Holiday Religion from Andy Lowe

Ask a banjo player what they like to play most, and chances are they’ll tell you that playing behind a vocalist in a band is every bit as enjoyable, if not more, than bearing down on a hard-hitting banjo tune. Which is why most banjo records these days aren’t all instrumental.

Such is the case for North Carolina banjo man Andy Lowe, whose first album for Mountain Fever Records, Nervous Energy, also includes a number of vocal songs along with the picking. One of these, Holiday Religion, is the latest single, featuring Zack Arnold from Rhonda Vincent & The Rage singing the lead.

This song, written by Shorty Long and John A. Pecca, describes folks who only make it to church at Christmas and Easter, and asks whether you oughtn’t find time during the rest of the year as well. Reno & Smiley cut it in 1961, and may be familiar to their more dedicated fans.

Andy says that the song takes him back to his younger days…

“Many years ago (and longer than I’d like to admit), I first heard Holiday Religion, played by the bluegrass group, Boot Hill. My father Rick was on mandolin and the great Craig Smith held down the banjo duties at the time. I was in awe of his banjo work on this number.

It was only later on that I learned Holiday Religion stemmed from the Reno & Smiley catalog, and I begin to wonder why I never heard it performed at jam sessions or live settings like many other traditional cuts. I figured that was a good enough reason to cut it myself, and I’m very glad I did. Zack, Justin, and Bailey are a dream vocal trio of mine and they did not disappoint!

The song’s message is as profound as it is simplistic, and I’ll be the first to admit it makes someone like me do some soul-searching.”

With Lowe holding down the banjo and Arnold singing lead, Jacob Burleson plays guitar, Aaron Ramsey is on mandolin, and Jeff Partin is on bass. Justin Tomlin and Bailey Coe sing harmony.

They give this one a tight, medium-tempo gospel presentation. Have a listen…

Holiday Religion, and the full Nervous Energy album, are available from popular download and streaming services online, and on audio CD from Mountain Fever. Radio programmers will find the tracks at AirPlay Direct.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.