Bluegrass gospel artist Daniel Crabtree's debut, "The Gospel Tree," features some of the most assured bluegrass instrumentalists providing credibility to this self-released effort.
Crabtree, a long-time regional picker and singer, met the album's producer Donna Ulisse, an in demand bluegrass songwriter herself, at a songwriting camp, and from that encounter comes this collection of originals. Leaning toward the evangelical end of the bluegrass gospel spectrum, "The Gospel Road" has much to offer.
The album opens with the title track, which tells the tale of finding faith via a tent revival. As the disc unfurls, we meet up with the tired and weary ("Holdin' On), the peace of paradise ("Oh Blessed Lord, Carry Me) and a beautiful church where light shines through "The Stained Glass Window." Crabtree knows his scripture, sharing the salvation of "Elijah" and the strength of the Bible's "Scarlet Red Lines." Concluding this journey of faith is the deeply personal "Time's Gettin' Short," inspired by Crabtree's spiritual mentor.
Bringing this collection of fine songs to fruition are respected bluegrass pickers including the award-winning Jesse Brock (mandolin), Justin Moses (fiddle/Dobro), Dustin Benson (guitar), Kyle Perkins (bass) and the album's recording engineer Scott Vestal (banjo). "The Stained Glass Window," highlighted by Brock's opening notes and Moses' ringing Dobro, is the album's strongest performance. Also impressive are Benson's guitar offerings; most recently a long-time member of The Special Consensus, Benson provides steady rhythm and lead work throughout.
Crabtree is not a particularly dramatic vocalist, firmly within the range of the bluegrass middle ground, communicating his songs with sincerity. Ulisse and Rick Stanley add vocal dimension through their harmonies.
"The Gospel Road" is a fine bluegrass release to be enjoyed by those looking for a strong message of personal faith.