Review Jerusalem Ridge

Jerusalem Ridge

Make A Joyful Noise

JR Records JR040494

Review  by Art Menius for Bluegrass Unlimited November 1994

Climbin’ Up The Mountain    Hallelujah, I’m Ready    March Around the Throne    Satan’s Jewel Crown    Leaning on the Everlasting Arms    Rank Strangers    Paul and Silas    Consider the Lillies    Cryin’ Holy   A Beautiful Life    Goodnight, The Lord’s Comin’     Green Pastures

In but seven years Edmonton, Alberta’s Jerusalem Ridge has established itself at the forefront of western Canadian bluegrass bands. In 1991 they became the first band from that region to showcase at the IBMA convention. Featuring generally strong trios and quartets based on contemporary southern bluegrass, have now released two compact disks in addition to a pair of earlier cassettes. All feature bluegrass gospel with Make A Joyful Noise, recorded this spring, devoted to the subgenre. Their most confident effort yet, it presents their vocal strengths and some excellent musicianship from banjoist Craig Korth and mandolinist Dave Wright.

That the western plains of Canada can support an American-styled professional bluegrass band of this caliber sends a strong, but mixed message. It demonstrates that the market exists and Alberta has the home grown talent to serve it. On the debit side, it suggests that the western provinces cannot yet support multiple professional bands. Furthermore, it provides additional evidence that the Canadian bluegrass scene has yet to mature to the level where the market demands and rewards distinctively Canadian bluegrass music.

This situation generates definite dichotomies within the development and maturation of Jerusalem Ridge, a unit with above average intelligence and abilities. They have work at the expense of traveling vast expanses of the Canadian plains, mountains, and Pacific northwest. They have developed the precision, confidence, and cohesiveness that only steady professional playing before audiences can produce. Jerusalem Ridge is doubtless a very good bluegrass band. Serving the needs of their listeners has required that they become equally proficient with contemporary and classic bluegrass. That versatility shows to very pleasing effect on Make A Joyful Noise.

An audience, however, that gets to hear their American favorites but every two or three years demands a rather large amount of standards and favorites. That seems to restrict the maturation of this enormously promising band’s sound into one clearly their own. We have, therefore, the conscious Deatonisms of “Climbin’ Up The Mountain” and this CD’s only disappointing track, a lifeless “Goodnight, The Lord’s Coming” that in no way matches the power of the Nashville Bluegrass Band version.

That can’t gainsay the effectiveness of Jerusalem Ridge when the quartet, augmented again here by fiddler Tony Michael, dares to sound like itself–to use their own voices and arrangements. On “Satan’s Jewel Crown,” “Paul and Silas,” “March Around the Throne,” “Green Pastures,” and several others Jerusalem Ridge acquits itself very well with the confidence only seasoned professional experience can bring. The band gets stronger with each release, but to achieve its full potential, Jerusalem Ridge may have to challenge a goal beyond being the best on the plains.