This is the first all gospel project from the Drifters, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based band. Longtime fans of bluegrass will be familiar with the name Bob Artis, a mandolin player and author of one of the early books on bluegrass. He is joined by the rest of the Drifters: Bernie Cunningham on guitar, Keith Beaver on banjo, and Artis’ wife Karen on bass. The addition of special guest Michael Cleveland really peps up the proceedings. His fiddle is as tasteful as it is hot.
There are 15 songs presented here, featuring some fairly fancy quartets and trios with polyphonic counterpoint, an essential part of this genre. The delivery is crisp and accurate. The material is well chosen, and there are some interesting versions as with “Who Will Sing For Me,” a stark solo performance that highlights the feel of the lyric. Other highlights include “Standing In The Need Of Prayer,” a smoldering, bluesy “I’ve Just Seen The Rock Of Ages,” and a great a cappella number complete with key modulations. “Steal Away To Jesus” is less than a minute long and serves as a call to listen, while “Goodbye My Dear Friends, Goodbye,” an Artis original, serves a benedictory note. They ease out with “Wait For The Light To Shine” with Cleveland’s over-dubbed fiddle filling in and a call and response with the banjo and mandolin on the breaks.
There are three other band originals on this project: “My Soul Has Been Renewed” by Bob Artis and Bernie Cunningham; Keith Beaver’s “I’m Gonna Cross That Jordan River,” and Karen Artis’ “Climb Heaven’s Ladder.” This is a very good effort that should please fans of bluegrass gospel. Doug Wilkin adds his bass voice to four cuts, insuring a fine release by a solid band.(www.alleghenydrifters.com.)RCB