Right from the start, this CD is a gem, a righteous blend of country, bluegrass, flashes of Celtic, and folk. Van Eaton has sat in with Nanci Griffith, Clive Gregson, and others, but now he's trotting out his own mastery of the genre, and the guy knows what he's doing. The Promised Land, that first cut, is instantly hypnotic, featuring not just Van Eaton's twangy voice but also some subtly innovative guitar work carrying tangs of Sonny Landreth and the bayou boys.
Blood on the Ground is dominated by bluegrass but the composer (full name: Cary Van Eaton) has obviously carried on a long romance with country music, and it accords itself extremely well in these grooves, eleven of which are completely his. There's a heavy-duty Christian background here but not of the folksy gospel variety, just a very strong belief in the Bible and salvation backed by steely backbone and earthy conviction. The writer's band is a quintet abetted by yet another five sessioneers providing sterling sidestream accompaniment. Sweet Misery demonstrates this well, and though, again, the composer doesn't follow the gospel path, that doesn't mean he lacks soul: the song actually drips with it, a trait carrying over into other cuts.
Expect a lot of gritty preaching here, not of the fire and brimstone variety but of a morally admonitory nature, well scripted and caring but the concern of a father, not of a mother. Beside it all runs a welter of killer playing: banjos, mandolins, slide, all kinds of great instrumentation. Figure in a good dose of Appalachian and Nashville blues as well, as all the git-down pickin' and strumming will have your ears watering for more. There's an awful lot of great religiously oriented bluegrass and country coming out lately (Will Callery, Nothin' Fancy, Danny Brooks, The Churchmen, etc.) and Blood on the Ground stands with the best.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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