The Oriskany Strings,
Mostly Gospel
(independent, 2004)

Hailing from a southwestern Virginia village of the same name, the Oriskany Strings are a group of friends that have been playing old-time and bluegrass gospel for nearly six years. And when they say "old-time," they mean it. Not only does their litany of musical instruments include two banjos (bluegrass and clawhammer), but they also have an autoharp and an honest-to-goodness washtub bass.

True to the expectations of the title, this album is comprised primarily of gospel songs. There are traditional songs such as "I Just Steal Away and Pray" and "Little White Church" as well as relatively more recent offerings "Mansion Over the Hilltop," "Just Over in the Gloryland," "I Feel Like Travelin' On" and "They're Holding Up the Ladder." The finale to Mostly Gospel is a nice medley of Ralph Stanley's "Shoutin' On the Hills of Glory," "I Saw the Light" by Hank Williams and "Somebody Touched Me" by Monroe & Harold. But, seeing as the title is Mostly Gospel, there is one non-gospel bluegrass song, "Rose of My Heart."

As the surging popularity of the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack showed, there's obviously a place and appreciation for well-played old-time bluegrass music. While far from spectacular, the Oriskany Strings have a pleasant and enjoyable sound that's sure to find an audience. While they may not be playing the Grand Ole Opry any time soon, they are definitely a step above what you'd expect from a county fair performance or a Sunday night song service. I don't foresee this album going platinum, but somehow I don't think they're worried about that. In listening to Mostly Gospel, you can tell the Oriskany Strings are playing with their hearts and souls. From the sound of them, I'd wager they've already found success.

by C. Nathan Coyle
17 September 2005

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