A sentence in Mary-Kathryn's press biography reads, "Her recent influences include Enya, Loreena McKennitt, the Afro Celt Sound System, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Seal, and Sarah Brightman." As a listen to her fourth album, Dreams & Visions, confirms, this list is accurate, at least in a musical sense. Mary-Kathryn is part of a long tradition in gospel and contemporary Christian music. CCM's adherents often have made a practice of copying popular musical styles, even including heavy metal, and simply applying religious lyrics to them. There is a stealth aspect to this, of course, as if the religious musicians are trying to sneak their message in with fans of different musical styles, and it is, of course, somewhat lacking in originality. But it continues to be tried, and Mary-Kathryn is just one more example. What is unusual about her is her choice of style. She adopts the world music-inflected sound of Gabriel and Sting in particular, although there is plenty of Enya's echoey vocal style as well. Over the ethnic percussion and keyboard burblings, however, the lyrics are standard-issue gospel praise song. For example, as an instrumental musical track, "Glory Forever" may sound like something that could fit on Gabriel's So, but the first verse goes like this: "I worship you and I sing/I give to you everything/With all my heart all my praises to you/Your glory shines like the sun/The lamb of God, righteous one/Bright morning star." Elsewhere in that press biography, Mary-Kathryn is described as "a unique voice in the popular and rapidly-growing ‘New Age/New Thought movement.'" She may well be the only artist in CCM copying this particular brand of adult pop, but there isn't anything new in her message; it's as old as the Rock of Ages.
Dreams & Visions Review
by William Ruhlmann