Album Reviews

Various Artists

Treasure of the Broken Land – The Songs of Mark Heard

Artist:     Various

Album:     Treasure of the Broken Land – The Songs of Mark Heard

Label:     Storm Weathered

Release Date:     6.2.2017

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I loved his alternative approach at making music about faith and life that was confessional instead of prescriptive,” said Drew Holcomb, one of the many artists featured in this tribute to the songs of Mark Heard. Heard wrote mostly Christian music in the ’80s and 90s and died much too young in 1992 at the age of 41. These songs are taken from his last three albums, Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand, and Satellite Sky. Two previous tributes to Heard in the mid-’90s are now out of print and Jeff Grantham, who provided the impetus for the project, put it this way, “it was concerning to think that memory of him as an artist might fade away completely with the passing of our generation.” Grantham recruited producer Phil Madeira, who has considerable experience in these kinds of endeavors, and together the two of them assembled a wide array of Americana artists. Some, such as Rodney Crowell, Drew Holcomb, Sierra Hull, and Buddy Miller were deeply familiar with Heard’s catalog. Others were hearing and performing his tunes for the first time.

Heard’s spiritual lyrics run the gamut from utter sorrow to uplifting hope and somehow come at just the right time, given the political and class divides in the country right now. For example, here is a passage from “House of Broken Dreams,” performed here by Amy Speace: “Give me the reasons to go on. Soften the sorrow that shatters and bends, and mend broken dreams.” Madeira, along with the artists here, found Heard’s music timeless and easy to connect to. Phil says, “The best songwriting comes out of wrestling and conversing with yourself. It’s a spiritual endeavor…[Heard] wrestled with belief, doubt, pain and ultimate resurrection.”

Among many fine performances, these are the highlights: Matt Haeck’s roots rocking take on “The Dry Bones Dance,” Holcomb’s similar approach to “Tip of My Tongue,” Willie Sugarcapps on “Worry Too Much,” a tune Buddy Miller covered on one his award-winning Universal United House of Prayer, “Orphans of God,” with Amy Helm, Cindy Morgan, and Levi Parham, “Satellite Sky,” by the Red Dirt Boys, and Buddy Miller on the title track. Yes, that’s quite a list. More than anything else, the listener will inevitably gain a great appreciation for Heard’s songwriting talent. Grantham had a loftier goal than exposing Heard’s music. He says, “In these challenging times, ‘music heals’ has become a mantra for many artists. I sincerely hope this collection of songs is part of the healing process and that it has a positive impact on those who hear it.” Listen repeatedly and find some comfort in the process.

—Jim Hynes

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  1. These songs are beautiful in their presentation. It boggles my mind they were written over twenty years ago, they are so relevant.