Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Joy Bells Down Home With

The Joy Bells Down Home With Self Released Unknown Year Cat #TJB 11385

I go to thrift stores a lot.  Every lunch break, I go to a thrift store and look at records.  I come across an absurd amount of strange white gospel music.  If I had to put a percentage on the stuff I look through at thrift stores I'd estimate 10% Christmas albums (regardless of the time of year), 40% absurdly popular vocal artists (Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand, Rod McKuen, Tom Jones, etc), 25% mix of easy listening, oddball, and classical, 1% music someone actually would like to purchase, and 24% creepy white gospel.

I usually flip past the creepy white gospel, occasionally, if it looks absurd, obviously self-released, or somewhat psychedelic, I'll pick it up and look a little closer.  Some of it I glance and find out its from Kansas or Kansas City, but after looking over the track listing I usually lose interest.  Odd though, about 80% of the creepy white gospel music is from Nashville, TN.  What's the deal?  Was Nashville just pumping out religious bands and sending them to all corners of the globe to play in any church that would allow it?  When was poorly produced, badly performed gospel music a thing?  A scene?

Head scratcher aside, I picked up this one because it was obviously self-released and touts itself as "Bluegrass Gospel."  I like Bluegrass, I like oddball self releases, I don't mind gospel so for a dollar I was game.  Playing it, they sing about Jesus a lot.  Not too keen on that, but whatever.  Overall, it's competent, they got the right instrumentation, these old guys keep it old timey without ever straying into hillbilly territory.  They never try to flash it up or try to make it sound polished and professional.  It sounds as if they put an add in the Church Newsletter for players, then got together and laid down some traditional gospel tunes with Bluegrass as the backdrop.  They do throw in some originals, which aren't terrible, but nothing to brag about.  And, as much as I value a live production sound, they do sound a bit flat and lack energy.  But, it's cute, grandma and grandpa made a gospel Bluegrass album.

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