Rich Mullins & the Kid Brothers of St. Frank "Canticle of the Plains"
by Steve Rabey
CCM Magazine September 1997
Since he died more than 750 years ago, St. Franciss of Assisi has inspired hundreds books, paintings, compositions and movies. But the beloved saint has never prompted anything like Canticle of the Plains, a bold and beautiful music which transforms Francis into Frank and moves him from medieval Italy to the wild west of 19th-century America, a setting that has inspired its own share of art and music.
Created by Rich Mullins, longtime Mullins collaborator Beaker and Mitch McVicker (who together make up the Kid Brothers of St. Frank), the album boasts performances by Mullins' Ragamuffin Band, Jimmy Abegg, and Mark Robertson and This Train, as well as features lead vocals by Sixpence None The Richer's Leigh Bingham Nash and DC Talk's Kevin Smith and Michael Tait.
Canticle is an audacious move for Mullins, an artist who has previously been content to toy with the boundaries of contemporary Christian music but now blows them to smithereens. There's no strict chronology of Francis' life here. Instead, the emphasis is on Franciscan principles such as deep-rooted mysticism that sees the hand of God in the sun, sage and sand, the creativity to express this way in "Heaven in Waiting," the album's first single: "My savior's calling and I'm listening/Time to saddle up my pony and ride."
Nor is there strict adherence to any one musical style. Bingham sings "Buenos Noches from Nacogdoches" to a mariachi accompaniment, while Tait belts out "Oh My Lord," a moving description of Christ's passion, over a gritty blues-rock background. But it all hangs together, thanks to the player's passion and professionalism.
SOme won't get it and will pray that Mullins returns to more conventional fare. But others will hail Canticle as the trailblazing journey into brave new musical territory that it is. If you can't find Canticle in a store near you, send $16.50 for CD and shipping to Kid Brothers of St. Frank, PO Box 11526, Wichita, KS 67202.