Dead Men's Hollow,
Angels' Share
(Acoustic Americana, 2010)

For many years, a PBS station in Washington, D.C., ran a Sunday morning program called Stained Glass Bluegrass, which consisted solely of bluegrass gospel music. Evidently, the members of Dead Men's Hollow were listening.

For their fourth studio album, they've chosen to do a set of spiritual material. Angels' Share is a straight-ahead gospel record, dedicated to Red Shipley, the DJ who chaired Stained Glass Bluegrass and whom the band credits with inspiration.

How are the results? In a word, brilliant. The album features their trademark three- and four-part harmony lead vocals and beautiful playing, with Marci Cochran's fiddle almost another lead voice. Although the songs are mostly band-composed originals, they sound like traditional, old-time gospel. The band has caught the sound they were searching for, which is a blend of city-bred sophistication and traditional Appalachian rawness.

The album opens with an uptempo demand that "Satan Get Behind Me," a song that sets the tone for the CD, which is an upbeat celebratory gospel, rather than the guilt-ridden and frightened view of the God who must be feared. This is upbeat, happy gospel, the "Good News" the New Testament promises. "When Jesus Wept" is a fine a cappella number that shows off the group's harmony singing in a round, while in "Prodigal Days," bass player Jared Creason retells the story of the Prodigal Son in song with the words the son intended to say to his father as the chorus, emphasizing the love and forgiveness of a father for his son. It's worth the price of the CD by itself and is a song that will likely be covered and sung by other bands for a long time to come.

In fact, this whole CD is filled with songs that other bands will covet. Listeners will covet them also. Angels' Share is Dead Men's Hollow's best album yet and should be widely heard.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

5 February 2011

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