Canticle of the Plains 
Artists: Various artists 
Label:  Ragamuffin Records 
Time:10 tracks (40:11) 

Canticle of the Plains is a project that has been several years in the making.  This record is an intricate part of a musical that Rich Mullins, Beaker, and Mitch McVicker skillfully crafted into one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard.  The only thing holding the lyrics back is the fact that the record isn't available in many stores and that only a very small handful of people will ever see the musical itself.   

What most people want to know before they hear the music is, "Does it scream of Rich Mullins?"  The answer to that is both yes and no.  The theme in the music is completely Rich's.  It is a theme of Jesus being complete love and all we could ever need.  But Rich was careful not to include his voice on leads in a single song.  In fact, you have to try real hard to pick out anything that is identifiably Rich. Also, most of the songs are a bit harder and louder than typical Rich Mullins.  But, the lead vocalists combined with first rate lyrics and music do a wonderful job of focusing the soundtrack on humans in the real world giving God their all.   

At first glance, the lead vocalists seem an odd mixture of musicians. Mitch McVicker, a wonderful friend and traveling partner of Rich Mullins, takes the lead part of St. Frank, a cowboy wandering around in Wichita, Kansas.  Michael Tate from DC talk sings the part of Buzz, the poor Mississippi slave's son, who joins Frank on his journey.  Kevin Smith, also from DC Talk, sings the part of Ivory, a washed out, bar playing piano man.  Leigh Bingham-Nash of Sixpence None the Richer plays the part of Claire, which provides us with the human love story in the musical.  She is a long-time buddy of Frank, but because of her deep love for him as well as God, she gives him up to do God's will.   

The story starts just after the Civil War.  Frank has come back disillusioned with things he saw.  This leads him to a point of recognition, a point where he finally feels the presence of God all around him.   Being so moved by this, Frank begins to sing out in a song to God, "There You Are." Next, we are introduced to Buzz, Ivory, and Claire as we hear songs about them and how they view God as freedom, as escape, and as love respectively. The story progresses as we hear the song "Heaven is Waiting."  We then discover that the three men are going on a journey not knowing where it will take them, only knowing that God is in it.  Afterwards, we hear each of the four characters, this time as they show us how they view life.  From Frank we learn to see things as he thinks angels would; Claire is looking forward to seeing Frank again in the song "Buenas Noches from Nacogdoches"; Ivory has fallen in love with a Navajo princess in the song "Love's as Strong"; and from Buzz we are led through stages of Jesus' death on the cross.  The musical ends with poetic, heartfelt, strong images of the end of a journey.  A journey that takes the characters in the story as well as the listeners to a point of complete praise of Jesus. The song is called "You Are All," and it talks about how Jesus is faith, hope, love, our most high, everything..... 

My amazement of the record does not stop there.  I listened intently to the 
quality of the recording, and it proved to be very clear and crisp.  This impressed me because I understand the CD was produced and made free of 
charge.  Just out of love.   All this, and the fact that the proceeds from sales of the album go to Compassion USA missions. Even though the CD only contains 10 songs, these ten completely take up the space mentally that many 
more songs usually would. 

By Cathy Courtwright 

for more info, call the Kid Brothers of St. Frank (316) 262-7159 or contact The Better Book Room