Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
Mai Pope must be one of the nicest, most talented and totally underrated artists in Christian music. From being a schoolboy signed to Elton John's own Rocket Records, through years as a session player, to national fame when Simon Mayo publicly stated that he and his band The Jacks were the best band he'd ever seen, it's been an interesting journey. Coupling music with work as a presenter on Welsh television, this album accompanies a TV series which included a trip to Memphis - Mai clearly gets the good gigs! 'Mumbles To Memphis' is stripped down acoustic music which allows Mai's songs to breathe and allows the listener to go on a journey of words and images, with pictures gently painted. Although he is working in the mainstream, Mai's writing always has a strong spiritual flavour weaved through all the stories, the humanity and the observations. Too many highlights but the nostalgic "Golden Days" which looks back also kindles an appreciation of the present. It's hard to separate a man from his environment so you get a few songs which evoke images of South Wales and the injustices of the death of the coal mining industry, but also reflections on family, community and God. "Crossroads" captures a reflective Mai mood halfway through his life wondering out loud whilst "Another Man's Shoes" is a moody, powerful reminder not to judge the decisions that other people make unless you walk their journey. My favourite has to be "Heaven's Sound" which epitomises the whole album, taking you from Mumbles across America, examining the way in which spiritual influences have inspired ordinary and extraordinary people - Elvis, Martin Luther King, Al Green all get name checks. Just a fab song! Though different from his other work which is more poppy, this is an excellent album with plenty of depth.
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