Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver,
Thank God
(Crossroads, 2003)

Thank God indeed -- Doyle Lawson is once more playing the kind of music that made him one of the giants of bluegrass. After a too-long flirtation with Southern-style gospel music, Lawson and his band are back in the bluegrass groove, and the results are spectacular. Gone is the earthbound rumpty-tump piano and the cornball songs, replaced by a dozen solid and pure bluegrass tracks that'll have even the Good Lord tapping his toes and murmuring, "Now that's more like it!"

When the first track begins and the tenor's high lonesome voice soars in, you'll feel that old familiar tingle in the spine. "Calling From Heaven" sets the standard for the rest of the CD, with superb vocal harmonies and elegant instrumental backup (the fiddle fills are classic). It's a great kickoff to an awesome album. "That's All He's Asking of Me" features J.W. Stockman and Jess Barry on twin fiddles that sing like one. The harmonies here are so tight that it sounds like a massed choir, and the instrumental fills are just what's needed and no more. "Wait a Little Longer Please Jesus" has always been one of my favorite gospel songs, and the version here is classic, an organic fusion of voice and instruments that keeps its intensity right up to the ending with Lawson's single note mandolin strains.

"In God's Eyes" decreases the tempo but not the intensity, and "Savior's Love" is one of the most interesting tracks musically, with Dale Perry's tasty banjo work and the tricky tempo variations that Quicksilver handles like a well-oiled machine. The vocal phrasing meshes perfectly, and the final triad at the end is a joy to hear. "I Drink From the Fountain" features Perry's resonant and sincere bass voice, while "The Lord's Last Supper" demonstrates the band's vocal precision with some sharp and clean back-and-forth harmonic accents. The title song is another vocal gem, and "Will the Angels Play Their Harps for Me" is one of those corny old story songs that, in the hands of this flawless group, works in spite of the content.

"I'll Be Going to Heaven Sometime" features what I assume are the tenor voices of Barry Scott and Jamie Dailey. When they harmonize, the frequencies in the overtones can rattle your fillings and cut diamonds as well. These are outstanding voices, not the mellifluous and pretty tenor voices of opera, but the high, lonesome and painfully intense tenors of bluegrass. "God Moved In" is a song of pure harmony, with no vocal solos, and ends with sublime twin fiddles. The uptempo "Some Beautiful Day" is a perfect way to end the CD, with Lawson singing lead on this hopeful and uplifting song. His voice sounds better than it has in years.

The only negative is that the entire CD runs for only 36 minutes, but far better to have a half hour of really great music than 60 minutes of second-rate bluegrass. 2002's The Hard Game of Love showed that Lawson and his band were still capable of growing fine bluegrass, and Thank God proves unconditionally that they're still the best bluegrass gospel band in the business.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 3 July 2004



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