Very Jerry Records
Award-winning country, gospel and bluegrass songwriter Jerry Salley steps to center stage with the release of his first all-gospel album.
Bluegrass fans may recognize several songs here and also been impressed by Salley’s live trio performances with fellow songwriters Carl Jackson and Larry Cordle. But there’s something special about hearing Jerry sing his own songs as a solo artist, particularly in a bluegrass gospel setting. Salley is a veteran writer, masterful at creating characters and telling stories that touch the heart within the parameter of a three-minute country song.
This is a project that hits very close to home, from the photo of Jerry’s five-year-old granddaughter on the cover to the obvious spiritual conviction that rings in his voice. Bill Monroe called this kind of music “true life songs.” The album is pristine when it comes to vocal arrangements and instrumentations, but what stands out most is the gut punch of emotion after forty minutes, give or take, with your ears between two speakers.
Guest vocalists include Steven Curtis Chapman, Dale Ann Bradley, Bradley Walker, Val Storey, Maggie Salley, Carl Jackson, and Larry Cordle. “The Cross On The Right” is the first radio single, featuring Carl Jackson and Larry Cordle with Salley on the uptempo bluegrass gospel number. Bradley Walker, known for his country-tinged bluegrass lead vocals, absolutely shines on bass vocals here and throughout the album. “How High Is That Mountain” is a Stanley Brothers-style barnburner driven by Aaron McDaris’s banjo that shifts keys upward twice before ending with a signature Monroe “Muleskinner Blues” yodel. “Every Scar” is a spiritual song that could only be sung convincingly by someone who’s traveled life’s highways long enough to have a few scars of his own.
“It’s Not What You Know (It’s Who You Know),” co-written with Jackson, has a lively, clever lyric underpinned by Travis-style guitar. Get your handkerchiefs out for two of the most severe tearjerkers: “Saving Grace,” about an older couple braving the ravages of Alzheimer’s, and “The Preacher And The Stranger,” which deals with drunk driving, forgiveness, unfairness, and how difficult it is sometimes to make sense of how God works. “Just Drink The Water” is a good picture of evangelism. “All Dressed Up” takes us to the funeral of a Godly man (normally dressed in bib overalls) who is all dressed up with somewhere to go. A co-write with Lisa Shaffer, “Mountain View Missionary Baptist Church” takes us to a country church where we meet colorful characters and can almost see the smiles and handshakes extended in fellowship.
Dale Ann Bradley guests on “Send The Angels Down,” a Salley composition she recorded and performs on the road often. Co-writer Steven Curtis Chapman joins Salley on a stripped down, acoustic version of “His Strength Is Perfect,” singing candidly about hard times and human weakness. “You Don’t Have To Go Home,” another Salley composition, has been recorded multiple times by bluegrass and gospel artists. Jerry’s characters come to life again in the last song, “I Want To Thank You.” The song thanks a variety of folks who witness in little creative ways and exhorts us to not be afraid to show our faith in a world that needs His mercy and grace. This album is masterfully crafted and extremely inspirational. Highly recommended. (Jerry Salley, P.O. Box 121041, Nashville, TN 37212, www.jerrysalley.com.)NC