CD Review: Mark Lowry – What’s Not To Love?

CD Review: Mark Lowry – What’s Not To Love?

In January, Mark Lowry announced he plans to do very little touring after 2017. That plan didn’t deter him from recording a new full-length CD for 2017, however. What’s Not To Love? is Mark’s second release on the Daywind Records label. (2011’s  Unplugged & Unplanned was his previous title on Daywind.) This is a strictly music CD; sorry, no stand-up comedy bits. What’s Not To Love? will be available at retail outlets a month from yesterday, August 18.

Nine of the eleven songs on What’s Not To Love? were co-written by Reba Rambo-McGuire and Dony McGuire including four with Lowry (“What’s Not To Love?”, “I Know When I’m Hearing From Home,” “Mama Prayed,” and “Only Jesus”) and four with Chip Davis (“Why Don’t We Sit And Talk?,” “Love Is The Golden Rule,” “No Room For Hate,” and “So You’ll Know How To Pray”). They also co-wrote “Feels Like I’m Already There” with Jimmy Yeary. Chip Davis also co-wrote “What If He Meant What He Said?” with Kim Williams and Billy Davis. “Didn’t I Walk On The Water?” was written by Linda Gibson-Johnson.

If you’re not the analytical type, just know that the title track, “What Not To Love?,” is a light-hearted lyric over a driving beat and features some of Lowry’s trademark delivery in a style that should make you smile. It’s also the first single being sent to radio. (Non-analytical types may want to skip the next paragraph. Analytical types, read on!)

I’m always intrigued by unexpected song structures.  “What’s Not To Love?” begins with a structure of C-C-V-C-V-C-B-C. Each “C” in this pattern is a four-line call-and-response sort of chorus with the “call” coming from Mark and the “response” from the harmony vocals provided by the Gaither Vocal Band. Each “V” is a verse with the two roles reversed. The “B” is an extended bridge section consisting of three shorter choruses and verses. Each chorus within the bridge is the GVB asking “What’s not to love about Jesus?” three times and “What’s not to love?” one more time. Mark responds to each with a short verse of testimony. This cycle is repeated twice, then the full original chorus comes back to conclude the song. But wait. There’s more. The structure of the bridge reappears as two more of Mark’s testimony verses come back at the end of the CD for a reprise. It might be fun to remix the two arrangements into one long version and/or a more “radio friendly” single by shortening the original 3:55 minutes down to something less than 3:30.

It’s worth noting that four of the song titles are posed as questions. (At this point, you may recall an immensely popular seasonal song associated with Lowry that also features a question for the title.) “Why Don’t We Sit And Talk?” is more akin to “What’s Not To Love?” in that it’s also a fun song. This one starts with a slow groove, but just when it seems about to end, the tempo kicks into a gospel double time. “What If He Meant What He Said?” and “Didn’t I Walk On The Water?” are more introspective. The former addresses the concepts of forgiveness and putting others first while the latter reminds us of the promises Jesus made.

A Rhodes piano, B-3 organ, and light percussion set the stage for “Love Is The Golden Rule.” The arrangement transistions into a nice anthem feel for the choruses. The message here is similar to Karen Peck & New River’s “Why Can’t All God’s Children Get Along?” (If you’ve heard the new single by Michael English, yes, it is the same song.) “No Room For Hate” picks up thematically right where “Love Is The Golden Rule” leaves off with a mid-tempo blues groove. Stylistically, this track is an upbeat contrast to “Love Is The Golden Rule.” An uncredited male quartet provides the background vocals.

“So You’ll Know How To Pray” and “Mama Prayed” is another pair of songs presented back to back with a similar lyric theme. The two songs couldn’t be more different in a musical sense, though. The former displays Lowry in all of his hyperactive glory over a Dixieland-inspired track while the latter is a Country/Bluegrass themed tribute to his mother’s faithful prayer habits.

There are four verses to “Only Jesus.” Specifically, the verses reflect on the woman who pressed through the crowd to touch Jesus, the penitent thief on the cross, the woman at the well, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus. This already good song would be even better if the verse about the thief was positioned chronologically before the final verse about the resurrection. The key changes alone would have been enough to effectively carry the momentum forward and drive the point home, but instead, this arrangement builds rather predictably adding more orchestration than necessary.

Life and love are the central themes that permeate What’s Not To Love? In contrast, many of the CDs I review are just random collections of songs an artist and/or their producers happened to like. The fact that What’s Not To Love? has consistent themes (and a couple of song pairs presenting the same theme from different angles) is even more amazing when you consider some information in the CD booklet. According to Mark, the moment he first heard the songs Reba & Dony McGuire were working on to the moment What’s Not To Love? was completely finished was a mere month!

The result of employing a smaller-than-typical pool of songwriters is a collection of songs that belong together. These songs also feel personal. They’re certainly personal for Lowry, but also for me and possibly for you as well.

Producer: Dony McGuire
Label: Daywind Records
Songs: Why Don’t We Sit And Talk?; What’s Not To Love?; I Know When I’m Hearing From Home; Love Is The Golden Rule; No Room For Hate; What If He Meant What He Said?; So You’ll Know How To Pray; Mama Prayed; Feels Like I’m Already There; Didn’t I Walk On The Water?; Only Jesus; What’s Not To Love? (Reprise)
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Scale of 1-5 Stars)

Overall Rating
4.5 out of 5

4.5

Good
4.5 out of 5
Category CD Reviews, Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

MusicScribe Comments

We love comments
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment on this article!

Tell us what you think!