various artists,
I Just Steal Away & Pray
(Copper Creek, 2001)

Those not familiar with Copper Creek recordings out of Virginia may well want to spend some time looking into the music being put out by this label, especially if you are a devotee of bluegrass, old-time and those flavorings of gospel music. I Just Steal Away & Pray is volume one of a two-volume anthology of gospel songs (Bluegrass & Old-Time Gospel Favorites, Volume I) put together by various artists in the Copper Creek stable. Like most anthologies of its ilk, the chief goal of this assemblage is to cause the eager consumer to scurry off and get more of what you like by the same artist elsewhere in the Copper Creek catalogue.

That being the case, while it would be tempting to dissect each tune, I'll make the general observation that the music is technically clean and lean, production-wise, and I'll mention a few of the folks that stood out in my ears, and leave it to you, the listener to make your own discoveries as to the rest.

Jack Tottle's "Love Thy Neighbor" offers up a timely message is these uncertain times; give it a listen. Those who are fans of Sacred Harp will probably enjoy the Moneyhuns' "When We Get Home" -- the call and response is delightful. Tony Ellis sings of the road not taken in "Old Cross Road," and Kathy Kallick (who has a dynamite voice for traditional material) sings with sweet yearning in "Row Us Over the Tide." Traditional bare-bones beauty comes from a somewhat unexpected quarter in Kazuhiro Inaba's "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" (from somewhere well to the west of Kyoto), and the title song is essayed with seriously high-lonesome majesty by Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz.

There are 11 other tunes on the disc, including an up-tempo instrumental rendering of "I'll Fly Away" that left me pretty unimpressed, but part of the charm of a collection like this is the joy of discovery. I didn't know who Kathy Kallick was before I heard this disc, but I'm sure glad I met her here. If you like this sort of music, I'm confident that there's a new friend here that you will be equally pleased to discover.

- Rambles
written by Gilbert Head
published 1 March 2003

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