Mary-Kathryn feels like she is a “musical missionary,” and describes her musical style as world fusion music with pop sensibilities. She incorporates sounds and instruments from other nations. Her music is birthed from her worship to God, and she feels like this is part of the message that God wants her to share. She’s always felt God has given her a freedom and told her not to withhold anything in worship. People are intrigued by her worship style, which inspires more people to be free to worship.
She feels her call is to be a psalmist; her music is for healing and deliverance. Her music speaks to the nations, and it’s of the nations. It is a different musical expression that embodies the freedom that is found in God. Her previous albums (One Spirit, Stream in the Desert, and Perfect Gift) were released to the Christian market between 1995 and 2001 and received positive critical acclaim and were well accepted by listeners.
It wasn’t until her fourth and latest release, Dreams & Visions, that she believed God was doing something new. It was completed at the end of 2005, but Mary-Kathryn felt like God wanted her to wait before releasing it. She felt like He was saying that she was preparing for His coming with her previous twelve years in music. Now, it was time to “go back to Egypt and bring deliverance to His people there.” When Mary-Kathryn asked what Egypt was, God told her, “The New Age.” The New Age is a nation and culture of seeking people. Mary-Kathryn believes that what they are looking for is found in Jesus Christ.
While Dreams & Visions is infused with blatantly Christian content that is reflective of her deeply held faith, the album is finding remarkable acceptance in the Adult Eclectic marketplace as well—a market Mary-Kathryn feels both compelled to go to and comfortable walking in.
While her earlier releases hinted at Mary-Kathryn’s world music influences, her new millennium release, One Spirit, exploded with exotic rhythms and Old World passions—Middle Eastern cadences nestled comfortably against Native American inflections, traditional folk melodies from France, Italy and America merged seamlessly with musical influences from such faraway lands as India, Ireland, Africa and Egypt.
One Spirit captured the attention of the popular and rapidly-growing “New Thought movement,” and now Dreams & Visions is quickly solidifying Mary-Kathryn’s position as a unique voice in the genre. Indeed, she is one of the few artists in either the Christian or general market to sing deeply spiritual lyrics that are shot through with a deep and abiding faith over a world music-influenced sound that also includes elements of new age and adult pop.
“I wanted to create a spiritual experience through music,” Mary-Kathryn explains. “I know there is a God who wants to bring us into a better place. I care about all the people on this planet, and my dream is that we could all love one another. We also need to care about our world and be good stewards of it. I try to make music that reflects this vision.”
In addition to writing or co-writing most of the songs on Dreams & Visions, Mary-Kathryn also assumed co-producer responsibilities along with Paul Buono (Cherie Adams, Free Reign). Together Mary-Kathryn and Paul called on the world-class talents of Hugh Marsh (Dan Fogelberg, Bruce Cockburn) on violin; Fergus Marsh (Pierce Pettis, Steve Bell) on chapman stick and bass; Tony Morra (Van-Zant, Selah) on drums and percussion; and the angelic voices of Finnish vocal group Fire 4U. Tony Palacios (Guardian, Decyfer Down) mixed the project at the world famous Sound Kitchen.
The result is an album that feels tactile, textured—woven rather than layered. It sounds like fabric would feel; it looks like color would sound.
Recurring themes of love, peace, faith, prayer and worship permeate Dreams & Visions. Although English is the predominant language on all of Mary-Kathryn’s albums, she has also sung in Hebrew as well as the Sou-Sou language from Benin, West Africa. At times, Mary-Kathryn sings “in the Spirit” where her vocalizations are either sounds or unknown languages, although they variously resemble Mid-Eastern, Gaelic, French or American Indian voices.
“As with any language that is sung, you don’t have to understand it to enjoy it,” Mary-Kathryn explains. “The sound and the Spirit are what matters, and the music is just as important in communicating the message as the words are. The music itself is speaking. These sounds are saying something—they are prophetic in nature. They are like voices singing along with the lyrics.”
“Wailing Wall” is a classic example of Mary-Kathryn’s singular ability to combine earthy instrumentation with ethereal vocals to facilitate a spiritual encounter, without the limiting use of lyrics to put parameters around the experience.
“Flying Toward The Sun” is another song that Mary-Kathryn originally intended as an emotive, intuitive instrumental. “It was far too personal to try to express in words,” she confesses. “I felt God was revealing his love to me, and it was expressed in all these relationships that we have with husbands and wives, children and friends.” But when co-producer, Paul Buono, suggested she consider expressing that love as a metaphor, the image that overwhelmed her was one of flying toward the sun—so high, so bright, so full of life and energy.
Mary-Kathryn draws on her spiritual heritage as she re-imagines “The Children’s Hymn,” better known as “My Father’s World,” a hymn she sang regularly as a child growing up in Sunday School. “Psalm 91” incorporates the imagery of King David to describe the protective nature of God and features evocative background vocals by Fire 4U. “In Your Time” is a gentle, prophetic exhortation of encouragement.
“God wants to reveal himself in us, but it really takes time for Him to do that,” Mary-Kathryn explains. “He wants to send us out like ships to the sea, carrying the precious cargo of hope.”
“Incense of Praise,” with its sultry, Middle Eastern hook and lavishly extravagant lyrics, compels freedom in worship, while “Dreamers” is a heart’s cry for revelation.
“Our culture tends to live in the here and now and to ignore the vast well of deep water that is the spiritual,” Mary-Kathryn declares. “But there is a mystical aspect to who God is. He is mysterious, and there are ways that He wants to speak to us individually that other people may not understand, if we will only listen.”