Phil Madeira began work on Mercyland with one question: “What if God is Love?” The songs he ultimately produced are a combination of blues, country, gospel, folk, and bluegrass, and the lyrics are all about love and mercy. Artists including Buddy Miller, Mat Kearney, John Scofield, Emmylou Harris, and many others lend their talents to the big-tent “hymnal.” In an interview Madeira said, “This record is ‘for the rest of us,’ those who want to ask questions, those who can’t escape the notion of ‘Other.’” You may not agree with all of the theology, but the album’s beauty and grace make it worthy of your attention and contemplation.
Madeira produced Mercyland with the help of a Kickstarter.com campaign, an online pledge drive for new projects needing investors. The Kickstarter goal to get the album in motion was $5,000; the drive closed at $37,205. That’s just the kind of kickstart he was looking for.
Most of the songs are original for the album. The Civil Wars cowrote “From This Valley” with Madeira, and it is a joyful leadoff to the playlist. The Carolina Chocolate Drops cover the traditional “Lights in the Valley” (aka “Do Lord”) with a down-home bluegrass sound. The North Mississippi Allstars’ version of “If I Was Jesus” is stripped-down, laid-back southern blues at its best, and the initial irreverence is somehow transformed to a song of love and sacrifice. “Light of Your Love” is Dan Tyminski’s (“Man of Constant Sorrows”) take on the prodigal son. Together they have created an album of uncommon grace. (Tone Tree Music)