Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver,
Sing Me a Song About Jesus
(Mountain Home, 2012)

What can there be left to say? Bluegrass giant Doyle Lawson, who sings and picks mandolin and guitar, has issued more than three dozen albums under his own name since 1979. They're all good, and why should Sing Me a Song About Jesus be any different? On Sing Me he and the six-member Quicksilver deliver 11 rock-solid performances, polished to a glow by the luminous harmonies for which Lawson and co-workers have long been known.

Lawson possesses what appears to be an exceptional knowledge of country music, and in his (mostly) secular recordings you can count on well-chosen, usually obscure honkytonk songs. A considerable portion of Lawson's output, though, is devoted to gospel material. The title tells you that this is one of these albums. As always, some of it is recorded in bluegrass format, with Scruggs-style banjo (courtesy of Jesse Baker in the present instance). Other cuts are unaccompanied vocals, and some are acoustic without being bluegrass by strict definition.

It is not necessary to be an evangelical Christian to enjoy Southern white gospel music, and Lawson -- a listener as much as a performer -- never falters in his song choices. The best of the lot, in my opinion, is Dee Gaskin's eerie "I Saw Him Walk Out of the Sky," which could have taken its inspiration from a long tradition of visionary experiences -- I've written about such in a couple of books -- of aerial apparitions, as often as not of Jesus or angels. That tradition didn't end in the Middle Ages, as one might expect, but persisted, my research has informed me, as late as the 19th century.

Anyway, if you're a bluegrass fan, I needn't tell you that any Doyle Lawson album -- this one, too, naturally -- is a no-risk purchase and a splendid companion thereafter.

music review by
Jerome Clark

20 July 2013

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