Family bands are a staple of bluegrass music, particularly when it comes to Gospel groups. For some of these bands, music is a hobby – a way for the family to spend time together, share their beliefs, and have fun playing. For others, bluegrass Gospel music is just one part of a larger ministry. That’s true for the Virginia-based Brent Rochester Family, who incorporate their family bluegrass group into an evangelism-based organization called All About Him Ministries that also includes preaching and acoustic instrument instruction for aspiring Gospel musicians. The band has recently released its fourth album, Lead Me to Calvary, a strong, traditionally-based collection of favorite hymns and classic bluegrass Gospel.
Fans of traditional bluegrass will immediately notice the two Stanley Brothers numbers included here, Paul and Silas and Scarlet Purple Robe. The former is, as it should be, driving, upbeat, and banjo-led. Sons Isaac and Micah offer clear vocals and nice guitar and mandolin solos, respectively, while father Brent keeps things rolling with strong, straightforward banjo. The latter has been given a bit of an updated feel, with smooth, country-tinged lead vocals and more modern guitar and mandolin than would have been heard on a Stanley recording. It’s an enjoyable track, in part thanks to the solid bass vocals from Brent.
Ron Block’s Be Assured is a nice slice of modern traditional grass, faithful to earlier versions of the song. It’s a great cheerful, uplifting number that fits well with the family’s musical style. The group’s version of traditional hymn Nothing But the Blood has a bright, lilting sound (think Kenny and Amanda Smith), with a pure, sweet lead from daughter Kidron, and another effective bass vocal from Brent. Kidron’s original He Heard My Simple Plea has a similar gentle, contemporary vibe, guided by Micah’s mandolin. It’s a thoughtful number reflecting on salvation and Jesus’s love for us.
Seeking the Lost is another highlight of the album, and perhaps its vocal showpiece with tight four-part harmony and more than a bit of Southern Gospel influence. It’s a nod to Jesus’s Great Commission, with the singers sharing their mission of salvation: “Thus I would go on missions of mercy, following Christ from day unto day. Cheering the faint and raising the fallen, pointing the lost to Jesus the Way.” The title track, a reminder to listeners to remember Jesus’s sacrifice, also offers outstanding harmonies (particularly on the intro) and a rolling, easygoing melody.
On the more contemporary Christian side of things are songs like Down From His Glory, a hymn given a unique sound with Spanish-influenced guitar and mandolin and an earnest, warm vocal performance from Micah. There are hints of Spanish guitar in The Savior is Waiting, as well, which has a neat, acoustic jazz feel and urges listeners to welcome Jesus into their hearts. It sums up a theme that is present on almost every song on the album and that reflects the family’s background in evangelism.
The Brent Rochester Family (which, in addition to those mentioned above, also includes wife Franci, who offers a pleasant lead vocal on Let Him In) is full of strong musicians and vocalists. They offer listeners an enjoyable collection of bluegrass Gospel while also sharing a strong, faith-based message. Fans of traditional-leaning Gospel should certainly check them out.
For more information on the Brent Rochester Family, visit their website at www.allabouthimministries.com. Their new album is available from several online music retailers.