There’s not that much distance between bluegrass Gospel music and Southern Gospel, and many artists find themselves drifting back and forth between the two throughout their careers. Groups like The Isaacs and Dailey and Vincent, while prominent in the bluegrass world, have at times embraced more of a Southern Gospel sound. It works the other way, as well – Tammy Jones Robinette, a Southern Gospel songwriter and vocalist who has had numerous songs chart in Singing News, has recently released her first bluegrass project, Let it Shine.
Robinette has a rich, full voice that is perfectly suited for Southern Gospel, but it works quite well with the contemporary bluegrass arrangements on this album, as well. Though she is supported by some of the best in bluegrass (including the album’s producer, bassist Mark Fain), the album’s focus is still on Robinette, with her strong vocals showcased on every song and eight of the twelve tracks coming from her pen.
She starts off strong with a traditional-leaning version of Steal Away and Pray, featuring harmony vocals from Sharon White Skaggs and Cheryl White (whose voices match nicely with Robinette’s). She also covers Stroll Over Heaven, giving it a bit of a country feel. Jeff Parker’s harmonies and Aubrey Haynie’s fiddling are both nice touches. Hints of Dolly Parton’s vocal stylings are present on Master’s Hand, an encouraging number written by Parton which shares the Bible stories of Noah and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Of the originals, one of the best is All of This and Heaven Too, a song of thanks to God for everything he has given the singer. It has a nice, upbeat contemporary bluegrass sound with warm vocals. The title track is a cheerful, easygoing number which pulls from the familiar children’s song “This Little Light of Mine,” and speaks of “shining” for Jesus. Another enjoyable track is My Daddy’s Mountains, the only non-Gospel song on the project. The song is a tribute to a father who came from the mountains of Kentucky, and brought his children back there to learn of their heritage. It’s not hard to imagine Kentucky native Dale Ann Bradley singing this song, and she and Steve Gulley both contribute their instantly recognizable harmonies.
I Can’t Go Back There is Robinette’s take on the classic bluegrass theme of going home. While the singer realizes she can’t go back to her childhood home, she can go “up there where moms and dads, sons and daughters live forever in the presence of the Lord.” On the album’s final track, Burden Bearer, Robinette lets her Southern Gospel side loose as she sings of giving her troubles over to Jesus. The song has a nice groove, and while it does include bluegrass instrumentation, there are also drums courtesy of Dale Scragg.
In addition to the artists mentioned above, Robinette is also joined by Ron Block (guitar and banjo), Rob Ickes (dobro), and Andy Leftwich (mandolin), among others. Let it Shine is a fine bluegrass debut, and Gospel music fans should certainly find something to enjoy here.
For more information on Robinette, visit her website at www.tammyjonesrobinette.com. Her new album can be purchased from several online retailers.