Bluegrass gospel recordings can use approaches ranging from spare to ornate, following one end or the other exclusively, or create an overall blend located anywhere on the spectrum or mixing and matching tracks from all over that spectrum. There is no right way. Each approach works towards a common goal.
Dave Adkins and his singing partners, Richie Rose and David Taylor, instrumentally supported by resonator guitarist/bassist Jeff Partin and guitarist/mandolinist Aaron Ramsey, focus their all-gospel debut predominantly on the spare end. Arrangements are simplified, often featuring the bass and guitar, elsewhere adding a third instrument. Only a handful are “full band.” Vocally, a similar simplicity is followed. Adkins sings, and Rose and Taylor harmonize on the choruses. There is little or no call-and-response, no staggered, overlapping, intricately-woven wording. This is basic emotional singing, getting right to the point, and the results place it among the best gospel records of recent years.
Adkins has a huge, bluesy, emotion-laden voice. He can growl and bend and shout it out with the best of them, but can also get a powerful whisper-like voice when he wants or needs to, as he does at times on “The Old Rugged Cross.” His phrasing and timing are very good. He is at his best on the slower tunes that make up a bit over half of the 12 tracks. Standards such as “The Old Rugged Cross,” “He Touched Me,” and “House Of Gold” are simply beautiful. So too are his own (with Brink Brinkman) “Turn To Jesus,” and Colbert and Joyce Croft’s “I Can’t Even Walk.” On the faster tunes, “I’ll Fly Away,” “Honey In The Rock,” “Crying Holy Unto The Lord,” and “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” the joy and emotion Adkins creates is very powerful and uplifting. Gospel records don’t come much better than this. (Mountain Fever, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BW