As has been said about many family groups featuring young players, the Harper Family continues to sharpen their overall sound. By now though, the Harpers have moved beyond the “leap forward” stage and are in more of a “honing and refining” stage. In other words, they were pretty solid on their first Pisgah Ridge release in 2012, and, on this follow-up, they’ve moved up a notch.
At the core of their sound is still the fine harmonies they can produce in any number of vocal combinations. The musicianship is solid, particularly that of Gaylon on banjo, Dalton on guitar, and Dillon on mandolin, as well as the lead vocal work of 14-year-old Hannah, who brings a great deal of power and emotion to her tracks. Her reading of “The Judgement,” a slow and ominous song underscored by the guest violin, viola, and cello from the multi-talented David Johnson, is very impressive. So, too, is her rendition of Andrae Crouch’s meditation on trust, “Through It All.” For shear uplift, however, there is “A Portion Of His Love.” Written by Ben and Sonya Isaacs as a call-and-response tune, it is the most light-filled tune here.
As with their earlier Pisgah release, the Harpers continue to bring in fine songs from the world of gospel music, giving them a mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass settings. The Crouch tune is a good example, as is the hard-driving “In His Will There Is A Way” from David Staton and sung by Dillon, the equally rolling “Pardon Me, I’ve Been Pardoned” sung by Dillon’s wife, Makeena, as well as “Spirit Wind.” The Harpers also, as in records past, include two originals: “Child Of The King” from Dalton and “Don’t You Want To Meet Him” from bassist Katrina. Both make their point powerfully, as does this recording as a whole. (Crossroads Music, P.O. Box 829, Arden NC 28704, www.crossroadsmusic.com.)BW