Even if you’re not that familiar with The Farm Hands, you’ve probably heard their recent single, Dig in the Dirt, which has one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard lately. The song, which is the title track from the group’s latest album, has found quite a bit of success on bluegrass radio and on the Bluegrass Today charts. It’s a great introduction to the rest of the album, which features twelve tracks of well-written, strongly performed bluegrass Gospel.
This is the third album from The Farm Hands, a Nashville-based four-piece group that has racked up a number of trophies at the SPBGMA Awards in recent years, including Vocal Group of the Year and Gospel Group of the Year in 2016. Their music leans towards the traditional side of things, with dashes of southern Gospel, classic country, and contemporary grass when the song calls for it. While many of the tracks have an overtly Christian message, others simply offer positive and uplifting thoughts to listeners.
Dig in the Dirt is the opening track, kicking things off with a peppy fiddle intro from guest Kimberly Bibb. Written by guitarist Keith Tew, it’s a cheerful, toe-tapping number about the virtues of hard work. The singer tells of lessons passed down from his father, reminding listeners that “When hard times are calling, there’s still mouths to feed… And praying’s not the only thing we do on our knees.” Bassist Daryl Mosely’s All the Way Home also honors fathers, using the story of a young boy trusting his father to guide him home from the dark woods to lead in to the same boy learning to follow and trust in the Lord.
It’ll Getcha Where You’re Goin’ uses a similar storytelling structure, as a father shares with his son that both a hand-me-down Ford and a Bible will get him where needs to go in life. Bluegrass fans may recognize the Jerry Salley/Kelley Lovelace co-write from Salley’s 2012 recording of it, or from the version cut by country duo Joey + Rory. Homefolks also came from Salley’s pen (as a co-write with Carl Jackson); it’s a tender reflection on thoughts of home and family when you’re far away, with a gentle melody and an acoustic country sound. I Would has a similar country-tinged feel, with tasteful dobro from Tim Graves. It’s another strong contribution from Mosley, and reminds listeners of a powerful lesson – that “no matter who’s watching, no matter who sees,” we always know when we have made a wrong choice, and so does the Lord.
Mansion on Main is one of the album’s highlights, especially for fans of the classic bluegrass sound. Tew opens the number with skilled traditional guitar, while Graves channels his uncle Josh with excellent old-school dobro. The vocals are earnest and sincere as the singer tells the story of a homeless man who, even though he has lost most of his worldly possessions, spends his time sharing Jesus with others. Closing track I Saw the Light throws a little southern Gospel into the traditional sound, with top-notch harmonies and exuberant instrumentation. I’d enjoy hearing this one live.
With Dig in the Dirt, The Farm Hands have put together one of those great, well-rounded albums that has a little something for everyone but still feels like a cohesive effort. The band does a fine job of meshing together slightly different styles to create a truly enjoyable record. Graves’s dobro work is particularly of note in this regard. He, Mosley, Tew, banjo player Bennie Boling (who has since left the group), and guest fiddler Bibb are a talented group and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them.
For more information on The Farm Hands, visit their website at www.farmhandsquartet.com. Their new album is available now from Pinecastle Records, and can be purchased from several online music retailers.