Tom Travis is a long-standing and very well respected member of the British bluegrass music fraternity. He is also a practicing Christian who specializes in the traditional styles of the genre. So, it is natural for Travis to sing and record bluegrass Gospel music. A Room for Jesus is the fulfillment of a long held ambition for Travis as this is his first all-sacred album, although he frequently included a Gospel track or two on his earlier releases.
For the 12-track collection Travis dips into the repertoires of the masters, making such excellent choices as God’s Not Dead, notable for some really wonderful harmonies; Wait a Little Longer (Please Jesus); The Darkest Hour (Is Just Before Dawn), a soulful rendition made doubly interesting not so much for the vocal harmonies but for the fiddle playing of Phil Newton; and (Hallelujah) I’m Ready to Go and Me and Jesus featuring the Dobro® of Bob Armstrong, considered the best there is in Britain on this instrument.
Allied to these are some of Travis’s own songs, written over a several year period and each for the sheer joy involved.
A Room for Jesus leads off ala Bill Monroe in the form of a high-lonesome wail and shimmering mandolin introduction and breaks. In Hey, Who Said You Can’t go Home Travis is also in familiar territory with a driving tempo, with banjo and fiddle sharing a break. We Will Be Kind is an eerie a cappella number with intricate arrangement in part.
These have featured on one of three earlier album releases.
>Four more-recently penned Travis songs – There’s More than Jonah Here has a distinct jazzy feel; Jesus Stumbled references the tricky road to Calvary; Trust Him More is a solo with just Travis’s guitar for accompaniment; and Hammer Nails and Wood can’t escape the If I Had a Hammer comparison – complete the mix.
The sequencing is very interesting and cleverly works to retain the listener’s interest. That said, it is surprising that the two a cappella songs are juxtaposed, but deliberately done so to accentuate the differences.
All arrangements are by Travis and they show him as being more versatile than I have heard him before. A lot of thought has gone into that aspect of A Room for Jesus.
Travis’s friends, in addition to those already mentioned are including Brian Booth and Clive Rees (bass); Bill Forster and Martin Styles (banjo); Dave Howard, Chris Metcalf and Chris Wing (mandolin); Phil Newton and Bob Winquist (fiddle); and Chris Moreton (guitar). They are among the best bluegrass musicians that Britain has to offer, and in various ways they demonstrate that on this CD.
Vocally, Travis has picked two of the best in his department – Chris Wing (Travis’s erstwhile sidekick) and Brian Curtis, UK’s John Duffey.
A Room for Jesus presents a very nice mixture of new and old that will please the staunch traditionalist as well as those of a more eclectic bent.