Jussi Syren should not be unfamiliar to readers of BluegrassUnlimited. Hailing from Finland, he has had a number of recordings reviewed here and has showcased a number of times at the IBMA’s World Of Bluegrass. His musical taste ranges across the board, but There’s No Greater Message digs deep into the traditional side of bluegrass gospel music.
Song selection is a strong point for this album. Syren and the Groundbreakers have found (and written) some great, hard-core gospel songs—a few familiar, some not so much, and none of it overdone. Four of the tunes are Syren originals and they fit perfectly among the well-executed covers from the likes of Wayne Raney, Dottie Rambo, and Hank Williams (“When God Comes And Gathers His Jewels”). It would be fruitful for more bands to follow this approach. It makes the recording worth listening to on its own merits rather than comparing the performances to well-known original versions.
One may not immediately look to Finland as a wellspring of traditional bluegrass, but as Syren shows on this fine selection of gospel songs, he knows and appreciates it. His vocals reflect the rough-hewn, traditional sound of the Stanley Brothers. The playing is strong, dynamic, and yet holds to the tradition of a simpler, stripped-down sound to showcase the power of the songs rather than relying on instrumental pyrotechnics and vocal gymnastics. (Jussi Syren, Kuusikko 2CG, 01380 Vantaa, Finland, www.syren.fi.)AWIII