Steve Bruce, Lead Pastor at Faith Way Assembly Of God in LaFollette, Tennessee, relies on more than faith to make his music potent. Bruce, a banjo player that possesses tremendous skills on his instrument of choice, enlisted two of the best musicians in the entirety of bluegrass to bring his new album to fruition. They include renowned fiddler Glen Duncan, with Ron Stewart on mandolin and fiddle, both of whom are well known in session circles. He also looked for support close to home as well, recruiting his son, Andrew, to help provide the solid rhythms on acoustic guitar and bass, as well as occasional acoustic lead guitar and dobro.
The result is a series of ten instrumentals that take flight from the first notes forward. The absence of vocals portends the listener’s need to dive deep into each performance in order to differentiate one track from another, given the fact that the players play most of the songs at a frenzied tempo. Still, the skill shown on songs such as By the Brook, Rolling Forward, Facing the Giant, Tune Up, and the title track culminates in a dazzling display of virtuosity that finds fiddle and banjo performing in sync at full throttle. A Work in Progress offers a bit of a respite, but the focus and concentration remains evident and intensive.
As a minister, Bruce says the material, all of which he wrote himself, was inspired by God, although save a handful of clues shared in some of the song titles — specifically, Higher Life and What I Know Now — there’s little indication of specific spirituality. Given the dedication and determination displayed in each of these entries, it’s clear that Bruce and company clearly found an elevated inspiration from on high.
Ultimately, What I Know Now offers an impressive showcase of instrumental acumen. It leaves no doubt that there’s outstanding ability at play throughout these proceedings. One would only hope that Bruce’s next effort might reflect the further variety and versatility needed to make his offerings as distinctive as they are dynamic.