Marshall Family

The Legendary Marshall Family, Vol. 1

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Southern Baptist listeners may wonder what exactly the members of this family gospel group are doing standing in front of a Mormon temple in the cover photo, but have no fear -- there are no heretical doctrines or sneaky arrangements of "Come, Come Ye Saints" lurking in this collection. Just lots of solid traditional and original songs and some of the most hair-raisingly fine (and occasionally downright eerie) singing in the history of bluegrass-gospel music. The Marshall Family emerged suddenly from obscurity in the mid-'70s and were quickly taken under the wing of Ralph Stanley, who featured them in his annual festival and otherwise promoted their career through several years of touring and three recordings; the band dropped from sight less than ten years later. This album brings together 12 tracks from those three albums and makes you wish all three (not to mention a fourth two-LP set that was never commercially released) would come back into print. Instrumentally, the group is impressive enough (note in particular the startlingly creative melodic banjo licks that David Marshall plays on "Mama Always Had a Song to Sing"), but it's the singing that really grabs you. On the Judy Marshall composition "I Just Want to Thank You, Lord," the siblings' harmonies are strange and eerily gripping; though the song is marred by a heartfelt but hokey recitation halfway through, it's impossible to listen without being moved. The same is true of their hushed, a cappella rendition of "I Need Jesus" and their strictly church-style "Amazing Grace," which is performed complete with the traditional "lining out" of the verses. David Marshall's composition "Prophet Admiration" is another winner, if way too short, and there's a fine rendition of the traditional classic "Children Go Where I Send Thee" as well. Highly recommended.

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