Rounder Records from Burlington MA last year released a Dailey and Vincent a cappella recording comprised of 12 cuts, all of them with a religious reference. This is as it should be–it was recorded as a fundraiser for Tennessee Bible College. Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent have fine bluegrass pedigrees, and both had participated in gospel/spiritual music in their musical background. Their IBMA awards give testimony regarding their musical “chops,” but it’s a jump from bluegrass, with 4 or 5 bluegrass instruments blazing the way for the vocalists, to the sound of a handful of voices, bare of all but the sound of air passing over vocal cords. These two performers, with the help of other bluegrass, gospel and country vocalists, (music veterans all) put out a full, ringing and satisfying rendition of each of the gospel tunes, with nary a guitar, banjo or bass in sight. It’s all in the voices, where there is no room to hide.
Some of the tunes are old favorites that easily fill the ear, such as “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho” and “Amazing Grace.” The familiarity of the tunes to the listener does not diminish the enjoyment of hearing the tunes reduced to 3 or 4 voices (and in one case, “The Old Rugged Cross,” 5 voices) with all the important and necessary notes in close harmony. And tunes that are less familiar, such as “Moses Smote The Water” or “Oh To Be Like Thee,” contain such a ring of conviction and clarity that the vocal harmonies transcend the words themselves.
“The Old Rugged Cross”
Dailey and Vincent have taken a page from the old-time gospel music of the southeast they grew up with, added a soupcon of barbershop craftsmanship, and given it a good dose of flavor from such as the Louvin and Stanley Brothers, themselves no strangers to gospel and spiritual music. They have showcased the 12 cuts in simple and straight-forward renditions of their chosen gospel tunes, and each stands out as a sterling example of what musicians can do with nothing more complicated than their voices and a good recording system and engineer. With Ronnie Light of Nashville, TN doing the recording, each cut is clean, clear and a pleasure to listen to. Perhaps we should all remember that before all the instruments we play were invented, there was the unaccompanied human voice, which can be a very adequate instrument in itself.
I recommend this CD to anyone interested in close vocal harmony, gospel and spiritual music, and the ability to make great music without more than just the unvarnished voices of 3 or 4 musicians working toward a unity of sound and melody.