Local Exchange,
Because He Lives
(Copper Creek, 2001)

Labels are dangerous in many walks of life, and none more so than in music. If this CD is labeled "gospel" and classified under that in the record store or online catalogue, a large potential audience will miss out on some top-class bluegrass music.

Local Exchange is a relatively new group hailing from Virginia. The instruments featured on Because He Lives include mandolin, banjo, guitar and bass, accompanying the haunting voice of Michelle Dixon. And all of the tracks on the CD are gospel, but they often transcend categorization.

The songs here are not all the tried and tested gospel tunes. Dixon has written a number of them and displays a very sure hand as a writer. There are slow compelling songs that will intensify any religious feelings and there are rousing, foot-tapping tracks that will prove popular with the least God-fearing of listeners. Maybe this is God's way of getting new people to listen to the message.

"The Future Remains" is a very interesting song that will reward a careful listen. My favourite track has to be the final one, an a cappella version of "Pearly Gates" that will let even the most skeptical realise that good music is like praying.

I truly enjoyed this album -- not as a religious experience but as an assembly of good music. For the non-religious reader, if you enjoyed the soundtrack of the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou, check this out.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 5 October 2002

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