Many of today’s younger generation of bluegrass musicians grew up with the artists of the ’80s and ’90s as their major influences. Contemporary groups such as the Lonesome River Band, IIIrd Tyme Out, and Alison Krauss and Union Station were their main sources of inspiration, and helped to form the sounds those musicians are creating today.
Southeastern Kentucky resident Jeff Clair has looked a little father back for inspiration, however. Although he is in his early thirties, Clair has obviously spent time listening to some of the “old-timers.” His new album, They Called Him Jesus, is a straight-ahead traditional bluegrass Gospel record which brings to mind the music of Larry Sparks and Ralph Stanley.
They Called Him Jesus is filled with lively, up-tempo numbers as well as moving, thoughtful pieces. Sparks’ influence is featured prominently on the album, with Clair covering several of his classic Gospel selections. I Just Want to Thank You Lord shares the gratitude of someone who knows how much the Lord has helped him throughout his life, and Clair offers heartfelt vocals to match the lyrics. Somebody Touched Me and What Kind of Man are both energetic, driving tunes with solid instrumental solos, including Sparks-style guitar breaks from Clair.
Clair’s traditional influences are also evident in the title track, an original which showcases his rich lead vocals ,and shares stories of Jesus’ life and miracles. He Took Your Place is an enjoyable mid-tempo Flatt and Scruggs tune, while Little One Room School House compares a simpler time when churches met in buildings which were used as schools during the week, to today’s society where school and religion are often exclusive of one another. The Bible and the TV Guide takes the same point of view, making a statement about those who seemingly place more importance on entertainment than on the Lord.
Clair takes lead vocals on each of the songs here, as well as contributing acoustic guitar. He is joined by John Risgby (mandolin and fiddle), Rex Patrick (banjo), Mitch Bentley (bass), Rick Prater (baritone vocal), and Jeff Brown (tenor vocal). The musicians all seem to have the traditional sound down pat, and have come together to create a record which fans of this time-honored style will surely appreciate.
They Called Him Jesus can be downloaded from various online music retailers, including iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby.