James King

Gardens in the Sky: The Bluegrass Gospel of James King – 2008 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

See it on Amazon

When bluegrasser James King wraps his vocals around a gospel song either as a solo artist or with the supergroup Longview, it's been a hand-in-glove fit. Yet there wasn't quite enough in King's extensive traditional bluegrass catalog to compile a much-requested all-gospel record. With the help of producer Ken Irwin, King solved that. In early 2007, King recorded 6 new numbers - primarily contemporary gospel songs - and the result is, well, heavenly.

In fact, the new stuff not only goes toe-to-toe with classics like "The Darkest Hour" and the title cut, it adds a new dimension to King's estimable vocal talents. Called the master of Stanley Brothers-styled traditional bluegrass, King maintains his traditional standing on the previously unreleased "The Prettiest Flowers Will Be Blooming."

But he also shows impressive contemporary chops on the brooding "Jerusalem Tomorrow, while "Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore" finds King at his emotive best on the Chris Stapleton-penned tune. The harmony-laden "It's Hot Down Here" with vocal assists from Kevin Prater, John Wade and Chris Hill adds a playful touch to the 18-song collection. King has mastered gospel's past and present.