Mark Bishop’s ‘Some Distant Mountain’ Traverses Centuries and Continents
August 3, 2021
Award-winning Gospel singer, songwriter, and producer Mark Bishop is not one to look back or become burdened by the path he has already trodden. “Songwriters by nature are always moving forward,” he says, “You’re looking to create something new.” That quest is what makes Some Distant Mountain, his newest project for Sonlite Records—and his first since 2019’s GRAMMY-nominated Beautiful Day—feel so special. Inspired by an exploration of American roots music and its origins in Celtic, European, and African traditional music, Some Distant Mountain—now available for pre-order, add or save ahead of its September 24, 2021 release day—traverses centuries and continents to celebrate the Gospel in all of its glory. Bishop freely explores these histories with curiosity and respect, but does not burden himself with expectations of strict adherence to academic accuracy. Rather, he allows his unique voice as an artist shine through, refracting off of the angled facets of dozens of interconnected histories.
To realize his musical vision, Bishop turned to producers GRAMMY-nominated Jeff Collins and bassist Mark Fain, who assembled a top shelf cast of multi-instrumentalist master musicians David Johnson, Andy Leftwich and Jeff Taylor—all schooled in the different strands of roots music styles that lay at the heart of Bishop’s concept—alongside an equally stellar selection of harmony vocalists in Lauren Talley, the Isaacs’ Sonya Isaacs Yeary, Endless Highway’s Ally Griggs, and The Sisters’ Valerie Medkiff. Inspired both by the songs’ powerful messages and Bishop’s adventurous spirit, the ensemble delivered compelling performances that underline the collection’s distinctive power.
The result is a powerfully unique take on both the gospel message and the music by which it’s delivered. Bishop’s not afraid to turn to unusual sources, like the writers—Bob Dylan sidekick Bob Neuwirth and the legendary T-Bone Burnett—of the album’s first single, “Like a Songbird That Has Fallen,” (press “play” above to watch official video in this post) nor to range from a bare bones a capella performance (“Were You There”) to the wholly Celtic lilt of “Across the River,” the second single, to the full orchestral majesty of “Hardly the Load,” and back to the simple clawhammer banjo backing of the upcoming single, “Shall We Gather at the River.” From song to song, each arrangement is hand-crafted to match the mood and theme, and delivered with Bishop’s signature blend of vocal finesse and heartfelt devotion.
Driven by an overarching theme of perseverance, the album itself resonates with the power of the moment we are in. Having emerged shaken and transformed by life in a pandemic, each track on Some Distant Mountain reads like a love letter from the past, steeped in wisdom and experience from those who came before. “You’re stopping and you’re looking at the vista behind you,” says Bishop. “You’re looking at your roots.”