This 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.
Thank You Lord is Hickory Hill’s first all-Gospel recording. It actually dates back to 2000 when the band comprised John Early (guitar and vocals), Don Eaves (banjo and vocals), the late Jimmy Godwin (guitar, fiddle and vocals), Ronny Singley (mandolin and vocals) and Bob Stegall (bass and vocals).
At that time they were just coming of age as one of Texas’s most popular acoustic groups. Their abilities had been recognised within their home state and across the USA, with SPBGMA nominations for providing an entertaining show while performing in a ‘contemporary’ style. Also, the band had showcased at the IBMA 1996 World Of Bluegrass event in Owensboro, Kentucky.
This CD is not your standard selection from Gospel music’s tried and trusted catalogue, although that assertion might be called into question with the presence of Connie Gately’s Shouting On The Hills Of Glory and a medley based on Larry Sparks’ Thank You Lord that the group heard done by The Whites at a Kerrville bluegrass festival.
In the short time that he was a member of Hickory Hill, Godwin was a prolific songwriter who had a marked influence on the band’s repertoire. For this set he contributed no less than five songs, demonstrating a deep affinity with the scriptures and an ability to compose good original songs to fit the need.
One such song is The Rock, co-written with Early and inspired by Psalms 61 and 62, done as a quartet with a call and response feature. Two others are the songs of salvation – one for a Hobo who was both Lost And Found – one of four duets, and The Salvation Of John Harlow, the recitation, with organ backing, that brings this set to a conclusion.
The two other Godwin songs illustrate a love of the little country church house. Red Roses are a feature of one such place of worship, while Old Time Feeling, the first Gospel song that Godwin wrote, notes the one place where Jesus Christ has an abiding presence.
John Early penned Sharecropper’s Prayer, which highlights the old-time upbringing where mother was the teacher of the value of what there is around us, in this case a long-held interest in land where the family abides here on earth, knowing that they will still be together in heaven.
Two other songs worthy of note are Sinner Man Where You Gonna Run, written by James Huey, another duet, this one worked up with twin guitars dominant, and Robert Amos’s One Beautiful Day, a trio with Early’s lead vocals possessing all the poignancy of one who has been personally affected by its uplifting lyrics.
Instrumentally, many tracks feature twin guitar arrangements, typically on the original songs. Generally, there was no banjo, or it was low down in the mix, on all but the up-tempo numbers such as Shouting On The Hills Of Glory. Don Eaves gets to demonstrate his banjo chops on the sole instrumental, The Bells Of St Mary’s. Ronny Singley takes a few neat and tidy mandolin breaks and provides tasteful back-up as a counterpoint to the lead guitar.
Thank You Lord (HH-600) is a bold demonstration of faith, made all the more meaningful by the fact that the messages have been conveyed in their own words for the most part.