The New Tradition
old time Gospel Jamboree
Brentwood Bluegrass CD-5488J
Review by Art Menius for Bluegrass Unlimited May 1995
I Have Decided To Follow Jesus Unclouded Day What A Friend We Have in Jesus Rock of Ages Gloryland March Medley At Calvary I Saw The Light He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands Gospel Medley Just A Closer Walk With Thee There Is Power In The Blood
Get some hot pickers with excellent arrangement chops, apply them to a set of familiar, mostly public domain, gospel standards, keep it all instrumental, combine with the superb production, and place the contents in an attractive package to take advantage of well-conceived product placement. That’s a formula for marketing. Despite the first rank performances heard on old time Gospel Jamboree, the market-driven appearance, including a $10 coupon inside, obscures them, at least for me. The cover depicts no faces, just hands playing banjo, guitar, and mandolin. “Bluegrass Instrumentals” appears in reversed type on blue above the CD title. “Featuring the New Tradition” appears in smaller type in bottom right hand corner. It screams its apparent conception as a gift shop item for impulse buying of some “mountain music,” an area, as is southern gospel, in which Brentwood has excelled.
That’s not to knock in any way the performances by the four members of the New Tradition, augmented by the estimable Jerry Douglas, Bobby Hicks, and Viktor Krauss. Any bluegrass novice who picks up a copy of old time Gospel Jamboree at a Blue Ridge Parkway gift shop will be impressed by the playing and arrangements. No hay bales here. The New Tradition find the vital connection between “Rock of Ages” and the Flintstones’ theme. “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” in a Django-inflected Dawg version is inspired, the best moment on the disc. It’s followed by using Bill Monroe’s “Cheyenne” to kick off “There Is Power In The Blood.” The musicianship proves sharp as that wit throughout. The inventive arrangements, stressing the melodies while maintaining the New Grass Revival-inflected New Tradition style, sparkle and contain a few cute musical jokes. Those nuances prove welcome, especially for the listener who needs variety and prefers gospel music sung to picked. This disc contains some fabulous picking, but transparently packaging it as a unit of product for sale suggests more aural candy than soulful expression.