Songside Records

Bluegrass bands (as do fans of the music, myself included) love to wallow in good old-fashioned weepers and troubled tales of all sorts. That’s what makes this album from Jimmy Gaudreau and Elle Mears a bit different. Call it a positive message album.

Quite a few of the tunes have religious themes. That’s certainly true of the gospel standards “You Go To Your Church And I’ll Go To Mine” and “Going Up Home To Live In Green Pastures.” And it’s true of some of the “going home” messages of Robin and Linda Williams’ “Let Us Cross Over The River” and “Saving Me A Place,” as well as the Van Morrison rocker “Full Force Gale.” Yet beside them are songs about determination (“The Sailor’s Prayer”), peace of mind (“Give Us Strength” and “Wood And Wires”), friendship (“A Prayer For My Friends”), and human needs (“Everybody’s Reaching Out For Someone”). There’s also a lively and upbeat instrumental from Gaudreau titled “Morning Glory.”

The point is to lift the spirit, which this album definitely does. The original idea for the project, so say the notes, came from a Bill Clifton/Gaudreau recording in 1994. Gaudreau decided he wanted to create his own positive message album. He enlisted his niece, Mears, and other friends for some new recordings and also gathered a couple of older recordings to fill in, among them “A Prayer For My Friends” from John Starling & Carolina Star, “Going Up Home” from the Skylighters and Eric Brace, and a live version of “Full Force Gale” by Chesapeake. The more recent recordings feature Mears on lead vocals, on which she gives a fine performance—very smooth and well-suited to the softer and contemporary folk flavor of much of the material. Many guests lend their talents, among them Jonathan Edwards, Rickie Simpkins, Steve Thomas, T. Michael Coleman, Tom Gray, and Mike Auldridge. (Songside Records, P.O. Box 276, Seven Valleys, PA 17360, www.songsiderecords.com.)BW

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