Paul Williams

Higher Ground

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While Nashville musicians once unabashedly paid their respects to a higher power upon receiving a Grammy, contemporary bluegrass and country prefer hiding from their Protestant roots. On Higher Ground, Paul Williams and Cliff Waldron travel back in time to offer a dozen gospel-tinged songs with bluegrass backing. Indeed, listening to "My Lord Grows Sweeter Each Day" and "Will You Meet Me over Yonder" will convince connoisseurs of country gospel that not much has changed. This is even truer of the a cappella "He Whispered Sweet Peace to Me" and a song like "Another Mile," with its four-part harmony. A number of pieces like Johnnie Masters' "They've Made a New Bible" and the Louvin Brothers' "Where Will You Build" hark back to 1950s gospel radio as Red Shipley points out in the liner notes. Despite this commitment to tradition, tinges of the new-fangled seep into Higher Ground here and there. Mike Auldridge's dobro adds a bit of spice to the proceedings, while Sally Jones lends her lovely vocals to the harmony of several songs. A nice acoustic sound, with banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and guitar, supplies ample support that never comes off as showy. For anyone who appreciates traditional gospel played with feeling and finesse, Higher Ground offers a sampling of the real thing.

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