The Churchmen,
On the Journey Home
(Pinecastle, 2003)

The Churchmen are five bluegrass pickers and singers from Virginia. Apparently, the Churchmen recorded several albums before signing for Pinecastle, a label renowned for quality bluegrass music; this is the Churchmen's first Pinecastle release.

The album offers a fine mix of up-tempo songs and more thoughtful, slower songs, including a mix of covers and original songs.

Steve Martin, the guitarist and main lead singer, wrote four of the songs ("Get Onboard," "Keep Me Free From Every Sin," "He Paid It All" and "When He Calls Your Name"). The other members are Shannon Wheeler (fiddle), Keith Clark (bass fiddle and baritone or lead vocal), Gerald Harbour (mandolin and bass or baritone vocal) and Freddy Rakes (the tenor vocalist, who learned to play several instruments but does not demonstrate those skills here). Guest musicians Dale Perry (banjo) and Hunter Berry (fiddle) complete the line-up.

Bluegrass aficionados may recognize several of the covers, which include Lester Flatt's "Bouquet in Heaven" (Lester Flatt), "Spring Time in Heaven" (Don Reno), "Going Up" (Vern Gosdin), "Place Prepared for Me" (Doyle Lawson) and "He Will Forgive You" (Don Reno and Arthur Smiley"). "In His Arms (I'm Not Afraid)" has been recorded by several bluegrass acts including Jim Eanes, the Isaacs, Ralph Stanley and Jeannette Macdonald.

This is an excellent collection of gospel songs in the bluegrass style.

- Rambles
written by Peter D. Harris
published 7 February 2004

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