Many of us have stacks of albums that contain one or two sacred songs along with a dozen secular pieces. That has been almost standard operating procedure in bluegrass for many years. Ontario’s Rescue Junction turns that convention inside out on their third album. The engaging release adds a trio of secular songs to their predominately bluegrass gospel fare, a bit like Carl Story would do back when bluegrass came out on 45s.
Formed in 2009, the band has experienced success in Ontario, winning Most Promising at the 2013 Central Canadian Bluegrass Awards and Best Gospel Group the following year. The sacred songs here easily pass the bluegrass gospel test. That means listeners can enjoy the song as a piece of music, not just because of the message. Kaitlyn Gerber possesses a lovely, clear, and strong voice. Most significantly, she doesn’t try to sound like she comes from central Appalachia. She uses her natural voice to excellent effect. She has also developed well as a songwriter, composing five of the songs here, including the secular titles. The CD and its booklet demonstrate that she’s a pretty good graphic designer, too. In addition to Kaitlyn’s contributions, the band chose well from songwriters Ron Block (twice) and Chris Stuart, along with the traditional “Green Pastures” and “Just As The Sun Went Down.” The band proves instrumentally solid, with Roger Martin’s driving banjo having some fine moments. Kyle Gerber’s mandolin provides excellent kick-offs to most of the songs.
The challenge for Rescue Junction remains how to stand out in a crowded field of accomplished contemporary bluegrass bands. Two notable tracks on Echoes suggest the path. “He Goes To Church On Sunday,” written by Karen Suzanne Rochelle and Edward Monroe Hill, scores by telling a touching, true-to-life, yet unusual story of a newly faithful attendee with shaky faith. “Hold On,” written by Kaitlyn, offers distinctive harmonies influenced by popular music, complemented by ear-catching mandolin leitmotifs from her brother Kyle. An album of songs as interesting as those would be hard to resist. (www.rescuejunctionband.com)AM