I Couldn’t Make It Without Him
4 stars (out of 5)
By Larry Stephens
Jay is not a nationally known bluegrass figure but that doesn’t stop him from giving us a good gospel CD. His sole national exposure was a long-ago summer (1995) touring with David Davis and the Warrior River Boys. He has appeared (in the Northeast) with Ernie Bradley and the Grassy Ridge Band and hosted a radio bluegrass show in the Maryland area for seven years.
Jay’s website tells us his band is Eastern Tradition and it appears the other members of that group are Mike Phipps, Marc Bolen and legendary bassist Tom Gray. Phipps has appeared with County Gentlemen bassist Bill Yates on Country Gentlemen tribute albums and Tom Gray played with the Gents and the Seldom Scene and is still very active in bluegrass circles.
For this project, though, Jay went with session musicians and he picked some of the best. The Bensons – Wayne (IIIrd Tyme Out) and Kristen (the Grascals) add mandolin and banjo, Jason Moore (Mountain Heart) plays bass, Aaron Till (Mark Chestnut) fiddles, Greg Luck adds baritone and bass vocals while Don Rigsby sings tenor. That’s quite a lineup. We expect excellent musicianship on our bluegrass recordings and this group never disappoints us no matter who they play with. You’ll appreciate Rigsby’s great tenor singing, too.
Armsworthy is a good singer and rhythm guitarist and he has a good selection of material. Veteran composer Dee Gaskin contributed “His Coming Is Nigh At The Door” and “I Couldn’t Make It Without Him.” The latter has a swinging, country sound. For pure bluegrass, listen to his rendition of an old Stanley Brothers song, “Wings of Angels” or “Don’t Let Go Of My Hand,” a Tom T & Dixie number.
“The Streets of Gold” shows off the harmony singing and is proof that a songwriter needs patience. Jay had held onto this song for a decade before recording it. Fans of the Johnson Mountain Boys and the Stanley Brothers may recognize “I’m Dying a Sinner’s Death,” a composition by Roy Acuff. If you like sad, listen to the story told in “Heaven’s Door,” a story about a little girl gone to heaven who appears to her brother with a message to the rest of the family.
If you like bluegrass gospel this CD has all the elements a bluegrass fan will enjoy. Don’t let the lack of name recognition stand in the way of your appreciation of this CD.