As the opener, “When I Reach That City,” bursts from the speaker, it is quickly apparent that the Mill Run Bluegrass Band has a deep grounding in the traditional bluegrass gospel genre and are pleased as can be to share those roots with us. Wrapped in that one number, with its optimism and its call-and-response quartet chorus, are all the hallmarks of this successful gospel recording: fine singing, fine instrumental work, and good song choices.
Billie Sue Goff takes the lead vocal on that opener and does so in a style that is largely classic southern gospel, very bright and polished. Interestingly, she starts the first verse a bit hesitantly, but quickly layers on the confidence. That may be by design or by accident, but either way, it works well. For the next six tracks, she sings harmony or, as on “Go Build My Church Simon Peter,” has her lead submerged in a trio. She then returns to the lead, handling authoritatively and wonderfully six of the last eight, most notably “Family Bible,” “I’ve Got More To Go To Heaven For,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “I’m S-A-V-E-D.”
By contrast, her husband Bob leads on only two. “Somewhere In Heaven,” and “Lord Take My Soul” are, however, two of the best tracks on the album. Both are in three-quarter time, giving them an inviting lilt, and both are also slow, which gives us time to luxuriate in Bob’s velvety and pure country mid-range and his expert phrasing. You can’t go wrong with either. Standing right there with them is the rousing and emphatic “Live On Down The Line,” sung by Corey Rackley. A.P. Carter wrote that song late in his career, and it doesn’t get near the amount of play it should. It’s nice to hear it done here. (Mill Run Bluegrass Band, 23366 Neblett Mill Rd., Waverly VA 23890, www.millrunbluegrass.com.)BW