As most of you know, the musical legacy of Mark Heard -- who God called home in 1992 -- has been an ongoing source of inspiration to many of us. By "us" I'm referring to those Christian music lovers who wish that the vast majority of music offered by the CCM industry was better than it is, and who, as a result, find their musical tastes satisfied by the artistic excellence offered by a precious and special few: the sadly neglected likes of Terry Taylor/Daniel Amos, Michael Roe/77's, Vigilantes of Love, the Choir, Ashley Cleveland, etc. Many of these deeper artists were touched by Mark's work, and mourned his untimely passing.
Many such artists have paid tribute to Mark Heard. There were several live memorial shows, followed by two tribute releases, Strong Hand of Love and Orphans of God.
His contributions to the "better" side of CCM are too many to name here, but I'd wager that many of the artists cited as favorites on this message board have worked with him at one point or another.
Why do I go into all this? Because, if any of this resonates favorably with you, there is a new CD you have to get your hands on.
First, I must recount briefly my experience at one particular Mark Heard Memorial Concert. This show took place in October of 1992 at the Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, CA. The concert was emceed by two friends of Heard, John Fischer and Tom Howard. Appearing that night was an excellent line-up of performers, which included the Lost Dogs (all 4 of them) and the Choir, as well as Bryan Duncan, Julie Miller, and Fernando Ortega.
Sometime during the show, a striking young blond woman rose from the front row and took the stage. She was introduced as Pam Dwinell-Miner, who at that time was only a name to me. Being one of those folks who closely reads album credits and liner notes, I knew her to be a background vocalist who had contributed to sessions for various CCM projects produced and recorded by Mark Heard (such as Randy Stonehill's Return To Paradise and Until We Have Wings), as well as for Heard's own final 3 recordings. I doubt most people in the audience that night knew anything more, if they even knew that.
She performed two songs, aided by only her acoustic guitar... and one POWERFUL VOICE. When she finished, I swear, the room fell silent. We were stunned by the exhibition of raw talent we had just seen. I really can't adequately describe how riveting she was during her short time on stage. All I know is that her set was the best in the entire program, and that particular moment stays with me to this day.
Like many of her talented Christian artist friends and peers of the late 80's/early 90's, Pam Dwinell-Miner had experienced a great deal of frustration because of the CCM industry. And like the artist formerly known as Leslie Phillips, she too decided to change her name -- from Pam Dwinell-Miner to Kate Miner -- in 1995. Throughout the 1990's she had tried her hand at a mainstream recording career, only to realize ultimately that God had other plans for her. Kate Miner, along with her husband David, has since embarked on a journey of full-time worship. Some of those reading here may be familiar with her CD Live From the Sunset Strip, a modern worship event which was recorded at the Roxy in 1999 (especially Choir fans, as Derri Daugherty played guitar for that show).
Her commitment to her faith in God, and her desire to honor Him fully through excellence in her works, have not been affected at all by her past experiences. To my delight, she's finally come to a point where she can reflect upon the winding road of her long musical career. The result is a terrific new CD, the appropriately titled (These Could've Been My) GREATEST HITS. 14 tracks are presented here, beginning with an unreleased song from the 1999 live worship CD, and then progressing, in reverse chronological order, to cover a fabulous period of great music which is, suffice it to say, the antithesis of the banal CCM industry at large. Interestingly enough, however, the CD ends with 3 tracks which mark the beginning of her career... as a would-be CCM artist for Myrrh Records. Pam Dwinell-Miner recorded an album for Myrrh back in 1988, and then saw its release scrapped by parent company Word Music. The final 3 tracks on the CD were taken from that unreleased recording. The disc includes well-written recollections by Kate for each of the songs. In them, she expresses with candor (and numerous doses of humor) some of the pains and struggles encountered along the path of her career.
Much of the music on this CD was recorded prior to Mark Heard's death and, as one might expect, he is prominent in the credits for those songs recorded before 1992. To his fans, I guarantee hearing them will be a moving experience, as his voice blends with Kate's once more in familiar harmony (only this time HE'S the background vocalist), and his mandolin is totally recognizable in one of the songs. The CD also includes her duet with Randy Stonehill, a cover of the Mark Heard classic "Look Over Your Shoulder," which has appeared previously on the tribute albums in the wake of his death. Its inclusion here should still be appreciated by Heard fans, since she writes a loving piece in her notes to once again remember, almost a decade now since his passing, the brilliant poet whose body of work still affects a few of us profoundly to this day.
To those who understand what I'm saying here, you absolutely must get this CD. It is easily one the best ones to come out this year.
Mark Ige, 11/30/01 ( a review at kateminer.com )
INTERVIEWS & ARTICLES