Ricky Skaggs continues to embody the very spirit of the late Bill Monroe on his latest release, a 14-song collection of gospel favorites, delivered with all the bluegrass precision you have come to expect from the multi-talented Skaggs. From the sounding of a ram's horn at the album's outset, perhaps as a spiritual call to arms, the CD delivers a moving set of tunes, beginning with the title track, "Soldier of the Cross," a Lorin Rowan composition, and moving into Bill Monroe's own "A Voice From on High." Ralph Stanley's "The Darkest Hour" is a special treat, and marks the second time Skaggs has recorded this particular tune. He played and sang backup for Emmylou Harris' version of the song in 1978, but his version shines brightly in and of itself. One of the true classics here is "Gone Home," the old Bill Carlisle tune made famous in the 1950s by Flatt & Scruggs. Anyone who grew up in the South is bound to have heard at least half a dozen versions of this one, but none more pristine that the version included here. Also outstanding is the somber "Seven Hillsides," an absolutely powerful lyric that tells the story of a life from a preacher's perspective, and "Are You Afraid to Die," which includes an actual audio clip from one of Billy Graham's crusades. Closing out the CD is an a cappella rendition of the traditional "Lead Me to the Rock." Skaggs' soaring tenor voice sends chills up the spine with this faith-inspired vocal, and it is the perfect end-cap for an outstanding bluegrass album, as well as an inspirational gospel recording, all rolled into one.
AllMusic Review by Michael B. Smith