Rich Mullins stands as one of the legends of contemporary Christian music. One of the first A-listers, he was known for the depth of his lyrics and high quality of songwriting. His tragic death in 1997 cut his ministry short, but his legacy lives on and continues to inspire generations of musicians.
In 1995, Mullins offered what would be the final album of all-new material to be released during his lifetime, Brother's Keeper. As this album turns 25 years old, we take a look back at one of the lesser-known albums of a legendary catalog.
The Well Knowns
This album didn't have many of the best-known hits from Mullins. But there are a few songs casual Mullins fans may recognize. "Let Mercy Lead" is by far the most-known, being included on the greatest hits compilation, Songs, the following year. Written for the newborn son of co-writer Beaker (David Strasser), the song offers guidance and encouragement to the young boy on how to stay on the path of Christ as he grows. Being one of the album's most musically accessible and memorable songs helps cement it as another Mullins classic.
The title track also found some success, being included on the Songs 2 compilation. The song offers a traditional Mullins upbeat anthem that sounds great included among his other signature hits.
Written after a breakup, "Damascus Road" carries the signature upbeat contemporary accessibility of all the Mullins classics. "Quoting Deuteronomy to the Devil" is downright funky and a stylistic curveball that grabs your attention. "Hatching of a Heart" could stand with the best of signature Mullins ballads and is a definite must-hear for fans who may have overlooked it in the past.
Rich Mullins songs contained a mix of depth and wit that few artists could match, be it then or now. The title track sings of not only not rejecting people for their faults, but also not including them solely because of their strengths. Instead, see the infinite value of the person, regardless of their abilities. "Let Mercy Lead" and "Eli's Song" sing words of encouragement and guidance to newborn babies of those who co-wrote with Rich. "Damascus Road" speaks of encountering the greatness of God in the midst of trials "The Breaks" invokes a favorite author of Mullins, G.K. Chesterton, to muse on what holding on to Christ really looks like. Perhaps the broad themes are not unlike what you'll find elsewhere. But when Mullins tackled a message, it was anything but a cliche or generic message. Mullins used unmatched and thought-provoking imagery to tackle theological and personal topics in a way that made him one-of-a-kind.
While it's been almost a quarter-century since we lost him to a tragic accident, his message and wisdom still stands today to guide those who choose to give him an hour of their time and spin one of the albums he left behind for us. While Brother's Keeper may not be the most well-known of his catalog, it's definitely one worth revisiting as it turns 25 years old.
J.J. Francesco is a longtime contributor to the NRT Staff. He's published the novel 'Because of Austin' and regularly seeks new ways to engage faith, life, and community.
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