Volume Five has been releasing some of the best new modern traditional bluegrass around for the past several years. Their most recent project, 2013’s Run, had several songs appear on the Bluegrass Today charts, including lead single Rich Man’s Daughter, which hit number one. They’ve recently released their fourth album on Mountain Fever Records, an all-Gospel record called The Day We Learn to Fly. Though the songs are all spiritual in nature, the band hasn’t departed from the mix of hard-hitting and soulful sounds they’ve become known for.
Although the themes of the songs here should all be familiar to fans of Gospel music, Volume Five does a fine job of applying their signature sound to each of the tracks. The requisite a cappella number, Nothing But the Water, is reminiscent of a traditional African American spiritual, but was actually first written and recorded by indie rock artist Grace Potter. Glen Harrell’s vocals are commanding and strong here, and the other band members contribute nice harmonies. The song comes across as captivating and powerful. There’s also quite a bit of power behind Until I Found the Lord, a traditional Gospel number that’s been given a strong dose of hard-driving bluegrass.
The title track, which opens the album, is another highlight. Jeff Partin contributes gritty, bluesy guitar and dobro for this Stacy Richardson and Leroy Drumm collaboration about Jesus’s return. Partin’s original, When We Are Called to Meet Him, is about the same subject, but has a lighter, more hopeful feel as compared to the first song’s foreboding tone. Partin also wrote (and sings lead on) What Could I Do, a straightforward traditional-leaning number that finds the singer asking what he could do to repay Jesus’s sacrifice.
Two songs discuss the influence of loving parents in a child’s life. Thanks Again is a gentle, sweet number written by Jim Rushing. As the singer watches his own children, he thinks about just how important the love and lessons his parents gave him were – even the times he thought they were just being mean or strict. Chris Stapleton’s Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore is a moving reflection on the effect of a Christian father in a child’s life. Both of these songs have more of a contemporary feel, and are somewhat reminiscent of ’90s IIIrd Tyme Out.
The album closer brings things back to traditional grass, however, with Get Down and Pray, an uplifting call to make things right with the Lord. The song was written by Darin Aldridge, and fans of Darin and Brooke might recognize the number from the couple’s Gospel album. It’s a great song to end on, with strong fiddling from Harrell.
Volume Five has sometimes flown a bit below the radar of many bluegrass fans, but this album serves to remind us that simply put, they know their stuff. Harrell, Partin, Patton Wages (banjo), Harry Clark (mandolin), and Chris Williamson (bass) are all solid musicians who have a good grip on the styles they choose to play. They’ve provided listeners with a good mix of sounds here, and those who enjoy the popular modern traditional style will likely find something to enjoy.
For more information on Volume Five, visit their website at www.volumefivebg.com. Their new album is available from several online music retailers.