Aaron Ramsey may be best known for his role as the mandolin player for Mountain Heart, but on his recent solo project, Gathering, he takes on almost every role imaginable within a bluegrass project. Ramsey not only showcases his noteworthy mandolin skills, but also takes turns on guitar, bouzouki, bass, banjo, and resophonic guitar, as well as both lead and harmony vocals. While that list may make it seem like Ramsey laid down all the tracks completely by himself, he is also joined by a literal “who’s who” of bluegrass stars, making Gathering quite an impressive recording.
Ramsey co-wrote five of the album’s twelve songs. The album opens with one of these co-writes (this one with Dennis Goodwin), a well-written Western legend called The Streets of Abilene about a man who, “if they measured nerve in ounces… would weigh a ton.” No One’s Found Her Yet was written with Josh Miller, and begins with haunting fiddle from Tim Crouch which sets the scene for the rest of the song nicely. Way Up on The Mountain (one of two tracks credited to Ramsey and his father, Michael) is a pleasant, melodic piece which traces the feeling of freedom the singer finds on a mountain throughout his life.
Michael Ramsey also penned four additional songs for the album. He is Here is an enjoyable up-tempo Gospel number which urges listeners to take Jesus up on His offer of salvation. Another Gospel song is The Healer, which has a slow, earnest feel, and speaks of how Jesus is always there, even in your darkest moments. Aaron’s deep lead vocals suit this piece well.
There are also a few old favorites, including the Osborne Brothers’ One Tear. It’s rendered in a fashion fairly similar to previous versions, but it’s still a great listen, thanks to Barry Abernathy’s strong lead vocals and the track’s great instrumentation (including a fine mandolin solo from Ramsey). It’s one of the album’s best tunes, as is a Rickey Wasson-led Fare Thee Well (Farewell). The album also closes on a high note, with the driving, traditional John Henry Blues. Jim Van Cleve offers some fine fiddling, and Tony Rice adds one of his instantly recognizable guitar solos. This is another instance where Ramsey’s voice fits the song particularly well.
For fans of well-performed, modern traditional bluegrass, this album will be a treat. Almost everyone is sure to find a favorite musician included here. In addition to those listed above, David Babb (upright bass), Ron Block (banjo), Randy Kohrs (resophonic guitar), Tim Stafford (guitar), Josh Swift (resophonic guitar), Jason Moore (upright bass), and Patton Wages (banjo), among others, each contribute to at least one track. Ramsey’s instrumental skills, particularly on mandolin, are showcased throughout, and he provides listeners with several tasteful and talented solos.
The only problem with the album is that it’s not yet widely available. It can currently be purchased from Ramsey’s website, www.aaronramseyonline.com, and the Northfield Mandolin website (whose products Ramsey plays and endorses) at www.northfieldinstruments.com.