David Parmley started playing bluegrass professionally when he was a 17 year old, when he joined his father, banjoist Don Parmley in the Bluegrass Cardinals. He has been leading Continental Divide since 1994 when his father retired. This new combination became an instant success claiming IBMA’s coveted Emerging Artist of the Year award in 1995 and through the years their albums have been constantly well received.
With Parmley on their latest release, Church House Hymns, playing mandolin and singing tenor, is Randy Graham, who has long experience with The Bluegrass Cardinals, being with them from the beginning in 1975 through to the end of 1978, so the duo are ideal together [and their harmony singing here proves it]. He resumed his association with Parmley in 2000 and has only recently left the band to pursue his own booking and management company.
The third prime participant on this CD is Dale Perry, another long-time member of the Bluegrass Cardinals, plays banjo and Scruggs-style finger picked lead guitar and adds vocals. He joined Continental Divide in 2003.
Rounding out proceedings vocally is Jimmy Cameron, while Kyle Perkins plays the bass and the irrepressible Ron Stewart guests on fiddle on several of the 12 tracks.
Most of the songs on this CD were chosen by their fans and they have given Parmley and company some excellent material to work with. Originally from the old hymnals, these songs have become standards in the bluegrass Gospel genre.
Starting off with In The Gloryland Way the mood is set for what follows; assured lead vocals, excellent harmonies and solid instrumental support.
There are three songs that feature excellent finger-picked guitar – Father Along, Won’t It Be Wonderful There and You Can Feel It In Your Soul, a good, strong vocal quartet. The first has some fine understated backing.
In contrast there is the mid-tempo I’ve Got A Home In That Rock, and the up-tempo songs Are You Washed In The Blood, with its banjo kick-off, and the great quartet singing on A Soul Winner For Jesus, also praiseworthy for the fiddle kick-off.
Other favourites are The Unclouded Day, Will You Meet Me Over Yonder with a neat melodic banjo kick-off and the classic Just Over In The Gloryland, from the Stanley Brothers’ repertoire,
Closing with a reprise of There Is A Fountain sung a cappella just as it was all those years ago when the Bluegrass Cardinals did so extremely well. This powerful version doesn’t suffer by comparison. It is dedicated to the late Steve Stephenson, who sang bass on that earlier version. The performance brings an uplifting conclusion to an exceptional collection.
With the powerful, rich and smooth lead vocals from Parmley, allied to Graham’s excellent and seamless tenor and with three parts of the quartet having worked together for so long, it is not surprising that the vocal blend is tight.
The mandolin, fiddle, banjo and finger-picked guitar breaks and back-up are appropriately measured and tasteful with the occasional surprising lick here and there.
Overall, Church House Hymns presents timeless treatment of timeless hymns, without a weakness anywhere.