This all-gospel set from Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie is a compilation of 12 previously-released songs. The earliest, “Beautiful” (the most Gentleman-ly song here, sung by Randy Waller) and “Keep On The Sunny Side” (sung with anthem-like stateliness by Wayne Taylor) are drawn from his 2007 self-titled release for Rebel. Seven, including “Will The Light Be Shining Bright,” “Little Stone Lambs,” and “He Knows My Name,” come from his three recordings for Rural Rhythm. The remaining three are newly-recorded and include a particularly nice cover of “Drifting Too Far From The Shore,” featuring the silky lead vocal of Lauren Mears. “What A Day,” sung by Linda Lay with harmony from Shelby Gold, also comes from that session.
Drawing from many recorded sources means many different musicians. That’s certainly the case here. No less than 19 musicians make contributions, though a core group of Emerson on banjo on all tracks (of course), Wayne Lanham on mandolin on eight, and Teri Chism on bass on nine play the largest roles. Having so many diverse musicians gives the songs a broad mix of styles and settings ranging from the folkier and softer “Thank Him For The Miracle,” sung by Chris Stifel, to the straighter traditional feel of “What A Day.”
Several tracks here deserve special mention. There’s the aforementioned “Drifting Too Far From The Shore,” a song so well-written that it stands out on almost any recording. “What A Day,” “Beautiful,” and “The Rope” are also of note. The true gem is “Little Stone Lambs,” written by Carl Jackson and Tim Stafford and sung by Tom Adams in a style reminiscent of James Taylor. It’s a fine example of a story/imagery song, and the interpolation of “Little Rosewood Casket” is a nice touch. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 750, Mt. Juliet, TN 37121, www.ruralrhythm.com.)BW