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Reckless Mercy

By: David Lyda (From: Volume 2 - Issue 3)
(Car photo courtesy of Stephen Wollwerth / Wollwerth Films)
(Drummer photo courtesy of Karen Ostrander Johnson)
(All other photos courtesy of David Lyda)

Bass player Adam Brinks points out an important call to arms for Reckless Mercy, “Keep the main thing, the main thing.” The band’s focus is ministry, in sharing the love of God. It is obvious in just a few moments after meeting the guys from Reckless Mercy that they mean business. Not the uptight suit and tie untouchable business. They are very open and bare in their testimony. A point is made after each show to be there for the crowd. Singer and picker Alex Castillo says “How can we be like Jesus if we don’t get involved with people?”

Reckless Mercy has a unique appeal. Their music and Christian love reaches so many different demographics. Any preconceived notions of what a band sounds like with banjo and mandolin can be left at the door. Though sometimes hard to define, the band is a very grassroots style of Americana and Folk Rock. Backed by the dynamic drumming of Tony Cox, Reckless Mercy strikes forward with a raw but never abrasive sound. The music is really secondary to the ministry though. Looking at their focus, it is not difficult to realize why they are so accessible; why they can play churches, biker rallies, bars, and homeless shelters. By seeking first the kingdom, Reckless Mercy knows the ministry will not venture outside of God’s will.

God has blessed this band for their obedience, and new opportunities open up each year. This evangelistic ministry began with singers/guitarists Stephen Jeffrey and Alex Castillo. The two first crossed paths back in 1999 where Alex was leading worship at Joel’s Place in Georgia. A friendship developed through after show meals together, but it didn’t go beyond that. Stephen and Alex reconnected again in 2005 and the foundation for Reckless Mercy was starting to solidify. God had prepared the men to meet again; for they were not ready some years before. They had faced a major problem called sin.

Like so many men, Stephen struggled with a porn addiction. God finally had to “sit him down” and get things straight in 2003. It involved a painful process of breaking and exposure before his church. Stephen knew the Lord was at work and shares “God has a way of taking our biggest failures and magnifies Himself through them.” After reconnecting, Alex lovingly helped restore his brother in Christ and was also struck by Stephen’s call to music ministry. Stephen’s solo “preaching music” was being shared outside of church. God had been pointing Alex into the exact same direction.

Alex had grown up with a father that was a pastor in the Church of God. Despite his awareness of the Gospel, Alex turned to the lusts and desires of the world. He became a drug addict and eventually served time in jail. Alex was brought to his own experience of breaking and decided to accept Jesus as his personal Savior. A love for music led him to lead worship, and Alex became very comfortable in his faith. An attitude that can befall many a Christian began to take hold. Alex became very prideful and judgmental towards non-believers. At that point, God had to remind him where he had come from. Alex realized “I thought I was good, but God showed me that I was the opposite.”

A burden was soon placed on Alex’s heart to go outside of church and share his story. God with His perfect timing brought Stephen and Alex back together with the same vision. With the men’s individual struggles addressed, a band was formed. What started out as a duo, morphed into a band with six members, changed into a four piece, went back down to Stephen and Alex, became a trio, and finally settled into the current lineup of Alex, Stephen, Adam, and Tony. The group’s sound continued to evolve with each rotation. One previous incarnation of the band was really just backing musicians for each member (who were all individual songwriters). Their signature sound did not arrive until Adam and Tony joined the band. The band changed its name to Reckless Mercy in 2010.

Before the name change, Alex and Stephen released a self-financed album titled "The Things I Do" with the band Soul. Soon after, the bass player and drummer left the group. Stephen and Alex thought it was end of the line. Alex encouraged Stephen to begin his solo music again, but God was not through with them. That very week, they got several calls for shows. After about five weekends of performing together, Alex and Stephen were both struck with the thought, “What are we doing? I thought we were disbanding!”

Adam Brinks later joined the group on bass and brought a different real world experience to Reckless Mercy. By June 2014, Adam will have served in the Army for 16 years. This war veteran has seen the many horrors and evils of the world, but you would never know from his always glowing persona. Adam likes to smile because he knows Jesus.

The group got involved with a ministry called Lakehouse Music Inc; which was meant to be a springboard for local bands. The man behind the ministry, Pete Blackshaw, had already signed a band that included drummer and Army veteran Tony Cox. After some years out of music to focus on family, Tony began playing again with his sons. The Cox family shared the stage several times with one of Alex and Stephen’s bands at the Encouraging Cup in Fletcher, NC. This sparked camaraderie between the two groups. After a recommendation to Pete Blackshaw by Tony, Reckless Mercy soon joined the Lakehouse Music Inc roster.

With a basically non-existent studio budget, Alex, Stephen, and Adam found the perfect atmosphere to craft their sound. They were able to build songs in the studio, sonically experiment, and they were able to allow God to work. Prayer was instrumental in the development of the first album under the Reckless Mercy moniker, “Turning Over Tables”. Mandolins and banjos running through electric guitar amps made unique folk rock songs. After the album was complete, Lakehouse folded.

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