Lawrence Bishop

Travelin' Preacher Man

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Lawrence Bishop is pastor of the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, OH, as well as a bluegrass mandolinist and singer. This album is conceived as a tribute to and musical celebration of the circuit-riding preachers of the 18th and 19th centuries who traveled around their assigned (or adopted) regions, giving sermons at various churches and depending on the hospitality of their parishioners. There aren't that many songs celebrating this particular aspect of American religious history, but Bishop has chosen a nice assortment of traditional and classic gospel tunes that fit the theme fairly well. The best among them are the title track, the driving "High on the Mountain," and a nice arrangement of Larry Gatlin's setting of the parable of the prodigal son, titled "I Will Arise." For the most part these are high-energy and hard-edged gospel tunes with no musical frills and none of the dewy-eyed emotionalism that mars so many gospel projects of this general type (though Bishop's adaptation of "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby," here titled "I Don't Believe You've Met My Jesus," comes too close). Bishop's voice is not a traditionally pretty bluegrass instrument; it's gruff and dark, similar to that of fiddler Benny Martin. But it works well, especially on the ensemble harmony choruses. Recommended.