Joe Mullins’ new gospel recording is evenly split between two approaches.
On one side are seven songs recorded solely by Mullins and his band, the Radio Ramblers. Several of those are new songs, including the rousing “He Loves Me” by band guitarist Adam McIntosh, “Fair Weather” from Mike Ramsey of Brand New Strings, and “Be Jesus To Someone Today” from Tim Stafford and Jon Weisberger. They also cover the classic “Fallen Leaves” and the modal “O The Lord Of My Redeemer.”
On the other side are seven songs on which a guest artist appears with the band, taking the lead vocal entirely, as does Larry Sparks on “Come On,” or sharing the lead with Mullins, as Rhonda Vincent does on “We Missed You In Church Last Sunday.” The other guest vocalists are Paul Williams, Doyle Lawson, and Ralph Stanley. Of these songs, only Williams’ “Hold On To The Old Gospel Way” is a new song. All the others have a little age on them (Aubrey Holt’s 1974 tune “We Missed You…”) or a lot of age and fame on them (“Jesus Loves Me” and “Sweet Hour Of Prayer”).
Either way, the results are of high quality. Listen for the a cappella band quartets on “Rock Of Ages Keep My Soul” and “O, The Love Of My Redeemer.” On both, though particularly on “Rock Of Ages,” the organ-like blend of the harmony voices is thrilling to hear, recalling Doyle Lawson’s Rock My Soul album. Listen also for Ralph Stanley’s heartfelt rendering of the lesser-known elder’s viewpoint lyrics on “Jesus Loves Me,” and for the mandolin/guitar duet between Lawson and Mullins on the Louvin’s “I’ll Never Go Back” and for the slightly jaunty cover of “Fallen Leaves.” Most of all, listen for Williams’ “Hold On To…” As if it needs saying, Williams is one of our great voices and writers, and this pairing with Mullins’ clear tenor is a good one. But, then, so is this recording in general. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.) BW