Fast Track quickly captured the attention of traditional bluegrass fans last year with their self-titled debut album, keeping the radio airwaves hot with several fine singles. For the band’s second effort, Engelhardt Music Group has just released a ten-track Gospel album entitled Good News. It features a mix of hymns, older country, and bluegrass Gospel, plus new tracks from the pen of bass player Ron Spears, giving listeners plenty of excellent harmonies and old-school drive.
Spears is a fine songwriter, and he’s contributed several good ones here. Lord Lift Me Up is an encouraging number that offers strong Scruggs-style guitar and a neat harmony arrangement with well-choreographed alternating vocal parts. Harmonies also stand out on Something Missing, with Spears taking lead on the chorus and Duane Sparks singing the verses. It’s an upbeat, uplifting song about the fulfillment salvation brings. Through Earthly Life finds an older man reflecting on the struggles and stumbles he has faced in life, while looking forward to eternity in Heaven. Jesse Brock kicks off the song with a nice Jesse McReynolds-inspired intro.
Another strong track is the album’s first single, an old call-and-response style song called It Won’t Be Very Long. Guided by Dale Perry’s steady banjo and Steve Day’s strong lead vocal, it’s an enjoyable number that fans are sure to enjoy in live performances. Another well-done, straightforward traditional Gospel number is I’ll Never Go Back (To the Ways of Sin), from the Louvin Brothers. The arrangement sticks fairly close to the original, helmed by Brock’s mandolin.
Who Do You Know in Heaven was written by Larry McPeak, and originally included on the McPeak Brothers’ 1996 album Pathway to Heaven. Fast Track’s version is certainly inspired by the McPeaks’ arrangement, but it’s a little more straight-down-the-middle bluegrass, with a toe-tapping melody led by banjo and mandolin. Spears contributes an earnest, soulful lead vocal, as well as some strong bass work in the background. Get Right With God comes from Aubrey Holt and the Boys from Indiana. It’s a good driving number, warning listeners to “be ready when that judgment day appears” because “no mortal knows the hour, day, or year.” Sparks gives it his all on the lead vocals, turning in a passionate performance.
With only ten tracks and most songs clocking in at under three minutes, Good News is a bit short – at least for listeners like me who are always appreciative of finely-honed vocals and solid traditional bluegrass. However, what is here is good stuff. Fast Track is packed with fine singers, and they all get a chance to show off here. There’s also plenty of good musicianship – Brock’s mandolin and Perry’s banjo generally are in the forefront, though there’s plenty of tasteful fiddling from Day, and a rock-solid rhythm backing up everything. For all those who like to complain that no one is playing traditional grass anymore, here’s an abundance of proof to the contrary.