This initial installment of Sunday Morning Revelations comes from our UK correspondent, Richard F Thompson. We will offer reviews of Gospel bluegrass releases on Sunday’s from time to time.
Everybody is familiar with Mickey Harris and his ‘day job’ as the excellent bass player with Rhonda Vincent & the Rage. Not so many will be aware that he a recording artist in his own right. This all gospel set Kneel And Pray [MJH Records 0003], actually released last year, is Harris’ third released in his own name.
Harris sets off at a fast lick with the title track and then shows that he is equally comfortable singing at a more relaxed tempo on Gates Of Glory. On the former his boss sings tenor to Harris’ lead and baritone while on the latter Alecia Nugent provides the high baritone part in another lovely trio number.
Peace Of God is an excellent original song performed as a duet with Jamie Dailey providing the tenor part. This number and the following track, a solo version of Walter Bailes’ Oh Mum epitomises everything that is good about this album; sincere, precise vocals and exquisite instrumental support.
For a while I was wondering who Harris sounded like vocally, then I happened across the Marty Robbins song Master’s Call and I got the answer. Harris has all the range that Robbins possessed and, come to think of it, he can match Charlie Sizemore for empathy and intensity also. There’s a hint of Raul Malo as well. Clearly, Harris feels everything that he sings.
There are so many highlights on this CD that it is difficult to list them without forgetting an exceptional track or making the review a simple track listing. Suffice to say, there’s some exceptional gospel performances, ranging from a traditional quartets – A Beautiful Life and When I Wake Up – to an old and a new song from the pen of Tom T Hall, and classics from two extremes, the repertoires of Don Williams, Lord I Hope This Day Is Good, and Roy Acuff, The Great Speckled Bird.
This superb 13 track set concludes with an excellent a cappella version of Just A Little Talk With Jesus, with Harris doubling up on bass vocals as well as lead, supported by Louise Tomberlain and Sophie Tipton Haislip, Mickey’s grandmother and aunt respectively.
Harris is supported by a core band of himself, playing bass, Wayne Benson (mandolin), Hunter Berry (fiddle), Kenny Ingram (banjo) and Josh Williams (guitar, mandolin and resonator guitar), providing straight-ahead bluegrass backing or a stripped down combination of guitar, mandolin and bass.
Much thought has been put into the selection of the songs featured and the recording, engineering and production – at Top Dog Studios – is top notch also. The music is as sharp as the suit Mickey is pictured wearing on the front cover. More seriously, here his music bears all the hallmarks of one who, with his family, has grown up singing and continues to sing the Lord’s praises.
Kneel And Pray is a must-buy for lovers of traditional bluegrass gospel music. Don’t miss out; grab a copy at the record table or order your copy by contacting Mickey Harris direct.