate. I admire his willingness to share the microphone. He makes “better together” more than a cliché. It’s a reminder that when people work together the result is often greater than mere individual efforts.

“Scribbling in the Sand” (John 8) describes what Jesus did when asked what should be done with a woman caught in the act of adultery. Previously, this was recorded for a live performance bearing the same title, released in 2002. It’s one of Card’s most inspired songs. This features him on piano and John Catchings on cello creating a sound that is timeless.

Also included is the only song that I have ever heard about the time when the Bible simply says, “Jesus wept” (John 11). The strings are so delicate, the perfect enhancement to the fragile sentiments.

The closing, “Stranger on the Shore” (John 21), was originally recorded on First Light (1981). The bold chorus stands out: “You need to be confronted by the stranger on the shore/You need to have him search your soul; you need to hear the call/You need to learn exactly what it means for you to follow/You need to realize that he’s asking it for all.” It’s a challenging way to end this recording and the series.

There may be a few too many piano ballads here for some, but that format fits the deep subject matter well.  The variation is about right, and each song can be a source of meditation. Whenever Card reflects on the life of Jesus, which is often, you can expect songs that convey some of the spiritual riches found in Christ. This does not disappoint.

Michael Dalton