By Larry Stephens
Listening to “Restoring The Love,” composed by Russell Allen and Steve Gulley, you start listening closely because the lead singer (either Russell or brother Larry Allen) sounds like and phrases the lyrics much like Gulley, the distinguished singer who discovered the group, produced and co-engineered the CD. From their web page it appears they are making appearances. The band is composed of brothers Russell (lead vocals, guitar), Josh (tenor, mandolin), Larry (baritone and lead, bass) Allen and their friend Andy Blalock (banjo, guitar). This CD is a bit unusual in the bluegrass genre as there is no banjo on any of the numbers. They are joined here by Gulley (guitar, harmony), Justin Moses (mandolin, resophonic guitar, fiddle, guitar), Mike Riddle (harmony) [The Primitive Quartet,] with the vocals on “Nails” provided by Dale Ann Bradley, Gulley, Larry Riddle, Greg Bullock and Archie Watkins as primary lead.
“Restoring the Love” is a song about Jesus touching people and restoring the love in their lives, from a man and his step-daughters to another man on the verge of suicide. “Nails,” a number on my short list to sing at my church, identifies each of us, sinners that we are, as the nails that held Jesus on the cross.
No one is identified as a bass singer, but if that’s a baritone line on “Silver and Gold” it’s a low one. This is a song with good drive and a moderate tempo, underlining their excellent harmonies. A switch of pace is a song I enjoy singing, “What Heaven Means To Me.” It starts with the first few bars recorded in a small country church somewhere, reminiscent of the Belmont Church of Christ I attended as a kid. That fades and then the group starts singing. This is a good way to introduce the song, a not-often used technique that provides a change of pace. Another public domain number is “Oh I Want To See Him,” a good Southern Gospel number.
Their music tracks closely with Southern Gospel, differing little except the instruments (you’d hear a piano with SG instead of a mandolin). “Canaan’s Land Is Just In Sight” is a great old song and they do a great version of it. The only thing missing is someone singing George Younce’s great bass line. “Looking Down In The Valley” is a story of a man wandering in the desert until he’s touched by Jesus’ hand:
Looking down in the valley I just came through
I can see I wasn’t all alone, for my Lord was there, too
And what I thought would kill me has just made me strong
He was there along
That’s easy to see
Looking down in the valley
That’s a powerful message for anyone who has lived through desperation.
This is a group with a powerful voice and a powerful message. Whether you’re a fan of bluegrass, country or Southern Gospel, if you like gospel music, you’ll enjoy listening to Locust Ridge.