Long known as the front man of Grammy-winning Christian rock band Third Day, Mac Powell gets back to his roots on his first country release. The self-titled effort, which is in stores now, finds the Alabama native embracing the opportunity to explore a deep woods sound on the mostly-secular set of 12 new songs.
Releasing the project independently, Mac tapped Third Day touring musician Jason Hourd to serve as the project’s producer. Jason, who adds mandolin, banjo and acoustic guitar to Third Day’s heavy Southern rock sound, adds the same here while helping to develop the album’s rootsy feel. With an emphasis on earthy acoustics and heavy Southern stomp, Mac displays a true feel for the genre with a voice that sounds like a soulful convergence of Travis Tritt and Blake Shelton. In fact, when compared to Third Day works like “Make Your Move” off of their 2010 release, Move, there’s a realization regarding how much early 2000s country has always been packed into Mac’s delivery.
Mac’s from the South and shows off a healthy dose of regional pride on the album. The backwoods country blues number, “Sweet Georgia Girl,” opens with slithering acoustic riffs and a shout out to East Alabama before making it known that Georgia girls have stolen his heart. Between the frenetic country riffs of “June Bug,” Mac sings of growing up in a Southern town with a strong affinity. On the rolling, “Carolina,” there’s more than a touch of homesickness for the South as he sings, I might leave, chase my dreams, down that highway for a while / but then again I always come back. However, it’s the standout track, “Mississippi,” that claims top prize in Mac’s travelogue. Intricate acoustic interplay and a steady-rockin’ rhythm section power the bluesy tune through a fantastic twist on the playground count of, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi,” because as Mac sings on the love-torn tune, By the time you get to ten Mississippi, I’m gonna be long gone.
With such a strong history in the CCM genre, it’s no wonder that hints of Gospel and Christian music come through. Don’t get me wrong, every day’s a gift from God, he sings on the party song, “Saturday Night,” which features a lively, Southern Gospel-tinged piano line. CCM artist Lizi Bailey duets with Mac on the tender, “Do You Love Me,” and on the power ballad, “Carry You,” hints of anthemic Christian rock are heard in the chorus while Mac’s voice is upfront and personal.
Most of the record pushes the tempo with tracks like “This Ain’t No Hobby” driving hard into the country blues. Featuring musical patterns that shift under Mac’s warm drawl, creative ideas and turns in the road are oftentimes clever and engaging. After a continually building intro and verse, “My Love For You Remains” dodges the big – and expected – chorus with a refrain full of melodic mandolin, banjo and a loving delivery. It’s these subtle nuances that keep the album sounding fresh throughout.
While Third Day is set to release a new album, Miracle, this month, Mac relishes the chance to push the boundaries of his own artistry on this solo album. The aching pleas of “Julia Ann,” which feels like modernized Marshall Tucker Band, allows Mac to stretch out while the introspective “Hold On To Me” and power ballad “Trying To Get Over You” offer opportunities to explore contemporary country. With a natural feel and fine touch for powerful moments, Mac creates a welcome chapter to his diverse catalog.
Key Tracks – “My Love For You Remains,” “This Ain’t No Hobby,” “Julia Ann,” “Mississippi”