Albert E. Brumley Jr.,
I'll Fly Away
(Copper Creek, 2003)

Gather close now, we're going to sing in praise to the glory of the Lord and the living. Making a joyous noise to the glory of the Lord is the theme of the marvelous selection of tunes on I'll Fly Away.

Actually, the CD is a tribute to the memory of the singer's father, Albert Brumley Sr., who was a practiced gospel songwriter and singer. Seven songs by the senior Brumley include "Rank Strangers," "The Sweetest Song I Know" and the ever-lasting "I'll Fly Away."

Brumley Jr. is joined by some talented musicians. Tim Crouch, Boone Carlton, Steve Bush, Randall George and Dean Holman partake in creating a professional county-bluegrass sound with fiddle, mandolin, guitar, bass, rhythm and dobra. The Brumleys strength in folk-style gospel lyrics is evident, and the vocals are gracefully assisted by Bruce Haynes and Jimmy Ponder.

Brumley's voice is a strong reminder of Johnny Cash at his mellow-tone finest. Though comparisons are not always welcome, it's hard to miss the similarities of a rich baritone, distinctive accent and graceful style.

Brumley's voice doesn't have Cash's rough edges, though, so the whole CD has a smooth, easy sound with the country influence a good deal stronger than the bluegrass, in my estimation. Except for the song "Green Valley Farms" -- if you listen closely the bluegrass whine seeps into many lines of the song. That's not a detraction, I enjoyed the sound and it added texture to an otherwise homogeneous mix.

Brumley Jr. has included five of his own co-compositions and there's little difference between the airs and language of his tunes and those of the senior Brumley. They fit seamlessly among those of his father's. The songs are themed from the 1930s through to the '60s, and Brumley Jr. and his co-writers managed to follow suit with the newer songs.

You can be assured that if the first song, "I Know My Lord's Gonna Lead Me Out," reflects your taste in gospel, then the rest of the CD will be exactly what you want: traditional country gospel cake with bluegrass frosting baked and decorated by experienced professionals.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 2 October 2004

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