Well, the first indication of what to expect is the fact that the Churchmen are on the immaculate PineCastle label, home to Ernie Thacker (here), Nothin' Fancy (here) , and other tighter-than-a-water-barrel bluegrassers. The second clue is the menu of songs presented: all gospel-grass and gustily presented. These guys are vets on their instruments and in their Bibles, so nothing here is speculative or trendy but rather dyed-in-the-wool serious. And lord, lord, lord, while it's purely heavenly minded, it's tasty as hell.
The Churchmen are a quintet (banjo, bass, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and killer harmony and lead vocals) not new to the scene, having previously swept up awards like a farmer gathers eggs. In just one case, their On the Journey Home remained in the genre charts Top 20 for 3½ years. Holy Pink Floyd! The reason isn't difficult to determine, as I'll be Long Gone is a reflection of all they do, each cut pristine, every bar and measure drop dead perfect. Rocked on the Deep is a great example, filled to the brim with call-and-response semi-rondoed vocals and clever time signature.
This is not the fire and brimstone of Will Callery's great Rider Comin' In (here) but is every inch as good in a down-home, kitchen table, Sunday meetin' way. The driving force is Jesus, just as much here as in Callery's epic, but the Jesus of the working man not the messenger of the God of the punishing hand. Rider is a sit-and-think set of opuses while Long Gone is a call to jump up and dance with the spirit bouncing within. The entire roster sounds like a set of classics but that's true of only two cuts, the rest written chiefly by guitarist David Guthrie and fellow inkslingers. On the other hand, given the enthusiasm with which The Churchmen have been met, there'll probably be a new mess of classics here a lot quicker than anyone expects.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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