Music Review: Trethewey tells stories well

6/20/2006

Mark Trethewey: Tell Me the Story

By Steve Morley
UMC.org

Aside from the current clamor for contemporary worship music, the loudest consumer voices seem to be calling out for Christian artists who will step away from the old norms and shake up the Gospel with increased volume, personal introspection and/or left-field musical influences.

While today’s growing freedom of musical and spiritual expression has borne fruit, the thrust toward the modern and the experimental fails to allow for equally worthy, but soft-spoken, practitioners of the traditional. Washington-based singer Mark Trethewey belongs in the latter category, alongside longtime CCM/inspirational favorites like Michael Card.

Trethewey’s Tell Me the Story, featuring a mostly straightforward retelling of key New Testament events, might at first seem an unnecessary addendum to volumes of similar music on the topic. Within the space of a track or two, though, Trethewey’s quiet confidence, gentle but affecting baritone and reliance on the truth of the living Word proves sufficient to win over those who might typically find music like Trethewey’s a bit unsophisticated or behind the times.

A storyteller with a knack for simple yet effective songwriting, Trethewey draws many of his songs directly from scripture. While some are biblically verbatim, many offer varying degrees of personalized or imagined perspective. The Wise Men, clothed in an exotic arrangement that evokes Jerusalem circa Jesus’ birth, is written from their point of view. As they approach the miraculous manger, they ponder the apathy of those they encountered en route.

He’s Forgiven Me is both testimony and tale in tandem, as Trethewey uses the story of the redeemed harlot who anoints Jesus with precious ointment as a foundation for his own gratitude of the reality of salvation.

While the writer’s partial goal of reaching the unchurched with his music is compromised by the predominance of biblical language peculiar to non-Christian ears, he nonetheless succeeds by the sheer impact of truth sewn into the inspired and anointed Tell Me the Story — ultimate truth that, given even half a chance, is powerful enough to resonate through the walls of hardened hearts and cynical ears.

Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.