Lou Reid & Carolina
Sounds Like Heaven To Me
Rural Rhythm Records
5 stars (out of 5)
By Larry Stephens
When Bill Monroe and others started playing this adaptation of music we call bluegrass, they kept it closely tied to their religious roots.
True, “How Mountain Girls Can Love” has no gospel under- or overtones, but it’s a rare record/CD or live performance that doesn’t include at least one gospel number. How many times have you watched as bandmembers remove their hats and step up to touch your heart with their songs of faith? And many of them are quick to mention that their faith is the foundation of their lives. Not many are as outspoken as Larry Sparks has become, or Ricky Skaggs, but few take pains to hide it.
Lou & Christy Reid are persons of faith and they have made a statement with this new CD. With Christy on bass guitar, Shannon Slaughter on guitar, Trevor Watson on banjo and, of course, Lou on mandolin, they are a solid group of musicians and singers. (Ron Stewart joins them on fiddle.) Their harmonies are tight with some very good bass singing included and the production values are excellent.
Lou Reid has been around. He played bass for Doyle Lawson, played with Ricky Skaggs, and has been with the Seldom Scene for many years, continuing with them now as well as fronting his own band. He and Christy have been married more than six years. She joined the band almost nine years ago.
Shannon has toured with some of the top bands in bluegrass, including Lost & Found, Larry Stephenson and the Lonesome River Band. Trevor has been playing since childhood, coming from a musical family and is an alumnus of the Carolina Opry.
“God’s Plan” is an uptempo song that underlines their faith. Covered in 2005 by Wildfire (Rattle of the Chains) and co-written by Harley Allen, the song is a litany of the problems we face but how they are all overcome as a part of His plan.Take a trip way back in time with Christy taking the lead on “Sweet By and By.” This is a good showcase for her, making the usual church version sound stodgy in comparison. Composed in thirty minutes back in 1868, the band demonstrates how old songs can have new life. They also demonstrate how a gospel number can have bluegrass drive with Shannon singing “Finally Made It Home.” Written by Stan Dailey (whose credits include Pickin’ On Def Leppard: A Bluegrass Tribute) this is a song that is as bluegrass as a song can be.
Nothing illustrates good harmony better than a cappella numbers and they bless us with two on this album. “Lord Have Mercy (On My Soul),” writen by Reid and bassist T. Michael Coleman, is an excellent quartet-style number with contrasting leads and a great background to Reid’s lead. “It’s Hard To Stumble (When You’re Down On Your Knees)” (co-written by Shannon) has some excellent bass singing with Christy’s tenor on the offbeat. Who needs instruments?
Another prevailing element in bluegrass music is mothers. Fathers are a mixed bag, as likely to be rounders as not, in prison or on the road, but mothers hold the families together. They manage to cover both. “Mama” is a beautiful if typical story about the mother who was the rock behind the wayward son, who “turned to Jesus when my ways were too much to bear.” This song is an excellent example of the power of the fiddle in bluegrass music and Ronnie Stewart is one of the best. “Daddy Tried” is the story of a humble man who tried to lead people to Jesus but couldn’t sway his son. By the time we hit mid-life, most men can look both back and ahead, remembering the times they disappointed their fathers while worrying about some of the choices their kids make.
After years of pain and heartache
He died old and tired and broke
And all he left me was a bible
Inside I found a note
It said, “Son, between these pages there’s a perfect father’s love
I did my best to be like Him, I just wasn’t good enough”
Son, I’m sorry …
Then there’s “Sunday’s Best,” the story of a drunkard’s funeral. It’s a song we all need to hear so we can think about things – and people – we take for granted now.
Good songs, very good musicians, timeless topics, great bluegrass gospel.